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Phantosmia and marine diesel

Phantosmia and marine diesel

Phantosmia – what is it?

Phantosmia is essentially a nasal hallucination; you smell something continually, usually something unpleasant, that isn’t there.

In my personal case, that ‘something’ is marine diesel exhaust. As in ‘I’m standing a few feet downwind of the exhaust of a WWII battleship that’s just started its engine for the first time since the Armistice’ smell of marine diesel exhaust.

Because it’s a fairly rare problem, there’s no real treatment for it that doesn’t sound as if it got imported from the Dark Ages. Additionally, because it’s fairly rare, and apparently varies pretty widely, the literature on it is less than consistent.

No one really seems to have a clue why phantosmia occurs. They’ve put together a lot of commonalities, some of which (brain tumour, or Parkinson’s, anyone?) are pretty scary, and others of which (allergies, stress, depression, sinusitis) are at least generally non-fatal if treated. It’s rare enough that when I went to my doctor and told him I was smelling diesel fumes all day every day, he laughed and welcomed me to the big city.

But it stinks!

Luckily for me, my phantosmia seems to be stress-triggered (I’m working under the assumption that several years later I’d probably have noticed a brain tumour…), and so when my stress levels get to the ‘get the f*** out of Dodge’ level, I get marine diesel exhaust.

Also luckily, for me, marine diesel exhaust is annoying but it’s also a smell I grew up with, so a few days to a few weeks of it isn’t pleasant but doesn’t have me planning to jump under a bus. Strong scents (peppermint, or sharp berries, for example) can cut through it, as can actually trying to sniff something.

I’m working the theory that I get marine diesel stench under stress because at some subconscious level, I associate the smell of a boat’s engine starting up with moving somewhere new and different. Marine diesel exhaust wafting across the yacht was the prelude to getting the anchor up and going for most of my childhood. To appropriate a Monty Python line, it’s a nasal ‘Run away, run away!’ reaction.


Well, there’s not a lot. I haven’t found that saline spray does anything for it, and I confess to no real desire to have my olfactory bulbs removed – generally I have a pretty good sense of smell, I use it, and when I’m not on public transit, I even enjoy it.

I’m working on reducing my stress levels. It’s a project. It’s not a project that’s going awfully well, but I am chipping away at it, in my copious free time.

Whether getting rid of some of the stress will equal getting rid of phantosmia, who knows. On the other hand, lowering stress levels is a good idea in general.

Twitter basics for authors – what is Twitter?

Twitter basics for authors – what is Twitter?

What is Twitter?

First seen / guest blog on Ryder Author Resources

Twitter bills itself as a micro-blogging service. If you’re looking at that and thinking ‘that’s just great, I’ve already got a website, an actual blog, and an Amazon page – I need more things to keep updated like a hole in my head’, keep reading.

Don’t think of Twitter as ‘oh dear god, not another one’ and start thinking of it as an authors’ coffee bar. Or Irish Pub. Or drum circle. Wherever you go to talk shop and meet like-minded people.

What Twitter probably won’t do for you is get you a ton of eager new readers. I’ll be absolutely up-front about that. My following on Twitter is over 9,000, and I sincerely doubt I’ve sold more than a couple of books there. It’s not a place to set a series of ‘hey, my book’s awesome, buy it here!!!’ posts and forget about it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.

What Twitter has done for me is find me my cover designer, my logo designer, various reviewers, and a lot of fellow authors with excellent tips and experience to share. It’s where I met the author group I mostly work with for joint promotions and blog hops.

Getting started on Twitter

Start small, grasshopper. Get an account, if you haven’t already.

Head over to https://twitter.com/ and sign up. If you’re creating this account primarily for author-related stuff, do yourself a favour and pick a ‘handle’ (the part that comes after the @) that has something to do with your author name. Don’t use a book or series title, unless you plan to start and keep up a new account for each book or series you launch.

Now set up your profile. You’ll need a short bio, an author photo, or at least something that you’re willing to be represented by (a lot of people won’t follow back blank profiles), and a header image. If you head on over to my profile, https://twitter.com/steel_jo, you’ll see I’ve used a book banner for my header, but you don’t have to. They’re easy to change.

