Saturday, July 30, 2011

Work Meetings and the Introvert

Is there ever an appropriate time to explain your introversion in the workplace?

Group work meetings are painful for me. I know that I am expected to pipe up, but I also know that I won't unless called upon to do so. I have no problem answering any questions, or speaking up when something directly relates to my job. When I do speak, it's strong and purposeful.

But when the general banter and chitchat starts, I sit quietly. I'm not the type to initiate a conversation about the party I attended last weekend or the TV show I watched the night before. Personally, I have no problem with my level of participation and I've even noticed a few of my other co-workers exhibiting similar behavior during these meetings...but as we know, this makes extroverts uncomfortable.

And then it happens, as every introvert experiences hundreds of times during their lives: someone feels the inexplicable need to point it out. Last week during a meeting, one of my co-workers decided to go down the line at the table and tell each and every one of my introverted co-workers how quiet they are. They politely smiled and laughed off the comment. I felt so deeply for each of them, because I knew the frustration they were feeling. I, of course, was not spared, but she pointed me out last. Out of a brief moment of anger, I curtly replied, "Yes, sometimes I'm quiet, always have been". I wanted to go on and tell her "And you have brown hair and the person next to you is tall", but I bit my tongue. I know she meant well. For whatever reason, it seems that extroverts believe that by telling someone he/she is quiet, it gives us permission to be more talkative and makes us more comfortable.

These are the times when I wonder whether or not if I should explain my introversion. I could have continued and explained that I am an introvert. I do my job, and I do it well. I speak when necessary, but I like to think about my responses, making my predisposition very non-conducive to group meetings. I don't dislike you. In fact, I actually enjoy your company, think you are a really nice person, and truly don't mean to offend you.

After that speech, my extrovert-dominant workplace would undoubtedly decide that I was bizarre...or would they? Are not enough of us introverts sticking up for ourselves? One of them clearly already thought I was strange because of my quiet nature, so would I really lose anything by explaining it?

I'm conflicted and quiet frankly, enormously frustrated. I fear that by explaining this to my co-workers or boss, they will incorrectly assume that I am incompetent in the extrovert-dominated field of law. Even worse, could I lose my job over it? Then again, my job is a place I spend a huge chunk of my time. Should I sit idly by while people inaccurately label me?

The past week involved a couple of moments like this at work. My introversion slapped me in the face like a ton of bricks, making me worry that I will never progress or be successful in this field because of an attribute that I cannot change. I know my introversion is advantageous in a lot of ways, especially in the workplace. It's just a matter of figuring out how to use those strengths in a way that shows my bosses and co-workers that I'm invaluable, and not seen as a liability.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Back to Dancing

For anyone who could relate to my earlier dancing at weddings rant, you should take a look at this article (the second question). I came across an etiquette column in Boston Magazine a couple weeks ago on this very topic.

I'm not the only one after all!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Treating Your Introversion

I caught such an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times.

I can relate to this very well. Over a year ago, I had my first panic attack. I've always been overly worrisome. Little things that probably wouldn't inspire a second thought in others can consume me for days. With law school graduation, the bar exam, moving home, and no job in sight looming, I experienced a panic attack in the middle of the library while doing homework one night. Anyone who has had a panic attack can attest to how frightening it is.

Long story short, after the doctor promised me that I wasn't dying of a heart attack, I ended up with a prescription for anxiety medication. Now that I knew what the symptoms, I started taking a small dose of Ativan whenever I felt an attack coming on.

The few times I took the medication, I found myself actually mustering up the energy to engage. I was no extrovert, but chitchat and interactions were that much easier.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I began popping the anxiety medication to get through social events. I didn't do this because I wanted to or felt that it eased any social anxiety that I had (social anxiety and introversion, contrary to popular belief, are not interchangeable). I was doing it because I worried about how others perceived me. I was "curing" my introversion and fitting in, something I had never been able to do.

