Beyond Introvert Survival: Finding Allies in an Extroverted Society

For many introverts who find themselves isolated, the advice they receive seems reasonable enough:  “Get out more.  Meet some people.”

Yet in practice it never seems to work.  One ends up exhausted and without having made any real friends.  One might continue this routine out of a certain need to be passable within society, but this doesn’t change the fact there continues to be little change.

Eventually, one, might arrive at a certain truth: time spent surrounded by people is no solution to the basic problems of the introvert.  Without a genuine sense of commonality, group belonging is in vain.

If the introverted person doesn’t want to completely resign themselves to a hermit-like life or continue hanging with company that does more harm than good, what are they to do?

There is a key error in the typical advice:  “Get out.  Meet some people.”   Get where?  Meet who?  Most people answer these questions without really having to think about it.  Their instinct guides them where they need to go.

For the more difficult introvert situation it becomes important to perform some of these functions manually.

An extrovert advisor might not realize it but ‘some people’ isn’t just any people.  In most cases, the extrovert ‘some people’ = the type of people they like to hang out with.  They do not realize that an introvert has different needs.

Introverts, being lost already, tend to take their extrovert buddy’s advice literally.  They go out and  make themselves participate some place where they don’t belong.

Who then is ‘some people?’  One has to find new groups that will bring them closer to the answer.

Instead of trying to subordinate yourself to the common standard, ask yourself: “Where would people who don’t like the common standard go?”

In general, atypical persons are going to group around places, hobbies, activities viewed as atypical according to the common standard.  If one examines the extremes of acceptability, the chances of meeting compatible persons rises from near zero to somewhat probable.

Relying on sample size over sample quality is the big mistake introverts make when looking for social belonging. Looking in the right place once will accomplish more than looking in a thousand random places.

The Surface society has manifold ways of weeding people out and sorting people into various categories.  An introvert can observe the techniques the larger society uses to eliminate people and then apply them in their own personal life.

The right place isn’t necessarily easy to find or access.  This is because the right place by its nature weeds out individuals who are In Tune.  The right place has some kind of barrier that prevents most people from accessing it.  Insufficient socio-economic incentives?  Impossible if one has lots of commitments to the larger society?  Is it a category that makes participants socially undesirable, thus only those who are truly Out of Tune would ever want to do it?  Does it require a sacrifice or leap of faith a well grounded person would never make?

You know you’re on the right path when you’re meeting a lot of these conditions.  And truly passing from the surface realm into the Void underneath it often requires a certain action of sacrifice, severance, and renunciation.  Those who remain are the few who were able to perform that act and pass through that trial.  These people are highly likely to be viable colleagues.  They are the distillate from a seething mass of millions.

If one understands how to follow a process of rigorous social distillation, isolating any sort of person with any sort of proclivity becomes possible.

Moving towards extremes is one way to practice social distillation, but it’s precisely tough hurdles that make it work.

There are easier ways…

One way is finding simple unobtrusive ways of  ‘pinging’ groups for compatible persons.  An easy way to do this is to simply make subtle in-references to things only the right sort of person would understand.  In my experience, nonsensical speech barely registers on most people’s senses.  If the ‘ping’ fails there’s not really any consequences.  The occasion that it works can be life changing.  I met one of my best friends by asking jokingly if he was related to an obscure historical figure sharing his surname.  He got it!

We pass our colleagues in crowded places every day.  We just lack means of knowing one another.  Surface groups usually know one another by a certain fixed style of dress, music.  The introverts who feel mostly like hiding also succeed in hiding from one another.  This is a paradoxical problem that every isolated introvert faces…

In Korea, the number of U.S. troops is greater than the country’s largest ethnic minority ( about 40,000 Chinese.)  The rest are some thousands of guest workers from all over the world.

I lived in Korea for a short time and non-Koreans were highly conspicuous, Japanese tourists most of all.  When you’re in a crowd that’s 99.9% locals, anyone that’s phenotypically or behaviorally variant is instantly visible amongst thousands of people.  It was not uncommon to run into people I knew even though Seoul is a city of 12 million people.  A distinguishing trait is clearly an extremely efficient method of social filtering.  A clear difference from everyone else can allow one to completely rewrite the odds.

Yet true introverts are not about to all adopt purple Mohawks in order to stand out.  Exposure results in vulnerability after all and this is what we all want to avoid. How is one to proceed?  I think the subtle social pinging approach is on the right track.

An idea that’s occurred to me:

Make a custom shirt on a site like cafepress that makes a reference to something obscure or atypical.  I would make it in such a way that it would seem normal enough to the casual observer, yet would serve as an ostentatious beacon for the right pair of eyes.

If one was creative, there’s probably many possible Subtle ways to advertise oneself.  But we don’t search for these ideas because most of us are stuck in a typical ethic for finding the right people to associate with.

Recognizing the underlying meaning of well-intended extrovert advice is a necessary first step before one is free to construct one’s own ethic of human association.  For true introverts, the establishment of such an ethic is tantamount to a declaration of independence from the Surface world.  An alternative to social life on the Surface is a ticket out of  the directionless, unspoken, heavy sense of disenchantment that seems such a dominant feature of an introverted life.

Zygmunt blogs at Kingdom of Introversion (and elsewhere).

Beyond Introvert Survival: Finding Allies in an Extroverted Society appears here by permission.

related: Best Possible Persons

related: Introvert Hobbies

on 01/9/12 in featured, Society | No Comments | Read More

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