introvert

I’ve mentioned before that I’m an introvert. That doesn’t mean I’m inside out, as my daughter asked. (I asked her, “Why, do I look inside out?” She shook her head.)

For many years, Liz and I had a tension in our lives. That tension looked like this:

We would go out to a big dinner party or something of that nature. On the way home from a lovely night with a bunch of friends, Liz found that I was, inevitably, quiet. Which one would reasonably interpret to be the sign of a bad mood.

So she would ask if I was okay or if I’d had a bad time (during what seemed like an enjoyable evening with people we love) and I would tell her that I was totally fine. But without any logical explanation why I was being quiet, she was left to draw natural conclusions, like that I was upset about something and simply choosing not to tell her.

And voila. Tension.

It’s not that I don’t adore my friends. I do. I adore them. It’s just that at the end of a night (or sometimes in the middle) I could find myself completely running out of battery, and I didn’t know why.

Everything changed one evening, on an island off the coast of Maine.

Monhegan Island, a place a grew up going to, is remote and quiet and small with beautiful wooded hikes and stunning cliffs. So on our second night there, Liz and I found ourselves talking about our dream vacations vs. vacations we would dread. I mentioned that a week alone, writing, in a little cottage on Monhegan right on the ocean would be a dream come true.

Liz actually shuddered at the prospect. “Okay, I have a new Most Dreaded Vacation,” she said. “That. What you just said. I would go completely crazy.”

That was the moment where it dawned on us. She was an extrovert. I was an introvert.

It took us so long to figure this out, I believe, because I don’t really act like an introvert. 

I’m comfortable up in front of a lot of people; it’s part of my job at NYU Stern as Dean of Students. I’m constantly meeting new students. I’m very comfortable walking into a group of strangers and talking. 

But I do those things because I can do them. I find value in doing those things, at school and at church and in life. It’s wildly different, however, from the things I choose to do.

At the checkout counter at a grocery store, Liz will turn to the woman behind her and strike up a conversation. In those moments I turn into a six year old, praying the earth will swallow me up for fear I might be brought into that conversation. 

When Little Princes came out, I once spoke to four classes, one after another, at a high school on Long Island. When I was done, I made it out to my car in the faculty parking lot, got in the drivers seat, and proceeded to fall fast asleep for an hour. If the students had seen me they would have thought I was an android that was powering down.  

I bring all this up because of this:

There aren’t a lot of things that make me feel alone in this world, but this is probably one of them. Because nobody talks about somebody they love or admire and goes “Man, that guy is awesome – so anti-social! I love how he never wants to hang out ever with anyone ever in any setting!” So instead I just always bottled that up and didn’t share it with people.

But Liz doesn’t think that about me. Our Monhegan Island conversation changed our relationship. For her, she was able to share what it felt like for her to go an intense workday without interacting with colleagues or friends, and how it could sink her entire mood. And I was able to better articulate why going to a Parents Coffee at our kids’ school wasn’t my favorite thing to do: 

“You remember that scene in Return of the Jedi when Jabba the Hutt drops Luke into that pit and suddenly that crazy huge monster comes out at him? And Luke is scrambling for the exit and shaking the locked doors?”

“Yeah…that’s what a coffee with other parents feels like?” she asked.

“Well, Luke had those animal bones he could fight with. So it’s not a perfect analogy. But yeah.” 

You think I’m exaggerating. But the introverts out there know exactly what I’m talking about. We introverts fantasize about carrying around a pocket full of those ninja smoke screen things. (I don’t even know where they come from or where ninjas buy them, or really how effective they could be because it seems easier to sneak out of a party than to throw a smoke ball at the ground and have everyone scream “Fire!!”) We dream about those ninja smoke things because they just seem so effective at magically transporting us out of a social setting.  

So if you have somebody in your life who is just sort of a pain in the butt because they never want to do anything…well, I suppose maybe they are just a pain in the butt that doesn’t want to do anything.

But there’s also a chance that they haven’t come to terms with the fact that they process the world differently. They haven’t put a name on it yet. 

Or maybe they just need some of those ninja smoke bombs. 

And those smoke bombs bring us to….

The Top Five Things in TV Land that are Totally Absurd:

1. Nobody Ever Actually Got Shot in the A-Team TV Show.

Hannibal and BA Baracus would leap out of their van, double-fisting M-16s and spraying the horizon with hot metal. They would vaporize walls and cars and brick walls would crumble. And not a single human being would ever get hit. Not sure how they explained that in the first table read. 

2. Bus Passes in Front of Person Across the Street, Person Disappears.

Give. Me. A. Break. What, everyone is David Copperfield now? Even if a trap door opened under their feet in the concrete sidewalk, you’d still probably see the top of their head as they fell. Seriously, man. Enough with this. 

