Let me start out by saying how much I cannot stand politics. Anything having to do with the word “election” gives me the heebie jeebies. I don’t put a lot of trust in humans to begin with (myself included), so when you give me a crop of people whose job it is to talk about themselves and convince people they are the bomb-dot-com, I have about -5% trust. But, as a responsible adult, I’ve been forcing myself to pay attention to this election cycle so I can make an “informed decision,” which, let’s be honest, is an oxymoron when we’re talking about politics.
While I’m 1000% not going to talk about the candidates or who I’m voting for, I do want to talk about the biggest smack in the face that I’ve realized this cycle: Can you imagine being an introverted politician?
Let’s back up.
I’m an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale. It basically means I’m an outgoing introvert who can handle public speaking just fine, but with an added dose (or twenty) of the intuition-feeling component. I don’t mind social situations, but lordy do they suck the soul out of me. I enjoy spending time in groups of people (okay…enjoy is a strong word…) but when I get home I am utterly exhausted, both physically and mentally. There have been numerous occasions at which I’ve just cried because I had nothing left in me after being with people.
Which leads us, essentially, to the definition of an introvert, taken from Susan Cain’s 2012 interview with TIME: “The key is about stimulation: extroverts feel at their best and crave a high degree of stimulation. For introverts, the optimal zone is much lower.” Susan wrote an incredible (and incredibly well-researched) book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
I’ve watched Trump/Cruz/Rubio/Bush/Kasich/Clinton/Sanders and more debates than I care to say, on both sides of the aisle. And I get sick to my stomach thinking about doing what they do. We are talking 12+ hour work days, for months at a time. And all of those 12+ hours? SPENT WITH PEOPLE. Oh, the humanity.
On top of that, we see these people going out to a lovely dinner and being mobbed by their adoring (or not so adoring) fans, and shaking hands and kissing babies, and talking talking talking talking talking. I imagine there is no such thing as date night, and definitely no nap time. They’re talking to HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of humans. They are always on. It actually makes me nauseous thinking about it.
And you know what? Most of these people love it.
Which brings me to my point: Can an introvert be a politician? Especially, can they handle the stress to their systems that a presidential campaign would cause?
Matt and I were talking about it this week, and we know that neither of us could. And I bet that is true for most introverts. Yet………introverts are incredible critical thinkers. Amazing listeners. Creatives. And they are people who tend to only speak when they really have something to say.
Let’s look at some famous introverts: Albert Einstein, Warren Buffet, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling. We are in some good company. Along with some pretty good presidents: Lincoln, Jefferson, Madison, among others.
I thought this was isolated to presidents before the advent of TV and social media and ridiculously long presidential campaigns, but alas, our current POTUS is even said to be an introvert.
So can we be politicians? Technically, yes. But with around half of the country being introverted, I imagine most of us see the wild, wild world of campaigning and know that we’d never even entertain the idea of running for president–even though we may be the most qualified.
While I won’t use the “d” word (discrimination–okay so I used it), I will say that the current election system is not set up to allow introverts an adequate go at running the country. You’re automatically discounting TONS of people who could probably be actual bomb-dot-coms, but just not tell you all about it. We can think about it, and probably could have killer blogs or websites or books about our ideas and suggestions, but there’s seldom an introvert who can handle the campaign trail.
I’m not saying that extroverts shouldn’t be president, or that there is any type of hierarchy in the introvert-extrovert distinction. I’m simply saying that introverts could totally kick butt at running a country (or a company, for that matter), but it seems harder for them to reach the finish line (here being the general election) than it does extroverts. And when we start to look at things that way, where else are we drawing lines in the sand along the I/E border where one personality type is naturally forced out?
I’ll leave your wandering brain with this quote from Susan Cain, which surely is applicable not only to this argument, but to our society’s going-ons in general:
“It’s a culture that says it rewards authenticity, but it really rewards a curated, managed kind of authenticity. It’s not and will never be the authenticity of two friends sitting down and having a cup of coffee together and sharing the truth of their lives.”
Let’s change that.
PS: You can buy Susan’s book “Quiet” here: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking