The other day I was interviewed in English. I was asked some rather unorthodox questions about introversion (part 1).
-If you could be an introverted super hero, what would your name and special ability be?
My super hero name would be Captain Common Sense. My power would be invisibility. I would use this ability to covertly slap people on the train who talk loud on their phones about very private matters (e.g chlamydia tests).
-Why do you think introverts are so fond of toilets?
I think that in our society it is often frowned upon to leave a crowd without an explanation. To just stand around by yourself is considered odd. For some reason individuals in the western world feel obligated to tell people why we choose to do something else than socialize ( common lie is: ”I just need to check my voicemail”). Therefor it is safer to hide inside a private place like a bathroom. I think the key thing is the possibility to close a door and shut out all the noise and the interaction with others. Bathrooms are like rebooting stations.
-Are there any social situations you find very hard to cope with; why?
Dancing. To me it is the strangest phenomenon of human culture. It feels forced (unless I am superdrunk). To mingle in a room with strangers is probably the second most stressful thing I can think of. It seems I always end up saying akward or morbid things (”Have you thought about how we all die alone?”). From time to time I do encounter the same kind of lost individual at such parties and we end up talking all night about zombies, colon cancer and suicides.
-Are you a fan of Star Trek?
I am a big fan of science fiction in general. Anything that is immersive enough to take my imagination for a jog is perfect. It releases me from the mundane demands of the modern world (like understanding our super complex pension fund system). This is also why I am an avid gamer/reader/cineast. I would rather read a great psychology book or investigate a new galaxy in Mass Effect than hang out and mingle with strangers.
-How are introverts viewed by the society? Do you think said view/stereotype is accurate?
I think the stereotypes are usually very negative and portrays introverts as a rather odd type of personality (nerd or serial killer). I believe this is changing and it seems like mainstream media have a recent crush on the introverted characters right now (Thinking about popular characters like Lisbet Salander or Don Draper for example). The most common missconception is that introverts are shy, egotistical and less disciplined than extraverts. Another idea is that introverts do not want social relationships. None of these statements holds true. Introversion is a measure of how much that need to happen on the outside in order for much to happen on the inside. It is in essence about sensitivity to external stimuli.
-Is the pressure by society towards introverts to be more extroverted harmful?
Yes, and I think this is reflected in several fields. For example: most western job ads highlight being ”social” as the most important trait of the person sought after. This seems to be the case even for roles that in their daily form does not even contain social elements. To me it is strange to look for a social person when the job is about looking at a computer screen and working individually for 8 hours a day. It is more likely that a social person would hate a non social job. Other areas where the extraverted nature is a strong norm is in modern schools where a student tends to get grades that reflect the extent they speak up in the classroom. Quantity of words over quality of words. There are also some differences in the way children are being raised nowadays that highlight changes in our cultural norms over time. For example there is this long term study (mentioned in the book “Millenials” by William Strauss and Neil Howe) that showed how a child raised in 1983 would have 37% more solitary and unsupervised time than a child raised in 1997. So in essence is it like our society has become increasingly social in nature since the 1960.
-Do you ever pretend to be busy, e.g. reading a book or watching your phone in public, just to avoid social contact?
Yes. A bit too often.
-Do you still pretend to be more extroverted in certain situations than you actually are?
I do, but it is something that I deliberately choose. I have job roles that need a social persona in order to work. The main thing of importance for me is to allow myself to have “downtime” afterwards and do thing without interaction with other to allow myself to recharge.
-Do you prefer talking on the internet instead of face to face conversations?
Id say that it depends on my level of energy. After a few busy days of travel and meetings I would prefer text probably. But during the periods where I work intensely with my writing I find myself to truly enjoy company. But even in social settings I found that I prefer a smaller group (3-5people) to a larger one. Large groups drain me very quickly.
-Why do you think introverts are so at home on the internet?
Because it is a forum where you get the chance to speak when you feel that you have thought your words through. You don’t get interrupted, and you don’t have to face a room full of people in order to communicate something to a room full of people. It is perfect! I think text is something that most introverts handle well.
-What makes parties so cumbersome for introverts?
Too much dopamine bombardment caused by the many faces, the changing groupsettings and the quick conversations. (the more introverted a person the less tolerant to dopamine according to several studies).
-Why is it that introverts often have a hard time communicating via speaking and express themselves a lot better by writing?
I find that many introverts are not that spontaneous. We don’t have a direct impression about things (no gut feeling so to speak). An opinion, (and often a nuanced one) usually takes some time and reflection to form. That is why text is often the optimal form of communication. This does not mean that introversion is like a lack of communication skills. On the contrary there has been surveys finding that the majority of public speakers in the United States are actually introverted. The point I think is relevant is that introverts when in conversation prefer a smaller group of people. It is common that introverts are really strong communicators in settings with a one-to-one situation (negotiating, therapeutic session, job interviews etc).
-Is ‘being bored’ an unknown concept for you?
Well. The one thing that can bore me is watching golf or reading old dishwasher manuals. There is also some extremely repetetive settings that can drive me crazy (Like when my daughter sings ”Let it go” for five days straight). Besides from that I find it very easy to spend ”unstructured” time. Time alone is usually solitude for me. There is always a story to find on the inside of my head. There is always an inspiring thought to ponder (Like how there is a star we have discovered that is five trillion times bigger than our own sun)
More to come…