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Confessions of an Introvert

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a week of chasing squirrels.  There are so many things going on and pulling my attention in different directions – Organizational structure, website updates, grants, restructuring, state codes, staff issues, new software, meeting after meeting, constant interruptions and literally over 100 emails a day. I have eight different website tabs open for things I started to research and several other articles and publications stacked on my desk. And just as I would dig into a task, it happened. They arrive, innocently enough, those very polite words: “Do you have a minute”, “Got a Sec”, “Knock-Knock”, “Can I quickly run this by you?”  Then this happens – S  Q  U  I  R  R  E  L !  Off I go chasing something else in another direction.

My original plan for this week was to write about introverts – “Five things you might not know about introverts”.  Introverts are often mistaken for a lot of things, including shy. While an introvert can be shy, most are not. There are many other misconstrued stereotypes including social awkwardness, stuck-up, and rude.  In reality, introverts are just wired differently than extroverts.  If you put it in terms of computers, their processors work fine; they just follow different circuits than the majority of other processors. They think differently, listen more, and need down time to process information.  If they don’t get some quiet time, alone, to think and reflect then they…….S  Q  U  I  R  R  E  L  !

You got me. Hello, my name is Wendy and I’m an introvert. I can speak in front of a thousand people, teach a class, give presentations, run meetings, network, lead, act, participate in small talk and even go to a party. I just may do all these things differently than most people. While extroverts thrive around social activity and large groups of people, for me, and others like me, it’s stressful. It’s physically and mentally exhausting. Preparation and practice planning for social activities are a necessity. After an event, introverts are like a cell phone with a dead battery – they need to be plugged in and left alone so the battery can recharge. It took copious amounts practice and effort for me to be able to walk up to people with an extended hand and a smile to introduce myself.  I still need to mentally and physically prepare myself with inner conversations and deep breaths followed by time to “recharge” afterward.

So today, instead of writing about famous introverts like Julia Roberts, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, J.K. Rowling, Charles Darwin, Harrison Ford and the amazingly brave Rosa Parks, I’m going to focus on ways that I and other introverts can focus more and chase squirrels less.  If you don’t share the same circuitry as an introvert, I hope this information helps you to understand a colleague or loved one just a little better.  To be more productive and less stressed I’m going to try to:

  1. Stop trying to multitask – According to Psychology Today, introverts are better when focusing on single tasks. My eight open web page tabs and piles of information sitting on my desk are a mistake.  I’m going to make a list and check tasks off one at a time.
  1. Take time to recharge – Sitting at my desk while I chomp down a sandwich with one hand and scroll through email with the other doesn’t disconnect me from activity and allow a recharge.  Plus, it’s just not healthy.  I’m going to make a concerted effort to get up and go for short walks at least three times a day.
  1. Block distractions – As a leader, I cannot be effective by sitting in my office with the door closed all the time.  I might be productive as heck, but all of my professional relationships will wither and die.  Instead, I’m going to stop the email and internet pop-up notifications.  I will check on my own terms.  It might take some time for my team to realize I’m not answering right away, but once they know I only check email three times a day, it will become routine.
  1. Accept the things I cannot change – Introverts are notorious for their planning abilities.  Some days, no matter how much you schedule and plan, interruptions happen and the best-laid plans are bowled over like ice with a Zamboni. I’ll probably still schedule in extra times for interruptions.

I’m not sure how successful I’ll be, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ve given it a lot of thought and planning.

Wendy Dutenhoeffer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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19 Comments

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Joseph B. Stewart

Wendy, Thanks for the blog on introverts. As you so accurately described, ‘Introverts’ come in all shapes and sizes and are not necessarily all ‘shy’. In looking at the personality literature there is also an association [.r] of folks in childhood who are introverts who are really taking it all in and processing information. When they have enough information to act, they do.

Joseph B. Stewart, EdD
psychologist

Wendy Dutenhoeffer

Thanks so much for the comments Dr. Stewart. I greatly appreciate the corroboration to my post. I was always considered a ‘shy’ child but your comments makes me think I wasn’t shy, just introverted all along.

Tammy Seleski

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I never read such a warm and accurate description of an “introvert” until now. You did a great service to your readers!

Wendy Dutenhoeffer

Thank you Carolee. As I was telling my brother the other day — what a boring world it would be if we were all the same. Embrace your true-self, no matter the label 🙂

Paulie

Like you, I’m introvert (although I like to multi-task or at least I can’t seem to do one thing at a time – ever). With more talk of introvertism in the news, I’ve given to confiding to people that I am an introvert. The reaction is interesting as most people are surprised and almost seem a little hurt (as though it means I don’t like them). Perhaps they feel that in my interactions I haven’t been genuine. This is not true, of course. As I explained to one person, I’ve, like probably many introverts, learned how to act like an extrovert; however, interactions are exhausting for us. The reason I tell people is that if they notice that I get very quiet or stay in my office or choose to eat alone for a while, its not because of them, or that I’m shy, or that I do not like people. It’s just because of a need to be alone to recharge. I never want to attend an event where I have to interact with groups of people. However, I go (my husband is very extroverted) and I enjoy myself, but then I need a day to recoup. It’s just the way we’re wired.

Wendy Dutenhoeffer

Thanks for the comment Paulie. People laugh all the time when I tell them I’m an introvert. That’s the problem with stereotypes. We can be outgoing, but the alone time is our solace.

Joyce

I appreciate this information so much. I need more of this type of info. I am going to do my best to implement this into everyday practice. Practice makes perfect! I will try.

Laura

Thank you, Wendy! I am 47 years old and have only recently begun to realize I am an introvert. Your blog sums it up so well and I truly appreciate the tips to be more productive and less stressed!