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#1817 - Thursday, June 3, 2004 - Editor: Jerry
This issue is about introversion and solitude. It begins with a couple of newspaper articles geared to a general readership, then delivers a basket of quotes which sound something like this:
Everyone says Tushita Heaven is fine,
but how can it match this old hut of mine?
Solitude is bliss
By Emily Maguire
May 29, 2004
Let the social butterflies flit till their wings wear out, but please, just leave Emily Maguire out of it.
I work alone in a room so quiet that I have been known to scream at the sound of the telephone. My home is surrounded by businesses. My closest friends live in other cities, other countries. Most days I speak to no one but my husband and the man who sells me my morning coffee. I would not cope if I had to live every day surrounded by the noise and clutter of human beings.
You may imagine from the above that I am a misanthrope. A bitter and friendless recluse who is a daily latte away from being a full-blown hermit. But apart from an occasional fit of rage at the state of humanity in general, I spend most of my time on the warm and fuzzy, peace and love to all humankind side of the fence. Dislike of people is not my problem; in fact, I don't have a problem. It's just that I'm an introvert.
Introversion is a personality trait describing those people who are energised by solitude and drained by socialising. It is not the same as shyness, which is an anxious condition experienced by people from all over the introversion-extroversion spectrum. Neither is introversion a consequence or symptom of depression: a normally social person who becomes reclusive may be depressed; a normally reclusive person who continues to be reclusive is probably perfectly content. Being an introvert simply means that one requires plenty of alone time to recharge after being in the presence of other people.
The idea of "alone time" alarms many extroverts; when they hear the word "loner" they think of serial killers, school shooters or, at the very least, computer-addicted conspiracy theorists. Those of us who not only enjoy our own company but genuinely crave time with ourselves are viewed with deep suspicion by the dominant extrovert culture.
"She keeps to herself," I overheard a colleague say of me once. Since I do indeed keep to myself, the comment did not bother me at the time. Only later did I learn that my workmates thought of me as secretive and unfriendly. More than once I have been told that I come across as superior and aloof; one of my closest friends confessed that when she first met me she thought I was a snob.
I have observed that the male introverts of my acquaintance have a different set of assumptions made about them; the most common adjectives seem to be "mysterious" and "intense". Australian men are easily able to get away with being the "strong, silent type", whereas women, even among twenty-something urbanites, are often expected to be social co-ordinators, herding their men from restaurant to party to bar, flitting from group to group, introducing strangers, making conversation and generally smoothing the social way. Women are the nurturers, the gossipers, the hostesses. When I lurk on the fringes, when I fail to break awkward silences with a charming anecdote, when I spend dinner parties staring hard at my plate, as though the secret to making small talk with strangers was written there, I am in contravention of two sets of rules: those that state extroversion is the norm, and those that state women are empathetic and social.
Often, my introversion is taken as a personal slight, as though my habit of spending hours alone reading is a criticism of those who spend their leisure time socialising, as though my polite "no thank you" is a crafty way of saying "I would rather watch paint dry then spend a moment in your company". People who love group work and team sports can be hurt by the realisation that not everyone wants to be part of their gang. People who define happiness as a house full of laughter and conversation, who are energised by the social whirlwind and feel aimless when left with an afternoon alone, can feel judged by those of us who claim never to be bored or lonely. Are we introverts saying that people who need people are not the luckiest people in the world? Are we suggesting that a desire for company denotes neediness and insecurity? Do we loners want to turn the world into a grim, mirthless place where neighbours never nod hello and travel agents specialise in holidays for one?
Not at all. I think social butterflies should flit and fly until their wings wear out. I think the voices of those who love to talk should ring out joyfully in workplaces, at parties and along telephone cables forever more. Dancers should burn up the floor, team athletes should fill the courts and pitches and ovals of Australia, and workplace social co-ordinators should continue to organise picnics and trivia nights.
Just please, please, please, stop telling me that joining in will be good for me. Entering the boot-scooting contest will not help me to break out of my shell, and playing in your netball team will not make me more outgoing. Understand, extroverts, that we introverts are happy for you to monopolise the spotlight; we don't want a piece of that action. Please don't try to drag us along with you; that way lies animosity, and we really would prefer to remain friends.
