Letter from San Francisco: The Introvert Advantage, by Guy Tiphane

Browsing the self-help section at Moe's Books the other day, I stumbled upon The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D. (Workman Publishing, 2002). Ah, a book for me, I thought.  Every time I have taken the Myers-Briggs test (or a variation of it), I have been on the 100% Introvert end of the scale from Introvert to Extrovert. With the other three scales of the test, you can try to figure out your chances at working in certain environments, and why there's constant conflict with some and complete harmony with others. In recent months I have developed severe phone phobia thanks to new caller tactics to extract an immediate response from me, and I wanted to see if that subject might be covered in that book. It was. It looked like it might have some good advice for me, so I bought it.

Little did I know this would be filled with revelations, supported by recent research as well as the author's experience as a therapist. I didn't know there are physiological differences, and that introverts' brains process information differently from extroverts (so now you can understand why I “have to think about” a question before giving you an answer). I didn't know there’s an introvert gene either, which explains why it runs in the family. And I had not realized how brain side dominance makes a world of difference in the equation: not all introverts think alike! Don't ask me for a plan, but I'll be happy to work in the quiet night to meet a deadline.

So, by the end of Part I, I felt happy in the knowledge that I am not alone. Part II, entitled “Navigating the Extroverted Waters,” guides the reader in four areas: relationships, parenting, socializing, and working. I discovered I had just lived consistently with my temperament and that there really was nothing wrong with that. I like the book's advice on managing phone phobia: “Use e-mail as much as you can.” I feel reassured that not liking the phone is not a character defect. And I am now tempted to type a few canned phrases to post next to the phone.

So we come to Part III, “Creating the 'Just Right' Life,” leaving the reader with new recipes for feeling better in the long term. I was amazed at how quickly I started to adopt new personal strategies. For example, last weekend was social, ending with a meeting late Sunday afternoon. Fortunately I was not leading the meeting, or I wouldn't have been able to put two words together that made sense. But going back home on BART (our version of the regional metro), I had the good fortune to have my iPod with me. I played soothing music to zone out the noise and the dynamics around me. My recovery from the weekend had started. I was happy with the entire experience.

Are you an introvert? Get the book, and join me in loving life even more.

© Guy Tiphane 2012

Guy Tiphane grew up in Laval and obtained an M.Sc. In Computer Science from Université de Montréal. He joined the founding team of Logitech, first in Switzerland, then in California, to write innovative software and to include users in the design of software and hardware. He obtained an M.A. in English Literature from Notre Dame de Namur University (Belmont, CA), winning the thesis award for his collection of short stories, Heating up the Fog. He lives in Berkeley.

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