Introverts I’ve Known

January 3, 2007

Everyone is different. That seems so obvious that it doesn’t even need to be said. The thing is, you have to try to live with the differences, even celebrate them. Trying to make everyone think and act like you do is going to end up in one very boring world.

I feel that I’m extremely fortunate to have an extrovert for a best friend — N. N and I have known each other for nearly nine years, and we’ve often wondered ourselves how we get along so well. We’re pretty far apart on the introvert-extrovert scale. But it works — probably because, over time, we’ve learned to live with the way we are and not try to change each other.

I used to work with someone, B, who was an extreme introvert. She also had a pretty big ego. All I can say is that big introvert combined with big ego is a very weird combination. My job required managing her and others in project teams. Unfortunately, B wanted everyone to act the way she did. She didn’t like having to answer a direct question (she wanted time to think about the answer first); she certainly didn’t want to be confronted by anyone about anything (although even an innocuous question seemed like an interrogation to her); she always thought everyone was yelling at her; and she actually thought that those around her needed to change their ways to accomodate her style of working.

First of all, that’s never going to happen. You can’t change a person’s inherent nature. Second, her take on reality was seriously skewed by her own introvertedness. She simply could not come out of herself enough to realize that other ways of relating to people were not only acceptable, but often preferable. She spent lots and lots of time complaining about co-workers she didn’t like and spent a lot of time lobbying senior managers to make everyone be “nice” to her. And it was all such a waste of time. It wouldn’t have been easy for her to change, but it might have helped her to grow as a person. And she would have been much less disliked (okay, often hated) by many of her co-workers. B actually did have a lot to offer; she had a lot of great skills and knowledge. But making progress on any project she was on often turned into sheer torture.

I know I’m an introvert and I accept it. I do not expect others to change, only to understand me and where I’m coming from. It’s a win/win situation if we can all do that. I think maybe just a little bit of N’s nature has rubbed off on me and I’m glad it has. What a great gift for an introvert to have an extrovert for a best friend!