Quite quiet—and that’s OK

23Sep09

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.



One Response to “Quite quiet—and that’s OK”

  1. 1 osull

    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.

    Thanks- TO’S


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