The more I "treated" my introversion, the more I became depressed. At the risk of sounding like an after school PSA, I wasn't using the medication to ease the physical symptoms of anxiety anymore. I was using, abusing change who I was. Taking the pills only exposed how insecure I was as an introvert. If people enjoyed my company at these functions more than they had in the past, it was only a sham. I tear up as I write this, because it still upsets me to realize how little I valued myself during those moments.

Although there are many necessary and life-altering uses for psychotropic drugs, I refuse to medicate myself because of who I am. Introversion is not an illness. My anxiety and introversion are completely separate. The author of the opinion piece I linked to above, Susan Cain, states it best:

"Perhaps we need to rethink our approach to social anxiety: to address the pain, but to respect the temperament that underlies it. The act of treating shyness as an illness obscures the value of that temperament. Ridding people of social unease need not involve pathologizing their fundamental nature, but rather urging them to use its gifts."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Guess Who I Bumped Into Today?

One of my co-workers at the law firm I work at is rarely, if ever, in the office. Nice life, but that's beside the point. When he does show his face, I try to make an effort to appear friendly and likeable, as he is the epitome of a Schmooze Monster (my name for the completely over-the-top, so-see-through-it's-pathetic type of person). Despite my distaste for him, he's the key to my employment so I have to engage.

As I walked by his office Friday morning, I hear him yell his happy "Good Morning", which I was not expecting since he never arrives on time. I didn't necessarily panic, but I hesitated and walked a few feet before I decided to throw a half-wave, which looked like I was throwing up a gang sign, and a "Howarrreyaaa?". Not only did I spit out a "ya" when I hate using abbreviations and slang, but I said it with a slight Southern twang. I'm from Boston.

I should move to Awkward City, where I could run for Mayor...and probably win.

In all seriousness, this is a common occurrence (not the gang signs, I swear). I tend to walk with purpose and a sense of urgency, getting to my target destination with a task on my mind. In the meantime, I always find running into people awkward. I know that all it requires is a simple "Hi, how are you?", but I dread it. Social rules vary from person to person, making the quick interaction entirely unpredictable. Some people give a little half-smile, others say hello, or some ask how you are and don't really respond beyond that. What frustrates me most is when people stop dead in their tracks and start a conversation. I'm then stuck engaging in chitchat I didn't prepare myself for. It's a form of interaction that does not allow for the response time introverts require. And then the moment passes before I think of the appropriate response.

I've gone so far as to figure out the least-populated walking route to my office to avoid these situations in the hallways. I often scold myself for this behavior, because people are just trying to be nice, after all. It shouldn't be so hard to reciprocate, and in most cases, it isn't.

I've made what I feel is a fair compromise with myself though. I am more than capable of participating in the niceties of "Hi, how are you?" And in reason I should, because I don't consider myself a rude person. Most people don't realize how uncomfortable I am with meaningless conversation, and that's exactly it...they don't understand. The last thing I want to do is insult someone or come off as an Ice Queen, which I know is how many extroverts probably perceive me when I stutter some incoherent greeting or give a half-assed grin.

But...if it's one of those days where I am feeling completely inward and not up for the potential, unexpected chitchat, it's completely acceptable for me to take advantage of my special walking route to work. It's okay to catch an acquaintance out of the corner of my eye in the middle of the mall and turn the other way. Who says this makes me inept or rude? As an introvert, I'm entitled to this just as much as I should make an effort to smile and wave.

And you know what? I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


No, it's not a Batman episode.

Loud, continuous noise has always been an irritation to me. Ear-deafening music feels like torture. Banging pots and pans...I shudder to think of them. Noise seems to especially bother me most while I'm driving. If I have a passenger in the car with me who wants to make conservation, or I'm driving somewhere unfamiliar, I keep the radio low. I never thought twice about this until my friends started pointing it out; "Hey Granny, turn up the music!"

I never correlated my noise aversion to my introversion. I always assumed it was due to being an "old soul" as most of my family and friends have always labeled me. The more I think about it, the more it becomes clear. Just as someone yapping away at me is exhausting, loud noise drains me. It's a complete interruption of whatever I am focusing on or thinking about. If I don't know where I am driving to, loud music is a huge distraction for me. If my passenger wants to talk, I need to place all my energy into chatting.

