January 30, 2010

E-mail as a form of communication

A couple of weeks ago, one of the gals in our Sunday school class took off down a bunny-trail about how e-mail is a horrible way of communicating with people. The irony was that several people in the room were quite comfortable with email as a means of communication and a few even preferred it.

I'm still working my way through Adam McHugh's book, Introverts in the Church, and I just came across some quotes by him that summarize quite nicely, in my opinion, the strengths of email -- especially for the introvert who may prefer this medium to phone communication.

"E-mail, in particular, allows us to think before we communicate, to correspond at our own pace and to change what we say before we send it.  E-mail doesn't make the immediate social demands that cell phones do, and it enables us to communicate without interruption.  In addition, there is a degree of distance in communication via e-mail, and this distance frees us to be more vulnerable than we might normally be."

I already knew all that.  But sometimes it's nice to hear someone else say it.

January 23, 2010

Meg's Impromptu Movie List

My friend Sarah and I drove down to Denver together yesterday and talked about movies while we were bumming around at the Museum of Nature and Science.  I told her I'd send her a movie recommendation list when we got back. While I was typing it up I thought I'd throw it up here as well in case anyone else is looking for a good movie to watch.

The list is in no specific order, doesn't necessarily give a lot of detail, but these were all movies we'd rate pretty highly.
the movie we watched last night was very good (an academy award winner, apparently). it was called Departures.  it was about a cello player who changes professions and becomes a type of undertaken.

Kinamand was a good flick about a plumber who helps out a Chinese family.

The Dinner Game was a really twisted movie that you'd probably enjoy. They play a game in which the person who brings the stupidest guest wins. But the stupid guy finds out....

Chocolat was good. A little predictable, but still good.

The Children of Huang Shi was the one I told you about where the American guy helped move orphans to safety in China when the Japanese were attacking.

Kenny is hilarious! It's run like a documentary but I'm not sure that it is. It's about a guy that runs a port-a-potty business.

I Am David is about a 12 year old boy that escapes from a communist concentration camp. Might be a bit too much of the same old, but Rob recommended I add it to the list.  He liked it a lot.  (I did too, but it is sort of the WWII ethos carried forward a decade or so).

Be Kind Rewind was hilarious. They have to redo several big time movies on a low budget and it becomes a hit.

Son of Rambow was also hilarious. If I remember correctly it was kind of a coming of age movie. The movie making was fun. Touching ending.

The Lives of Others is the East German movie we talked about. But I think you said you'd seen that one?  Very good.

All Passion Spent was a film about an introvert trying to escape from her extroverted life after the death of her husband.

Spitfire Grill was an interesting movie about a gal trying to get her life back together after doing some prison time. Sad ending, though.

Bagdad Cafe is an older flick, but it was delightfully quirky. Rob didn't like it as much as I did.

Divided We Fall is one I mentioned about a couple that take in a former Jewish neighbor to protect him from the Nazis. A bit different than your average "save the jews from the nazis" kind of film both because the flick has more of a small town feel and because they throw in some communists for good measure. We both like this one.

Spring Forward is about two guys that work in the park system. It's not really a coming of age movie as much as it's a coming into maturity sort of movie.

If you've never watched Dear Frankie, that's one of our favorites. Heart breaking story with a nice ending.

Ones we watched with the kids:

The Ultimate Gift is one we watched as a family. It was a bit of a tearjerker but we all enjoyed it. 

October Sky was another good family movie (and included geeks who were being picked on but who turned out to be the heroes in the end).

Evelyn was another heartbreaking family movie. I think it unsettled the kids a little that the kids could be taken away. But the father's love was extraordinary and all the kids cheering at the end made the kids feel better.  Good flick. 

K-Pax is a classic.  I'm pretty sure we watched this with the kids. It's one of those sci-fi movies that kinda keeps you wondering.