We introverts need extroverts in our lives. I am fortunate enough to have several generous, vivacious extrovert friends who give me valuable insight into how the other half the other three-quarters, really lives. They make me laugh, and encourage adventure; they coach me in how to navigate the bewildering social world and frequently delight me with their exuberant approach to life. And most of the time, they leave me alone. True friends indeed.
Emily Maguire's first novel, Taming the Beast, will be published next month by Brandl & Schlesinger.
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/05/28/1085641695883.html
The Office Therapist
By Kat Krauss
Do Not Disturb: Hes not kidding
In our firm, we sell our mortgages in teams. My
new teammate, A.H., is very quiet. I like to
talk, love to meet people and cant stand
silence. When we go out on calls, I am
embarrassed, because he doesnt talk. It feels to
me as if he has a sign on that says, Do Not
Disturb. He just sits and nods his head and
says, Is there anything else? Although he seems
very comfortable being so quiet, I know the
client is wondering when he is going to offer his
expertise. I believe in probing for needs, but he
takes it from the ridiculous to the sublime. How
can I get him to open up to help the client feel
more comfortable, and to talk more?
Dont be so sure that the customer is
uncomfortable. In fact, they may savor his
silence, and find it reassuring that he is
actually listening. Some of the best sales people
I know actually say very little during the
discussion with the client or prospect.
Everyone likes to talk about him/herself, and
clients are no different. A.H. is giving them
that chance before he speaks. In essence, he is
clearing the air of interference before he opens
his mouth. Dont be too quick to condemn him.
It sounds like A.H. is a classic introverted
personality. He is the exact opposite of your
extroversion. If you feel he has a sign on him
that says, Do Not Disturb he probably does.
It really means:Do not disturb me while I am
thinking. He doesnt mean to be aloof; he is
taking time to think things through. When he has
it all togetherformed into a complete thought,
he will speak. He asks the question, Is there
anything else? because he wants to be sure he
has not missed a trick before he replies. His
method is a good one. It reminds me of the old
sales adage that says, If you keep your mouth
shut long enough, the customer will always tell
you how to sell him/her.
Many introverted sales folks are successful
because they listen so well. Silence is a
blessing to an introvert. While extroverts tend
to jump in at the soonest possible opportunity,
the introverts are not afraid of long pauses.
They take their time, calmly, to listen, to
evaluate and to structure a well-articulated
thought. Perhaps the extroverts can take a
Expect A.H. to be economical with words, as
Too many words irritate him. To get along with
him, try to be succinct. He will appreciate it,
and you will learn a valuable lesson in getting
to the point. The beauty of introversion is that
inward pull that puts them securely in their own
minds while thinking through a problem. Unlike
extroverts, introverts think things through
inwardly, rather than needing to have a
More than anything else, remember that A.H.
space to think, plan and react. When you go into
a client or prospect meeting, plan that you will
be the first to speak. While you are talking,
A.H. can sit back and analyze the discussion. Let
him enter the discussion about halfway through.
Sometimes, it helps to have the introvert
positioned as the resident subject matter
expert. Few words, concisely spoken, with
precise meaning can impress any client. You are
the people-person; he is the fact-person.
Every strength can become a weakness when
overused. If A.H. is not getting the business he
seeks because he appears anti-social, then it is
time to have a heart-to-heart with him. If he is
too quiet, or never engages in the conversation,
you need to tell him your concerns.
You and A.H. are dramatically different
personalities. While that may cause some tension,
it is also a distinct advantage for you as a
team. The client will identify with one of you,
and that creates the sense of trust that you are
trying to build. Let A.H. off the hook. In
reality, it sounds as if you have a terrific
match with him.
Kat Krauss, MSW, is a Tucson-based sales
presentation strategist and therapist for
business relationships all over the country. If
you would like your issue discussed here, please
send your questions to [email protected].
SAYINGS: hermits, eremiticism, solitude, reclusion, being
The moment you don't make anything, Buddha's
"right effort" is achieved. Right effort is no effort.
To get to the place of doing things effortlessly takes a hell of
a lot of effort.
-- Jane Dobisz, The Wisdom of Solitude
Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man
has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines
and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the
essence of life, contemplation, meditation.... Tooting, howling,
screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling
bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads
monstrously like a gray vegetation.
-- Jean Arp, Sacred Silence
Solitude, the safeguard of mediocrity, is to
genius, the stern friend, the cold, obscure shelter where moult
the wings which will bear it farther than suns and stars.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life
Everyone says Tushita Heaven is fine,
but how can it match this old hut of mine?
