Hating on the Introvert

This is to address a certain discourse I’ve seen popping up here and there in conversation–hating on the shy and/or introverted. “Timidity makes me so mad,” they say.  “Can’t everyone communicate on the same wavelength?”

Maybe it’s spending a good fifteen years of my life in a country that values indirect and often tacit communication. Maybe it’s my own awkwardness in crowded social situations, but if anything is indicative of the need to read more literature, it’s the growing impatience with having to parse where others are coming from.

This extroverts über alles discourse also has bullying tone, one with a seriously ugly American lack of nuance. It feels like a tacky, business oriented push to streamline discussion into a binary of practical and impractical, diverting and dull; the me, and of course, the me.

What you get in groups is an instant pecking order in which the extroverts first talk over the introverts and then one another; nobody listens, and the conversation is reduced to trite, shallow streams. And it’s one thing to be silenced when the extrovert has something to say, but very often being skilled at talking over others encourages even more focus on the self.

The thing is, those who do have something to say are being almost systematically shut out, and I wonder if this is partially why such an emphasis is being placed on individual presentation skills at universities. To be skilled at one-way conversation is now a matter of social and economic survival, one advantage being that introverts who may not be so great at cutting off a chatterbox in conversation can finally and formally gain their fifteen minutes, crucial time when no one’s listening otherwise.

Perhaps, instead of reducing all communication to boardroom bullet points,  we might put more energy into listening instead of talking,  extend our imaginations — just a tad — to understand the reason why that wallflower is wilting over there in the corner.

It might, after all, be us.

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