Opal Dream was an interesting adventure tale in which the girl has two imaginary friends and you always kinda wonder in the back of your mind if they're real.

January 18, 2010

Introvert or Extravert?

I'm reading a book called Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture and the author, Adam McHugh, gives three categories of differences between Introverts and Extroverts. Apparently he took the description from another book called The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Lancy.

First of all he points out that:
Introversion is one of a constellation of factors that fluidly work together to shape how we act. Introverts gather the information that feeds our inner worlds in different ways; some rely on the concrete experiences of the senses (an S on the Myers-Briggs), while some depend more on their intuition (an N), interpreting what lies below the surface. Some introverts make decisions more from their hearts (An F) and others more from their heads (a T). Some prefer to structure their lives carefully (a J), whereas others opt for more spontaneity and flexibility (a P).

We also fall somewhere along a spectrum between introversion and extroversion. With the three categories he describes, I find that some people immediately strike me as extroverted in one category, but it's a little more ambiguous in another category. And even within a specific category, we may lean toward one side or another, but it's possible that we show characteristics of the opposite side of the spectrum at times.

The three categories of introversion/extroversion are: 1) energy source, 2) internal vs. external processing, and 3) depth vs. breadth.
Introverts are energized by solitude.  We are recharged from the inside out, from the forces of our internal world of ideas and feelings.

We generally fill our energy tanks in private or in the presence of one or two close friends, or else in a public place without interacting with those around us.

Long periods without quiet refueling leave introverts feeling physically exhausted and emotionally hollow.

Extroverts, on the other hand, derive their energy from outside of themselves. They need other people, interaction and various kinds of stimulation in order to replenish their energy. Too much time alone, silence or inactivity leaves extroverts feeling drained.

I've often heard people explain the energy category (and I've done this myself) specifically in terms of spending time with people, but over time I've grown to see that it's not just a people thing. As he points out above, activity and variety are also keys to the energy equation.  I've noticed before that on days when I have one large project to work on (like making year end school movies or pumping out year end giving statements) I have more energy at the end of the day than when I've spent the day clawing my way through a to-do list 20 items long (even when the items on the list were all small things like making a phone call or tackling some burnt out light bulbs). There's something about the transitioning from one task to the other that wears me out. If I can find a way to make the tasks all seem congruent, I do better than when they strike me as disparate tasks.

In our culture we are continuously bombarded by stimuli, in the forms of information, images, conversation, and a multitude of other data and experiences.  In order for introverts' lives not to degenerate into disassociated states of confusion, we need to process these stimuli and integrate them into our lives.  Another way that this integration process might be described is filtering.  We need to filter information and experiences, allowing the good to take root in us and transform us, discarding the bad or irrelevant.

Extroverts have flexible and porous filters that allow much to pass without getting clogged.  They can usually take a much higher amount of stimuli before they become inundated.  They mostly process externally, through conversation and interaction with others. Taking is an integral part of their processing, and they often speak in order to understand. Their speaking and thinking occur simultaneously. Though they are capable internal filtering and reflection, they are most alive when engaged in the world of people and activity.

...extroverts may be more physically expressive than introverts.
The introverted filter, on the other hand, is much finer and more rigid, only able to allow small amounts of stimuli to pass before it backs up. Introverts process internally, in the workings of our own minds.  We integrate and think silently. Ideally, we like to be removed from external stimuli and people in order to process.

Though we are capable of engaging in the world, we are most alive in the reflections of our minds, mulling over concepts and experiences.  Our learning style centers around observation and contemplation, and we are not as dependent on external feedback for growth.

Many introverts do not do well with interruptions, either when we are speaking or reflecting.

When the finer filters of introverts become clogged in the presence of people, we often go silent.

When this filtration process is impeded, the result can be disorientation and confusion -- or for me, temporary depression....

