Intimate Peek Into an Introvert’s Brain

When fellow Psychology Today introvert blogger Sophia Dembling and I recently chatted by phone, we discovered that we both like communicating in sound bites—an efficient use of our introverts’ energy. So I interviewed Dembling, author most recently of The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, on Twitter. In case you missed it, I’ve excerpted our exchange below about fun, flâneurs, phones, and feeling good for introverts, even if life around you is, in Dembling’s words, “a Mountain Dew commercial.” (In case you don’t use Twitter, the @ symbol before our names is just the way our handles appear on that platform.)

@NancyAncowitz: May I ask you some questions about your world view as an introvert author and blogger who enlightens other introverts?

@SophiaDembling: Ask away. I love being short-winded here on Twitter. I will pontificate at short length.

@NancyAncowitz: Yes. Short-winded is ideal. What inspired you to write the book?

@SophiaDembling: I learned tons about introversion thru my blog; reading, thinking, and esp. comments. I wanted to share insights & strategies.

@NancyAncowitz: I can’t wait to hear more about your insights and strategies. To get started, how did you realize you were an introvert?

@SophiaDembling: I always knew I was but didn’t realize how much that affected my life until 2008, when I read Laurie…

@NancyAncowitz: Dr. Helgoe, le flâneur?

@SophiaDembling: Oui. There are so many interesting introvert voices writing today, just like there are so many types of introverts.

@NancyAncowitz: Agreed. Yes, like grains of sand. Except on a quiet beach. In the autumn. What’s your favorite activity for recharging?

@SophiaDembling: For everyday recharging, walking. Definitely. Alone or with the dog. Sometimes with music, other times even that is too much.

@NancyAncowitz: How do introverts and extroverts define fun differently?

@SophiaDembling: Extrovert fun is a Mountain Dew commercial. Introvert fun is an International Coffees commercial. Noisy vs. peaceful.

@NancyAncowitz: What tip can you offer introverts who live inside that Mountain Dew commercial each day at work and at home?

@SophiaDembling: There is tremendous empowerment to understanding & respecting your own introversion.

@NancyAncowitz: Yet misperceptions about introverts abound. What have you learned from your research about shyness and introversion?

@SophiaDembling: My fave definitions: Shyness is behavior (fear in social situations), introversion is motivation (we can take it or leave it).

@NancyAncowitz: Well put. I know that many people find it baffling that extroverts can be shy too.

@SophiaDembling: Exactly! And that introverts can be not-shy. I think it would be terrible to be a shy extrovert. To fear what you crave.

@NancyAncowitz: Conversely, you can be a social introvert (in doses) as well as highly sensitive. How do people communicate best with you?

@SophiaDembling: Communication is evolving for me. Now that I feel OK not liking the phone, I’ve grown more comfortable w/phone calls.

@NancyAncowitz: Yes. You were gracious with me on the phone. And not a word wasted.

@SophiaDembling: I love text for imparting information, email for chitchat. I love face-to-face for real conversation. Phone is a necessity.

@NancyAncowitz: You compare some extroverts trying to communicate with introverts as “tourists mangling a foreign language.” Say more.

@SophiaDembling: Did I say that? Extroverts mean well, trying to draw us out of our shells, but sometimes are too insistent and don’t hear us.

@NancyAncowitz: Yes. And at the same time, you make a big point of not bashing extroverts.

@SophiaDembling: Absolutely. If we want our introverted ways respected, we have to give the same respect to extroverts. We are yin and yang.

@NancyAncowitz: Well put. What can extroverts learn from introverts?

@SophiaDembling: Sometimes people listen more if you talk less.

@NancyAncowitz: Yes. I’m a fan of the “three-second rule” in which you count to 3 (silently) to let the other person finish their thought.

@SophiaDembling: I struggle with that three-second rule when I’m really interested in a conversation! I am a terrible interrupter.

@NancyAncowitz: Yes, interrupting is hard for many introverts. I reframe it as interjecting so you can contribute to a discussion.

@SophiaDembling: Interjecting! I love it. It’s all in how you frame it.

@SophiaDembling: And sometimes, you just have to draw on your inner extrovert and speak up loudly and forcefully.

@NancyAncowitz: What can introverts learn from extroverts?

@SophiaDembling: That you have to ask for what you want! Body language alone won’t cut it. Sometimes you just have to speak up.

@NancyAncowitz: On that note, what advice do you have for introverts who struggle getting heard at meetings (business or otherwise)?

@SophiaDembling: Sometimes the trouble is the discussion moving too fast to jump in. Don’t be afraid to say, “Returning to an earlier point…”

@NancyAncowitz: That’s another good point. I also like saying the name of someone at the meeting to get their attention.

@NancyAncowitz: What have you learned about introverts and happiness?

@SophiaDembling: When you really look at the definition of happiness used in the research, it sounds very extroverted. It’s energetic &…

@SophiaDembling: A lot of research about happiness tells us introverts are less happy than extroverts. But is that really true?

@SophiaDembling: I propose that introvert happiness is different and could be measured differently. On the other hand, we do tend to ruminate.

@SophiaDembling: And rumination can make us unhappy by any measure.

@NancyAncowitz: Good point about ruminating. And that can turn negative. Any tips for managing those nattering voices between our ears?

@SophiaDembling: Boy, if I could teach people how to stop those voices I’d be a billionaire. I’m learning to meditate & practice mindfulness.

@SophiaDembling: And self-compassion. We are so much harder on ourselves than on anyone else.

@NancyAncowitz: I find that particularly true in working with clients on their presentation skills. They think they look worse than they do.

@SophiaDembling: Can you convince them of that?

@NancyAncowitz: Yes. I videotape them rehearsing and/or doing mock interviews. And we look at the evidence of what is actually working.

@SophiaDembling: Yes, and I find that the more true to myself I am, the less stressful being out in the world is.

@NancyAncowitz: When you are out in the world and want to read, write, or just be a flâneur at a cafe, how do you ask to be alone?

@SophiaDembling: Honestly, it has never been much of an issue. I must put out a leave-me-alone vibe. But a book or earbuds can help.

@NancyAncowitz: How about this comment from your book? “We may develop prickly defenses to protect ourselves from onslaughts by extroverts….”

@SophiaDembling: I think that when we are comfortable and respectful of our introversion, we can deflect overzealous extroverts more calmly.

@NancyAncowitz: Sounds like it starts with being comfortable in our own skin, despite the stigma around needing to refuel quietly.

@SophiaDembling: If we are comfortable and open about needing to refuel quietly, others will get used to it and the stigma will fade.

grunge brushes. isolated@NancyAncowitz: On another note, what have you learned about introverts, extroverts, and creativity? Are introverts more creative?

@SophiaDembling: Nothing has convinced me that introverts are inherently more creative. We may just spend more time in a creative head space.

@NancyAncowitz: I’m with you on that. We just go about our creative process differently than extroverts – more internally than out loud.

@SophiaDembling: Exactly. And creativity is no good without action, which extroverts can bring to creative collaboration.

@NancyAncowitz: Thanks so much for sharing all these insights. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

@SophiaDembling: This is introverts’ moment. People are recognizing, learning about introversion. Soon we won’t have to fight for respect.

@SophiaDembling:  This has been really fun, Nancy. Thank you.

@NancyAncowitz: Likewise. Thank you for our exchange. May your quiet star continue to twinkle brightly!

@SophiaDembling: Back at you!


© Copyright 2013 Nancy Ancowitz

Minor edits were made to the Twitter exchange above.

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