Christina: I think this Q&A is a great idea. I wasn’t sure how to submit my question, so I’m using the comments, I hope that’s okay. First of all, I really enjoyed your book, Introvert Power. It opened my eyes to the ways our world is constructed to unintentionally favour the extrovert. I was interested to see that you are an actor as well — me too! So, here’s my problem/question. I have never really mastered the art of auditioning, and I have begun to wonder if this is because I don’t respond well to the curve ball that is thrown at me in like 90% of auditions. (Could you sing a different song? Or “Start from here, not here” or “Could you do it with an accent?”). Even though in rehearsal I take direction well, I don’t seem to be able to do it nearly so well at auditions. My impulse is to go away and prepare and then show what I’ve prepared, not come up with something different right there in the moment with a table full of judges watching. Could you comment on different strategies you’ve come up with to deal with the inevitable audition curve ball?

Laurie Helgoe said May 22, 2009 at 1:33 pm 

Hi Christina — I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to reply. So many events intersecting in my life: a graduation, a death, expansion of my Book It! consulting services. Life. But I love your question and relate to your dilemma. Yes, actors are often introverts, and introversion can actually be an asset on stage — we are good at “digging deep” to develop our characters. But auditions. I suggest practicing the curve balls, as odd as that may seem. Have a trusted friend (preferably an actor who can simulate the experience) fire off various requests and practice responding. Still, it’s hard, and sometimes the best response is an honest one: dramatize your anxiety — when asked to for a different song, try singing your anxiety. Letting it out can disarm and soften your audience, and you may be applauded for your creativity. All for now. Break a leg! Laurie


Crystal: I am an extrovert married to an introvert, and I feel very lonely at times.  My husband tends to prioritize other things before me. Sometimes I understand this, but there are other times I wish he would hear what I say and ask of him.  I would mean so much to me to just get a hug or to be held for awhile. He comes from a family that  aren’t touchy feely so that puts me in a pickle at times because I am!  Or even if, for no reason, he would say he loves me — I don’t know the last time he has said it on his own without me saying it  first.  These little things would do so  much for me and my day. I know he loves me, no doubt about it.  But saying it is nice, and feeling it is wonderful.  He uses the introvert thing on me all the time and sometimes I feel it’s an excuse not to be a  loving husband.  The dog does nothing and gets more out of him than I  ever could. I’m jealous.  When we first married he couldn’t get  enough of me. Now I don’t know what to think, he wants his privacy and time alone more often. Until recent years I didn’t know what  introverts were.  He researched it.  Being the extrovert is hard. I’m  talkie, talkie and more of the hugger. I say what I feel.

I question how on earth I got involved with an introvert sometimes  when 
I’m blue and down about our relationship. I have a lot of time my hands and I do need other things to fill it, I do understand that.  But at the end of the day I would love just the 2 of us connect the way a husband and wife should I guess.

Is there anything you can tell me that might help with this  introvert?  I feel I’ve done everything he’s ask of me I feel it’s my turn: “I understand you, you understand me kind of thing.” I feel like  an introvert these days, craving his attention and being left alone  too much, even with him in the house.

Thanks for listening. To me this a puzzler.

Laurie: I do think it’s hard being an extrovert with an introverted partner. My sister is an extrovert and has an extreme introvert for a partner, and his need for ample time to himself is a huge challenge for her. I don’t have an easy answer except to not be intimidated, and to keep your needs in the mix. If he needs time to himself, you can be understanding while expecting the same — ask him to come up with “couple time” for you. Do know (and this is hard) that it’s not personal. He is probably withdrawing from other social stimulation (e.g., from work), but unfortunately you get the brunt of it. It may be wise to give him time to himself for a bit after he returns from work, but to expect sharing time after — or take turns (because you probably want to share right after work). Finally, the reality is that we can’t get everything we need from our partners, and sometimes you’ll be better off talking with a friend who craves interaction like you do.

Though I-E relationships can be challenging, the stretch required for
understanding each other ultimately strengthens the relationship — just as
stretching complementary muscles strengthens the body.  And anyone in an I-E relationship knows it IS a workout.

