Category Archives: Introversion

Personality Purgatory: The Talkative Introvert

Ever since Susan Cain came out with her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, more people are declaring their introversion as a badge of honor. There are now tons of blogs, forums and periodicals devoted to introversion and personality theory, which means this is getting more exposure and there are more people I can nerd out with on this subject. Sweet!67865829_18e7655583_m (1)

But, as with any new fad topic that gets ingested by the masses (hello, Presidential election?), the views become polarized, and we forget that the world is actually nuanced and complex. It’s those annoying, chatty extroverts vs. the calm, quiet introverts. And while there are now articles about different kinds of introverts, there seems to be one area the zeitgeist can’t let go of: how much –or how little – we talk determines the camp in which we belong. Some things are like seats on an airplane; no one wants to be in the middle.

Even the title of Susan Cain’s book snarks at those who tend to speak more prolifically; the world is full of obnoxious people who won’t shut up. But what people seem to forget is all introversion and extroversion mean is: where do you derive your energy? In other words, how long can you be around people before you feel worn down?

Now, I am an introvert. I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs several times, and am squarely an introvert each time. I prefer low-key, solitary activities. Being in crowds causes me to shut down. When I take the Metro in the morning, if it’s really crowded, just being in the presence of all of those people exhausts me before I even get in the office. I’m not one for loud, crowded environments where you can’t have a good conversation, like a bar.

But here’s the thing. I do like to converse. In fact, I have come to the realization that I talk. A LOT. As in, I ramble, over-share background details, and am long-winded. I have a lot of ideas in my head, and everything feels connected. My mind jumps from one topic to the next, and it’s hard for me to stay focused. My ideas sound awesome in my head, but tortuous to others. I also have a bad habit of thinking out loud, or literally talking myself through something. No, it’s not an invitation to brainstorm or provide unsolicited advice. When I speak aloud, I add concreteness to the craziness that is in my head, and I can action it.

However,  I still have to function the workplace, my marriage, and around others. I recently came across this article from the Ask a Manager blog, which provides great tips on being concise at work. Reading this was a breath of fresh air. People had some awesome insights not just for work, but in general, and there were many people like myself who struggled with this and were also classically introverted.

Now, this article advises people who suffer from verbal diarrhea in both spoken and written word. I will play my introvert card and adamantly state that I am naturally a better writer than speaker. When I write, I can carefully craft what I want to say and omit the fluff. Even writing this piece, I probably deleted 20 instances of the words “just”, “literally”, “like”…along with numerous unnecessary articles (the, that, etc.). However, the Allman Brothers hit Ramblin’ Man (or woman) sums up my oral communication.

I don’t want to extrapolate this quirk to other introverts, but clearly there are others out there who require solitude, but can talk your ear off. So how can this be?

Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Chickadee

As an introvert, I spend a lot of time in my head. I’m always thinking, and my thoughts are like a cute little chickadee jumping quickly from branch to branch. Despite how quickly the stream of consciousness moves in my head, the stream is also deep and meandering. Meaning, I naturally prefer depth instead of breadth, but I will eventually circle back to the original thought. It just takes me a bit longer. Like the Beatles song Long and Winding Road.

When I write, I have more time to let the thoughts playfully jump and explore before getting to the point. I can step back and edit what comes out, ensuring that the point is clear and makes sense to a reader. Unfortunately, a verbal exchange is not like that. There is a time limit to process what to say before it gets awkward. And sometimes, my brain and mouth are not in sync.

Why? Because multitasking!

According to this study, introverts struggle with social exchanges because it’s basically multi-tasking. Not only are you trying to compose your point, you have to gauge social reaction and monitor and change your behavior accordingly. Extroverts, who are better at processing many things, but not as deeply, can naturally respond quicker. This is an advantage for social situations, so they can quickly read a room when talking. The “wow, I need to tone down the fluff and get to the point” alarm sounds more quickly.

Today’s world demands so much of us, even to the point the most extroverted reach their breaking point. We are hooked to our smartphones and computers, which provide information instantaneously. The downside is that it’s programming our world and our brains to function this way. We can adapt to a point, but we are not computers. Perhaps this is why Susan Cain’s book and #netflixandchill are so popular. All this stimulation is making introversion vogue.

But not all introverts are alike. True, some of us just prefer not to talk or naturally have better filters. We love to talk, we just don’t like the noise.


Introducing…the Mass Effect Myers-Briggs Chart!

So, you might have seen these things floating around Facebook. A little chart where you can pick which Harry Potter or Star Wars character you are most like, based on your Myers-Briggs type. Well, I kind of got sick of seeing INTJ’s represented as villains, so I decided to make my own.