My first thought upon reading about this second category was, "but I'm so good with Dad!" Part of having Picks disease includes perseveration, which means saying the same thing over and over and over again until everyone around you goes insane. My dad's perseveration drove my mom nuts, and my sister, but somehow I put up with it easily.  But I suspect that's because, after having 3 kids under the age of 2, I learned to filter beyond my filter. I could "turn off" my dad in a way that they couldn't and sometimes people would complain about my dad's repetitions and I'd be surprised that he'd been speaking that whole time and I hadn't even noticed.  (My kids hate when I've turned them off -- they keep asking me a question and I don't hear them at all. There are definitely times when it's not an asset.)

But as I finished reading this section, especially the last bits about shutting down and getting depressed, a light bulb went off.  There have been so many times when I've been in the midst of a stressful conversation and between my trying to convey my thoughts to people who obviously weren't understanding me, and trying to make sense of and sort through their responses to me, I would just get to the point where I couldn't even function any more. I'd have to leave the room. Or I'd break down in tears. Or I would just get very, very quiet.

Introverts tend toward high degrees of intimacy in our relationship, which we usually have fewer of than extroverts.  Introverts are rarely content with surface-level relationship and do not generally consider our acquaintances to be friends.  We may find small talk to be disagreeable and tiring.

Introverts also prefer to have depth in fewer interests.  This trait is connected to our style of processing. The breadth of information about a wealth of topics often results in introverted-filter overload.  Instead, introverts prefer to invest our energy resources into a a smaller number of topics or activities. We desire to mine them for all their richness, to explore all their nuances and complexities. This commitment to specialization of expertise, along with our love of ideas and our powers of concentration, explains why many introverts thrive in lives of scholarship.

Although this third category introduces a new idea regarding introverted vs. extroverted behavior, I think it overlaps a lot with the other two categories. Switching between topics is harder on our filters than sticking with one topic and digging deep. The same holds true with switching between activities or even with the number of people we hang out with.

The way I think of it sometimes is sticking on the main road vs. taking detours, especially detours that I wasn't expecting. If I *feel* like I'm sticking to one general task all day, I do a lot better than when I feel like I'm headed in one direction, and then a friend of mine calls up to ask if I'd like to go for a walk and suddenly I'm like a deer caught in the headlights. "What! Throw a variable into what had started off as a straight forward day?! You've got to be kidding!" I go silent and I'm sure she's on the other end of the line wondering what happened to me. And when I relent and go on the walk (because she IS my friend and I DO like going on walks once in awhile, though I usually prefer being alone) I come home and the rest of the day is gone. No matter how much work I still had to do, I'm physically and emotionally unable to deal with anything else that day.

McHugh, in this chapter on the differences between Introverts and Extroverts, gives a list of "common attributes of introverts." If you're still not sure on which side of the spectrum you fall, perhaps this will help:
  • Prefer to relax alone or with a few close friends.
  • Consider only deep relationships as friends.
  • Need rest after outside activities, even ones we enjoy.
  • Often listen but talk a lot about topics of importance to us.
  • Appear calm, self-contained and like to observe
  • Tend to think before we speak or act
  • May prefer a quiet atmostphere
  • Experience our minds going blank in groups or under pressure
  • Don't like feeling rushed
  • Have great powers of concentration
  • Dislike small talk
  • Are territorial -- desire private space and time
  • May treat their homes as their sanctuaries
  • Prefer to work on own rather than with a group
  • May prefer written communication
  • Do not share private thoughts with many people
I've also posted some interesting quotes from McHugh's book regarding physiological differences between extroverts and introverts in the INTJ Group: Dopamine vs. Acetylcholine and Blood Flow

January 16, 2010

Caring for Your Introvert - The Atlantic (March 2003)

Caring for Your Introvert  < -- Click here to read the Atlantic Monthly article.

