What are you on about Jon, what have toilet rolls got to do with introversion? It’s OK, I’ve not totally lost the plot, the toilet rolls are a metaphor to help explain one aspect of introversion that confuses many people (although I hope you don’t start worrying about toilet rolls in future). Many people think that introverts are standoffish, they’re not, let me explain starting with what is an introvert.
What’s an introvert?
Ask thirty people to define an introvert and (as long as you’re not asking psychologists) it will sound like you got thirty different answers.
Each answer will probably contain things like being quiet, often something about energy, or being reflective; quite often people will use words like shy, standoffish or even snooty.
Most of the explanations derive from one of two important points
- Introverts tend to lose energy when they’re with other people. The more people and the less they know these people the stronger that energy loss might feel. It’s like having your power source as my old mobile phone battery; one day the power almost makes it through the day, the next day it’s down to 10% by 10:00. Extroverts (extravert to be correct) tend to be energised when with people and feel de-energised on their own.
- Introverts tend to think to talk, where extraverts tend to talk to think. More correctly this is internal processing (introverts) versus external processing.
Many people are, of course, somewhere between these two poles and could be called ambiverts.
Introverts are stand offish.
When interviewing people about introverts I’m told they’re standoffish, snooty, or words to that effect (somewhat aloof or reserved; cold and unfriendly – according to dictionary.com) and many introverts confirm that’s how they’ve been labelled (it’s one of the negative perceptions of introversion)
It’s a myth, introverts do have friends and they’re not aloof or standoffish. Well, that’s to say that they can be at times, as can everybody!
Tell me about the toilet rolls
My last holiday was onboard a wonderful, although old boat around Thailand, the diving was superb.
Towards the end of most of my holidays I start to look forward to some home comforts, do you? I don’t know what you’r comforts are, but mine are:
- A nice cup of English tea. Wherever I go, it’s never the same as home
- A peanut butter, cheese and marmite sandwich. OK I know I may have lost you there, but it’s my comfort food and it’s always welcome after long journeys
- Nice toilet roll! Maybe it’s about where I travel to; but after trips where the facilities may be a little more basic, home is more appreciated!
On my return from Thailand I had tea and my sandwich ingredients waiting for me, but needed to get toilet rolls on the way home. The problem was, I arrived back just before lockdown and just after the great British raid on supermarkets – there were no toilet rolls available. Toilet rolls had become scarce resource, that needed to be carefully managed until more were available.
Where does this myth come from?
A few months ago, I caught up with an old friend that I’d met many years before at a networking meeting. We had a glass of wine and reminisced about “the good old days”. Then she said that many in the group used to think I was stand offish, and that she used to tell them that I was one of the most people focused people she knew. We unpicked it like this.
Imagine you are in a room with several small groups of people and your “people energy” is starting to run low. Your energy becomes a scarce resource. Rather than leave the meeting, one of the things you might to is to stand back a little bit from the group – almost literally standoff. It doesn’t mean you always are standoffish, but at that moment you did. That could lead people to think that’s how you are.
I did warn you; shortages do strange things to our minds and I hope you don’t remember how introverts are not standoffish every time you hear of a toilet roll shortage.
Toilet Rolls and Introversion: Strange combination maybe, but it's a true and personal story.
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Or listening to
In this episode of "Activate Your Introvert" I answer the common question - what is an introvert?