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Every day, more than 1,673,007,068 people on this planet need to spend long, restorative stretches of time alone. That’s over 1½ billion – with a b – who prefer intimate, civilized, one-on-one conversations to rampant mixing and mingling. Who may be electrifying orators from the safe distance of a podium or stage or laptop but feel uncomfortable in close quarters with groups and impatient with chit-chat. A population greater than the People’s Republic of China that hates parties and needs quiet isolation and seclusion to recover from them.

In short, the world is lousy with introverts.

For every introvert holing up in Houston,

there are millions more dodging karaoke in

Beijing and poo-pooing polka in Prague.


Clearly, dear reader, you and I are not alone in our need to be alone. Just ask the 285 million people who play chess online worldwide. Or the 3,100,000 book lovers on And then there are the unreckonable masses you’ll never even see: The leagues of company softball dodgers, the AWOL’s from after-work get-togethers and the no-shows at social shmooze-fests who contribute to our ranks by their very absence.

Which raises an interesting point: Maybe the world seems overrun by extraverts only because they’re so visible. Shamelessly flouncing about in public while the rest of us are home watching Celebrity Rehab – invisible to the naked eye, yet everywhere. Like ninjas. Or cockroaches. (Not the most flattering analogy, but we all know who’d prevail over whom in a nuclear blast.)

My point – and I do have one – is that our tribe is strong. Introverts may not be in the majority, but there is a colossal coterie of kindred spirits out there. And the best part is, none of them expects you to attend home jewelry parties or go folk dancing unless you darn well feel like it.


Earlier, we blithely dismissed 75% of the world’s population (extraverts) as the “lower three quartiles.” That was unkind and we’re sorry. So what say we move on and try not to bash the extraverts? We apologize. Never mind that only one of us did the actual bashing. I’m sure none of us wants to point fingers.

The fact is, introverts comprise 3/4 of the highly gifted people in the world (the “upper three quartiles”). Something to do with all that silly thinking and reading and reflecting, I suppose. As a people, we are replete with smartitude. Not that there aren’t gifted extraverts, just a smaller percentage. And they can’t help being generally less gifted, any more than they can help being less sensitive, less reflective and more energy-sucking. There but for the grace of God go I’s.

Hmm. (Fingers tapping).

Oh to hell with it. What’s a cocktail party without a little trash-talking?

Extraverts talk too much. Let it hereby be known that “Uh-huh, Uh-huh, Uh-huh, Uh-huh,” is not our idea of contributing to the conversation, and edgewise is no way to fit words in. Introverts have something to say. Plenty. We’ve been doing a lot of thinking, you know. And most of the listening. We have opinions. Ideas. We might even dish some hot gossip about Miss Flugerman in Accounting if certain people would shut their pie holes and listen.

But extraverts thrive on talking. Put a bunch together in a room and you know what you get? The McLaughlin Group. All hopped-up on their own verbosity, interrupting each other, not listening and generally creating mayhem. My ex, an extravert, watched this show religiously. Every Sunday morning, the gentle peace of birds chirping and wind chimes blowing softly in the breeze was shattered by a televised version of the Tower of Babel. The cacophony was ungodly. (Incidentally, that other Babel turned out rather badly as I recall.)

The McLaughlin Group: my idea of hell.

To be fair, extraverts don’t seem to mind being interrupted – which introverts find rude and abhorrent – when someone else wants to speak. But it can be tricky. If you’d like to try this, just send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Still Waiting for a Pause in the Monologue to receive your free 2 x 4. Offer not valid in Washington D.C.

Just one more thing while we’re on the subject of talking and then we’ll save some snarkiness for next time: Book stores are not satellite office spaces, Mr. Guy-Who Makes-Sales-Calls-On-His-Cell-At-The-Borders-Coffee-Shop. Some of us are trying to read here.

NEXT: Extraverts don’t read.

Artist, David Shrigley

(Setting: The Cerebrum Lounge)

Inner I: Well. You must be very pleased with yourself.

Inner E: What? Hang on, I love this song…Mum mum mum mah! P-p-p-poker face!

Inner I: You know very well what I’m talking about. This blog we started – introvertini.

Inner E: Blog? Oh yes. Great social medium. Carry on! Mum mum mum mah….

Inner I: That’s just it. You know I’m not social. You’re the social one. I’m an introvert.

Inner E: Oh look, it’s Pat and Edie!  Get over here, you two!

Inner I: You’re not listening.

Inner E: I’m all ears. You’re insecure.

Inner I: Not insecure. Introvert.

