In an age where so much of life is recorded, Instagrammed, hashtagged, tweeted, and posted, being an introvert seems an impossible task.
But there are actual specimens, ones who are socially shy (to varying degrees), who find it somewhat difficult to make small talk. They may struggle at conversing with strangers. They can easily feel out of place at parties or other functions where being of a more outgoing nature is almost a necessity.
I happen to be one of them. This real-life shyness is something I’m acutely aware of and work hard at overcoming.
There are some, including my colleague, Kira Davis, who interpret introversion one way. In her recent piece discussing the subject, Kira focuses on those who adopt the label as a cover for other problems, or who prefer to take a lazy approach to life and situations that we all must endure. That kind of faux introversion is actually harmful to people who genuinely struggle with it. The excessive anti-social casts a bad light on those who are thoughtful, serious, or naturally reserved.
We do need fewer narcissists in this digital age, and they are found in both the introvert and extrovert camps.
Speaking of extroversion, let’s discuss probably the most well-known extrovert of the moment: President Donald J. Trump.
This blustery, bombastic leader of the free world is hailed as a fighter and deal-maker by his fan club. In reality, his unchecked behavior is routinely embarrassing, often questionable, and downright juvenile. However, his constant showboating is prized. Volume level and the frequency at which he opens his mouth disguises empty and childish talk leading some starry-eyed listeners to conclude that because he appears extremely confident, he must be correct.
Talk about egotistical.
This attitude toward Trump, which prizes the instant reaction over the observed reflection, is the main reason why we actually need more introversion, not less. The president and Americans, in general, would do well to pause and reflect before vomiting up those word salads in real life or online.
It’s difficult to prize this kind of patience in a society where attention spans are at an all-time low. But it’s a must. In fact, now – more than ever – it’s necessary that we possess a more reserved demeanor, carefully weighing the situations before us, armed with and ready to use our bull**** detector.
Maybe those who dislike a more introverted personality type feel uncomfortable because they aren’t aware of what the quiet ones are always thinking. In the Trump Era, where too many thoughts are shared on camera and far too much is revealed in tweets, a pause + reflect approach is what we all desperately need.
Existing as an extrovert doesn’t make you more successful, likeable, knowledgeable, or wise. It is not automatically a good thing. Nothing about this unreserved style screams: “They’ve got it all together.” In fact, you might really need to tone it down, shut your mouth, and listen more.
A terrific example of a quiet, reserved person – and leader – whose approach to life was not nearly as gregarious, but was nonetheless successful, is President Calvin Coolidge.
“Silent Cal”, as he is remembered by many, was the polar opposite of the White House’s current inhabitant. His reserved style and downright humble attitude toward leadership is a superb blueprint for anyone sitting in the nation’s highest office. No, he was not perfect (who is?), but his demeanor was far more appropriate for the office – and pleasant – than the reality star we know as the 45th president.
More than twenty years ago, Cal Thomas wrote at Heritage of President Coolidge and his approach to life, public service, and actual policy. (Thomas is now a fan of the current president, after initially being opposed to him. He should probably reread his own work.)
…politics, in the end, is not about drama but about principle, not about charisma but about character.
Calvin Coolidge had a certain style and attitude toward public service. He seemed immune to the pretensions of politics. When asked his goals as Governor of Massachusetts, he explained, “to walk humbly and discharge my obligations.” It is hard to imagine a better definition of public service. When one woman admirer asked if the burdens of the presidency were more than a man could endure, Coolidge replied, “Oh, I don’t know. There are only so many hours in the day, and one can do the best he can in the time he’s got. When I was mayor of Northampton I was pretty busy most of the time, and I don’t seem to be much busier here.” There is something profoundly refreshing about a leader with that kind of perspective on life and politics. When Coolidge left the presidency he told reporters, “Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business.”
Let me conclude with a statement by Coolidge that has never been more current and relevant.
“We do not need more intellectual power, we need more moral power. We do not need more knowledge, we need more character. We do not need more government, we need more culture. We do not need more law, we need more religion. We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen. If the foundation be firm, the foundation will stand.”
I would add only that we also need to be graced by leaders of Calvin Coolidge’s stature again.
It is quite telling that the same man who wrote so glowingly of Silent Cal back in 1996 is now enamored with the ostentatious qualities of Donald J. Trump.
But remember, this is politics. Foundational principles are fleeting when winning is the goal. That is the lesson we learned in 2016, and it is unfortunate. In fact, forsaking the tenets of conservatism and looking past egregious behavior in order for a win makes me less inclinced to feel sorry for the GOP when election losses occur in the future.
Maybe they’ll learn a lesson.
President Trump has had some achievements in his fourteen months in office. I haven’t agreed with everything (not even close), but I have tried to praise the good and condemn the bad, much to the chagrin of some readers who can’t bear to see anything but effusive praise.
But I won’t act as if his extroversion is a positive thing. I won’t overlook his personality flaws and chalk it up as, “but he’s a fighter!” like so many out in MAGAland. I didn’t drink the Koolaid and I’m not about to start.
President Trump is a prime, painful example that being an extrovert is not the way to go about things…just because. At 71 years of age, he won’t be growing up or changing anytime soon, so we’ll have to deal with the repercussions of the next several years.
What we can do is not be so quick to disparage the more reticent among us whose approach to life is a bit more cautious and measured. I would much prefer an introvert, who takes time to consider what’s before them, inhabiting the Oval Office than a guy who makes for entertaining yet nauseating soundbites.
More introversion, please.
It may not be trendy, and it’s often misunderstood by others, but we could use a heavy dose of it right about now.
Follow Kimberly Ross on Twitter: @southernkeeks.