Quote of the day—Jonathan Rauch

How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice? First, recognize that it’s not a choice. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s an orientation.

Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don’t say “What’s the matter?” or “Are you all right?”

Third, don’t say anything else, either.

Jonathan Rauch
March 2003
Caring for Your Introvert—The habits and needs of a little-understood group
[This entire article really resonated with me. In addition to the “Caring for your introvert” aspects there are some profound political considerations addressed. The first thought I had was “Too bad it would be unconstitional to ban extroverts from seeking public office.”

Hi. My name is Joe and I am an introvert.—Joe]

Update: Applicable images from a reader who says the first one “… is especially for Lyle”:



8 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Jonathan Rauch

  1. MAN, that is good. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been minding my own business, perfectly content, and gotten asked; “Is something wrong?” or “What’s the matter” et al. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in a conversation, wondering why the talking is still going on after we’ve covered everything. Oh; you just want to talk for the sake of talking, so as long as our lips are flapping and noise is coming out it’s all good.

    I’ve often found myself wanting to make a video (but lacking the skills and the technology) of a man sitting contentedly, deep in concentration, with a thought bubble above him consisting of a ballet of ideas and constructions, testing this and testing that, forming the pretexts to something inspiring. They’re elegantly taking shape to the music of Strauss’ The beautiful Blue Danube, when someone comes to him and starts chattering away about nothing, then the elegant constructions fall to pieces and the beautiful music is ended by a big Scrrrrraatch! (crash, wreck, ruin).

    fffffFUCK! It happens to me all the time. WHAAAT?!! might be my reaction, as my whole “construction project” and my state of peace and/or exhilaration along with it, has just been interrupted as if an outlaw motorcycle gang had just crashed their greasy Harleys through the doors into an art gallery and started doing doughnuts on the mosaic tile floor. I’ll have to pick up the pieces and start all over again next time I’m able to find some peace. The person doing the interrupting has no clue as to what just happened, that’s for sure. They figure that since I was “doing nothing” there was nothing to interrupt, and so I’M the rude one if I seem put off.

    Now that I got that off my shoulders; my name is Lyle and I am an introvert. I may like you, I may even love you, I may go to the ends of the Earth to help you, I like talking to you if there’s something to talk about, but please leave me alone once in a while. Seriously. And don’t make me repeat it, because I’ll take that as meaning you just don’t give a flying crap, or that you’re a scatter-brain. I told you once, after all.

    Thank you for that, Joe. That helps a lot. This needs to be out there a lot more.

  2. There was a line in a movie. I think it was Geronimo and American Legend. Two white men, one who knew the Indians very well and one green-horn, were sitting an an Indian’s tent, and no one was saying anything. Green-horn is getting nervious because of the silence, and eventually asks his buddy why there was no conversation. The more experienced white man then explained;

    “[To these Indians] Stillness is a pleasure.”

    The man who lived in the teepee was treating them to some stillness. Surely there is something wrong with a person who doesn’t understand that.

    While I was living with the Eskimos out on the Delta one summer, my friend and I might be sitting in someone’s house. Someone from another household would simply walk in and sit down (no greeting, no eye contact, no conversation).

    That’s it. That’s the story, see.

    I figure that a person who needs the constant distractions of conversation, reading, TV, etc. is trying to chase out their own thoughts.

  3. I once got cut off at a bar, not because I’d had too much (I’d only had 3 beers over a 2-3 hour period), but because of exactly what they were describing in the article, which made the barmaid *think* I “appeared intoxocated”. I guess I’m a little less PO’d about it now, seeing as how the concept apparently does not compute…but the tip still suffered. Even without that, I often get asked if everything is all right when I get engrossed in thought, which inevitably breaks my train of thought. Which doesn’t bother me quite as much, because I’m somewhat used to people not quite “getting it.” Ironically it’s actually not quite so bad if I’m in/with a group because I sort of fade into the background & everyone else pays attention to everyone else, which is generally okay with me as I would rather watch the people than interact with most of them.

  4. Due to some sort of website glitch, I ended up reading three or four articles on the subject. My initial reaction was “I must be a shy extrovert”, because I like going to social functions, and listen to people talk. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that I’m an introvert.

    Indeed, I remember going to a dance at Saltaire (just off the shore of the Great Salt Lake), and spending a lot of time outside, watching the moon set. Another time, I was at a dance on a ship on the Boston harbor, and I ended up spending the entire time watching over the bay, wandering the boat, and thinking. And all those conversations I listen to, I’m of course thinking all throughout.

    A lot of times, I like to get up and wander…and the more isolated the place is from anyone else, the more I prefer it over any place with lots of people.

    The more I think about it, the more I realize just how much those pieces apply to me.

  5. Thanks, Joe.

    I spent a career as an engineer, during which interruptions happened, on average, every 11 minutes. Yes, I once measured it over a long period. We engineers are like that, as you undoubtedly know.

    People who interrupted me often complained that they “couldn’t get my attention”. My response, which they finally learned by rote, was, “No, you can easily get my attention, but you get it only on my terms. Otherwise, I would never get anything done.” My response to an interruption seemed slow to them, but it began with me checkpointing what I was doing, just pushing it on the stack, as it were, so I could resume where I left off. I became quite adept at it.

    Introversion is not a curse, it’s a blessing. I can be mentally comfortable anytime, anywhere, provided I am left alone.

    I hope my death comes suddenly, like my father’s did. I remember the long, lingering, slow exhaustion of my mother and of my in-laws as people insisted on “keeping them company.” To linger on, slowly dying, and not be left alone would (ahem) be the death of me.

  6. My favourite line of that article: “I’m an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush.”

    When I was working for an ambulance transport service (non-911, for interfacility transports and such) I got partnered with a girl who literally could not stop talking. Even worse, she was of, shall we say, less than stellar intelligence, and a less than competent provider (but not quite INcompetent).

    For eight hours a day, five days a week, I had to put up with her incessant drivel without taping her mouth shut or even being able to simply say “STFU ALREADY!”. I could pull out a book and start reading, completely and obviously ignoring her, and she would just keep talking at me.

    Needless to say,

  7. Nuts, I hit the submit button by accident. To finish:

    Needless to say, being an introvert I couldn’t stand her, and my job was pure hell until I moved to a different shift.

  8. As a mathematician, how could I have forgotten to mention this joke?

    Q. How can you tell the difference between an introvert mathematician and and extrovert one?

    A. And introvert mathematian looks at his shoes when he’s talking to you. And extrovert mathematician looks at your shoes.

Comments are closed.