Want to know what it’s like to live inside an introvert’s head? Liz Fosslien and Mollie West have drawn you some pictures.
At first glance I thought Fosslien and West were oversimplifying things. (Sounds like the introvert in me, doesn’t it? Saying that things aren’t as simple as they seem.) But before long the drawings had grown on me.
Here’s the first one. It’s the first thing you’ll see – before you see any text at all – when you pull up the article.
At first I didn’t like this at all. I took it to mean that, as an introvert, I’m an undisciplined thinker.
But if I’m honest, I have to admit it works like this. When I see and hear things, they run through a gauntlet of filters — connecting with memories, bouncing off feelings, coalescing into plans — before emerging as thoughts. It means that I might not always be quick to reply. But my reply, when it comes, will likely take into account all of the relevant factors.
Does it mean that the introvert’s way is better?
Well, no. On my team I want introverts, who ponder things and consider the nuances before coming to a conclusion. But I also want extroverts who know just what to say when the Executive VP is on the phone demanding an immediate answer.
Here’s another one.
Introverts, say Fosslien and West, take in everything around them. I know that’s true.
If I’m talking with you, I’m listening to what you say. But I’m also noticing the mood in the room, the people going by in the hallway, the weather outside. Then I fold all of that into the internal dialog in which I’m calling up memories, feelings, and plans.
To someone outside the introvert’s head, all of that can make it seem like the introvert is inattentive and distant.
Often when listening to someone, I’ll use that internal dialog to apply fresh insights into the topic at hand, and then I’ll wait for my turn to express those insights—only to have the conversation change course and find that my turn doesn’t come. The insight, if I gave voice to it, would be off-topic. If it’s really important I might say “Remember 5 minutes ago when we were talking about….” But usually I don’t bother.
So, no, I’m not just sitting there without a thought in my head. But I guess I have to ask you to take my word for that.
Check out all six of Fosslien and West’s drawings. Then tell me what you think.
If you identify as an introvert, do you think Fosslien and West have portrayed you truthfully?
If you identify as an extrovert, same question.
More broadly, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how introverts and extroverts can better understand each other and work together effectively.