I consider myself truly blessed because most of my job centres around helping introverts thrive in a world designed and built for extroverts. Through doing this work, I have both healed my introverted self who always thought there was something wrong with me, and at the same time, helped thousands of other introverts reclaim their place in society with both dignity and pride. If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while now, you will know that I recently took up a little challenge: to find and read the best self-help books for introverts and to review each one.
My first review can be found here:
My second review can be found here:
The third book though, is my absolute favourite so far. Even though it was written over two decades ago, besides the references to ‘pagers’, everything else is incredibly timely. The book title is:
A little bit of background on the author:
Marti Olsen Laney, PsyD, MFT, is a psychotherapist, researcher, author, consultant, and lively public speaker. Her first book, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, has become nationally recognized as the book on introversion and has been translated into fifteen languages. Her second book, The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child: Helping your Child Thrive in an Extroverted World, has been widely acclaimed by school counsellors, therapists, and parents.
This book is by far the most comprehensive guidebook on how to thrive as an introvert in an extrovert world that I have come across thus far. In fact, I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to call it the “Introvert’s Survival Manual”. After I finished reading the whole thing, and highlighted pretty much every page with copious handwritten notes in the margins, I tried to find the author to interview for my podcast and being a typical introvert, she was nowhere to be found.
Part one: What Is Introversion?
In this section of the book, we learn what an introvert is, and if we are an introvert ourselves. Not surprisingly, when I did the self-test called “Are you an introvert?”, I had a score of 100%. I got the exact same score on the “Self-Assessment for Introverts”. I also really appreciated the fact that she spends so much time on the neurobiology of introversion as an inherited temperament.
Here are my favourite quotes from that chapter:
The strongest distinguishing characteristic of introverts is their energy source: Introverts draw energy from their internal world of ideas, emotions, and impressions. They are energy conservers. They can be easily overstimulated by the external world, experiencing the uncomfortable feeling of “too much”. This can feel like antsyness or torpor. In either case, they need to limit their social experiences, so they don’t get drained. However, introverts need to balance their alone time with outside time, or they can lose other perspectives and connections. Introverted people who balance their energy have perseverance and the ability to think independently, focus deeply, and work creatively.
Introverts are like a rechargeable battery. They need to stop expending energy and rest in order to recharge. This is what a less stimulating environment provides for introverts. It restores energy. It is their natural niche (pp.19-20).
Introversion as a Temperament
Introverts, Carl Jung wrote, conserve their energy, have fewer children, have more ways of protecting themselves, and live longer. Because they appreciate a simpler life, make intimate attachments, and plan and reflect on new ways of doing things, they encourage others to be prudent, develop self- reflection, and think before acting (p.63).
The Introvert Brain is Different
And for you brain science nerds, you’ll find this interesting:
Whereas extroverts are linked with the dopamine/adrenaline, energy-spending, sympathetic nervous system, introverts are connected with the acetylcholine, energy-conserving, parasympathetic nervous system…Introverts require a limited range of not too much or too little dopamine, and a good level of acetylcholine, to leave them feeling calm and without depression or anxiety (p.73).
Part two: How Introverts Can Thrive in an Extroverted World
I have to admit that I glossed over this section of the book because most of it didn’t apply to me. However, it is a must read if you are trying as an introvert to navigate any of the following: dating, parenting, or a full-time 9-to-5 job where you work with a lot of other people. In this section, the author gives wonderful tools in order to help you thrive in these challenging situations as an introvert.
When she discusses dating, the author describes the introvert’s communication style this way:
Introverts tend to:
- Keep energy, enthusiasm, and excitement to themselves and share only with those they know very well. Hesitate before sharing personal information with others.
- Need time to think before responding. Need time to reflect before reacting to outside events.
- Prefer communicating one-to-one.
- Need to be drawn out, or invited to speak, and may prefer written to verbal communication.
- May occasionally think they told you something they didn’t (they’re always going over things in their head) (p.122).
Part three: Creating the “Just Right” Life as an Introvert
This section had my full attention, as did the first part of the book. I loved how she emphasizes that introverts need to pace themselves differently than extroverts. Here is what she says about pacing:
Remember the characters in the classic fable “The Tortoise and the Hare”? The hare was so confident he could beat the tortoise in the race that he stopped by the side of the road and took a little nap. The tortoise, trudging along, slow and steady, crossed the finish line as the hare was scrambling to catch up.
An interesting fact the author points out:
Researchers have found that introverts (tortoises) often adjust better than extroverts (hares, racehorses) to life changes, such as aging, retirement, illness, or injury. Racehorses are used to galloping along, amassing lots of trophies for their winning style. As a result, they often have trouble handling a slower pace. Tortoises, on the other hand, are used to measuring out their energy, and they find it easier to adapt.
Because of our physiology, introverts may eat slower, think slower, work, slower, and walk and talk slower than more extroverted people. Although some of us may have tried to be hares our whole lives, we may not be aware of how much better we would feel if we slowed down.
The rewarding part about setting your personal pacing is that it allows you to get a lot done without wearing yourself to a frazzle. Plan what you can do out of what you must do, and then set your pace. Keep working until you’re finished. If you develop a proper tempo for your life, you will be able to avoid stalls, as well as a bushelfull of depression and anxiety. It will be useful in all areas of your life.
Here are some of the author’s tactics to help you figure out your personal pacing:
- Notice your ebbs and flows. Use the time when your energy is the highest to do the most important or difficult jobs. When your energy dips, get those simpler tasks finished.
- Be realistic about your goals. We live in a culture that tells us we can each have it all, which only adds pressure to introverts. Focus on what you can reasonably achieve and enjoy, which certainly isn’t everything.
- Choose how you spend your energy. Remember that you have only so much to go around.
- Break projects into bite-size pieces (pp. 222-224).
In the rest of the book, she talks about how to nurture your introverted nature, and how to “extrovert” when you need to. To learn more of these wonderful tools and techniques, you will have to go out and buy yourself a copy of the book.