Sunday, May 9, 2010

An Introvert's Happy--and Peaceful--Hour

Dear Friends,

Robin and I want to wish all of our mothers a belated Happy Mother's Day! We hope you enjoyed your particular version of a perfect, restful day. And speaking of perfect things, we are happy to have Laurie Helgoe with us today as our guest blogger to share some of her thoughts about introvert-friendly spaces. Thanks, Laurie!

A Special Guest Post by Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D.

You've had a tough day at work, and when your favorite extrovert suggests happy hour at a local club, it sounds like fun. You go, and you have fun – for the requisite 45 minutes. But as more and more people stop to greet your extrovert, as your mouth tires of smiling, and as the crowd and the noise and the lighted bar signs make your head spin, you long for space, quiet and comfort. But your extrovert is your ride, and the only place to hide is a small grungy bathroom with a line of people waiting outside the door.

So you find a wall to lean against, and – whoa! It isn't a wall, but a door. As you push it open, you behold a room set up to answer your longing: couches strewn with soft pillows and throws, lamps providing warm lighting, oversized chairs with ottomans, well-stocked bookcases, cozy nooks and comfortable crannies. 

When you close the door behind you, you shut out the blaring music, clinking glasses, high-pitched laughter and competing conversations. The quiet is instant and lush, complete. “Soundproof walls – smart,” you say to yourself (because now you can hear yourself think).

You pinch yourself repeatedly, and when the pain convinces you this is real, you rush out to let your friend know where you'll be. Back in the room, the quiet again cues your relaxation response. You are undisturbed, even comforted by the presence of others enjoying this alternative happy hour. You climb into one of the voluminous chairs and, to your delight, find that its back curves around the sides of you, protecting your view. And the chair is just wide enough to allow you to turn sideways and pull your knees up. You can hear your own breathing. You don't want to leave. Your extrovert doesn't want to leave. 

Equality. Finally.

Far from an impractical luxury, providing retreat space makes sense for patrons as well as business owners. Introverts and extroverts get to share a night out. Introverts can revel a little and then retreat and refuel. Extroverts can revel a lot without feeling the glare of the overstimulated and bored introvert.

Everyone hangs out longer and spends more money.

So why hasn't anybody thought of this? (If someone has, let us know.) Why, when one of every two of us (50% of the population) is an introvert, do businesses neglect to accommodate this market?


Dinner spots with tables for one and books on the menu along with the food.

“Quiet cruises” where you'll never hear an overenthusiastic cruise director broadcasting the day's activities.

“Vegas for introverts,” offering in-casino movie theaters, library lounges, and laptop slot machines you can play on a quiet deck.

Break rooms at work that give introverts a break from, not with, people. Fewer large tables, more sanctuaries. Quiet courtyards and meandering walking paths for meditative refueling.

If the people who fund and plan these environments—many of whom are introverts—would keep the introverted half of the population in mind, these options would be no-brainers. But it would also benefit us to look at the environments we create – do we offer ourselves and our children sanctuaries for quiet reflection? Do we consider other introverts when we're in charge of the planning?

Consider what you need to have more happily introverted hours in your day. And next time your extrovert invites you to her big party, tell her you'd be happy to help set up the retreat room.
Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D. is a literary consultant, design advisor and author of Introvert Power. Find out more at

Laurie, thanks for a inspiring post. We need to get you seated in the Department of the Interior, or Exterior, or wherever it is that you need to be so that you can plan our country's spaces. You have my vote! Can you just imagine what life would be like for us if our preferences were considered in designing space and services? Ahh, the possibilities! I'd like No-Talking shopping areas. And movie theaters with every other seat taken out so you don't have to rub thighs with strangers. And introvert-only elevators. Extraverts cannot be trusted to mind their boundaries in small spaces. What space would you like to redo? We would love to hear!
I am currently winging my way back from one of my favorite, renewing spaces in Texas. Love those big ol' skies. Once I settle back home, I will be back on this post to announce the winner of last week's contest for a signed copy of one of Kathleen Duey's marvelous novels. Stay tuned!
Grace and peace,
Mary Hershey


feywriter said...

Lovely idea! I'm making a schedule for my son and I this summer, to ensure I get my recharge time. This is a great reminder that not only do I need to create the time, I need to create the space. Now I want to recruit my boy to help make his own special space.

tanita✿davis said...

Oooh, imagining those tables for one with books...

Anonymous said...

My commuter train has a "quiet ride" car, no conversation or electronic device use allowed (except texting with the sound turned off).

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Awesome ideas! You have my vote!

Vickie said...

That is a phenomenal idea. Kinda like if they served food and alcohol at the local bookstore. Although that would leave no place for the extroverts.

Karen L. Simpson said...

Oh this would be my idea of heaven.

Nancy Ancowitz said...


Your post is at once delightfully imaginative and pragmatic in that it addresses the needs of the quieter half.

Noisy, bustling spaces with constant stimulation definitely aren't for everybody.

Thanks for celebrating the solitude we need to catch our breath rather than pathologizing it.

Mary Hershey said...

I love the "quiet ride" train car-- I think they would have to pull me off kicking and screaming-- quietly, of course! I'd never want to leave. :-]

And "hi" everyone! Thanks for coming by!


prashant said...

imagining those tables for one with books...
data entry work from home

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