Many people know of introversion, but they don't have the foggiest idea who came up with the word. Don't feel bad; I didn't know myself until recently.
Want to take a stab at it? Here's a hint: It was not Sigmund Freud, though that would make a logical guess.
Introversion, the tendency to become preoccupied with one's own thoughts and feelings rather than external stimuli, was popularized by none other than Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who also coined the terms collective unconscious and analytical psychology.
Unlike extroverts, who become energized while in the presence of large numbers of people, introverts are inward-oriented. They gain energy from reflection and lose energy in noisy social gatherings.
This in no way implies introverts are misanthropic loners, a common misconception. Misanthropes are those who, put simply, would rather stick a fork in their eye than have to deal with people. They loathe humankind with every fiber in their being.
While many people -- introverts or not -- would concede that there are certain difficult individuals they wish to avoid like the plague, it just isn't true that introverts hate socializing.
Sure, some might not be too keen on it, but we actually enjoying spending time with close friends, loved ones, and folks we can engage in stimulating conversation.
We just prefer to do it in small doses.
That means one-on-one conversations or small group interactions with five or fewer people. And if whatever social function we're at drags on, we only ask we be able to take breaks in between. Sometimes, we have no choice but to use going to the bathroom as an excuse to squeeze in some alone time!
Introverts detest too much small talk, as they are naturally inclined toward deep conversations. If you want to put us to sleep, simply focus on shallow topics like your neighbor's terrible haircut, or your cousin's predilection for wool sweaters.
Instead, broach intellectual topics we'd love to sink our teeth into -- the stars, philosophy, poetry, architecture, history, science. Introverts like to discuss ideas, not people (unless, perhaps, the people are noted historic figures, writers, or inventors).
Introverts are not naturally quick on their feet, which is an attribute that tends to be favored in the extrovert-friendly workplace. We tend to observe, gather our thoughts, and then deliver a response.
It's for this reason we tend to be partial to written communication, which runs the gamut from emails to texts to instant messaging. There's less pressure when you don't have someone in your face demanding a swift reply.
Now, here's the thing: Most people are neither purely introverted nor exclusively extroverted, but exhibit characteristics of each. (These co-called ambiverts will be further explored in future posts.)
Almost all people, for example, need occasional solitude to replenish their energy. And even introverts can become sullen if socially isolated for too long.
But no one lands smack dab in the middle. We all lean in one direction more than the other.
According to some studies, introverts make up 30-50% of the population. So while that may put us in the minority, it makes us no less important to society. And as we'll see in later posts, introverts are among the most special, interesting people you'll ever meet!