Category Archives: David

More than Just a Label

The graphic below was making the rounds, recently; co-incidentally, around the same time that I was moving into a new place with a roommate. It was particularly relevant for me because a severely reduced income made it necessary for the first time in three years for me to move into a place with a roommate. Luckily, I was moving in with someone who I had been friends with for almost two years, so it was someone who already understood me and my introversion pretty well (particularly since he’s an avid reader of this blog – Hi Vincent!)

It was my then-future roommate who first showed me the graphic, wanting to address some of the points it brings up (especially the part about hugging – he’s a hugger). It was a nice gesture, but ultimately unnecessary because of how long we had known each other.

When we talk about introverts and extroverts, we have to remember that you can’t reduce an individual to one characteristic. I’m an introvert because I’m usually quiet and usually like to stay home. But there’s so much more to me.

Graphics like these are fine for dealing with introverts in general, like when you meet someone new, but never forget that they are a complete person.



Don’t take this whole introversion thing too seriously

-David Mein

Do you think you might be melancholic? Does this description match you?

Melancholic people are often perceived as very (or overly) pondering and are both considerate and very cautious. They are organized and schedule oriented, often planning extensively. Melancholics can be highly creative in activities such as poetry, art, and invention  – and are sensitive to others. Because of this sensitivity and their thoughtfulness they can become preoccupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world and are susceptible to depression and moodiness. Often they are perfectionists. Their desire for perfection often results in a high degree of personal excellence but also causes them to be highly conscientious and difficult to relate to because others often cannot please them. They are self-reliant and independent, preferring to do things themselves to meet their standards. One negative part of being a melancholic is that they can get so involved in what they are doing they forget to think of other issues. Their caution enables them to prevent problems that the more impulsive sanguine runs into, but can also cause them to procrastinate and remain in the planning stage of a project for very long periods. Melancholics prefer to avoid much attention and prefer to remain in the background; they do, however, desire recognition for their many works of creativity.

How about phlegmatic?

The phlegmatic temperament is fundamentally relaxed and quiet, ranging from warmly attentive to lazily sluggish. Phlegmatics tend to be content with themselves and are kind. Phlegmatics are consistent, they can be relied upon to be steady and faithful friends. They are accepting and affectionate, making friends easily. They tend to be good diplomats because their tendency not to judge and affable nature makes reconciling differing groups easy for them. Phlegmatics prefer to observe and to think on the world around them while not getting involved. They may try to inspire others to do the things which they themselves think about doing. They may be shy and often prefer stability to uncertainty and change. Their fear of change (and of work) can make them susceptible to stagnation or laziness, or even stubbornness. They are consistent, relaxed, calm, rational, curious, and observant, qualities that make them good administrators. They can also be passive-aggressive.

These are descriptions of the melancholic and phlegmatic personality types taken from the Wikipedia article on the four temperaments. The other two are Sanguine and Choleric. I took these two temperaments because, according to the Wikipedia article, melancholic people are also known as “task-oriented introverts” and phlegmatic people are also called “people-oriented introverts.”

The idea of the four temperaments comes from the days when physicians thought humans were filled with four types of fluids or “humours.” The theory, of course, is no longer taken seriously by the scientific community, but you will find blogs and websites where people discuss these different personality types and identify with one or another. Personally, I think I have more of a melancholic personality.

There is nothing scientific about this particular system of categorizing personality types, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. We no longer believe that different personality types are the result of an imbalance of humours, but the theory of the four temperaments was an early attempt at explaining something we all intuitively understand; basically, that some people are like this and other people are like that. Science has gotten better at explaining why people are different, but the fact that we are different isn’t exactly news.

I brought up the four temperaments because I think there is too much talk about the science behind introversion and extroversion. I don’t mean to disparage the science behind it, but we are always learning new things, and two thousand years from now, the way we talk about the brain will no doubt sound just as silly as theories of humours sounds to us.

On the other hand, I do mean to disparage your understanding of the science (and by you, I mean anyone who isn’t an actual doctor or psychologist). I’ve read various articles, including the part of Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, that discusses the science behind introversion, but that’s a far cry from the four years (or more?) it takes to get an actual degree in the field.

By saying all this, I don’t mean to imply that science knows nothing, or that it’s pointless to learn about a subject if you’re not going to become an expert in it, but rather that we shouldn’t take this whole “introvert” stuff too seriously. Of course, reading about the psychology behind introversion is interesting as a way of understanding more about ourselves and how we work. I know it’s also usually very liberating to find out that there’s nothing wrong with being quiet and that introversion is just another personality type.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the science changes and we still don’t know everything about how the mind works, but it’s never been a secret that people are simply different, and there’s nothing wrong with that.


