The Joys of Being an Introvert

Definition of Introvert:  Prefers to be alone or in small groups; is quickly exhausted by parties and other large social situations.

I just attended a staff meeting for our division.  It was my turn to give the safety message.  After my short informal presentation was over, I wanted to bolt out of the room.  Instead, there was another 10 minutes of kibbitzing.  During this latter short period, I was extremely uncomfortable.

This is not an usual occurance for me.  It happens over and over again.  Just last week I attended a meeting of Federal water resource planners in California.  There were about 14 hours of presentations spread out over 3 days.  Talk about hell.  I paced in the back of the room; I tried to avoid discussions during breaks; and I occasionally blurted out comments and questions.  In other words, I wasn’t very social.

Two weeks ago, I put together a meeting of organizations working to improve conditions for Native Americans living in isolated locations.  Before the meeting started, a woman I have known casually for several years came up to me and asked me how I was going to run the meeting (something I’m not comfortable doing).  I told her that my general philosophy was organized chaos.  She asked if she could take over.  I said “Please do,” and boy was I releaved.

Even with my family, I’m not totally comfortable.  At family gatherings, I tend to want to hold the grandchildren rather than enjoy social intercourse.  My greatest enjoyment with my family is when we do stuff, when we go rock climbing, camping, and hiking, or just go to the movies.

At work, I frequently take along a more extroverted colleague to help me through my efforts to communicate.  I would rather use email than talk on the phone.  I’m generally comfortable being by myself.

Aparently, my affliction is not that unusual.  According to Bryan Walsh writing for Time magazine (6 Feb 2012):

“Our tendency to be extroverted or introverted is as profound a part of our identities as our gender,” says Susan Cain, author of the new book Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  “But there’s a subtle bias against introverts, and it’s generating a waste of talent and energy and happiness.”

It’s been estimated that as many as 30 percent of American may be inflicted with some form of shyness.

Scientists have begun to learn that the introverted or extroverted temperament seems strongly inborn and inherited, influencing our behavior from not long after we’re out of the womb.

Over the next month and a half, I will be giving 4 presentation on a variety of subjects including:  (1) a short message on leadership; (2) two presentations on the future of water management; and (3) a discourse on religion and transhumanism.  Additionally, I will be helping to coordinate the work of about 50 student volunteers coming from 3 different Utah universities.  I will also be attending the international conference of a humanitarian group I below to.  Talk about discomfort.

The definition of hell for an introvert isn’t other people–not exactly.  But people are stimuli, and a cocktail party or brainstorming session full of them can blow their neural circuits.  So they limit their exposure.

This entry was posted in Books, Organizational Dynamics, Personal Essays. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Joys of Being an Introvert

  1. susan says:

    Labeling yourself an “Introvert” is too easy of a way out. You are a brilliant man who has lived a most diverse life. Introvert is not the right word for you. I’m not sure what it is, but I have seen you at your best, and you certainly are not always introverted. Is it fair to say that you “choose” when you want to be comfortable with your colleagues, etc., versus introversion? Sometimes if you are uncomfortable with a conversation, it’s easy to just tune out and say, “I’m an Introvert” when there has to be more to the story?

    • rogerdhansen says:

      While I appreciate your psychological insights into my complex personality, I don’t think you totally appreciate my discomfort in larger groups. I don’t choose when I want to be comfortable or discomfortalbe; I’m discomfortable all the time. But not with small groups of my friends. Saying I’m discomfortable doesn’t mean that I necessarily disengage. But you need to understand that the engagement is frequently difficult (but that is not bad).

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