blogging, introversion, and me
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I'm now blogging about introversion on the Psychology Today website. Please visit, comment, make me look good!
The Introverts Corner.
five tips for introverted travelers
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I have received a lot of emails about the column mentioned above but this one particularly touched me because it’s someone whose life could be affected by the pressures of the extroverted masses.
I told this young man that first of all, approaching cute members of the opposite sex is doctoral-level extroversion. I’m not even sure I trust guys who can easily chat up that cute girl in English class. No, that kind of confidence is suspect to me. Give me the awkward blurter any day.
But for him and any other introverts out there who are trying to decide if they should hit the road or just stay home where nobody will bother them, I thought I’d offer these five tips for traveling introverts.
Be open to conversation when it’s offered. I rarely initiate conversations but I will talk to almost anyone who talks to me first. People like talking to introverts because we tend to be good listeners, and listening is the point in travel conversations, anyway. That’s when we learn. Once the conversation is started, you can ask lots of questions and learn lots of stuff. In her book Introvert Power, Dr. Laurie Helgoe points out that introverts generally prefer deep conversation to superficial chitchat. I’m never afraid to turn conversations to worldview, personal goals, politics and other Deep Thoughts. Ask things you truly want to know. Grab conversation when it comes, make it work for you.
Don’t be shy about ending the encounter when you’re ready. A lot of times, random conversations lead to invitations to parties, to travel companions, to meet the gang. This sort of invitation can lead to raucous good times. I hate raucous good times. I rarely accept those “let’s take it to the next level” invitations. I may have missed out on a lot that way, but maybe not. The few times I have accepted have not convinced me otherwise. Drunks in bars are pretty much the same the world over. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to say “no” if you’re not feeling it. Then again, say “yes” sometimes, too. You never know.
Carry a book. There’s an interesting debate going in response to an article about travel books on World Hum—a couple of people contend that reading while you travel is a waste of experience, that you can read at home and you should be out LIVING and MEETING INTERESTING PEOPLE when you’re traveling. Yes, well, fine for those people. I always carry a book when I travel for when I need to create a quiet place for myself. Travel is wonderful and exhausting and over-stimulating. Sometimes I need to escape into the tranquility of reading.
Develop the art of sitting and watching. In her book, Dr. Helgoe talks about the French term “flauneur” (feminine, “flaneuse”) which means passionate observer. Yes, yes! I am a flaneuse. I love just sitting and watching people doing what they do when I travel. I do it in parks, I do it in museums, I’m finally able to do it in restaurants. That ability took a while to develop but I can now just sit alone in a restaurant and eat and watch people around me, rather than immediately burrowing into a book. Mind you, I always have a book nearby during my sitting and watching, just in case I need to escape the world for a bit or suffer a bout of self-consciousness, but it often remains unopened while I watch and eavesdrop.
Take a walking tour or, even better, hire a guide yourself. I have found this controlled interaction is a great way to get some conversation in with a local. A professional guide—you can find one through the local tourist board—is a wealth of both official and personal information about the place you’re visiting. Once again, make the interaction work for you. Ask things you want to know even if they’re not part of the official spiel.
i'm totally milking the introversion thing
Monday, March 9, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
I respond to everyone who writes to me. (Everyone who is not unhinged, that is, and fortunately most of my correspondents seem perfectly lovely.) This time, I urged everyone who wrote to check out Dr. Helgoe’s book, Introvert Power
Maybe other books on introversion are just as good, but this is the book that came my way and changed my life a little bit. Coming to understand introversion better is making a difference for me, and Dr. Helgoe offers not only insight, but also tactics for functioning.
For example, I went to a wonderful party yesterday. I’d been looking forward to it and was happy to go. But I also noticed that halfway through, I started getting that familiar “my brain might explode” feeling that says I’m on introvert overload. For me, this is almost a physical sensation, a sort of mind-ache—which is different from a headache. It’s more pressure than pain. The conversations coming at me start losing meaning and everything takes on a swirling, dizzying look—like the drug scenes in the Movie of the Week version of "Go Ask Alice."
This time, when this started happening, I knew it was simply time to excuse myself from the party crowd and find a place for a few minutes of quiet. (And here’s where smoke breaks come in handy. I started smoking again about a month ago, I am about to stop again. I will miss it.) No guilt, no shame, no self-recrimination—just step away and let my brain smooth out before plunging back into chitchat.
Not that stepping away is always easy or possible. People are very generous and if they spot someone they perceive as lonely, they will often step up and try to ease the loneliness with a little friendly conversation. Had I been able to easily leave the party for a walk around the block, that would have been the best plan, but that would have been difficult. So I grabbed a minute here and a minute there as I could. And just these few minutes helped to me enjoy—really enjoy--this party for hours before I hit the wall completely.
