Hell is other people at breakfast

A writer An edit­or called Petrona made a com­ment on one of my earli­er art­icles about depres­sion and arts. She poin­ted out this art­icle by an American writer called Jonathan Rauch, who is, appar­ently, a seni­or writer for National Journal. I don’t know what the National Journal is, but this guy can write. It’s a won­der­ful, witty art­icle about the nature of intro­ver­sion, and how to act around your intro­ver­ted friends. Introverted people, he sug­gests, are not shy:

Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet con­ver­sa­tions about feel­ings or ideas, and can give a dynam­ite present­a­tion to a big audi­ence, but seems awk­ward in groups and mal­ad­roit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recu­per­ate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accos­ted with pleas­ant­ries by people who are just try­ing to be nice?

Well, the first two things any read­er will do when con­fron­ted by this is (a) decide wheth­er or not they are an intro­vert and (b) count the ways in which this makes them unique and bet­ter than every­one else. Here I go: I guess I’m some­what intro­ver­ted, but not shy. When my girl­friend and I enter­tain 10+ people, we always have a good time, but I col­lapse face-down on the bed after­wards. At the same time, I’ve learned to be vir­tu­ally nerve­less when talk­ing to a large group of people, like an under­gradu­ate lec­ture audi­ence or the research staff at a uni­ver­sity. In fact, I taught oral present­a­tion skills for a num­ber of years, and a kind of math­em­at­ics related to arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence called con­nec­tion­ist mod­el­ling — where slight­est shred of nerves would have sent my abil­ity to do improv’d arith­met­ic straight out the win­dow.

Before this blog becomes unreadbly self-ref­er­en­tial, I’ll leave the last word to Mr Rauch:

We can only dream that someday, when our con­di­tion is more widely under­stood, when per­haps an Introverts’ Rights move­ment has blos­somed and borne fruit, it will not be impol­ite to say “I’m an intro­vert. You are a won­der­ful per­son and I like you. But now please shush.”

Amen, broth­er. And the title of this post, by the way, is attrib­uted to Sartre.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

One thought on “Hell is other people at breakfast”

  1. Hello again.
    Thanks for pick­ing up on my commment — I agree these intro­ver­sion art­icles are very good. (As an intro­vert myself.)

    I’m not a writer, by the way, but an edit­or. I wish I were a writer but all I do in that spe­here is post blog entries, which I am sure you would not con­sider the same thing. It is excel­lent ther­apy for depres­sion, though, as I’ve noted more than once on Petrona.

    All the best

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