Living in an “E” World by Yoon Groves

For much of my life I was forced to be an extrovert. My parents were immigrants and did not speak English.  As an elementary student I had to make appointments, talk to strangers about my parent’s restaurant and translate my own parent – teacher conferences. The upside was I always did great in school… or so that is what I told them. I have three brothers. We were always competing for attention. Our house was always loud and full of energy.

When my parents moved the family back to Korea I was pushed into an unconformable situation. Suddenly, I was the one who needed translations. We previously only spoke English in the house or, as we affectionately call it, Konglish (Korean – English). I went to an International School my first couple of years in Korea. Most of the students were from Europe and Japan. I was the American girl! I played the part, acting spunky and tough (that was the stereotype at my school). When I transferred to a Korean-speaking middle school I was thrust into the center of attention once again. I enjoyed my new found popularity, no matter how awkward.

I returned to the US to finish high school and attend college. I was again the new girl. I joined several clubs and the dance team. I was trying to fit in as much as possible in the small town and all Caucasian school. In college, I joined a sorority and became very involved on campus. I always seemed to be surrounded by people.

For almost 15 years I wore the cloak of extrovert, but it did not always fit well. It wasn’t until I began working in Career Services and taking personality tests, for fun, that I understood why. I was an INTROVERT!  It made sense. I was always exhausted after sorority recruitment, orientation, etc. During busy pre-registration times all I want to do lie on the couch after work. I often felt awkward in large social situations.

The Oxford dictionary defines an introvert as “a shy, reticent, and typically self-centered person.” But being an introvert is more than being shy or quiet. Those who know me would not describe me as shy. If you met me, I don’t think you would guess I was an introvert. For me being an introvert is about getting energy by being alone, not always wanting be the center of attention, and enjoying small groups.

As an introvert, I live in an extrovert world. My home is full of extroverts. My husband loves a full weekend agenda. The success of the weekend is measured by the quantity of friends we hung out with. My husband likes to talk out ideas, problems and life situations with me. My son, following in his father’s footsteps, observes a few minutes and then bounds into any situation with no reservations and no signs of tiring. He talks non-stop for hours babbling about nothing, asking questions, making demands. When I start to tune him out he begins making up funny songs and words to make me laugh. My son does not enjoy quiet time or playing alone. Most of my friends are extroverts. Even our dog could not wait to be surrounded by people, happily running laps around everyone.

I work in world of ice breakers, high touch, and exuberance. There is not a lack of socials, activities and functions to attend. There are ample opportunities to make small talk. There are many occasions for me to learn my student’s story. This is why I love higher education. This is why I chose this profession. Nonetheless, I find myself longing for the energy that many student personnel professionals seem to find in the 25th hour.

Here are some signs you might be an introvert like me:

  • You would never think ‘The More the Merrier.’

  • You plan your night in.

  • Doing nothing is doing something for your night in.

  • After talking all day it doesn’t bother you to not say a word all night.

  • Being in large social situations is exhausting.

  • People think you are a great listener.

  • You have taken vacation days to be home alone.

  • You would never trap someone in a conversation.

  • You are not really disappointed when someone cancels plans on a Friday night.

  • People often ask you what you are thinking, because you have not said anything for a while.

  • Phone conversations are typically short, that is, if you answer the phone.

As it seems the grass is always greener…extroverts seem to have it so easy. They don’t seem to hesitate when entering social situations. They make conversation seem like an art form. BUT- there is a lot to be said about being an introvert. Just ask Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood, Warren Buffet or Abraham Lincoln. All self-proclaimed or perceived to be introverts.

  • Introverts can cultivate deeper conversations and relationships. Some introverts may have a large group of acquaintances, but only a lucky few get to be close friends.

  • Introverts can really push themselves out of their comfort zone. Often it takes a lot for someone to push themselves to do something they are uncomfortable with. Introverts do it on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

  • Introverts tend to make time for themselves. We all need a break to unwind and de-stress. Introverts make sure to get that time in.

  • Introverts internalize things. Ideas and thoughts are typically well thought out once an introvert introduces it to other people.

  • Introverts reflect on experiences before making decision or moving on.

  • Introverts can make great leaders. Introverts can cultivate deeper relations with their team members. They think before they act. Introverts are good at asking questions and hearing their team members.

So introverts rejoice! We can use these characteristics as our strengths. It is not a matter of whether we are too introverted for an extroverted world, but that our world is not introverted enough. Let’s all get together and celebrate our introverted nature…oh wait…or maybe just reflect on it from the comfort of a quiet home or office.

Yoon Groves is the Associate Director for Advising and Student Services at Washington University in St. Louis. Find her on Twitter: @yjgroves.


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One response to “Living in an “E” World by Yoon Groves

  1. Thank you for this article. For most of the years in my current academic position, I have been prodded by the majority of my bosses (4 within 8 years) to “get out more”, “make more connections”, and go with spur of the moment decisions. All of these make me feel most uncomfortable. I thought being on the “academic side” of the house vs. my background of student affairs would be a better fit. Trying to stand up for personal needs is viewed as being argumentative and defensive. I take solace in my 1:1 conversations with students – just wish there were more. Sigh.

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