Don’t put your website link in your bio – that takes up valuable real estate and you get a separate spot for it in set-up. On the other hand, if you have a link other than your website that you want permanent pride of place for, get it a shortlink (see bitly.com, for example) and stick it in.

Do use hashtags in your bio – not enough to overwhelm it, but two or three are fine and make you easier to find. Write horror? Try something like ‘writing #horror, living da dream’. Like marathons? Hashtag it. The hashtags make you searchable. Rumours keep running around Twitter that the hashtags are no longer necessary, but I’ve been there 8 years and I haven’t seen any actual footprints of that particular change, so for a whole extra character, I’d hang onto them.

Hashtags are also the basis for Twitter chats, where you can tweet with people real-time. Learn more about that here.

Is this thing on? Nothing’s happening

Yes, it is, and now you’ve got, or possibly tweaked, your account, let’s get stuck in.

Twitter is all about how many people you follow, and how many people follow you. It’s not like Facebook, where ‘friending’ someone you don’t know and have never met makes you a stalker.

So, if you just started your account, let’s head out to find you some people to chat with. Two options: up at the top right, you’ll see a ‘search’ option. If you know some people, type them in there and follow them. If you don’t, then type ‘#amwriting’ in there. You’ll see a page come up with ‘top’, ‘latest’, ‘people’, etc. Head on over to ‘People’ and follow some of the people whose bios make you grin. Once you run out of those, try another search – I write #scifi, so I’d type that into search and repeat the exercise.

Don’t get upset if not everyone follows you back – some of them will, and that’ll get you started, and it’ll give Twitter something to work with for that section on the right-hand side of your profile headed ‘People to follow’.

As a regular exercise for Twitter, I recommend taking twenty minutes each weekend, and finding 50 or so new people to follow. The following weekend, unfollow all the folks who haven’t followed you back, rinse, and repeat.

Get Tweeting

Following people is all very well, but if you never add any content, followers evaporate fast, so start Tweeting. Top right on your profile, right by the search option, you’ll find the ‘Tweet’ button.

Tweets can contain text (obviously), photos, .gifs, and polls. The character limit is currently 280. Let’s start simply and give you a tweet to ‘pin’ on your profile.

Put together something you’d like people to see as soon as they land on your profile (don’t repeat your bio), something like an intro to your work. ‘Hey, nice to meet you, I’m exploring what happened in #Oz after the Tin Man found his #heart – come and meet the cast!’ plus a website link, for example.

Once you click ‘Tweet’ it’ll show up on your profile. Usually, things you write, or retweet, show up in reverse chronological order, so your older Tweets vanish pretty quickly. To keep a Tweet at the top of your profile, click the little downwards-pointing arrow at the top right corner of the Tweet. You’ll see ‘share’, ‘copy’, ’embed’, and ‘pin’ options. Click ‘pin to your profile’.

It’s considered polite to retweet pinned posts if you’re visiting someone’s profile – it gives their tweet a boost, and lets them know you’re alive, while putting content in your feed. Win-win. Change out your pinned post fairly regularly – at least once a month. Your followers should get a notification when it changes, which gets it a bit more traction than your run-of-the-mill ‘Whoops, there goes my #coffee’ posts.

Pro tip – Twitter lists

So you’ve found Jensen Ackles’s profile, and followed him, and you’re watching Twitter with baited breath for the moment he follows you back. Sorry, ain’t never going to happen. Doesn’t mean you can’t follow him, but you don’t actually have to follow him or have him follow you to see what he’s posting on Twitter.

Enter lists, my favourite thing on Twitter after the .gif wars.

You’ll notice, in your Twitter profile or the ‘Home’ view, you’ve got the search box, a little round photo of you, and the ‘Tweet’ button in a row up the top right? Click once on that round photo, and you’ll get a drop-down menu. Second on that menu is the ‘Lists’ option.

Lists are collections of people whose content you want to see. You don’t have to follow people you add to a list, and they don’t have to be following you.