3. Slap the Car Twice, Car Starts Driving.

How is did this become the universal signal for “Let’s go” – tapping the side of the car door twice?  And what was wrong with the previous universal signal for “Let’s go” which was somebody saying: “Let’s go”? Were people having a problem understanding that? We have to communicate through sonar now? What are we, whales?

4. Saying Goodbye by Saying Somebody’s Name. 

I felt like this went out of style in the eighteen century, when people referred to each other by names like “Mr. Pembertonbrook.” So explain to me what’s happening on TV shows now where the lawyer snaps closed her briefcase and stands up and nods at the person across the table and says, “Jonathan” and walks out. That’s what’s survived from 1780? It’s like somebody saying “I’ll text her” and then it inexplicably cuts to them setting typeset in a printing press.

5. The Magic Punch.

People who have never been in a fight before all of a sudden are knocking out bad guys with one punch. Knocking them unconscious. Has that ever happened in the history of the world? Two scenes later people are flying through windshields of a Honda Civic and dusting themselves off. But the punch is too much? Wouldn’t most people just rub their jaw and then punch the guy back? Or does everyone have an total-body-shut-down switch in their chin? I don’t get it.

See that? I’m relaxed now. I was sitting alone, writing this. All alone. Take up writing, Introverts! Fool people into thinking you can’t talk right now. Then share dumb TV shenanigans in a blog. It works for me.

By | 2018-03-14T08:40:37+00:00 March 14th, 2018|28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Heather March 14, 2018 at 8:49 am - Reply

    I’m an introvert, and I’m a teacher. I love the classroom, but after that, I’m on shut down. As my son tells me, “I’m super boring.” I don’t want to be, but I am. I’m also an over-thinker which makes life agony. When I have to go to a party or stand in front of others, I process every stupid thing I ever said. It’s painful.

    • Conor March 14, 2018 at 11:00 am - Reply

      Oh, I’m a total overthinker, which then leads to me thinking everyone is an overthinker, which means I tend to overexplain. You want annoying? That’s annoying. Thanks for reading Heather!

  2. Mark March 14, 2018 at 8:57 am - Reply

    As you know, I’m the extro, Laura is the intro, in our family. Yep. It just means that at midnight, after a Saturday night party with a dozen friends, Laura crashes and doesn’t wake up until Tuesday, and I’m all like “now what are we doing to do?”. How is it that God made one person’s battery drain and another’s fill up so oppositely? Weird. Must be some kind of cave survival thing. (By the way, when we think of our ancient forebears, why is it always caves that humans dwelt in? Weren’t there also grass huts, igloos and such? Anyway…) Nod. Mr. Grennan.

    • Conor March 14, 2018 at 11:01 am - Reply

      Total grass hut survival mode. We are such grass hut men!

  3. Elsa March 14, 2018 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Fellow Introvert! A sketchbook and a sharp pencil in a corner of a coffee shop is bliss

    • Conor March 14, 2018 at 11:02 am - Reply

      Yes!! Keep doing it! So glad you were born an introvert for that very reason 🙂

  4. Kathryn Thompson March 14, 2018 at 9:33 am - Reply

    Love this post! I LOL’d at the grocery store turning-into-a-six-year-old part. I have that anxiety on airplanes. I will do whatever I can to communicate (in body language) that I most certainly do not want to talk to the person next to me.

    • Conor March 14, 2018 at 11:02 am - Reply

      Right?? Get outta here, person next to me! Even if they talk to me I’m all like “Grunt? Grunt.” Because no thanks!

  5. Kelly MacNeal March 14, 2018 at 11:37 am - Reply

    This was truly written for me( the extro) and my teenage daughter( the intro) who I try to FORCE to do extra outings like go to the high school basketball games( “But what if I see someone I know, Mom? I just want to hide!”). Thanks for writing!

    • Conor March 14, 2018 at 11:44 am - Reply

      Yes, right! And it must seem so weird to people, I totally get that. Like, why wouldn’t we be okay seeing people? But….we just aren’t. And I don’t really know why.

  6. Sharon March 14, 2018 at 11:49 am - Reply

    I’m an introvert but I think I’m getting better as I get older. Working for myself has given me more confidence to speak out in a job sense but in social gatherings I am definately still the wallflower. That said, i think going on holiday on my own a few times helped me come out of my shell and I learned to instigate conversation over a beer. I actually made some good friends in the end.

    My o/h is worse and hates going anywhere where he has to converse with complete strangers. He thinks I’m more confident but I would say some of it is a bit of bluff!

    As for annoying TV things…

    How hardly anyone says goodbye to the person on the end of the phone in TV & Film. They just end a sentence and snap the phone shut. And it used to bug me for ages how all films still used clamshell phones, even when smart phones had been around for ages!!

    How in TV shows, when someone has a child… you never see the child again until they are about 5!

