Devoted as I am to the QUIET Revolution, I must admit that sometimes it is really weird to be constantly seen through the lens of introversion. Wherever I go now, that is the first thing people think about me: Here comes the introvert!
Adam McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church, went through a similar experience when his book came out. For today’s post, he shares just what it’s like:
The Introvert Brand
I wrote a book called Introverts in the Church, and I swear that it is a serious book. I didn’t realize I would have to remind people of this when it was published. But one of the first book reviews, written by a dear friend and mentor, began like this: “Introverts in the Church. No, this isn’t a joke.” And here I thought the title was significantly less funny than other working titles I played with:
- Introverts in the Shack
- Three Cups of Tea…By Myself
- Outliers: Introvert Edition
- Introverts in the Hands of an Extroverted God
- Good to Introvert
- Girl Meets Introvert, Keeps Looking
- The Life You’ve Never Wanted
- Left Behind, and Happy About It
Surprisingly, my publisher rejected those title options. I had thought we settled on a boring but descriptive option, but apparently my book title also works as a punch line.
As many authors can attest, however, after a few months of talking nonstop about your book topic, you get the writer’s equivalent of the late-night giggles. Everything becomes a punch-line. You catch yourself applying the topic of your book to every conceivable situation. I started seeing introverts the way Haley Joel Osment sees dead people. As I poured the milk on my cereal, I pondered, “I wonder what type of cereal introverts prefer? Shredded Wheat has a lot of substance and depth, but Lucky Charms has layers of meaning, and the more you eat it, the more you learn about it.” Then you realize that you’re psychoanalyzing your cereal and you seriously consider pouring the leftover green-colored milk over your head. Yes, I went with Lucky Charms. I’m an Irish introvert. We’re magically delicious.
It doesn’t help when people you encounter in social media tend to reduce you to your book topic. Once I was asked to write a blog post on how introverts and extroverts can partner in ending the international orphan crisis. Granted this is one of the pressing global issues of our time, but is the fact that I need to retreat into solitude after extended social interaction really a significant factor in solving it?
Another time I tweeted that my book was selling better on Kindle than in paperback, and the first response was “Maybe introverts are just thrifty.” I’ve received a few Facebook birthday wishes that said “Happy Birthday, introvert.” Or there was the time I confessed that in college we smuggled in a student from another school to be our flag football quarterback (he was the brother of a friend and also just happened to be a Heisman trophy candidate that year) and someone replied “Totally sounds like something an introvert would do.”
This happens in real life too. I haven’t received as many speaking invitation as some of my peers, and I’m convinced it’s because people assume that I, as a self-acknowledged introvert, will be a train wreck of a public speaker, and that I may not even be willing to leave the house. Once, when I did miraculously venture out to meet with a prominent pastor and bestselling author (to protect his identity I’ll call him “John O. or “J. Ortberg”), he told me: “We made sure you would interact with as few people as possible on your walk from the church lobby to my office.”
Because of all this, it’s unclear to me whether this introvert thing is a genius piece of branding (in addition to being, you know, my personality type) or else an inescapable straitjacket that will limit me and make me a bit of a joke. In twenty years, will people say, “That book really changed things in church culture and Adam has become a significant voice”? Or will they say, in a sexy deep voice: “Adam McHugh: he is the most introverted man in the world. He doesn’t always go to church, but when he does, he prefers not to talk to you.”
Time will tell. Let me know what happens. I’ll be at home.
Adam S. McHugh is a writer, Presbyterian pastor, spiritual director, hospice chaplain, and the author of Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. He has been published in The Christian Century and The Washington Post and is working on a second book that he wants his publisher to call The Listening Life. He is also going to be a guest chaplain in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 28th and is already nervous about it.
I’m still laughing at the rejected book titles! Maybe when you finish your 2nd book, and then your 3rd, you can swing back around and write one of those?
This is so warm and funny, I was cracking up at the book titles and the “when he goes to church, he prefers not to talk to you”. I’m a presbyterian pastor, so I do talk to people, but occasionally I try to think of how I could sneak up to the pulpit without having to talk to so many people! haha. I’d never heard of Adam’s book–now I’ll have TWO INTROVERT books to read…which means i get to hole up in my house for a while…YAY!