Lists are important, because once you pass about 200 people you’re following, your Twitter ‘Home’ feed updates so frequently you’ll never catch up on everything that happened while you were at work.

However, if you add people whose posts (Tweets) you really want to keep up with on to a list, you can browse whatever they had to say once you’re at home with your feet up.

I keep a list of people who post useful marketing tips, a list of my close friends, a list of people I publicise with – you get the idea.

Be a real person

Even if your Twitter account is primarily for your writing, don’t just blast your books there. Be a person. Tweet about the asshat who barged in line and kept you from your vital coffee and how you went mutant zombie killer on her ass before you woke up with your cheek stuck to the Starbucks table. Tweet about your pets, or your travel plans, or what you’re reading, or how much editing sucks.

Retweet other people’s posts. It gets you good cess, and inclines them to help you out by doing the same (that pinned post is really helpful for busy people – it give them something of yours to retweet without having to skim down twenty retweets in your feed).

Join a few chats, if you can. If you see an interesting news article, use the Twitter share option – or if there isn’t one, you can usually copy and paste the link into a Tweet.

The golden rule is something like 5% blasting your stuff and 95% everything else. You can play with that a little – if you blog, for example, I recommend retweeting older posts that are still relevant once in a while – it gives your feed content and boosts engagement with your website, but make sure it’s not a constant stream of ‘my books are awesome, buy my books!’.

Oh, and do check your Tweets *before* you post. There’s nothing like typos in a post designed to showcase what a great writer you are to make people wonder, and there’s no ‘edit’ function in Twitter – you wear it or you delete it, and even deleting can’t make it unseen by anyone who’s already viewed it. It’s worth taking a few seconds to proofread.

Have fun!

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The art of war, or, the non-PC novel

The art of war, or, the non-PC novel

So you don’t agree with it. So what?

OffendedI see a lot of blogs, tweets, and statements about how offensive some people find books that contain (insert rant of choice here – bad language, violence, sex, religion … you name it). Look at this one again. People find a book offensive. To the point where they feel they can’t just put it down; they have to try and make sure that no-one else can read it either. Because it offends them so deeply.

Libraries are being told to ban books. Does this raise any concerns for anyone? Would it concern anyone more if I mentioned that these dangerous books include … Harry PotterThe Hunger Games? Huckleberry Finn?

I mean, we’re not talking about The Communist Manifesto here.  We’re not talking books that overthrew the worldview of the Western world, like Kepler’s Astronomia Nova, or even Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible. We’re talking fiction books.

At this point I start getting little twinges of disaster scrabbling around my hindbrain. Here’s a pop quiz. Can anyone think of a period in the last 100 years when books, including fiction books, and literature with liberal, democratic tendencies and attitudes, and writings, e.g. Jack London’s Call of the Wild, were rounded up and destroyed to keep them out of the hands of the impressionable population?

Anyone? I’ll tell you. It started on 10th May 1933, when numbers of students and citizens decided that in the name of patriotism, some material was against the principles of their culture and ran the risk of sowing dangerous ideas in the populace.

But … but … banning books that shock or anger people from libraries is nothing like that!

Yes. It is. It’s exactly like that.

It’s an offence against free speech. It’s making someone else’s choices for them. And it prevents the spread of an idea. Even a stupid, fictional idea. After all, what starts with a ban on Harry Potter can, all too easily, spread to a ban on Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. That one definitely contains some dangerous, shocking ideas to some under-educated percentage of the population.

So here’s the shocking thing about books. They’re meant to spread ideas. Think of every book like a little chunk of amber. Each contains a preserved idea, whether from yesterday or 2,000 years ago. Most of them are just beautiful things to amuse yourself with for a few hours. Others, still beautiful, contain the DNA sample that brings back the dinosaurs. It doesn’t mean you get to destroy the one you don’t like because you don’t like it. What if someone else decided that the idea you like, about the guy who walked on water, should be banned and destroyed, because it starts wars?

Twitter chats and how to find them

Twitter chats and how to find them

WTF are Twitter chats, anyway?