Yet I find if I'm the one making the noise, I'm perfectly okay with it. That's also in line with the introverted personality though, since in that case the noise is part of the task I'm focused on.

Loud noises aren't going to disappear, nor can i selfishly expect people to not engage in creating them. I only point out my pet peeve because it's funny how my little quirks that people have always poked fun at are often explained by my introverted personality. These are attributes that I've often felt self-conscious about, but now I'm comforted understanding where they stem from!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Your Introverted Child

I've been thinking about how long it has taken me to realize that it is perfectly okay to be an introvert.

My parents are nothing but the best...loving, caring, and spoiled me to death. I honestly have no right to complain. Yet I know that had the people around me not pushed me to break out of my shell and point out the fact that I didn't fit in, I would not be struggling with myself as a 25 year old. It's not their fault, nor do I mean to blame them. They were just uninformed, concerned parents.

I just wanted to take a moment to urge all parents out there with introverted children to accept them as they are. No, it's not healthy for kids to stay holed up all the time...but if your child seems to need a break from socializing, give it to them. They're not deficient and they're not in need of help. They are no less happy than any other child.

All an introverted child requires is help to cultivate their strengths and give them the confidence they need, and most importantly, deserve.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Falling Clocks Syndrome

As much as I hope to champion the advantages of being an introvert, I am also the first to admit to its downfalls.

Introverts tend to be extremely analytical. Of course, this is a beneficial attribute to have, but other times it can be tortuous. The second I have a moment alone or am doing some mundane task like highway driving, I become totally lost in my thoughts.

Thinking isn't necessarily a bad thing. Let's face it, far too many people do far too little thinking. The problem lies in what I think about. I don't think about what I should eat for dinner, plan my next vacation or when I need an oil change. Instead, I spend hours pondering life's complexities; from the origin of the world, to religion, to death. Anything name it, I think about it.

Sometimes it's nice to feel intellectual and theorize, and I do enjoy deep thinking. And it certainly is something I do not wish
to stop completely. But often I feel like Alice in Wonderland falling through the rabbit hole with ticking clocks and the Cheshire Cat mocking me. It's unnerving that I focus so much energy on questions that lack answers. My deep thinking can even work me up to the point of making me anxious when I can't explain these mysteries.

One solution would be to express my ideas and chat with others about them, and this is exactly the type of conversation I excel in. Yet, after more than a few strange looks and raised eyebrows, I've discovered that most people don't share my interest. So my theories on time and life after death are kept to myself, resulting in a rare but glaring feeling of loneliness and futility. When my thoughts get to the point of resulting in these feelings, I find my analytical nature to be detrimental.

As much as it is natural for the introvert to find themselves in deep thought, I need to strive for only a healthy dose of the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Put On Your Dancing Shoes...Or Not.

Weddings are particularly difficult events to attend, especially when I know few people. Being assigned to sit at a table full of strangers that I will eventually have to make small talk with is nervewracking, yet I have spent the prior week mentally preparing myself for this so I generally survive dinner.

But dinner chitchat pales in comparison to what inevitably comes next: dancing.

No, it's not talking, but dancing is absolutely a form of social interaction that can be just as problematic for an introvert as picking up the telephone. Don't get me wrong, I love a wedding like most every other girl on the planet. I tear up during the ceremony, critique every ounce of decor, and gossip about everyone in attendance. But when the lights go down and the music starts to play, I would prefer to sit back and watch.

Most of my relatives and friends are perplexed. I competitively danced for 10 years, which required me to get up on stage in front of a huge audience multiple times a year and...well, dance. To me, the distinction is clear. Just as I can flawlessly deliver a prepared speech, I can perform a choreographed dance routine. I used to spend months practicing exactly what I was going to do. The idea of getting up at a wedding and having to dance freestyle puts me in instant panic mode. There's nothing planned about it. I'll happily slow dance because I know what I'm required to do: sway back and forth in a circle. Got it.

