Article From New York Times Sparks Self Reflection

Yesterday, I read this article on the New York Times: Overcoming Shyness to Inspire a Seatmate and the bolded parts resonated with me:

Part of my job as a leadership consultant involves speaking at corporate events. On occasion, I have to attend a company’s cocktail reception. That’s tough for me because, believe it or not, I’m very introverted, and I’m not good at small talk. I even used to hide in bathrooms so I wouldn’t have to talk to people. When I give a speech or teach, I’m perfectly comfortable, and people enjoy themselves. But that’s a totally different experience. I never used to talk to seatmates, not because I’m unfriendly, but rather because it was difficult for me.

I stink at small talk. There’s always a ton of awkward silence when I am talking to anyone. I LOVE presenting, put me in front of a room of people or a big meeting and I will ace it. I remember when I was in college we had to take public speaking and seeing and hearing plenty of people with trembling hands and voices. I don’t even know where to begin to starting a conversation with a seatmate. I don’t initiate a conversation mainly as before, I don’t fare well in small talk. A buddy at work once said, “If you start talking about the weather then you know the topics have run dry!” Sadly, that’s where my small talk usually lands.

Plenty of people at my job think that I am extroverted and gregarious. I am nicknamed “the mayor” because I “know everyone.” Oftentimes, all the people I have been introduced at work has been because I have worked there over five years and all the teams work with various groups. When there is someone I do not know, someone that I am hanging out with will introduce me to them. 

Turning to the trusty Wikipedia for Introversion and Extraversion to see where I land:


Extraversion is “the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self”.[4] Extraverts tend to enjoy human interactions and to be enthusiastic, talkative, assertive, and gregarious. Extraverts are energized and thrive off of being around other people. They take pleasure in activities that involve large social gatherings, such as parties, community activities, public demonstrations, and business or political groups. An extraverted person is likely to enjoy time spent with people and find less reward in time spent alone. They tend to be energized when around other people, and they are more prone to boredom when they are by themselves.
This quality of being outgoing can be taken advantage of in situations such as at a workplace or social gathering. Teachers, politicians, salespersons and different types of management fields are all examples of work types that favor an individual who is considered to be an extravert. They have the ability to act naturally with people in a way that will make them much more successful than an introvert because these types of the requirements of the job.[citation needed]


Introversion is “the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life”.[4] Some popular writers have characterized introverts as people whose energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction.[5] This is similar to Jung’s view, although he focused on mental energy rather than physical energy. Few modern conceptions make this distinction.
The common modern perception is that introverts tend to be more reserved and less outspoken in groups. They often take pleasure in solitary activities such as reading, writing, using computers, hiking and fishing. The archetypal artist, writer, sculptor, engineer, composer and inventor are all highly introverted. An introvert is likely to enjoy time spent alone and find less reward in time spent with large groups of people, though he or she may enjoy interactions with close friends. Trust is usually an issue of significance: a virtue of utmost importance to introverts is choosing a worthy companion. They prefer to concentrate on a single activity at a time and like to observe situations before they participate, especially observed in developing children and adolescents.[6] They are more analytical before speaking.[7] Introverts are easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement, introversion having even been defined by some in terms of a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment.[8]
Introversion is not the same thing as shyness but it is often mistaken as such by extraverts. Introverts prefer solitary activities over social ones, whereas shy people (who may be extraverts at heart) avoid social encounters out of fear.[9]

After reading through the very non scientific article, I can safely say I do not land in either category. I find that I have a great time in a social setting or being alone, and it really depends on the situation, but mostly because I am shy that I don’t force anything. I thought this was hilarious:

In general, extraverts decorate their offices more, keep their doors open, keep extra chairs nearby, and are more likely to put dishes of candy on their desks. These are attempts to invite co-workers and encourage interaction. Introverts, in contrast, decorate less and tend to arrange their workspace to discourage social interaction.

I have a dish of candy on my desk and had no decorations until recently, and it’s very bare! I’ll have to update this post with a picture.

What does it have to with any manufactured spending? Nothing really. Maybe it’s my introversion that led me to gift card churn because I do not have to interact with people.

Lucky from One Mile At A Time and Gary from View From The Wing are self described introverts.

3 comments… add one
  • Interesting stuff. Have you ever read “The Tipping Point,” by Malcolm Gladwell? He talks about the three types of people who spread ideas: connectors, mavens and salespeople.

    When I read the description about the maven, I thought it captured my personality dead-on. Someone who obsessively collects information, tracks down the best deals or products, shares that information with friends and does so much research they can even correct the experts when they make mistakes. But not being a smug know-it-all about it. Like you’re the “go-to” person whenever your friends and family have questions about at topic that’s your specialty.

    I think a lot of bloggers could fall into the category about mavens, since they love to write about a particular subject.

    • I have not read that book, I did read Blink.

      That just about sums me up as well. I’ll have to add The Tipping Point to my reading list.


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