I finally got around to playing Mass Effect, and it has such a rich vastness of characters of differing personalities that I thought it would be cool to make my own chart. Please open the full image to read the descriptions.

Now, I am sure that some people may not agree on the classifications. No one fits a partiuclar type perfectly well, though some of the characters show some classic strong preferences towards a certain type.

I also had some debate about including Commander Shepard, considering there are so many different scenarios and customizations…but I think that in most of them, the character represents several variants of ENTJ. Plus, it was either that, or make the ENTJ a villian…which I just could not do…since my extroverted halves often get stuck in the villain class right behind us evil mastermind INTJ’s.

Why I Don’t Call You

NOTE: This only applies to personal calls and NOT those of a professional-related nature.

I sometimes receive complaints from friends and family that I never call them. And I admit, I am very guilty of this. I need to be better about being in touch. However, here is my answer to that oft-asked question that I hope will unveil the mystery, and may provide some insight for others who have introverted friends who are not real keen on the phone. (Hint: at least 25% or more of the population is introverted, and about 100% of us hate using the phone.) However, please be reassured that it is nothing personal, it does not mean I don’t like you, it does not mean I don’t want to spend time with you.

Aside from the 10 reasons listed in this comic from The Oatmeal, are 5 blunt and honest reasons why I do not call you:

1) I am too tired to deal with the phone. My day starts at 7:30, and while that is not that early, I am NOT a morning person. Sure, you may say you are not a morning person, but I am REALLY not a morning person. I function best between 8:30 PM and 1 AM. Of course, that is not conducive to my work schedule, so I am often extraordinarily fatigued during the week. Between dealing with people and projects at work, dealing with a crowded metro where I get no phone service, getting my gym workout in, I do not even get home til 8:00 PM. And by then I am tired and hungry because I have not had dinner yet, and neither have the cats. And I need a shower. But to get a functional level of sleep, I need to be in bed by 11 PM, which does not give me a lot of time to myself to recharge so I am not coming to work a brain-dead zombie.

2) I am much better at communicating in email, text, Facebook, or Instant Messaging, especially at work. I communicate much better in writing, and I tend to fumble my words when I talk. I also get more of a response when I text or email, which is why I have a much better time communicating using those mediums. But still, it is hard to get hold of people, and they can never get hold of me.

I am not the only one with the busy schedule. Everyone is busy. I have very good friends who never, ever answer their phones, and as a consequence, I never, ever call them. Am I guilty about not being near my phone 24/7? Absolutely, and no one should be expected to wait around for my call. And even if you do answer, the chances that you will be available to meet up for coffee, lunch, whatever at a time when our schedules both permit is so low it almost does not seem worth it. This gets especially worse as friends get married and have kids. By then, there is no point in even trying to call them…

Today, someone who is “good” about answering their phone picks up about 50% of the time. If you are one of those people, you have a 50% higher likelihood that I will actually call from time to time. However, that still leaves a good chance that you will not be available, so I make my assumption that you are busy, which brings me to my third point…

3) I ahbor voicemail. Nothing is more painful than getting some message that the person is “unavailable right now” (aka has more important things to do than talk to you), and then having to turn around and blabber and fumble around awkwardly leaving some message about why I called and whether it is really necessary to have you return my call, thus trying to walk that thin tightrope between blunt curtness and pitiful, irrelevant rambling. So, if I know there is a 50% or more chance I have to deal with the relegation and torture of leaving a voicemail, logic prefers me to not even bother picking up the phone. So I don’t.

4) If I have not spoken to you in a while, I actually want to have a real conversation that lasts more than 5 minutes. I actually want to call you and catch up, but I want more than 5 minutes quality time talking to you. And chances are, you do not have it. However, I know that I cannot get that because we are both very, extremely busy. And I want to call and potentially schedule a time to talk more, but then again, I have to risk the pain of the voicemail. Which loops me back into not wanting to pick up the phone in the first place, unless I need to speak with you urgently.

5) P.S. I really hate it when people use songs instead of the default ring. Because it seems all I ever hear when I am waiting for an answer (or the inevitable voicemail) is some crappy pop like Katy Perry or Nickelback.

So, in sum, I do not call you because neither of us can often reach that sweet spot where the planets align and we can answer our phones, and I find voicemail to be akin to being stabbed in the heart and twisting the knife. Of course, if we are not able to meet in person and the phone is the only want to chat, then it works best to schedule a time to chat that works for both schedules, so no one has to deal with the pain of unrequited phone answering.