What’s wrong with you? Are you upset?
If you are an introvert, these are questions that you’ve heard at some point in your life, whether you’ve been at a party, at work, or at a family gathering. Because you like to spend time alone, it can be difficult for extroverts to understand that desire to get away from the crowd.
In The Secret Lives of Introverts, Jenn Grannemann, a self-proclaimed introvert with an online community for introverts, discusses the inner life of an introvert and debunks some of the myths about introversion.
Grannemann describes introversion as a preference for spending time alone, an exhaustion that comes from faking it when networking, experiencing small talk as almost painful, and shutting down after too much socializing. The first chapter of the book discusses some of the science behind these preferences, such as how extroverts and introverts have different amounts of dopamine that influences the response to an event. It also explains the differences between introverts and extroverts in terms of temperament – which is more of a born trait – as opposed to personality, which is more influenced by the environment.
Introverts are not necessarily rude or antisocial, but for them, solitude equals sanity. Introverts need more time alone than extroverts in order to be successful after socializing. And yes, introverts do know how to have fun. It may be a different type of fun than for extroverts, so it’s important that introverts not let others define “fun” for them.
Introverts can actually become physically unwell if they overextend. Forcing themselves to attend social events like church outings, networking mixers, and dinners without taking time to restore themselves often results in burnout or an “introvert hangover.” An introvert who overextends won’t be able to enjoy time spent with people that are important to them.
Since introverts only have so much “people energy” to give, it makes sense that they want to be selective about their opportunities to socialize. Everyone has the need to connect, but introverts need to do this less often, so they want to make sure it’s the right situation and the right people. Unfortunately, in a society that values our doing more than our being, it can be tough to find that time for solitude, but it’s necessary.
“When your introvert battery is recharged, you can ‘show up’ better for everyone,” writes Grannemann.
And the ability to say no and be selective about opportunities seems to be a good practice for everyone – even extroverts.
Grannemann also discusses some of the conflicts that may arise in a relationship; either with an introvert or as an introvert. Similarly, she covers job challenges, and how the preference to work alone can be a positive thing that benefits employers. The neuroticism that introverts may experience around caring what others think of them may result in them working harder because they’re worried about how they’re perceived.
Whether it’s a job or a relationship, sometimes troubleshooting is not the right answer and people need to change the situation instead of themselves. While there is always room for personal growth and change, people can sometimes spend too much time trying to change themselves in a situation that isn’t right for them.
As an introvert, I agree with much of the book. I like being an introvert, and it’s something that I already appreciate and understand about myself. The book might be a better fit for people who feel uncomfortable about their introversion, or for extroverts who genuinely do not understand what introversion is about.
The Secret Lives of Introverts is not meant to be a heavy, scholarly work with a lot of science to back it up. The examples in the book are mostly anecdotal, from people in the author’s online community and social media. It is an interesting and light read for those who have trouble explaining the way they are, or feel uncomfortable with it.
Although I was not the right audience for the book, I do appreciate Granneman’s intention of showing people how to work with their introverted nature, rather than fight against it.
One study quoted in the book says, “acting falsely extroverted can lead to burnout, stress, and cardiovascular disease.” That alone should make the case for why people should not try to act like an extrovert when they’re not, and for extroverts to accept that people are the way they are.
What a boring world it would be if we were all the same.
The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World
Skyhorse Publishing, August 2017
Softcover, 300 Pages