As a result, I'm perfectly content with sitting and watching the throng of people Shouting and Love Shacking. This, however, does not sit well with most people. What irks me most is that others attending the wedding just won't stand for my lack of participation. They perceive it as a cry for help, coming over and begging you to dance or even asking what's wrong. They mean well, but it is so frustrating to listen to these comments and nudges to do something you have no desire to do. I'm not sad. I'm not depressed. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. Believe it or not, I am enjoying myself just taking it all in!

It's my own fault. Sitting there while most people are up dancing makes me a target. From now on, it's obviously in my best interest to get up and keep myself busy when the dancing begins. It's just another example of a situation where I need to learn to adapt as an introvert.

As for my own wedding, I jokingly tell my boyfriend that if we decide to marry, I will be signing us up for dance lessons. I'm not so sure how much of a joke it is anymore.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Amazing Blog

I can't believe I haven't come across this introvert blog before now, but what an awesome post about post-graduate life as an introvert by Sophia Dembling:

I think the best advise she gives is, "Don't ever let anyone tell you that you have to be extroverted to succeed. All that's really necessary for success is a vision, a plan, confidence, and focus. And a lot of hard work. And some luck."

So well said and so motivating.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'm In Love With An Extrovert

Throughout my life, I have always found myself in relationships with extroverts and I have told myself to seek out someone quieter like me. Yet time and time again, I am with Mr. Social Butterfly, leading me to believe we are often attracted to what we are not.

Per my usual trend, my most recent significant other is a complete extrovert. I often admire how naturally socializing comes to him. While traveling the halls of our law school, he would wave to and chat with almost every passerby, while I awkwardly grinned and attempted (by attempted, I mean failed) to engage in the small talk. Our personality differences were obvious to me, but I never gave it much thought and it had not interfered with our relationship.

And then it happened. After about a year and a half of dating, he finally lost his patience and asked me why I seemed so uncomfortable around his family. Did I dislike them? If things didn't change, he was going to have to think about things, he said.

I had no words for him. All I could provide in response was a complete breakdown. In my mind, I had been making huge efforts and quite frankly, I thought I was doing well. Admittedly, I was quiet when in a small group of his very outgoing family, but I was quiet when I was with my own very outgoing family. After countless heartbreaks, this was the guy I knew I wanted to be with and if I could not change for him, how could I ever have a successful relationship? Why was I so ridiculous and unable to be his outgoing counterpart?

After much self-loathing and thought, I realized it was simple. My introversion would not change, and I was not going to live a life trying to alter something about myself that was no less permanent than my blue eyes. My boyfriend would have to try to understand me, or our relationship would have to end.

I knew I had to try to reason with him, but the explanation would be the hard part. I feverishly searched for articles that I felt best described what it meant to be an introvert, because although I could put my daily experiences into words, I thought it would be most helpful for him to see I am not alone. I went as far as highlighting the sentences I related to most and giving examples from my own life. I e-mailed this information to him and crossed my fingers.

Being the wonderful guy my boyfriend is, he actually took the time to sit and digest the articles. He did not pretend to completely understand or relate, but he acknowledged that introversion exists, and that it is not wrong to be that way. I was not someone to be fixed, I was someone to be accepted. There was no bigger relief for me than to be accepted by the person I love. Now, we are constantly poking fun at each other's personality. I ride him about his political wave and chit chat with anything that breathes, and he teases me about my embarrassing affair with reality television (yes, I just outed myself). The joking eases the tension surrounding the issue, and it is something we would have argued about had we never had the discussion.

Extroverts are far from jerks. They just can not grasp the idea of introversion and its hallmark of socializing being draining. We live in a world dominated by extroverts, so it is easy to see how an extrovert can misinterpret an introvert as antisocial, shy, surly, or even rude. For them, a social outing is as easy and instinctual as waking up in the morning. When an extrovert and an introvert are in a relationship they want to last, it is so so so important to have a frank discussion about who you both are and whether it is something each of you can accept. Your extrovert does not need to fully understand your introversion, but you must demand he/she respect it.