This is a classic article about introverts. If you are an introvert, it might come as a relief to read this and find that a lot of the things that have always drained you or annoyed you or stressed you out are normal. Every time I read this article I think, "Yes! That's it exactly!" over and over again. If you are an extrovert, this article will hopefully help you to better understand the introverts in your life. Unfortunately, after sending this article out to several extroverted friends, the standard response I got from them was, "That's funny. What a hilarious joke!" In other words, they didn't get it. They thought it was a spoof on the differences between introverts and extroverts, but not at all based in reality. *sigh*

Here's a few quotes from the article to whet your appetite: 

Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.
Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.
Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion.


(I thought I had posted this long ago, but I can't find it anywhere so I thought I'd repost the link.)

Dopamine vs. Acetylcholine and Blood Flow - Introversion vs. Extraversion

I am reposting this from the INTJ  group on Multiply.com (which is ending its social networking services in December). I won't be saving all of the posts that I wrote in the group, but this is one that I'd like to keep around to refer back to if needed.  I have back dated this post according to its original posting date.

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I'm reading a book called Introverts in the Church: Finding our place in an extroverted culture (by Adam S. McHugh) and the author spends a fair bit of time essentially explaining introverts: how they're different than extroverts, why they're different, and what that means in terms of what's reasonable to expect and what's not. As I'm reading it I keep thinking, "So that's why I do that!" and "No wonder I often feel guilty I'm not doing that." (The guilt is because the extroverted culture tells us that we should be doing XYZ and for extroverts, that XYZ is something that energizes them so they really don't understand our reticence. But for us, it just wipes us out.)

I just hit a section on dopamine and brain function differences that I think is particularly interesting. I thought I'd include a few excerpts here.

Studies of the human brain have revealed three significant physiological differences between introverts and extroverts.  First, introverts have naturally busier, more active brains than extroverts.  Though introverts look calm on the surface, our brains are bubbling with activity, and thus we require less external stimulation than extroverts.  Too much external stimulation, in fact, leads to a feeling of overwhelm.  Second, blood flows in different paths in introverted and extroverted brains. Introverts have more blood flow, but it flows in a longer, slower path than in extroverted brains.  The blood in introverted brains flows to sections that are focused on internal things like remembering, solving problems and planning.  ON the other hand, the blood in extroverted brains goes to those parts that are used for the processing of sensory experienced, what's happening externally.

Third, introverted and extroverted brains have different chemical balances.  The activities of our brains are catalyzed by neurotransmitters, which are chemical substances that transmit nerve impulses.  Extroverts require greater amounts of dopamine, a central neurotransmitter in the sympathetic nervous system. It is produced when people are active and in motion. As psychologist and author Marti Olsen Laney writes, "extroverts feel good when they have places to go and people to see," probably because they are flush with dopamine.  Dopamine takes a short path through the brain and, in stressful situations, produces an "act and react" response.  It can be credited for extroverts' ability to think and speak quickly and to thrive under pressure.  It also helps them access their short-term memory more rapidly, so their data-processing circuit is shorter and faster. 
Introverts, on the other hand, require less dopamine, and when our brains have too much, we can feel anxious or overwhelmed.  Our brains rely more on another neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system, which conserves and restores energy, producing a "rest and repose" posture.  It produces a pleasurable sensation in introverts when we are thinking and reflecting. Acetylcholine, however, cuts a longer path through the brain, which explains why introverts may have difficulty accessing words or memories quickly and why we may be slow to react in stressful situation.  Introverts often prefer writing to speaking, because writing uses a different neurological pathway in the brain than speaking does. Additionally, the slower acetylcholine tributary may produces a posture of calmness in introverts and cause us to move more slowly than extroverts, which may explain why we are often less expressive with our bodies."

Wow, that explains a lot. I've always known that I don't interview well, but I thought only the nervousness could be attributed to being introverted. Now I know that the words on the tip of my tongue and the ideas not coalescing on demand (when they all came together so well just the day before as I was planning on the talk) are all a result of stuff going on in my brain. It's kind of a relief to know it's not that I'm just a moron.