The year-end holiday marathon—the 40 days between Thanksgiving and New Year—has finally exhausted itself—and exhausted me along with it. On Jan. 2, I celebrated my own favorite holiday—National Introvert Day (yes, that’s a real thing) by finally getting some peace and quiet and recharging my batteries. I wasn’t depressed; I was just being myself, an introvert.
Introverts prefer a quiet environment to feel their best while extroverts need higher levels of stimulation, explains Susan Cain in several of her best-seller books on the topic.
“Culturally, Americans have celebrated extroversion: the leader, business partner, an outgoing spouse. We refer to the extroverted student as having potential,” explains Bryce Roberts, a local licensed psychotherapist. “Introversion has been less celebrated. Introverts might be considered less successful, but that may not be because of their ability. Perhaps they are passed over for a job because they are not self-promoters or seen as outgoing.”
Roberts adds that humans are not born an introvert or extrovert—they have elements of both. But if people grow up in a family where the only way to have their needs met is to speak up, then they develop extroverted behaviors. If they live in a home where being out of the way or hanging out in their room is acceptable, then they might be more likely to grow into introverts.
Cain writes, “Research says as least one-third of us are introverts. But you would never guess that, right? That’s because introverts learn at an early age to act like pretend-extroverts.” Observes Roberts, “Rarely is an extrovert asked to be more introverted, but introverts get used to being asked to be more outgoing.”
That may or may not be true, but being an introvert hasn’t seemed to harm the ascent of many successful leaders. This includes Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, author J.K Rowling, NFL head coach Bill Belichick, and Presidents Ford and Obama. They have drawn strength from key introvert qualities like listening, planning, persistence, and building relationships.
Locally, the case can be made both ways. Jane Wurth operates locations of the upscale women’s boutique, Ragazza, in Sylvania and Perrysburg. She also volunteers for The Victory Center, the Susan G. Komen, the Toledo Symphony and Sylvania Chamber. “I am absolutely an extrovert,” she says. “I could be exhausted at the end of a day, but then going to a party can get me all charged up again. The pandemic opened my eyes to the whole idea of introvert vs. extrovert. Everyone I know who is an introvert was happy to stay home. They cleaned their house and did puzzles. But I was like a caged animal; I didn’t stay home one day. Even with the shops closed, I went to work and re-figured the business.”
Jane’s husband, Steve Wurth, is an introvert, and her theory is that introverted men are attracted to extroverted women. True, my wife, Sandy, and I have been married for nearly 50 years, and she is a world-class extrovert.
Perhaps the classic local introvert-extrovert couple is Tom Runnells and Chrys Peterson. Tom spent 42 years in professional baseball as a major league player, coach and manager. He also was a coaching assistant this year for Northview’s state champion baseball team. “People might think that when you play in front of 60,000 fans you couldn’t be an introvert. I don’t mind crowds, and it does motivate you. But if I go into an event with even 60 people and it is crowded or loud, pretty soon I need to spend some time with myself and recharge,” he says.
Runnels spends hours reading books by successful people (particularly faith-based writers) and as a coach tried to learn about motivation from such writers Andy Andrews, Mark Batterson, James Kerr, and longtime UCLA coach John Wooden. “I’d spend time thinking about how to share an idea with my team—to speak so that players would listen and take to heart at what I had to say,” he says.
On the other hand, Chrys could be considered a professional extrovert. The longtime WTOL news anchor and now a leadership and communications consultant has been out and about at charity and social events and multiple volunteer activities for more than 25 years. “My extroversion is truly fueled by my love for people,” she says. “I love talking to people, hearing their stories and creating memories together—so being in a crowd invigorates me.”
How does that work for the couple? “We laugh about it,” says Tom. “At a big event, she does her thing, and I just find a corner, sit back, and watch her work. I’m just proud of how she can reach people and motivate them. I find my solitude, and enjoy her gift to connect.”