-David Mein

Introvert Files has a Twitter! You can find it here.

Now, if you are one of the many people out there who aren’t quite sure what to do with Twitter, one thing it’s good for is letting out some minor aggravations and finding others who feel the same way. One way of doing that is searching hash tags, and one I enjoy browsing is #IntrovertProblems. I usually find something I can relate to, such as;

Alex seems to be of the generation of introverts that I feel especially sorry for, the one that grew up with cell phones and were expected to be in contact with their friends at all times. Being a tired, old, decrepit twenty-six year old, I’m not expected to answer a text right away. I suppose I’m expected to answer the phone when someone calls, but screw that.

It costs more, but I love living alone.

I dream about stuff like this. I’ve discovered, though, that if I go to Mont-Royal early enough (really early, like 5 AM) and stay off the main paths, it’s almost like I have the whole place to myself.

More proof that nothing good comes from leaving my house. Not that I needed more proof.

I don’t know if this is an actual introvert problem, but it’s one I totally relate to.

Stumbled Upon: Another View of Introverted Men

– David Mein

I just wanted to show you, dear readers, this article, Caring for Your Introvert, which I came across while making use of my recharge time (aka wasting time browsing the internet). It’s by Jonathan Rauch and was published in the Atlantic in March 2003 and I want to point out something he writes under the heading Are introverts oppressed?

Female introverts, I suspect, must suffer especially. In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty.

This is something I had been thinking about myself, basically that introverted women have it harder than men. Alexia, who also blogs here, also blogged about introvert character tropes and mentioned some characters who would count as the strong silent type, like any Clint Eastwood character, for example.

I don’t know if the strong silent type has anything to do with geography. But Rauch mentioned the Midwest, and the only examples I can think of off the top of my head (Clint Eastwood and Ron Swanson) sort of prove his case. I also think the word oppression is a bit strong for (what I would call) the unfairness introverts have to live with in modern society.

All in all, though, I suggest you read the article. It’s an interesting look back onto the days when people were only beginning to talk about the power of introverts. Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, only came out last year. When Rauch wrote his article, it was when things like open plan offices were all the rage. Since then, the discussion of introversion has picked up.

None of this, of course, means that life is smooth sailing for introverted men (is it for anybody?), it’s just interesting to see there are others out there with the same thoughts as me, even if they wrote about them ten years earlier.

Using “Phatic Speech” to Help with Small Talk

by David Mein

Something introverts often complain about is having to make small talk. It baffles us how people can have long conversations about essentially nothing. And it’s always pointless (I know it’s nice out, we’re outside!). In the end, of course, it’s one of those things we just have to accept and try to do, even if we’re not particularly good at it.

But today I want to add to the usual introvert discussion about small talk the concept of phatic speech. In real life, I’m a student of translation studies and when translating, what is said is often not as important as the function of what is said. That is, it’s not so much the words themselves, but what the words are supposed to make the reader do. With this is mind, linguists have categorized language according to function. The linguists Katharina Reiss and Hans Vermeer, for example, came up with three types of texts; informative, expressive and operative.

The linked table shows how Reiss and Vermeer categorized texts according to function. Informative texts have the function of representing objects and facts, expressive texts have the function of expressing the sender’s attitudes, and operative texts have the function of making an appeal to the text’s receiver.

So what is phatic speech and what does it have to do with introversion? “Phatic” speech is a concept developed by another linguist, Roman Jakobson, and its function is simply, as the wikipedia article puts it, “to perform a social task, as opposed to conveying information.” In other words, a lot of speech, like small talk, has no purpose other than to make a connection with another person. It may seem pointless to let me know what the weather’s like when we’re already outside, but conveying information about the weather wasn’t the purpose of the statement to begin with.

In fact, if you read further down in the wikipedia article, you’ll see that “phatic speech” is sometimes called “verbal grooming.” That’s “grooming” like when monkeys pick nits off of each other and eat them as a means of social bonding. Small talk is just a more evolved version of that.

So how can you use this new information? Knowing that small talk is supposed to be pointless won’t make it any more interesting, but it may help alleviate some of the anxiety around it. Like any introvert, even when I accept that small talk has to happen, I have a hard time coming up with something to say. I’ve realized, however, that I have this difficulty because I feel whatever I say has to be meaningful. Understanding that the function of some speech is just to connect with the other person makes it a little easier to say something inane like “It’s really nice out today.”

The lesson for today, then, is that just because some speech may be meaningless, that doesn’t mean it has no function. Humans are social animals, and they use speech as a way to connect. Like the rest of you introverts, I don’t always enjoy small talk and find it difficult at times, but, in the end, I prefer it to eating the nits off another person.