  7. Conor March 14, 2018 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Yes, the phone hang up! I’d be mad at somebody for a week if they hung up on me like that. Is that how police do it in real life? Because it’s so frustrating….

  8. Darlene Broughton March 14, 2018 at 11:57 am - Reply

    I think I’m morphing into an introvert. The older I get, the more I like my house, peace and quiet. But I still like getting out with people at times, just not too often in too short a time. Balance is the key for me.

    • Conor March 14, 2018 at 1:25 pm - Reply

      Right. Balance. That’s why it took me so long to figure it out, because it’s not like I’m the quiet type. Balance!

  9. Laura March 14, 2018 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    Love this. I think you need a follow up post on “best intro tactics to survive in an extro world ” cuz seriously I could use some new tips…LOL If only I could hit the disappear button at times or sleep at any hour that I want, ever, that would certainly help. I grew up with a dad that would make a new best friend on every elevator he ever stepped foot in. He was always introducing me…dragging me right in. To this day, when the round of introductions come, I want the ground to swallow me up too. I feel you bro!!!

    • Conor March 14, 2018 at 1:27 pm - Reply

      I know! I had that with a buddy, he would say “You gotta meet my friend Conor!” even though he’d only met the guy 5 minutes earlier. I don’t want to meet your new friend. I want to be with about a dozen people and that’s it.

  10. Carol March 14, 2018 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Between reading “Quiet,” by Susan Cain, and finally nailing down my Myers-Briggs type (INFJ)–and all the “a-ha” moments of clarity that brings–I am now at peace with my quiet, over-thinking nature. I no longer force myself to do (or not do) things that are not right for me (which always seemed to NOT have the desired results anyway). Finally knowing who I am and how I work, I am actually more confident and outgoing because I know when, where, and how I can do that authentically and, most important, when I need to stop and go recharge. Now when people chide me for “being so quiet” or complain that I always over-think things, I can respond with some clarity about why that is and how we can interface a little better. (If you haven’t read it, “Quiet” is a life-changing book, for introverts AND those who have to deal with us!)

    • Conor March 14, 2018 at 1:31 pm - Reply

      I thought Quiet was fantastic – she totally nails it. And yes, getting more comfortable with who you are is indeed life-altering!

  11. Jackie Lyons March 14, 2018 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    Yep, I test as an INFP – which for me means I can do public speaking when I need to, but would rather communicate by writing it down. I find I’m more anxious in crowds and would rather be with 4 or 5 (or fewer) friends if I have to be ‘in a group’ at all. I think maybe I have always been this way, only I let myself be pressured into behaving like an extrovert. One day I realized I LIKE myself as I am (INFP) and I’m old enough to know God me this way for His purpose. I don’t need to impress anyone else! You are correct- being ‘out-going’ is exhausting.

    • Conor March 14, 2018 at 4:00 pm - Reply

      Totally – that’s the key! Deciding you like yourself that way. I think that took me the longest.

  12. Liz (yep!) March 14, 2018 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Bless your heart, I feel your pain!! Fortunately I married an introvert, so we both leave the party early, happily. As for TV annoyances, not enough space here… How about the fact that EVERYONE has memorized any phone number they need — they never have to look them up!

    • Conor March 14, 2018 at 4:01 pm - Reply

      Right, the memorized phone number!! They should at least pretend to look it up. Seriously with that.

  13. Dad March 14, 2018 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    Nice one. Ah THAT club!! Mum’s the word (dunno why that’s the word…..)

    • Conor March 14, 2018 at 8:16 pm - Reply

      We know all about that club!

  14. Fred March 14, 2018 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    I love my close circle of best friends and even like to arrange a meet up for coffee or dinner but after an hour I just really want to say ‘ok can we call it a night’ and crave to go home. It’s not that I grew hate of my friends in that 1 hour. I really enjoy the meeting and still be happy about it for hours after I’m home.

    Thought I am weird. But not now after reading your thought!

    • Conor March 15, 2018 at 8:50 am - Reply

      Right, exactly! That one hour is perfect. All I need. Totally agree, Fred.

  15. James July 7, 2018 at 1:54 am - Reply

    I sat on my balcony this morning having coffee and reading Little Princes for the third time since buying it several years ago. I would have written to you back then, but being such an introvert prevented me from doing so.

    But this morning when the tears started to well up from your words about the mistreatment of the young and powerless, it started me thinking about children separated from their parents in the USA and how those kids, mothers and fathers must feel. Even though it is worlds away from Nepal and different from supposedly third world countries, it struck me as similar: the incomparable hardship of being separated from those you love and not knowing when you will see them again. It’s just one of the many random thoughts I had while reading your book, so thank you very much for the inspiration.

    Okay. I’m going back into my shell . . .

    • Conor July 8, 2018 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      Introverts unite!! Thanks for reading James!

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