Attack of the Extroverts!

Being a libertarian (where apparently 90% of us are INTJ personalities), when my newsfeed isn’t clogged up with statements from Obama or one of the Pauls, it’s populated with articles about introverts vs extroverts.

Almost without fail, the article is an exposé on the plight of the introverts or a smarmy treatise on their superiority. Usually both.

One can already guess that The Atlantic’s publication of “Caring for Your Introvert” is going to be nauseatingly self-pitying or patronizing, and Jonathan Rauch does not disappoint. In fact, I’d say his article is exactly what’s wrong with the whole discussion.

He introduces the apparently novel concept of introversion, and before enlightening the reader he explains: “If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.”

Oh I see. I must have missed all the introverts rounded up and murdered during bloody wars, purges and revolutions. Now everyone deserves the occasional use of hyperbole…but then a few paragraphs later he asks himself the question none of us were asking: “Are introverts oppressed?

His answer is yes, of course, and goes on to reason that this must be true, because politicians like George Bush and Bill Clinton certainly appear to be extroverts. An apparent over-representation of extroverts in politics must mean introverts are oppressed. I mean, it’s a really good point, what if there were ever a bill to subsidize house parties and happy hours? Or a resolution to criminalize libraries and alone time?

Yeah, nah. I think we can agree that that’s stupid and move on.

Rauch does later point out some of the actual downsides of being an introvert. He points out the risk of being called guarded, timid or even haughty for not being eager to join in small talk. Sure, that is a real risk that you run, and I can definitely empathize with that. Yet I wonder if Jonathan has ever considered that extroverts face unjust assumptions as well.

Recently Forbes covered a wonderfully frustrating UCLA study on teamwork with extroverts.  While finding that people apparently didn’t expect much from introverts and neurotics (Yes, I realize these are different things) at first, they discovered that not only was the work of extroverts undervalued, but that if an extrovert failed to deliver they’d be evaluated far more critically than if they were an introvert. Well that doesn’t sound very fair.

Seemingly blind to the irony, Jonathan shows no hesitation to characterize extroverts as “puppy dogsbarking and yipping” with their “98-percent-content-free talk,” all the while bemoaning how society misunderstands him. Really, you can read it for yourself. I’d offer him the benefit of the doubt if he hadn’t gone out of his way to explain that if it weren’t for these dang extroverts, and if “introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place.”

Please remind me again how chit-chat leads to war and aggression.

Okay yeah I guess puppy dogs can be jerks after all
Then, finally anticipating a question we’re actually wondering, Rauch asks himself if introverts are arrogant. He answers no: “I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts.” Ah, of course. We must have been too busy gabbing away to have thought of that.

But seriously, I won’t beat a dead horse. I’m not here to bash introverts and I don’t want to be mistaken for that; the world would be an ugly place without you. What I’m trying to say is that you should stay as far away as possible from smug dorks like Jonathan Rauch and their work. It’s as untrue as it is harmful. There’s no need to self-pity and there’s no need to be defensive.

As it turns out, moderate extroverts and moderate introverts (or ambiverts) actually do best in life. There’s a reason evolution hasn’t selected for us to all be loners or loudmouths. Even in the field of sales, where extroverts are thought to excel, a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found that both strong introverts and strong extroverts failed to rake in the cash like their more well-rounded coworkers.

Then for those of us on the more extreme ends of the scale, we can always benefit from teaming up with someone on the other end of the spectrum. All it requires a little bit of patience, charity, and not being a self-indulged jerkI find the tips posted here on Psychology Today to be much more useful advice than anything else showing up on my newsfeed. Give it a look-see and hug an extrovert or introvert today. Or, you know, write them a positive letter. Whatever everyone’s comfortable with here.

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