Susan Cain Article: The New Groupthink

by David Mein

I want to use this post to draw your attention to this (kind of old) opinion piece by Susan Cain, the author who has become somewhat of a star among introverts* with her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts. Much of what she covers in her piece, called The New Groupthink, can be found in Quiet, and basically documents how the modern obsession with group work is harmful to creativity.

She begins with the work of two researchers who have found that creative people are often introverts. This is related to the fact that they see themselves as independent and individualistic, not as “joiners.” In Cain’s words, making a reference to the very introverted Isaac Newton, “a person sitting quietly under a tree in the backyard, while everyone else is clinking glasses on the patio, is more likely to have an apple land on his head.”

To bring home the point of the connection between solitude and creativity, she first uses examples of famous religious figures, like Moses, Jesus, or Buddha, who went off by themselves and came back with wonderful insights. She goes on to use the example of Steve Wozniak, aka the other guy who invented Apple Computers, who was often overshadowed by the more outgoing Steve Jobs. For Wozniak, the hard work of creating something from nothing happened when he was alone. He said in his memoire,

Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me … they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone …. I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone… Not on a committee. Not on a team.

As for what Cain is referring to when she talks about “groupthink,” she illustrates that with examples from our schools, work life, even religious life. She brings up the new fad of open-plan offices. She mentions one video game development company that found switching from an open-plan office to cubicles increased creativity in their workers. The former creative director of the company even said “it turns out they prefer having nooks and crannies they can hide away in and just be away from everybody.”

I graduated high school in 2004, and I haven’t had a real job since then, so if this new group think really does exist, I’ve been kind of sheltered from it. But, even if I can’t vouch for the veracity of what Susan Cain is writing about in her piece, I can appreciate the message. In her closing paragraph she says,

To harness the energy that fuels both these drives, we need to move beyond the New Groupthink and embrace a more nuanced approach to creativity and learning. Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time. And we must recognize that introverts like Steve Wozniak need extra quiet and privacy to do their best work.

She recognizes the need for group work along with individual work. Her point is not to get rid of group work, but that it is over-emphasized, and we need to find a balance that brings about the most creative environment. In other words, we need to recognize that not only is it okay to be alone, but a state of solitude is where some of our best work is done.

*In case you happened to have read my last post, There’s no such thing as an introvert, I want to assure you I’m not being hypocritical by continuing to use the word**. The point of my last post was that there is no one is completely introverted or extroverted. That doesn’t change the fact that there are many people who find themselves more on the introvert side of the introvert-extrovert scale and who call themselves introverts.

**Okay, maybe I’m being a little hypocritical.

There’s no such thing as an introvert

-by David Mein

If you call yourself an introvert, what do you mean? Do you mean that you prefer to stay home and watch a movie over going to a party? Do you mean that you find small talk tedious? Do you mean that you and all other introverts belong to one camp and all extroverts to another? Do you mean that extroverts are the enemy?

That might be taking it a bit far, but that’s certainly how it can sound when “introverts” get into a group (particularly on internet message boards or *ahem* blogs) and start complaining about extroverts. This is why I think it’s important to remind ourselves that there is no such thing as an introvert or an extrovert. Of course, there is such a thing as introversion and extroversion, but these exist on a continuum, and no one is entirely one or the other. To quote Carl Jung, the psychologist who coined the terms introversion and extraversion*, “there is no such things as a pure extravert or a pure introvert. Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum.”

That’s not to say that such terms are useless. “Introvert” and “extrovert” are perfectly fine words to describe another person or yourself. Of course, it would be more correct to say that someone is “more introverted” or “more extroverted,” but there’s no problem as long as everyone is on the same page.

“Introvert” as an identity, is also a useful way of understanding yourself. If you prefer quiet nights at home to parties, it’s great to be able to find other people like yourself. It’s particularly useful to have an alternative to extroversion. If you prefer quiet nights in to loud nights out, it’s a good thing to know that you’re just introverted, not that there’s something wrong with you.

This becomes a problem, however, when people start using introversion not to understand themselves, but to define themselves and, in particular, when they use it to divide themselves from extroverts. There’s no harm in complaining every now and then about little everyday annoyances, including annoying people, but it should be clear why a statement like “I can’t stand extroverts” is completely ridiculous. Since no one is either one or the other, the complainer, of course, has their own extroverted tendencies. The complainer is also assuming that the person being complained about acts the same way all the time. In fact, we can imagine a scenario in which there is some other “introvert” out there who happened to meet the original complainer at a moment when they were being more extroverted, complaining about the “extrovert” they ran in to.

At the same time, defining yourself as an introvert becomes a problem when you use it as a reason to limit yourself. As I explained in an earlier post, introversion should never be used as an excuse for why you can’t do something.

