“Coming out” as quiet

Quiet Changemaker Project Logo

At an event early this year I was chatting with an acquaintance about the Quiet Changemaker Project. At that time I hadn’t decided what to call the project, and described how I was interviewing introverts who work in social change. “Oh I’m not introverted,” he responded.

“Oh, I’m not introverted,” he responded.

“I can do both.” He denied being introverted, instead sharing how he could do both – enjoy being alone and being among people, as he described it. As we chatted further, it became clear that he identified with many characteristics more often associated with introverts. This story has repeated itself many times this year.

People become teflon when it comes to labels.

I get it. When a label sticks, people begin to make assumptions and extrapolations that define you in ways the label isn’t meant to. The introvert label is no different. People assume it means you’re a hermit, you’re socially incompetent, you’re shy, you’re awkward. In Susan Cain’s Quiet, respondents describe introverts as pale, weak. It’s not pretty. No wonder people avoid the label.

Learning about introversion was transformational for me.

…introversion/extroversion differentiated by where a person’s energy originates. It helped me appreciate my personal characteristics  that I hadn’t understood before, or that I had tried to change about myself. Learning about introversion for me led to acceptance, as well as an understanding of how better to communicate with others.

So now, when it makes sense, I come out as introverted

in conversations with others, when participating on panels, when speaking in public. Especially when I’m interacting with young people or university students, who may not have had the opportunity to take part in workplace professional and personal development or come across information about introversion and extroversion. I try to represent an introvert who –shocker– is able to interact positively with others, speak in public, etc. And who often gets tired when she does, and who enjoys lots of time alone in order to enjoy being out and social.

I try to be honest about my experiences

so that others feel OK, perhaps validated or more positive about their own. I’m happy to own the introvert label.

How do you feel about the ‘introvert’ label? Are you “out” as introverted? Is it something you talk about with others?