In Defense of Introverts

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Disclosure: I’m certified in the Myers-Briggs instrument and my type code is ENFP. That makes me an extrovert.

Most of my fellow extroverts think introverts are weird. I don’t. With extroverts, what you see is what you get. Introverts are more complex, more layered, more intriguing, full of surprises.

Because human beings tend to pile expectations on other human beings, they find the surprise factor of introverts irritating. Introverts tend not to live up to expectations, particularly those of the social behavior variety. People seem them as unfriendly, grumpy, cantankerous, non-communicative, all of which reflect cultural expectations of being pleasant when you’re with company. An introvert would argue, “Why do I have to stop being myself because other people want me to be like them?” A valid point, indeed.

Introverts focus their attention inward, which means they spend most of their time in their heads. Given the current state of humanity, that’s not a bad place to be. What they’re doing in their heads can vary depending on what kind of introvert they are. They could be culling through memories, they could be playing with grand concepts, they could be engaged in trying to define the truth or they could be reflecting on deeply-held values. Whatever they’re doing in there, they’re doing it because that’s what they do. Leave them be.

Sometimes an introvert may share those thoughts if they’re genuinely convinced that the other party really gives a shit and isn’t just trying to make conversation. Sometimes they can’t share what’s inside through words, and their stumbling, mumbling attempts fire up the impatience in others, making them stumble and mumble even more until they get up and leave the room in agonizing frustration. I don’t blame them at all; their thoughts, feelings, conceptualizations and values are deeply held and they should not feel under obligation to share them just because somebody else thinks they should.

It is said that introverts keep the best part of themselves to themselves. If they choose to do that, we should respect that choice. If you really care about the introvert, you will take the time and exercise the patient respect it takes to get to know them. When you do that, you will find they are full of delightful and complex surprises. You will also find that the conversations turn out to be much more rich and enlightening than those you would find in a gathering of extroverts, who all have to talk to justify their existence.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime.com

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Ringing True: The Characters

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64-Gwendolyn and Shelby No Makeup

Reviewers have said some nice things about the characters in Ringing True.

“The characters are diverse, rich and genuine and the dialogue in the book is truly OUTSTANDING.”

“Multifaceted characters with rich back-stories . . . you will find many places for your empathy to hook on to.”

So, I thought I’d take the opportunity of an open spot on the blog schedule to tell you about these people whom I came to know intimately during the writing of Ringing True.

Justin Raines grew up in the Chicago burbs, the only child of two workaholic parents. At the start of the book, he finds himself living in another burb outside of Seattle interning at the Mega Software Company. Good-looking, ex-barista, living a life according to expectations, naive about the real world and constantly surprised by it, but on the surface, a typical nice guy. But beneath that surface there is a deep and genuine concern about the hatred, violence and greed consuming the human race. This concern exists only in formless, disconnected thoughts that he keeps purely to himself until he meets Shelby Mirabeau, who opens up new possibilities for Justin . . . possibilities he is unsure he wants to face.

Shelby Mirabeau is a free spirit who ignored the chamomile influence of her New Age parents to become an insightful observer of the human species. Open-minded to a fault, improvisational and stunningly non-judgmental, she encourages Justin to open up and share his inner secrets. Through the all-encompassing magic of Shelby-logic, she manages to convince a reluctant Justin to work with her to create a new religion for modern times (a religion they later name Ringing True). As they move through failure and stunning success, Shelby changes in ways she could never have imagined, but without ever compromising her essence.

Matthias Bender: The poster-child for American techno-capitalism, Matthias is a thoroughly selfish, driven and devilishly charming individual. When their maiden attempts at launching their religion fail miserably, Shelby convinces the always-cautious Justin to enlist his help. Matthias takes over the launch and eventually positions himself as President and CEO of Ringing True, Inc, a position he intends to use for a completely different purpose than to spread the world-saving message embedded in the religion.

Theo is the roommate who shares an apartment with Justin and Matthias and seems very much the prototypical Seattle geek. An employee of a video game developer who lives and breathes technology, he is also a devotee of a talent-challenged Seattle band known as Acoustic Disturbance who seem unlikely to break into the charts any time in the near or distant future. It is this sense of loyalty that leads him to unquestionably support Justin and Shelby in their efforts to launch a new religion, and once the decision is made that cyberspace is the key to getting the word out, Theo and his girlfriend Emmy become the gurus of ringingtrue.com. Theo is an unusually nice person, a hopeless slob and a great friend.

Emmy: With her hair in a tight bun and her glasses melted into her face, Emmy could have been cast for walk-on roles in any film needing a librarian. Somewhat rusty when it comes to social skills (much like her partner Theo), her thoughts tend to spill out in tiny, seemingly unconnected snippets, placing a heavy demand on the patience of her listeners. She is in fact an organizational and technical wizard who shares Theo’s sense of loyalty while enhancing that loyalty with a passion for home and hearth. While the others act out from time to time, Emmy always remains Emmy.

Gwendolyn Marks: An enormously talented and successful film actress with two Oscar nominations under her belt, Gwendolyn has reached that point in life where the search for meaning begins. Part of that search involves retreats in faraway places, and part of it involves surfing the Web. Introduced to Ringing True by a film crew, she becomes a serious student of the new religion. A chance appearance on a popular talk show leads to a meeting with Justin and Matthias, leading to a transformation of Ringing True that will either open the door to great possibilities or open a Pandora’s box of power politics and intrigue (or both).

Dwayne Barker: The ultimate empty suit. Business manager for Gwendolyn Marks. Speaks in a monotone with an accent reminiscent of a crisp polo shirt.

Sidney: Matthias’ executive assistant. Sidney was manufactured for a future career as Chief of Staff in the Bush III administration. I hope people get the “Clear it with Sidney” reference.

Tommy:  Tommy is a graphic artist of the fantasy genre and the leader of Acoustic Disturbance.

Although I certainly didn’t think of it when writing the book, I have tried to guess what each character’s Myers-Briggs type would be. It’s difficult with twenty-somethings because they are so changeable and diverse (which is also why they are so fun to work with). My best guesses would be: Matthias, ENTJ; Shelby, ESFP; Theo, ISFP; Emmy, INTJ; and Justin: INFP (with the I oscillating to an E at times).

©2010 Robert Morrow. Ringing True is available in e-book, hardcover and paperback formats on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s and many other booksellers. Go to www.ringingtrue.com for a current listing of online retailers.