Introverts in an extroverted world

Most meeting planners and hospitality folks I've met appear to be extroverts, meaning that they get their energy from other people and the world around them. And that's good, because extroverts tend to be rewarded in this society (U.S.). From an article on Yahoo:

    The attitude that there's something wrong with introverted people is widely shared in society, where fast talk and snap decisions are often valued over listening, deliberation and careful planning. Extroverts seem to rule the world or, at least, the USA, which hasn't elected an introverted president for three decades, since Jimmy Carter.

    "The signals we get from the world agree that extroversion is valued," says Sanford Cohn, an associate professor in curriculum and instruction at Arizona State University. "A lot of the messages we get from society have to do with being social, and in order to be social you have to behave a certain way."

Being a hard-core introvert myself, I tend to get pretty drained from the stuff so many planners seem to thrive on, and need down time to regroup and re-energize (I wonder how many closet introverts we have among planners, who like me collapse after a long day of interacting with people?). I've always seen this as a fault, something I need to "work on" and try to "get over" to fit what in the U.S. is the cultural norm of extroversion. But I yam what I yam (sorry, Thanksgiving leftovers tend to creep in), and introvert I remain.

So I was glad to read this bit in the article:

    Researchers using brain scans have found introverts have more brain activity in general, and specifically in the frontal lobes. When these areas are activated, introverts are energized by retrieving long-term memories, problem solving, introspection, complex thinking and planning.

    Extroverts enjoy the external world of things, people and activities. They have more activity in brain areas involved in processing the sensory information we're bombarded with daily. Because extroverts have less internally generated brain activity, they search for more external stimuli to energize them.

So there's nothing wrong with being an introvert, after all—whew! While most meetings are geared toward extrovert-friendly activities, please keep us busy-brained introverts in mind, too, and give us some ways to get some quiet time to recharge and process. You never know what we might come up with, when we're given an opportunity to interact in ways that mesh with our way of thinking.

Update: Jennifer Warwick has a great networking survival guide for us introverted types. Thanks, Jennifer! I'll try out some of your tips at my next meeting.

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