Introverts are a misunderstood lot. In a fast-paced, razzle-dazzle world, ordinary introversion (I'm not talking about extreme or phobic behaviour) is often seen as an ailment, a disorder that needs fixing.
Extroverts rarely stop banging on at us: "For God's sake, it's a party - it's supposed to be FUN." "Are you all right?" "It's just small talk, nothing to be afraid of." "What's the matter?" "Are you ever going to leave your couch?"
Extroverts dominate in so many ways. There are more of them (figures vary, but the sources I googled seem to agree that introverts make up a mere 25-30 per cent of the population), and by their very nature, extroverts tend to dominate proceedings.
This often leaves introverts wondering whether there's something wrong with them.
The net is a godsend for introverts. It's a way we can communicate at our own pace without having to face people head-on, and it's a source of much introvert-friendly material and support.
Just this week, introverted friends and I were emailing each other quotes from a funny, spot-on archived Atlantic Monthly article,
which, we agreed, should be required reading for all.
Roughly speaking - and with thanks to Jung, who came up with the idea of introvert/extrovert personalities back in 1921 - extroverts thrive in company and need people around them to "charge their batteries", introverts need time alone to recharge (we're also rather territorial, and averse to a racket, which can make parties and meetings a trial).
Introverts aren't necessarily anti-social or even shy (introverts may choose to avoid social situations, the shy fear them), they just need lots of solo-time.
Small talk comes more easily to extroverts. In fact, some research found that the extrovert brain is wired for the quick responses required for small talk, while we more thoughtful (okay, occasionally ponderous) introverts have
as evidenced by a
If you're not sure which camp you fall into, try one of the many online personality tests, such as the
is the site of US expert Nancy R Fenn. It features the odd, like mouse pads for introverts and suggestions of toys for introvert kids, as well as comforting words. For the introverts who worry that their personality type is a character flaw and that they need to "get out more/come out of your shell/lighten up", it can be cheering to read that your behaviour is normal.
She has developed a 6-week Introverts' Interactive Self-Discovery Program (for a fee, but you get a free T-shirt upon completion).
There are blogs written for and about introverts, like
, "a haven for 25 per cent of people on the planet". Hal's a personal coach and teacher.
is "a website dedicated to providing introverts with a virtual milieu in which they are not outnumbered three to one by extroverts".
The highlight of this site is the section called "help for extroverts", advising them on how to manage introverts, advice that can be quite easily summed up in the phrase: "Just shut up for a minute!"
is quietly humorous, with advice like "develop a snide sense of humour" to deal with extroverts.
The fly in the ointment of all this introvert joy is that, according to
, research keeps concluding extroverts report greater happiness and satisfaction in life.
This could be, they say, because "extroverts are simply more cheerful and high-spirited".
"Simply" being the key word there, I'd say. Quietly.