I hate tomatoes. I always have, as long as I can remember. I like tomato-based things, like pizza or pasta sauce, but something about actual tomatoes really just grosses me out. However, I feel like hating tomatoes is a weird flaw, so I always order them on my sandwiches, burgers, etc. I have a theory that if I keep eating them, I’ll eventually like them. So far, it hasn’t really worked. I end up taking a few bites and then just taking the tomato slices off. Try as I might, I can’t just start enjoying tomatoes. It’s probably pretty useless to keep trying.
I feel the same way about the Wall Street Journal’s recent article “How an Introvert Can Be Happier: Act Like an Extrovert.” In the article, psychologist and professor William Fleeson says “If you’re introverted and act extroverted, you will be happier. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s all about what you do.” Please pardon my French, Professor Fleeson, but that’s some bullshit.
I’m an INFJ, which is Myers-Briggs for “Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging,” or introverted intuition with extroverted feeling. Being introverted isn’t the same as being shy. I like people, and I like being around people– in limited numbers. It doesn’t mean I hate leaving my apartment, it means that I’m just as happy spending time alone as I am in bigger groups. It doesn’t mean that I refuse to attend parties– it just means that at a certain point, an increasing percentage of my brain starts calculating how long I have to stay before I can be alone again. I can handle small talk, but I’d much rather in-depth conversations with a smaller number of people. I’m not incapable of being social; I just need a little while to recharge after.
Fleeson’s research shows ” introverts experience greater levels of happiness when they act more extroverted. In the weeklong study, researchers followed 85 people who recorded on Palm Pilots how extroverted they were acting and how happy they were feeling.”
My question for Fleeson is this: How long were your subjects having to act extroverted? Because yes, most people can probably handle extroversion for a few hours a day. But the fundamental truth remains that at the end of the day, these people were probably able to relax and recollect their thoughts in peace. Pretending that lots of social interaction is energizing won’t make people extroverted any more than wearing heels all day will physically make my legs longer.
Pretending to be someone you’re not isn’t the key to furthering your career and finding happiness. Society doesn’t need more extroverts; it needs more understanding. I can’t acquire a new personality any more than I can acquire a taste for tomatoes, nor should I have to.
Rock on, introverts. Quietly, though, if you don’t mind.