The last few weeks I’ve been as limp as a lettuce leaf that had stayed a few weeks too long in the fridge.
This is not unusual. It is what happens if / when I do back to back events / workshops/ etc. I end up putting so much energy into the world to be present to others than I am spent. And limp. I then revert to what I sometimes term a phase called “I hate people”. In the “hate people” stance, I get snarky to everything and everyone. As the person closest to me, my husband has witnessed these oscillating waves of behavior of friendly/warm to spent/wornout with a great deal of confusion.
So did I, to some degree.
I like people. I welcome problem solving with teams. I love doing keynotes. Those workshops with Fortune 500 teams trying to figure out their cultures of innovation are amazing to be a part of. Exchanging ideas is best done in person. I love meeting interesting people and learning what makes them tick.
All of that is AWESOME, until it’s not.
All these years, I’ve had the nagging sense that something was wrong with me. I see so many fellow entrepreneurs or executives love to spend entire evenings – week after week – meeting new people when I love to spend a quiet evening reading by myself or having a quiet dinner in my hotel room. I value having a low-key weekend with the family. I feel bad for this. I know that a lot of success depends on being “out there” and all I want to do is be alone or at least, quiet.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I discovered that there was, in fact, nothing wrong with me. (Well, not in this particular way.)
I finally realized that I was taking all the Meyers Brigg and similar tests as what I did, not what I actually wanted. As soon as I took the test with a different lens, I learned I am an introvert (an INTJ) and get energy from being with close friends and solitude, and not from large groups. The concept of being an introvert gave me a new lease on life. In fact, I will tell people about this so they know have some more context. Just because I have social skills does not mean I want to use them in a 24×7 way. I have to pace myself.
At work, most organizations/ teams celebrate extrovert-ness, often rewarding the first one who speaks rather than the one who speaks in a more considered way. We celebrate the vocal ones, when the quiet ones often add more considered ideas. Introversion is not something to be fixed, but something to be understood and then to be included. There needs to be a time for both silence and discussion in all creativity and collaboration work. These are balances that need to be considered for all innovators and innovation.
Susan Cain, wrote a wonderful book, Quiet, on this topic. It provides research and perspective for introversion and extroversion and points out how much we need both. I got a chance to thank her in person recently for writing this book. She has given us introverts a tool to explain ourselves to others.
As Susan says: Solitude matters, and for some people it is the air that they breathe. Certainly for me it is. And that is okay.
Here’s her TED talk on the topic.