It’s fashionable these days for people to “embrace diversity.” But what does that really mean?
Of course, the warm-and-fuzzy blanket of inclusion covers race and sexual orientation. But it is seldom extended to temperament—despite the fact that our temperament arguably shapes us more than anything else.
I’m a quiet person by nature. Although I can be sociable and outgoing, I generally tend to keep to myself. It’s part of my makeup; it’s just who I am.
Yet seldom a week goes by that someone’s not trying to “reform” me.
I used to know a woman who would strong-arm me into attending her parties—and then berate me when I didn’t stay. I had a boss whose singular mission was to make me more “assertive.” I’ve been teased by my family and ribbed by my friends. All for being myself.
Lately, I’ve been noticing a similar trend at work. There has been a slow, but pronounced, cultural shift. My contributions are highly valued. But my temperament? Not so much. I find myself on the outskirts of a macho culture of push-up contests and high-fives. It’s a lonely feeling.
Fortunately, I’m not really alone. I have a handful of friends who love me, even if I am low-key. And I have Esteban, who has never once set out to change me. He’s always embraced me just the way I am.
Our culture values extroversion and aggression. But I don’t think we should devalue people who differ from that “ideal.” Accepting individuals’ temperaments is the first step in being truly inclusive and diverse.
Well said; proof once more that truth doesn’t need to be shouted (Glenn Beck, please take note. Glenn? GLENN!).
My wife, a self-identifying introvert who navigates social waters far better than I ever tried to, told me recently that extroverts gain energy from socializing with others; introverts feel drained by the same process. Just as I expected: extroverts ARE vampires.
Your fine post prompted me to revisit Jonathan Rauch’s beautiful bittersweet essay “Caring for Your Introvert” in The Atlantic, March 2003. It’s online and worth looking up.