-- Stonehouse (Ching-hung), from his Mountain Poems
For the most part it [Walden Pond] is as
solitary where I live as on the prairies. It is as much Asia or
Africa as New England. I have, as it were, my own sun and moon
and stars, and a little world all to myself.
-- Henry David Thoreau, Walden, chapter 5: Solitude
God's discretion invites us to silence, a
silence filled with wonder, a silence which adores and opens
itself to God, who draws closer in mystery.
Adoration envelopes itself in silence, joining itself to
that which draws closer.
--Daniel Bourguet, La Pudeur de Dieu
One who knew how to appropriate the true value
of this world would be the poorest man in it. The poor rich man!
All he has is what he has bought. What I see is mine.
-- Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
A hermit is one who renounces the world of
fragments that he may enjoy the world wholly and without
-- Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam
Truthfully, I am "homesick" for a
land that is not mine. I am haunted by the steppes, the solitude,
the everlasting snow and the great blue sky "up there"!
The difficult hours, the hunger, the cold, the wind slashing my
face, leaving me with enormous, bloody, swollen lips. The camp
sites in the snow, sleeping in the frozen mud, none of that
counted, those miseries were soon gone and we remained
perpetually submerged in a silence, with only the song of
the wind in the solitude, almost bare even of plant life, the
fabulous chaos of rock, vertiginous peaks and
horizons of blinding light.
-- Alexandra David-Néel [traveler and explorer of India and Tibet]
No matter what the religion, at the highest level prayer is related and emerges as a state of silence, inner silence, inner stillness. At a very high level one may believe that one is having a dialogue or directing a petition to God. Still, even this prayer is related to the tangible -- something which one can objectify. This is emphasized in the Hannya Shingyo, the Buddhist Heart Sutra: "No prayer, no you, no me ... no this, no that." It goes on until we come to "No thing. Nothing," where you can't put labels, you can't objectify. I think this view conceives of prayer as absolute emptiness, stillness.
-- William Segal, A Voice at the Borders of Silence
No need to attack the faults of others
no need to flaunt your own virtues
act when you are acknowledged
retire when you are ignored.
-- Han-shan (8th century)
Be able to be alone. Lose not the advantage of
solitude, and the society of thyself.
-- Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682)
I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it
all to myself, than to be crowded on a velvet cushion.
-- Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I shall state silences more competently than
ever a better man spangled the butterflies of vertigo.
-- Samuel Beckett
at the crescent moon
enters the heart
-- Chiyo-ni, from Woman Haiku Master by Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi
The more than human personages of visionary
experience never "do anything." ... They are content
merely to exist.
To be busy is the law of our being. The
law of theirs is to do nothing. ...The Egyptian gods, the
Madonnas, the bodhisattvas, the Buddhas, ... have one
characteristic in common: a profound stillness.
-- Aldous Huxley, Heaven and Hell
Whoever loves God wishes to be alone. Like
newlyweds who do not want to have their intimacy interrupted by
outsiders, those who have felt the love of God retire into
silence and solitude.
-- Ernesto Cardenal, Abide in Love
Silence is the communing of the conscious soul
-- Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 12/1838
On the exoteric level the traditions are
irreconcilable. On the esoteric, experiential level of the heart
reigns an eloquent, reverential silence.
-- Frederick Franck, A Little Compendium On That Which Matters
Ordinary men hate solitude. But the Master
makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one
with the whole universe.
-- Tao Te Ching, 42 (Stephen Mitchell translation)
We need to find God and God cannot be found in
noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how
nature - trees and flowers and grass - grow in silence. See the
stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. The more
we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active
-- Mother Teresa, The Joy in Loving
There are moments when the silence of God
culminates in his creatures. In the solitude of a retreat, we are
renewed by intimate meeting with Christ.
-- Brother Roger of Taizé, The Rule of Taizé
Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a
wild beast or a god.
-- Francis Bacon
One of the conditions of being human, and even
if we're surrounded by others, we essentially live our lives
alone. Real life takes place inside us.
-- Paul Auster
Your life dwells among the causes of death
Like a lamp standing in a strong breeze.
Renunciation does not mean turning our back on
the world. It means turning our back on the conditions that cause
-- Jakusho Kwong, No Beginning, No End
The cultivation of justice is silence.
-- Isaiah 32.17
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© 2003-2004, the hermitary and Meng-hu
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