What’s so terrible about introversion?

Last week, the Washington Post had an oped from a writer who basically said introverts really needed to Shape Up and become Proper People–that is, extroverts. The editors were so taken with this that it appeared in the weekly Washington Post Week in Ideas email.

I deliberately didn’t remember the writer’s name (I guess she’s really anĀ  Author, not just a writer), and I’m not attempting a fair summary–but the gist was clearly there: There’s something wrong with introverts, and if they [we] just tried harder, we could be real people.

This is nothing new. I read a few of the comments, and after one from a self-labeled introvert who has apparently had a 12-step moment and is determined to Shape Up, there were several who noted that, well, it’s interesting that it’s perfectly appropriate for people to call for other people to change attitudes and behaviors that are causing no harm to anyone to themselves. Yes, of course, there are similar cases–but I rarely see WaPo cheering on advocates for other nondestructive behavioral changes. But introverts are fair game.

And I don’t much like it. I can deal with people just fine, but it can be exhausting. Still…I remember one year when my performance review had one big negative: I didn’t schmooze enough. Not that I didn’t work with people when that was appropriate, and not that I didn’t get the work done: just that I wasn’t spending enough time and energy chatting.

I also remember when I was president of LITA, and at an executive committee meeting the [paid] director insisted that we all take the Myers-Briggs nonsense. She then announced that of course we were all Exxx [I think she assumed values for two of the four indicators, but E was definite.] When I said I scored as an Ixxx [I think INTJ, but it’s been a long time and you can’t pay me enough to take that “test” again], she said that was impossible. I believe another board member was also an Ixxx…

Yes, I went to social events and vendor receptions at conferences–and returned to my room exhausted. But it was needful to do a little pretend extroversion. And I’ll still do it if it’s needful.

What I will not do is accept the notion that introversion is a character defect, that there’s something wrong with me. And I frankly resent other people saying that i (and other introverts) really need to Shape Up.


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