And it is not all on the extroverts. Us introverts need to compromise too. If your significant other will accept that you may only want to go out with a group one weekend night, it behooves you to be as socially "on" as you can when you do attend a function. Your partner will appreciate the extra effort you make to engage, just as you will appreciate the following day of quiet time.

Have I figured out the perfect balance yet? No. I still have a lot of work to do in compromising. Does my boyfriend still get upset when I retreat into myself? Probably. Has he ever given me a hard time about it since our discussion? Never, which tells me he respects me and that is all I can ask for.

Extroverted-introverted relationships are far from impossible. Just have the discussion as early as possible and talk it out. You will likely find out you complement each other well!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Good Read

This article is so on point, it's a must-read for anyone trying to understand introverts. There's a lot of sarcasm directed toward extroverts, but it's all in good fun.

There is too much wonderful content to point out but one of my favorite lines is "This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. "


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How About I Call You Back?

As an introvert, I cannot express how much I hate the phone.

I have always detested the phone, even as a child. Nothing was worse than hearing the dreaded "Call your aunt to thank her for your birthday gift". "Right now?", I would ask. Begrudgingly, pick up the phone and pray for the answering machine.

Not much has changed.

Unexpected phone calls are much worse than scheduled ones, for two reasons. One, I am completely unprepared and know I will likely have to engage in chit-chat with the caller. Often, after the call ends and I have had time to process what the caller said, I end up berating myself because I should have said this or that. And sometimes, god forbid, it results in me having to call back. Two, if I'm in the middle of a task, I feel completely thrown off and interrupted, because I like to place all my focus on one thing. Nothing about an unexpected phone call is on my terms, as selfish and ridiculous as it sounds.

Picking up the phone to call out is even worse. My heart starts racing no matter how many times I yell at myself to "Relax! It's just a phone call." Yes, that's more a symptom of anxiety than introversion. But, I believe I've made myself phone-anxious because I know the second the person on the other line starts talking about something outside the direct point of the call, I'll be thrown off.

At home, I can easily let my cell phone go to voicemail if I don't recognize the number (Thank you, caller ID!). If it's an important call, a message will be left and I then know what the caller needs from me. It's also much easier for me to engage in a phone conversation with someone I am familiar with, but there are even times when I don't feel up to talking to a friend. Work presents a much different situation. I'm a paralegal, which requires me to constantly communicate via the phone. Letting the call go to voicemail is an office no-no. The piece of plastic with its blinking lights might as well be mocking me all day. The phone rings and I let out an automatic, audible groan. My cubicle neighbors undoubtedly think I'm bananas.

The reality of the situation is that I can't go through life avoiding the phone. Nor can any introvert. Does anyone else avoid the phone like the plague? Any techniques? I have found that at work, doodling on a post-it helps. Sure, the resulting zigzags and lines drawn over and over again would probably raise the eyebrow of a psychologist or two, but it really reduces my tension during the call. When I have to call out, I draft a quick list of points I need to make. At home, I schedule a time to return calls so I can mentally prepare myself.

I'm really working on ways to calm my phone dread. As much as I accept being an introvert, there are just some introvert adverse things in life I must accommodate. I need and want to conquer this.

If nothing else, thank god for e-mail.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Once I began reading about introversion, I kept coming across an aspect of the trait that rang so true with me I almost jumped out of my chair.


It is the concept that an introvert does not necessarily dislike people, but an introvert tends to require time to rest after engaging in social interaction with a group of people. Quite frankly, it sounded pathetic to me as a 25 year old girl. I should want to be out until all hours at a bar, shouldn't I? At the same time, I realized "recharging" reflects exactly how I behave, and have behaved my entire life. How many weekends where I spent more than one night out with family or friends was I exhausted after? Countless. It is not that I don't want to socialize. Trust me, I do! I just like to do so in small quantities. I crave alone time after a night out. Me, myself, and the TV or a book. Going without my alone time results in what I like to think of as social shutdown where while at a social gathering I will likely sit in silence, only responding when being spoken to as to not be rude.

