”I’m not an introvert. I like people.” It is a common misconception. We are all social beings, but introverts process information diﬀerently. It can be a challenge. Introverts are typically outnumbered by three times as many extroverts. It is no wonder if introverts feel out of place. It can also be an advantage, as shown by Marti Laney in her book, The Introvert Advantage.
Introverts have increased blood ﬂow in the brain and it follows a diﬀerent pathway, engaging memory, problem solving, and planning. The pathway is long and complex, activated by the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which stimulates a good feeling when thinking or feeling. The extrovert path is activated by dopamine, ﬁred by adrenaline – they need external stimulation to feel good. Extroverts like to experience a lot, and introverts like to know a lot about what they experience. Introverts ﬁnd that outside activity raises their intensity quickly. It is like being tickled – the sensation goes from feeling good and fun to ’too much’ and uncomfortable in a split second. Their brain may shut down – brain freeze, ’vapour lock’. Social encounters are rich in stimulation and introverts process them deeply, sometimes needing to limit the encounter, ”It’s time to go now.”
The introvert and the extrovert are the tortoise and the hare. Introverts tend to be slower and stead-ier, while extroverts are faster and take bigger risks. The tortoise strategy tends to work better in the long run. Introverts have the ability to focus deeply, and to understand how a change will aﬀect everyone. They have a propensity for thinking outside the box, and the strength to make unpopular decisions. They help slow down the world a notch.
A hundred light bulbs went on when I read Laney’s book. At the time of the reading, I identiﬁed my-self as an introvert oﬀ the scale, but I have since met people who are much more introverted. Laney’s book recommends several excellent coping strategies. Wake early and gently to let the brain engage. The introvert’s nervous system causes food to metabolize quickly, so graze through the day. Avoid rewinding and replaying words after social encounters (I do this). Speak to extroverts in short, clear sentences (hilarious but true). Introverts tend to have fewer, deeper relationships, which is great, but the best of advice I received from this book was to accept that relationships can be light as well as deep. It makes the world a friendlier place.
[originally published at this site on 2011-02-03]