I suffer from a most curious malady. As a teenager, I was convinced I was abnormal because of it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve accepted it, and even embraced it. It’s not really a malady, but in the cultural Kardashiverse of look-at-me, social media oversharing, and viral guerilla marketing, it can feel that way.
I am an introvert.
Introverts have a personality bent more inclined to solitude and thinking. Some introverts are shy as well, but not all introverts are shy. Some just prefer quiet activities, their own company or the company of a few familiar friends. Their personality type craves solitude and can be drained by too much social interaction or stimuli in general.
Sometimes a stigma is attached to this type of behavior; introverts have been considered ‘painfully shy’, ‘anti-social’, ‘withdrawn’, ‘depressed’, or even ‘arrogant and stuck-up’.
Introverts make up about 40% of the general population, 60% of the gifted population, and 75% of those who consider themselves a creative or artistic person. If you’re not an introvert, you probably work with one, live with one, or will be sitting next to one at your next social activity.
Introversion and extroversion are not cut and dried. As with many personality traits, most people are a combination on the spectrum. Not surprisingly, a majority of writers consider themselves introverts. Writing is a perfect introvert activity.
However, when it comes to interacting with others in places like writing groups, writing conferences, or Heaven forbid, speaking in front of a book club or other group, some writers would prefer a root canal.With conference season coming upon us and writing groups always on our radar, what’s a dyed-in-the-wool introvert to do to connect in the writing community?
- Stretch yourself
It’s hard to talk to someone you don’t know, whether in person or on social media. You don’t think you’ll have anything interesting to say. You overthink it. It’s easier to keep to yourself, lurk on blogs and Facebook pages. Find a way to be a part of the conversation. Take a chance and say hello. It may be the start of a mutually encouraging relationship. Ask the other person about him/herself. People like to talk about themselves. When in doubt, these two questions will always get writers talking: What do you like to write? What are you working on right now?
- View connecting with other writers as missionary work
Whether you call it sowing seeds, creating good karma, or paying it forward, reaching out to other writers, especially beginners, may seem like effort you don’t want to put forth. You never know when those good efforts will pay in a connection at the right time, a supportive word when you need it, or even a book sale. Not to mention the gratification you will receive by encouraging someone else.
- Give yourself time to think before interaction
Introverts can be intimidated by social interaction because they like to take their time and think about things before they engage in conversation. When you know you will be in a group situation, take the time to think about it ahead of time, even writing down some notes to help you start a conversation. You don’t have to actually use your crib notes, but just thinking it through will help you feel more confident when you interact with people.
- Connect authentically with one person
Introverts are usually good listeners, and deep thinkers. Use your skills to your advantage. Choose one person in a gathering and connect. Spend focused time listening, and giving thoughtful responses. The person will appreciate your undivided attention. You won’t be overwhelmed when you focus on the individual.
If you can’t bring yourself to interact at an activity or social function, smile. Your pearly whites will be a signal to others that you acknowledge their existence, and they might take the initiative and come talk to you. You can also accomplish this in the virtual world of social media by ‘liking’ posts on Facebook, 1 plussing posts on Google+ or retweeting others’ tweets on Twitter.
What if you’re not an introvert?
If you are an extravert, remember, in your writing group, workshop or writing class sits an introvert, probably right next to you. Do them a favor and smile, invite them to sit with you and your friends, ask them what they like to write. First, you’ll probably see them breathe a sigh of relief, and return the favor with some interesting conversation, or if you’re lucky, you’ll gain a good companion on the writing journey.
Introverts: Need more encouragement that introversion is not a ‘malady’?
Watch Susan Cain’s TED Talk The Power of Introverts