It honestly feels like an instinctual reaction. As nutty as it sounds, I physically cannot muster up the effort to engage in small talk if I haven't had time to myself. No matter how much I try to pep talk myself (anyone else do this?) or try to snap out of it, I can't. Anything that requires consecutive days of socialization (being in a wedding, for instance) is a source of stress.

Now that I understand this is a typical reaction for an introvert, I don't think of myself as strange for feeling the need to be alone at times. My goal is to make sure that I make plans accordingly, and not feel guilty saying no to certain social functions so that I can enjoy the social events I do attend as much as possible without entering social shutdown mode.

Has anyone else experienced this?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's The Weather Like Out There?

I am 25 years old and I just realized I am an introvert. Why did it take so long? I can't be sure.

I graduated from law school in May 2010, sat for the bar exam, and learned that I passed in November. The economy being in the shambles it is has led to few interviews. I interview horribly, to say the least. I spend hours rehearsing answers to potential questions and am ready for all the notoriously difficult queries. Once I am sitting in the chair, I am typically well-prepared for most of the questions thrown my way.

Then it happens...

"So, how was your drive?" "Can you believe this weather?" "Oh, you went to such and such college, my cousin went there!"

After having no problem telling the interviewer my life goals for the next 10 years, I sweat over the banter and chit-chat. I mutter a one-word answer or give an awkward chuckle, when I should have sparked a conversation. And the interview swirls down the toilet.

Perhaps I am being dramatic. My poor chit-chat skills cannot possibly be the entire reason why I have yet to receive a solid job offer. I very well may not have enough experience or qualifications. But it sure as hell does not help when I am up against a stack of 30 other resumes of unemployed attorneys.

Hold on a minute. Why would an introvert even consider being an attorney? Believe it or not, lawyering is one of the highest ranked career paths for introverts, presumably due to the fact it requires a lot of thinking about how to respond to possible arguments. This is a skill I have mastered, even in my every day life. I cannot say that is the reason I attended law school though, since I did not classify myself as an introvert at that point. Honestly, I was terrified to go to law school. My fears were (and still are) calmed by the idea that most lawyers never see a courtroom. I truly, I know...that I went to law school to prove everyone in my life wrong, including myself. I refused to be the quiet, smart girl everyone pegged me as. If anything could push me out of "shy", law school would be it.

Three years, a law degree, and a bar license later and everyone was right about me. Well, partly.

Sure, I survived law school and am confident that I would even be comfortable in front of a judge. Yet I still cannot get through a simple interview or group dinner with ease? Law school failed me and I could no longer just chalk it up to "being shy". After an enormous amount of frustration over my interviews and difficult social interactions, I began to read up on what my problem could be.

I decided to look into introversion, but believed there was no way I was that severe. Come to find out, I knew nothing about introversion. My preconceived notions of an introvert were totally false. Many introverts often do well in front of a large group. Check. Most introverts do not engage in chit-chat successfully. Double check. The more I read, the more I connected, and the more I felt...well, normal.

As much as I feel elated to know others feel as I do, I still am struggling. Did I choose the wrong career? Even though introverts often function well as lawyers, will anyone ever hire me if I cannot have a simple conversation or schmooze like the stereotypical, extroverted lawyers do? I have come to accept my introversion, but now I need to find my path.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Hi all! I figure it is important to start with the obligatory introduction blog post.

I am an introvert. I am also a lawyer. Sounds like an AA meeting, but that would be an uncomfortable setting for me, now wouldn't it?

This blog has been born out of my frustrations with living as an introvert and is spawned from my recent, life-changing realization: I am an introvert, this is what I am, and it is not going to change.

This revelation has intensely piqued my interest in what it means to be an introvert and how to live a successful, but more importantly, a happy life in this extrovert-dominant society. This blog will be a bit about what I am learning about myself and introversion in general.

More than anything, I hope it sparks an interest from others out there with similar experiences. I would love to hear from you! Comment or e-mail whenever you like (we introverts like e-mail, don't we?)