Follow-up: The Introversy Continues Jonathan Rauch comments on reader feedback about introvert dating—and poses a new question Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day?Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? I love long conversations that explore intimate thoughts or passionate interests.They listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping. " (He is also supposed to have said, "If you don't say anything, you won't be called on to repeat it." The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself.)With their endless appetite for talk and attention, extroverts also dominate social life, so they tend to set expectations.In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."How many people are introverts? Or—my favorite—"a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population."Are introverts misunderstood? They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. To think of the few introverts who did rise to the top in politics—Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon—is merely to drive home the point. If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place.
They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion.
Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. "It is very difficult for an extrovert to understand an introvert," write the education experts Jill D. (They are also the source of the quotation in the previous paragraph.) Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They seem to come fully to life only around other people.
If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.
Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world. Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone.
If so, do you tell this person he is "too serious," or ask if he is okay? Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. Now I am here to tell you what you need to know in order to respond sensitively and supportively to your own introverted family members, friends, and colleagues. In its modern sense, the concept goes back to the 1920s and the psychologist Carl Jung.It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts. Today it is a mainstay of personality tests, including the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not.