Jonathan Rauch comments on some of the feedback he's received for "Caring for Your Introvert"...
I've had more email and snail mail on "Caring for Your Introvert," over a longer period, than for anything else I've written. Probably more mail on this than everything else put together.
People wrote to say they Xeroxed it by the bushel, laminated it, or printed it on cards for distribution to friends and family:
"I have shrunken and laminated one hundred copies of the article and carry a few in my shirt pocket. Now when someone perplexed by over fifteen seconds of silence asks 'What are you thinking about?' I simply hand him or her a copy and retire to the basement."
"I immediately Xeroxed it and highlighted the especially relevant passages for my husband."
"I immediately emailed it to all of my friends, including introverts and extroverts. I even posted the link to the article on all of my web pages."
Looking through it all, I found several recurring themes and points of interest:
1) "Hallelujah!" Joy and gratitude at seeing themselves described and understood. They account for most of the mail:
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" (That was the whole letter.)
"Thank you, thank you. You have put into words exactly what a hurtful road it is at times when people misconstrue my need to be alone."
"The first paragraph was like a mirror in my face."
2) Introvert "Eureka!" Shock and relief at discovering they're an introvert and there's nothing wrong with them:
"I know the literal meaning of 'introvert,' of course, but never have I seen it explained so well. Nor understood how aptly the word explains me... For the first time I feel empowered, like a short man who's discovered cleverly disguised elevator shoes."
"Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone!"
A poignant one from a 17-year-old high school senior (female), who describes her difficulty socializing with gabby teen friends and says: "You introduced me to my own kind, and just in time too! I was almost positive that I was going to need Prozac or Zoloft to cure my 'social disorder.'"
3) Extrovert "Eureka!" Reports of enlightenment and gratitude from spouses/significant others, usually extroverts:
"The man that is dearest to my heart came across this article and found himself. The joy and wonderment in his voice as he declared this brought tears to my eyes and swelled my chest."
"For almost 20 years I have been trying to figure out why I couldn't understand my husband, never dreaming that he was an introvert... Your introvert article...has simply made me fall in love all over again!"
4) Tips and tricks. Some people volunteer methods for coping with introversion in an uncomprehending world, or reform suggestions:
"My party trick has always been to come alone, hide my purse somewhere near the door, and sneak out when I have had enough. Usually under two hours time there. The next day, my friends will always say, 'You disappeared last night!' Ah, another successful get-away, I think to myself."
"As an oft-agonized member of the tribe, I offer two suggestions for improving our social environment: group airline passengers by attitudinal type (Jung's term), thereby protecting us from the double claustrophobia of being seated next to one of Them; where name badges are de rigeur, provide a few (presumably 25%) which read HELLO, I'M ________; NOW SOD OFF."
5) Female problems. Interestingly, one or two female writers confirmed my hunch that women have an especially hard time being introverted:
"...absolutely correct about how tricky being an introvert is for a woman; after all, we are presumed to be the keepers of the social order and the mistresses of the inane conventions that extroverts have created to keep their world intact."
6) Online salvation: Perhaps no surprise that the article resonates online? Above writer sez:
"I do, however, thank the Powers That Be for the internet, where I can delete at will, converse silently, and no one can see me roll my eyes. Maybe there is a God."
WEIGH IN: What, if anything, should parents and friends do to help introverted teenagers? Share your thoughts by email to email@example.com. Selected responses will be displayed.