Understanding introversion is a great way to understand ourselves, enabling us to grow as who we are, rather than trying to be someone we’re not. There’s no need for introversion to become another dividing line among people. We already have enough as it is.

*Throughout this blog, and even in this post, I intentionally use the spelling “extrovert,” something that Susan Cain does, too, and even makes a special note about in her book Quiet. I am using the difference in spelling to differentiate between the actual scientific term “extraversion” and “extroversion” as it’s popularly understood and used.

Introversion Isn’t an Excuse

I think it’s important to begin this post by pointing out that I’m an introvert. I need time to recharge after being around people, I prefer solitary activities, I’m very quiet, and so on. I’m pointing this out because if I don’t make it clear that I understand what it’s like to be an introvert, comments like these can come off as coming from someone who thinks you should “just get over/deal with it.”

In fact, there’s nothing to “get over.” There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert and it’s entirely possible to live a happy life as one. We may live in a culture biased toward extroverted characteristics, but understanding that you’re an introvert just means understanding that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to spend some time alone, or that you don’t have to measure your happiness by how many friends you have. The type of attitude that I want to address can best be expressed with the sentence “I’m too introverted to _____.”

Being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t do something. It may mean that you do things differently, or that there are some things you may just not want to do and that it’s ok to not want to do them.

The point is, don’t use your introversion as an excuse for not doing something. Realizing that you’re an introvert is part of understanding who you are, but if you use that to limit yourself, you’re doing it wrong. When you look inside yourself, you should be learning about who you are, how you do things best and what you want to do. If you look inside yourself and expand your possibilities, then you’re doing it right.

-David Mein

Liebster Award

LiebsterAwardHave you heard about the Liebster Award? It’s an award bloggers give to one another to help spread word of newish/little known blogs. To get one means the person who gave it to you appreciates the work you do. And we got one! It really means a lot to me to know that there are people out there who are actually reading my blog and can relate to the things I write about. So, I especially want to thank Hella Quirky for nominating me.

Each award come with instructions. Some quick googling tells me that these instructions vary depending on who exactly sent you the award, so I’m just going to stick to want was sent to me. My instructions are as follows:

1. List 5 facts about yourself
2. Answer 5 questions given to you from your nominator.
3. Create 5 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.
4. Chose 5 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate.
5. Go to each bloggers page and let them know about the award.

6. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.

So, here we go!

1. List 5 facts about yourself

1) I love languages. English is my native language and I can also speak (or at least read) French and German.

2) I find it difficult staying in the same place for a long time. I’ve moved around a lot in my (albeit short) adult life, and I find if I stay too long in the same city, I get bored. This is very likely related to number 3).

3) I have a love/hate relationship with routine. I have routines, but they can only last for so long. For example, I normally eat the same thing every day for supper. But, after 2 or 3 months, I’ll get bored of it and find something else to eat. Then, I’ll eat nothing but that for 2 or 3 months straight.

4) I’m lazy

5) I drink way too much coffee.

2. Answer 5 questions given to you from your nominator.

1) Why did you start blogging in the first place?

I’ve always liked writing, in part because of my general love of language. I started blogging in particular because of a friend of mine. At the moment, I’m studying translation and my friend is already a translator. He told me that a translator is a kind of writer, and so I should always be writing in order to practise my skill.

2) When you’re the most down, what in life causes you to keep going?

I, of course, like movies, music, etc., but because I consider myself a writer in particular, I’ll read stuff that other people have written to remind myself what my goals are. Of course, when you’re most down, your goals can seem unattainable, but a reminder of what exactly it is you want always helps.

3) What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?


4) Last day on earth, what would you do?

I’ve lived in my current city for a while now, but there are still places I haven’t explored yet.

5) What about YOU is quirky?

I can stay locked in my room for days on end. Normally, though, I don’t plan far enough in advance, so I end up having to get groceries or something. I like doing this in the dead of winter and I can imagine how cold and inhospitable it is outside while I’m nice and warm in my apartment.

3. Create 5 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award

1)What topics do you find yourself blogging the most about?

2) Is blogging a pass-time for you, or have you made it a part of your career?

3) What’s your number 1 guilty pleasure?

4) What achievement are you proudest of?

5) If you could prevent one thing from happening to you in the past, would you be a completely different person today and would you rather be that different person than to have lived through whatever thing had happened to you?

4. Chose 5 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate.

1) Moments of Mezz

2) Nearly Missed It

3) Taxi Dog Blues

4) The “In” Librarian

5) Our Vintage Life

5. Go to each bloggers page and let them know about the award.

Off to go do that now!

6. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.

Thanks, again, Hella Quirky!