Hello Fellow Introverts and Curious Extroverts–                                                                                                                                                            I am getting more and more requests for tips on asserting introversion in a “extroverted” world. (Note that this is NOT actually an extroverted world. See INTROVERT POWER or the comprehensive research in the MBTI Manual; Introverts outnumber extroverts!)  Thanks to Crystal for suggesting I put up an Introvert Q&A. Though she made the suggestion in February, I did follow through…
                                                                                                                                         Rozanne: Every year for the past five years, my in-laws treat the whole family to a trip to Disney World. It’s an incredibly generous gift but I really struggle with it. We are leaving on Saturday and I find myself getting more and more anxious as departure gets closer. My husband’s family, including my family, are all extroverts. This trip we have my father- and mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and her husband and three kids, and my husband and me and our son.
I have to be honest and say I feel completely overwhelmed at times during these trips. The noise and crowds bother me, and I’m expected to be on the go from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed. If I beg off and say I need a break, everyone wonders what’s wrong with me. My husband also prays on my guilt by implying that I’ll be missing great moments with our son (he’s five). I hate to miss those moments but I don’t know what else to do. My ideal Disney World trip would be to sleep in a bit and wake up slowly, then visit one of the parks for about 3 or 4 hours, and then come back to the hotel and lounge by the pool reading.
                                                                                                                                             Laurie: I do have a suggestion: be honest with your husband about your ideal version of the trip. If he plays the guilt card, ignore it and get back to the point. He is talking about what you’ll miss/what your son needs, but he is really telling you what HE wants. Try to get your son out of the conversation — it’s not fair to speculate about your son’s needs in this situation (perhaps what your son needs is a well-rested, energized and happy mother). Ask your husband what parts of the trip he most wants you to be a part of, and prioritize those. Remember, Guilt is a master distractor, making you focus on everyone’s needs but your own. Don’t get sucked in. If you take yourself and your needs seriously, your husband is more likely to take you seriously. Don’t back down until YOU are in the conversation.

Woolf and solitude

November 9, 2008

First, thanks to Dan for sharing your karmic connection to INTROVERT POWER, and how reading the book affected you. It was a joy to write, and to hear from readers brings the experience full circle.

These days, I wish I could write to Virginia Woolf and tell her of my connection with her work. It hasn’t been an easy connection. I read Mrs. Dalloway a few years back and slogged my way through, often lost in the internal dialogue of her characters. I was inspired to tackle her writing again after reading a wonderful book by Woolf scholar Danell Jones, The Virginia Woolf Writers’ Workshop.  Jones artfully wove Woolf’s actual words into a single writing course, allowing me to feel as if she were speaking to me. Woolf’s quotes are so beautifully quotable, that I was inspired to read To The Lighthouse. The intricacy of the inner worlds of Woolf’s characters can be daunting, but there is such beauty and wisdom and humor — and truth to be discovered, that I found it well worth the effort. I was particularly excited by the way Woolf captured the joy of solitude. I underlined many quotes, but I’ll limit myself to those that come from the mind of Mrs. Ramsey, after her children had gone to bed and she is alone:

“…it was a relief when they went to bed. For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of–to think; well, not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others.”

The darkness is not a depressive darkness, a reality often missed by light-dwelling extroverts. Mrs. Ramsey’s thoughts continue their narrative:

 “ was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless…the core of darkness could go anywhere, for no one saw it.”

Now that’s introvert power, that freedom we feel in being removed from external stimulation and expectation.

What if we thought of these dark days of November, so often associated with depression, as a time to sink down, to allow our thoughts free reign, and to experience the adventure of limitless vistas?

And while you’re at it, sink into a book by Virginia Woolf.

By the way, it’s 5:34 pm and already dark. Party time (introvert style)!

Best, Laurie

Introvert recovery

October 22, 2008

Cathe — great to hear from you, and I hope you enjoy my book! Your question, “How do you recover your introversion when you were raised as an extrovert?” is essentially what I take on in Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength. The good news for introverts who simply want to be introverts is that we don’t really need to DO anything. For us, it’s more about NOT acting like extroverts, NOT hurrying up or speaking just to make noise, NOT apologizing for wanting to be alone/saying “no” to parties/avoiding small talk, NOT buying in to the values that don’t represent us. It’s about what I call “meditating in the mosh pit” — taking our introversion into the world and being quieter, more thoughtful representatives of society. 

Keep in touch!

Best, Laurie

Ebb and flow

October 11, 2008

I’m finally living it. I’ve been preaching about allowing the ebb, but now I’m really feeling it. The ebb is the inward-turning force, the impulse to pull away, go within, grieve, reflect, sort, and seek clarity. We often fight the impulse, trying to flow when our bodies pull us backward and inward. But I’m feeling the back and forth more regularly now, the easy flow of creativity, followed by the pulling back into my fears and vulnerability, emerging into clarity and power and leading to the next wave of productivity. I’m making friends with the ebb and noticing how it fuels the flow.  Try it — it’s a great alternative energy source.

I’m flowing now, so I’m on to the next writing project…

More later, Laurie


September 25, 2008

Katy, your description of Ava’s hideout (in response to Hello World) had me salivating! It is so wonderful to hear from a mom who nurtures her daughter’s introversion, supporting rather than discouraging her desire for quiet and solitude — in style!

It took me years to claim my need for solitary space. As I look at around my home office/haven, I see reflections of me everywhere — my walls are the palette for my personal collage: movie posters, cut out images from magazines, postcards, preserved fine art puzzles (have a wall of these!), photos of friends and people who inspire me, quotes, words, just stuff I like. Here’s to the radical idea that an adult, too, can have a room of her own.

I’d love to hear more about the lofty lofts out there!