Belfast Telegraph

I'm an introvert, but it's not easy trying to get that message out there

By Robert McNeill

I never come out top in anything. I'm a nearly man. I'm one of nature's number twos. I'll just read that that last sentence back. Something wrong with it, but I can't put my finger on it.

Anyway, laugh if you like - sudden picture of rows of scowling faces - but, when you reach 50, you know pretty much what sort of person you are. And I'm an introvert.

Yup (stands up with head bowed), my name is Robert Something - can never remember the surname - and I am an introvert.

To prove it, I took a test in a newspaper and scored 20 out of 20 for introversion.

On reading the result, even I - normally strong and unflappable - ran around the room screaming and holding my head. All right, I lied about the normally strong and unflappable.

But what a farce. How can anyone be a total introvert? What about yon yin and yang? Are we not meant to be a bit of both?

Here are some of the questions: "I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities." Check.

"I often prefer to express myself in writing." Obviously.

"I'm not a big risk taker." Correct.

"I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame and status." All right, I lied about that one.

"People tell me I'm a good listener." Pardon?

All this might not matter a whit if we didn't live in an extroverts' world. It's all set up for the table-thumpers and bawlers, those who speak before they think and, worst of all, those who are decisive: they've caused more misery in the world than anyone else.

I'm in no doubt that more dithering would make the world a happier place.

But that's me, see? I see a party-hat and flee into the shadows. The Saturday night whoop is to me the sound of dread. The only fancy dress outfit I'd consider wearing is the invisible man. I crave, above all else, quiet. And do you know what quiet is, ladies and humans? That's right: impossible. On the BBC website, it's possible to find an article sub-headed "Do we discriminate against introverts?"

All this is prompted by a new book by Susan Cain called Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

I'm wary. For, if reports are correct, the book claims both Barack Obama and JK Rowling are introverts. This news just in: no, they're not. I've met one and seen the other on telly, presiding over the world, and this kind of claim gets my goatee.

People tumble off stage in clown noses saying: "I'm an introvert, don't you know?" No, I didn't know. All I know is you're not. Same with "shy" actors: naff off, and stop insulting those of use who truly suffer.

However, where the author is correct is in saying that extroversion - being "out there" - is an oppressive standard to which we're under pressure to conform.

And she deduces that introverts are responsible for our greatest ideas, art and inventions. We're talking Newton, Einstein, Chopin, Van Gogh, people just like me, apart from the talent and, occasionally, the number of ears. But, hey, there's room for us all in this world. All we ask is that two thirds of you shut up for a bit, while the rest of us try to think.

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