Inner E: Insecure, introvert. Same thing. Isn’t Edie a doll?

Inner I: She’s a pip. And no, it’s not the same thing.

Inner E: So what’s the problem?

Inner I: The problem is there’s this blog that needs writing.

Inner E: And….? (Turning aside) Waiter! More shrimp over here!

Inner I: And now you seem to be preoccupied so I’ll have to do it.

Inner E: So do it.

Inner I: (Scuffling feet and looking down) Dmntwnaa…

Inner E: What?

Inner I:  I said I don’t wanna.

Inner E: And why in the world not?

Inner I: Not sociable. Don’t feel like talking.

Inner E: Oh for heaven’s sake. I’ll never understand you.

Inner I: Duh.

Inner E: Anyway, wasn’t this whole thing your idea? What do I know from introvert? I’m an extravert.

Inner I: That’s beside the point.

Inner E: Not really.

Inner I: Fine.  I’ll do it later. Right now, I just need some time to myself.

Inner E: You’re weird. Everyone thinks so.

Inner I: Not everyone.

Inner E: At least 75% of the people I know.

Inner I: You said everyone.

NEXT:  you call it 75%, I call it the lower three quartiles.

Introverts may not often go wild, but we will certainly throw you for a loop.

Think introverts are easy to spot? That shadowy figure lurking behind the potted palm might be an introvert. But then again, so might the crazy dancing fool wearing the Tiffany lampshade and/or bright orange birthday suit. Being the complex and outnumbered creatures we are, introverts find various ways to assimilate into extravert culture. Here are the author’s top three, from the ridiculous to the sublime:

1. booze

Alcohol is notorious for releasing inhibitions and misgivings – and when it comes to socializing, no one has more misgivings than introverts. But invitations must occasionally be accepted and parties attended. Miss Otis can’t always send her regrets, so Miss Otis has a nice fortifying cocktail instead – the results of which range from relaxed intermingling to extreme overmingling wherein Miss O finds herself under the table – and possibly the host – the morning after. It’s a curious and not entirely un-fun peek into the world of extraversion and can make the introvert invitee either wildly popular or permanently persona non grata – which then excuses her from all future invites. Brilliant.

2. mixed type

Most people are neither pure introvert nor pure extravert. (Most people simply aren’t pure anymore, but that’s another story.) According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), an introversion score anywhere between 51-100% makes you officially an introvert or “I”; same goes for extraverts: if you’re 52% extravert, you’re still an extravert or “E”. Once in a blue moon, some character will score exactly 50-50; that type is designated “X” and all bets are off.

Mood and environment can also be variables, especially for those teetering between types. A person may be more introverted one day, less so the next. If you care to know your type, it’s best to take the test more than once to get an average over time. For instance, the MBTI says I am on average 80-90% introverted, which means I’m self-energized 80-90% of the time and energized by other humans 10-20% of the time, or about as often as Lindsay Lohan is sober.

3. persona

One of the more interesting defense mechanisms that introverts use to cope with life in an extraverted world is a carefully crafted alter ego called the persona. Some refer to this as extraverted introversion, but I find that misleading since the person is only feigning extraversion. This tool gets used at work a lot.

The persona is a very complicated thing. It’s not entirely authentic, as it doesn’t reveal the introvert’s true preference for solitude or need for quiet reflection or vulnerability to energy-sapping. In fact, it’s designed not to reveal those things. On the other hand, it’s not entirely fake, either. The introvert creates the persona drawing from his or her own real inner extravert as well as experiences with others, not unlike the way a child learns by watching adults.

It’s mostly like a really good actor playing a role. Meryl Streep IS Julia Child, the introvert IS the extravert. To do this, the introvert must put everything introverted on hold – reserve, quietness, observational skills, thinking before speaking – all go safely into the vault. In their places, the introvert must substitute interaction, moxie, even a certain brashness. Skin thickens into armor. Panache goes into play. At its finest, the persona is a true art form and a wonder to behold. No one would ever in a million years guess that the person is an introvert. The author personally holds Dennis Rodman as the all-time Master of the Persona, but there are many other I’s who often masquerade as E’s. Maybe you. Maybe me.

Does all this shape-shifting wear on the introvert? Yes. It’s exhausting. Just talking about it is exhausting. More exhausting than dropping all defenses and simply abiding, zen-like, the daily energy suck? Debatable. But let’s stop here and recharge for now. Talk amongst yourselves. Share your thoughts. Take a nap. Have a cocktail.

I know which way I’m leaning.

Is Dennis Rodman an introvert? Are you?