It’s not that I’ve never done such a thing before, but this is the first time I’ve done it consciously, with a plan and purpose. It was a surprisingly powerful moment for me.
And it brings to mind a thought on therapy that I've shared here before. People often mistakenly think that therapy will cure us, will change us profoundly so that our problems cease to exist. But in fact, what therapy does is provide us insights, tools and new maps for navigating our inner and outer worlds. I am not interested in “curing” my introversion, nor would that be possible. But learning to respect it and developing new tools to work with it, as I have other aspects of myself, will make my life three hundred percent easier.
you saw it here first
Friday, February 20, 2009
I wrote about it again for this column in the Dallas Morning News and I've had a wonderful response from grateful introverts. One guy wrote that he and his wife were going to a party this weekend and planned to leave shortly after arriving. Rock on, introvert guy!
We have all been suffering in silence with our nature, taking heat from cocky extroverts. Well, enough is enough. We are going to sit quietly in our rooms and exert our power!
While I'm in shameless self-promotion mode, I recently got my copy of The Best Women's Travel Writing 2009: True Stories from Around the World (Travelers' Tales), in which I have an essay. The editor has contacted me about having some events surrounding the book here in Dallas this spring so stay tuned.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Socially acceptable, I say? Smoking?
Yep, in our extroverted society, saying you need a cigarette is more socially acceptable than saying you need to escape because you really don't think the more is the merrier and your head might explode from one more minute of tedious chit-chat,.
That's how introverts like me feel at parties.
Similarly, psychologist Laurie Helgoe, who wrote the new book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, says that several people she has seen in her practice who struggle with alcohol said they would not drink as much if they weren't trying to push against introversion. It's not just that alcohol is a social lubricant, says Helgoe. "It's also such a drain on self-esteem to be in this situation where you're supposed to be enjoying something but you're not."
American introverts face a lot of pressure to fight our nature. We are told not only that American is an extroverted society (not true—Helgoe has found that introverts are, in fact, the majority) but that extroversion is a better, more effective way to operate. Get out of the house! Press flesh! Stop with the email and pick up the phone, ya big loser!
But we don't really want to.
The difference between extraversion and introversion is not that the former are good at socializing and the latter aren't. It's that extroverts are outwardly focused and draw energy from social interactions while introverts are inwardly focused and drained by interactions. Introverts tend to think deeply and slowly, we prefer one-on-one interactions to big groups and conversation about ideas to gossipy chitchat. We require a lot of time alone. We don't like parties. A lot of us don't like the phone and find e-mail to be a godsend.
We don't suffer social anxiety. We just prefer solitude, given a choice.
Maybe we don't sound like much fun to extroverts. But it's time we stop succumbing to extroverted pressure to change our ways, not just because it's healthier for those of us who choose bad habits over party chit-chat, but also because if we exhaust ourselves fighting our nature, we will be too tired to contribute to the world in our very important way.
Introverts are generators of fresh ideas. Brain scans show that introverts' brains stay much busier at all times than the brains of extroverts, which is why we are easily overwhelmed by too much external stimulation. Introverts have a much greater tolerance—in fact, are drawn to—the fertile void, that quiet place where the most creative thinking happens. Famous creative-thinking introverts include Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Charles Darwin, Warren Buffett, Carl Jung, Katharine Hepburn, Isaac Newton and Friedrich Nietzsche.
And our ability to be alone and think independently means we are unlikely to be swayed by social pressure or groupthink. Introverts' ideas might initially be mocked by the masses (If you sit under trees daydreaming, crap falls on your head! What's the big deal?) but these are the ideas that break through and change paradigms, once the extroverts stop laughing.
And, in a world that gets louder and more full of chatter, we particularly need fresh and unusual ideas to succeed in business—the purple cows, to use marketing guru Seth Godin's term.
"Mass marketing no longer works and that tends to be an outward, in your face, extrovert kind of approach," says Helgoe. "What Seth Godin says is that when the quality is built into the product, it sells itself. Purple cow refers to novel ideas, really cooking up something brilliant internally and then putting it out there, rather than the hit-or-miss approach. Introverts hold our cards close to our chest and we can be good at assessing where you're going to get the most bang for the buck."
So you see, fighting introversion is a waste of energy that can be put to better use. Why be an introvert? First of all, you have no choice. Second, it's a good way to be, no matter what extrovert propaganda tells you. Third, smoking is bad for you.
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