Quit your job as a TV anchor and get a degree in library science. But if TV anchoring is
what you love, then create an extroverted persona to get yourself through the day.
-Susan Cain, Quiet
It took me a long time to realize I’m an introvert. I’ve never been particularly shy, I enjoy people when I’m hanging out with them, and growing up with three siblings, solitude was a luxury only imagined. It wasn’t until I got older and was better able to control my life circumstances that I began paying attention to when I was most energized, when most depleted. I began to realize that I enjoyed small-group get-togethers much more than large conference-type events. I explored my Myers-Briggs profile and found I was an “INTJ.”
Then, just to confirm the determination, I recently found that out of Cain’s 20 questions to identify extroversion/introversion, 19 of my answers fell firmly into the introvert category.
By the time I’d discovered that I was a quite happily an introvert, however, my career had gone in a direction that called for serious extrovert chops – I was leading teams of people, giving group presentations, teaching classrooms of students, and engaging in ongoing professional activities. There was no question that I would abandon any of these engagements because I loved them all – I was just going to figure out how to maintain my sanity (as a solitude-loving introvert) while performing effectively (as a people-loving extrovert).
I wouldn’t say I’ve nailed it yet, but after reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Crown, 2012), I’m at least heading in the right direction (and feeling a bit less like a freak). An introvert herself, Crain examines why introverts are the way they are, why this is generally a good thing, and how they can learn to play to their many valuable strengths. Her counsel regarding how introverts and extroverts can learn to communicate effectively and with mutual respect is especially valuable for work settings (even if she clearly does have some familiar mis-perceptions about LIS professionals).
Check out a copy of Susan Cain’s Quiet if you –
- think you may be an introvert and would like to understand yourself better;
- are an extrovert and would like to understand how to build more effective relationships with introverts;
- are managing introverts, and want to understand how to help them contribute their “best stuff”; or
- like me, are trying to figure out how to be effective in an extrovert career without losing your introvert sanity.
It will answer your questions, provide the encouragement you need, and let you and the world know that introverts can be, in fact, very cool contributors. Sometimes we can even be the life of the party! (If it’s a very, very small party… and doesn’t last too long….)