Just after parlour games went out of fashion, but before Facebook, a self-employed editor might have used her idle hours for professional developments and introspections of various sorts. In particular, one such editor might have noticed that her clients had entire Human Resources departments dedicated to circulating questionnaires to help people realize who they were and what they were like. The self-employed editor duly noted the methods and bought the books and took the tests that led to an astonishing array of insights about her tendencies, qualities, etc.
We all have personalities, it seems. And Meyers Briggs and Colours and [add your favourite framework here] are among the many methods we can use to investigate our own and others’ personalities. What we discover in using those tools is a remarkable truth. [Spoiler alert: If you are an editor who has not yet completed any such questionnaire, you might want to stop reading here, lest you develop some bias as to whether you are an introvert, for example.]
Do these tools show us that editors are introverts? No, even better than that, we discover that editors are just like most people. While many of us are, indeed, introverts, others are not. Armed with this bit of insight, we can discover an even deeper truth about the editor and her colleagues. We are not so easily labelled. We are more complicated than that, which is part of what makes us all so very interesting.
Susan Cain’s portrait of introverts, Quiet, provides a much-needed insider’s view. Cain reminds us not only what it’s like to be on the inside looking in, but also what the world looks like if you are inside an introvert looking out. It’s not surprising that we don’t see either view often. The very definition of introversion means we aren’t likely to be getting regular reports on the inner or outer life of an introvert.
What struck me in the response to Cain’s book was the delight with which many introverts recognized that this, finally, was a book about them, as if looking in the mirror for the first time.
But the popularity of any label also puts it at risk of becoming a cartoon version of reality. Introverts are far more varied than the handy label implies. By opening up the conversation and not only inviting but insisting that introverts join it, we were bound to learn more about the complexities hidden by the label. One such complexity shows up in a newly discovered species: the outgoing introvert.
For those who prefer even more nuance in their defined terms, a return to Jung adds a useful dimension. Just as you are becoming comfortable with owning your sensitive, introverted side, you might discover that you are a covert narcissist instead. Or an extravert with a rich inner life.
Editors and introverts alike are not that easy to pin down. Never fear: What editors will always have in common with each other is our near-ninja-like ability to sit in perfect stillness for hours at a time, tapping lightly on a keyboard, surrounded by the cool darkness of a late night or early morning lit only by the computer screen. And making it look easy.
Previous post from Virginia Durksen: The Voice and Its Vices.
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