I can relate to Adam. Since I started writing about introversion many of my friends have become perplexed. “Do I ask her to my party? There will be a lot of people there.” “Should I walk up and talk to her at Target? I know she dislikes small talk.” I’m the same person I was before my introversion “coming out.”
I still believe it’s a good thing that the traits of an introvert are being highlighted now. Awareness is powerful.
Love that you are an Irish introvert Adam. Magically delicious. Still laughing.:)
Bravo! Thank you for shedding some light on introverts. When I facilitate Myers-Briggs workshops, one of my favorite moments is when a person who is active, involved in many groups, and has a busy life in business or society and who also is struggling with some frustration or exhaustion realizes they just might be an introvert. Of course these people don’t need to nor should they go live under a rock, but they do need to take better care of how they re-energize by nurturing their introverted needs. By definition, we live in an extroverted society, but it’s composed of infinite differences; we’d all be better off if we also could tap into the quiet and thoughtful.
My husband was completely perplexed when I discovered there was a word for people like him. “You’re an extravert!” I told him. “No wonder you don’t have a clue! No wonder you never shut up! This explains everything!”
And now he has a one-word explanation for me when I get lost in the shuffle of his noisy friends. “I’m married to an introvert. That’s her, over there, reading her book.”
My husband is very much an extrovert- but I would love to ACT like the introvert I am at church- as a priest’s wife (which is very unusual in the US) I can’t be who I am because the parishioners would feel slighted….
I am in the middle to listening to Quiet on audiobook. I find myself frequently shaking my head and smiling, “yep, that’s me”! I can’t stand the sound of TV and of music constantly playing in the background at home, a lifelong aversion I’ve perceived as an annoyance. Socaializing is wonderful and I can be quite engaging but I am delighted to go home after and just “be” to recharge. Thanks for providing so much insight!
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Now I hear “Hear comes the introvert” to the tune of “Here comes a regular” by The Replacements. My feelings about this are mixed.
Except, I hear “Here comes the introvert” despite what I typed above.
It has been an interesting discovery learning more about introverts and understanding a little bit more about myself. It is amazing the perceptions people have of introverts but I have to confess to having many of them myself. At least now I have been re-educated.
Totally enjoying the book, learning a lot about the qualities of an introvert, I stop sometimes and smile and say, “yep, that’s me!”
Irish Introvert . . .magically delicious???? I LOVE that. (I’m an Irish introvert too!) Can’t wait to read both books
I suspect it might be an introvert thing to psychoanalyze ones cereal without half thinking about it – it certainly sounds like something I’d do.
And I love the rejected titles. I’m half tempted to knock “Three Cups of Tea… by Myself” over the head, stuff it in a burlap sack, and abscond with it for my blog.
Wow. Spoke to me. Being labeled an introvert sounds a bit like being labeled a doctor. All sorts of oddly inaccurate perceptions, with others often mentioning it as your label, despite it having no relevance to the situation or conversation at hand. So I’ll just have to be careful not to let people know I’m an off the charts introvert, too….
LOL! What a funny bunch of misperceptions – too true, though, that they are prevalent stereotypes. I am a serious introvert, but people don’t believe me when I tell them that. They assume because I am so outgoing and bubbly, totally comfortable in the spotlight, and I often take the lead in a group setting, that I must be an extrovert. But the outgoing bubbliness comes at the cost of needing to recharge, ALONE. LOL!
Thank you Erin! Well put. I’ve had people say the same to me. When I’m at an event my reward starts the minute I get in my car to leave. I’ve also found a great way to deal with the crowd besides having one good one to one conversation. I bring may camera along and take great pictures for the host. Of course that only works for certain occasions but I love it.
Rejected title 4 is great, though I’m not sure how many people would get the reference. Title 6 is a little too close to home.
I imagine that introverts and extroverts will partner to solve the global orphan crisis the same way we partner to solve any problem: the introverts will go sit in our rooms and think about the problem until we come up with a solution, then we will tell the extroverts about it and they will go promote and implement the solution, then they will eventually forget that they didn’t come up with the idea themselves and we’ll decide it’s easier not to correct them. At least that’s how it works in my experience.
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