Your introversion presents differently in you than it does in anyone else. Yes, we introverts share general similarities. But our priorities are unique.
In medical and psychological circles, you often hear about how a certain condition presents itself.
The flu, for example, frequently presents as achiness, a fever, nausea, significant fatigue.
Depression presents as an extended period of sadness, irritability, weight loss or weight gain, changes in appetite.
But the flu doesn’t look the same in everyone. Nor does depression. Nor does any other illness.
These conditions present differently in different people because, well, people are different from each other—and they live in different circumstances, facing a different set of daily variables.
The flu and depression, of course, are just two common examples of ailments—conditions we diagnose and then try to fix.
Introversion is not an ailment; let me be clear about that. You don’t diagnose it, and you surely don’t fix it!
But the more I study it and, especially, the more I live it—in my own life and through the lives of the people immediately around me—the more I realize that introversion, too, presents differently in different people.
There really is no such thing as an introvert.
I don’t even have to leave my own house to be reminded of it.
Different Introverts, Different Priorities
- Solitude—quiet time alone
- Reflection—time to think
- Focus—the chance to work on one thing at a time, without interruptions and distractions
- Depth—deep connections and engagement in relationships, communications with others, and activities
If you’re an introvert and you consistently address these needs, the thinking goes, you will feel and perform your best.
And if you’re not feeling and performing your best, the thinking also goes, look to these four areas for your fix, literally and figuratively.
They’re the pillars holding up the “roof” that is your well-being as an introvert. If one of them is buckling, the whole structure could collapse.
I stand by this statement, and this concept.
But I’ve become increasingly aware of something …
Different introverts prioritize these Pillars differently with respect to importance and impact on their lives.
Introversion Presents Differently
Me? I’m a Solitude kind of guy, first and foremost. I need my quiet alone time above all else.
If I get to have only one of the four Pillars at any given time, I’ll pick Solitude.
Reflection comes in a very close second, followed by Focus and finally Depth.
(Perhaps it’s not coincidental, by the way, that I list the four Pillars in this batting order in my own model. How convenient!)
My lovely wife Adrianne, on the other hand, who is also an introvert, has told me from the moment she met me—and read a first draft of the manuscript for The Introvert Manifesto—that Reflection is her top need as an introvert.
Here’s how she put it in her comments on my manuscript:
“I always thought there was something wrong with me for not talking during staff meetings and needing extra time to process things. I won’t speak up at meetings, but I do have lots to say! I just need time to hear others’ thoughts and opinions before formulating my own.”
Adrianne does cherish her Solitude, particularly on early weekday mornings as she prepares to go to school (she’s an early-childhood literacy coach and specialist, and before that she taught kindergarten).
But if she had to choose her defining characteristic as an introvert, she’d choose Reflection.
She presents, you might say, as a Reflection-oriented introvert.
No Two Introverts Are the Same
Adrianne frequently needs to remind me that the first words out of her mouth are sometimes merely a first draft—not exactly what she’d ultimately like to express, or especially how, particularly if she’s having to speak off the cuff.
It simply doesn’t work for her to be put on the spot.
She can do it. Everyone has to from time to time, after all.
But, given the choice, she’ll want to think—carefully—first, then speak. Process. Process. Process. Talk.
She’ll live without the other Pillars for a while, as long as she gets her Reflection time.
I, of course, need to remember all of this, being someone who presents as a Solitude-oriented introvert.
Adrianne and I are very closely aligned in terms of both our personalities and our ways of thinking and being.
But we are not the same.
No two introverts are.