“I’m okay, you’re okay – in small doses.”
Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. 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.
Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially “on,” we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: “I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses.”
The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books – written, no doubt, by extroverts – regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward. We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts’ Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say “I’m an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush.”
If you hadn’t guessed it, introvert describes me very well. There’s a reason I can tear through as much print as I do, and it’s because I regularly need to get away and collect my thoughts. Not all of the time, mind, but I’m familiar with that wilting feeling the article describes as being brought on my too much exposure to chatter. I’ve been this way all my life and can recall clearly as a child being asked by adults “if I was OK” and beiung told to smile. That’s a hell of a way to appraoch someone who is perfectly fine and minding his own business. It might even, shall we say, have a negative impact on their self esteem.
That was then and this is now, however, and I’ve long since made peace with this difference in temperment. Variety is the spice of life, after all!