Twitter chats are based on hashtags. If you’ve spent more than five minutes on Twitter, you’ve noticed that Tweets fly past with #amwriting, or #IDGAF embedded in them or stuck on the end.

Sometimes, a hashtag is just that – a way to find related content across the whole wide Twitterverse. Need inspiration? Search for #quoteoftheday and you’ll find as many Tree of Life moments as you can stomach. Want to find out what #Jlo’s been up to? There you go. Feeling like a walk on the dark side of life? #INTJ.

A Twitter chat is when a group of Twitter users schedule a time to discuss something together under a specific hashtag. They tag all their Tweets with that hashtag, and people online and looking at that hashtag can see what they’ve said and respond.

Why should I take part in Twitter chats?

It’s a great way to meet like-minded fellow-travellers and learn new things. As an indie author, I haven’t met a lot of readers on Twitter, but I’ve met many writers, marketers, artists, and subject matter experts – quite often, via a chat or a hashtag. If you participate in chats, you may make friends and gain followers, both directly through the chat and if someone retweets your nugget of wisdom.

Basically, exposure, exposure, exposure.

What are some good Twitter chats for writers?

Excellent question. Another good question is ‘How do you define good?’. Personally I like chats with plenty of participation that aren’t so rigid that I feel awkward chiming in, so here are a few to drop by and try.

  • Sundays, 6 PM – 7 pm GMT: #happywritingchat does pretty much what it says on the tin – writers having fun and writing irresponsibly.
  • Mondays, 9 PM – 10 PM GMT: #sparklybadgersunite is a chat for writers of all stripes to meet up and discuss what they’re working on, what they’re reading, and what they’re watching. It’s informal, fun, and occasionally degenerates into epic .gif wars.
  • Wednesdays, 2 AM – 3 AM GMT: #bookmarketingchat is a chat focussed on (you guessed it) book marketing.
  • Wednesdays, 1 AM – 2 AM GMT: #authorconfessionchat – it’s good to experiment with new writing ideas, and to confess your results. #authorconfessionchat also runs daily author challenges; check out the schedule for each month on the moderators’ profiles and have fun!

If you search for five minutes on Google, you’ll find a lot more, but these are active as of early 2019 and well worth an hour. You’ll meet new people and have a chance to try some writing challenges.

INTJs in an extroverted society

INTJs in an extroverted society

INTJs in an extroverted society

Maria R. Riegger & J. C. Steel

Meet the introverts

J.C. Steel and Maria Riegger are introverts, but not just any introverts. We’re INTJs. INTJs are the second-rarest Myers-Briggs personality type, at just over 2.1% of the population, and INTJ women are the rarest of all the Myers-Briggs personality types, at only about .3% of the population.

We’ve also both lived  in cultures that were quite extroverted, namely Spain and North America. J.C. (a self-described “ex-boatbum”) is from Gibraltar and currently lives in Canada. Maria is a native of the Washington, DC area and has lived there most of her life, and  lived in Barcelona for several years.

In Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Cain discusses how the United States is one of the most extroverted cultures in the world. Spain also has a terribly extroverted culture, where people never seem to do anything alone. There is constant pressure to go out and be with other people. It’s exhausting.

So we got to thinking. What’s it like for introverts to live in predominantly extroverted cultures? How do they manage?

Below we share our experiences. Please let us know yours in the comments!

How do you experience introversion in daily life?

J.C.: Having to cope with constant noise, peoples’ expectations, and the pressure to make meaningless conversation drains my energy and piles on the stress. I’m frequently tired, impatient, and depressed, because a full-time job means I’m surrounded by people five days out of seven. For me, recharging means time alone with my cats, with a good book in one hand and a mug of tea in the other. I’m an introvert to my bones, and alone time is like a long, hot bubble bath and massage for the brain.

Maria: I love being alone, and I enjoy my own company. Almost any type of stimulation, whether noise, touch, etc., saps my energy. The more people and/or the more noise, the more quickly my energy is drained. I constantly live with a headache of varying degree, and I have tinnitus 100% of the time.

Do you consider your current place of residence more introverted or extroverted? Is it a good fit for you?

J.C.: I’ve lived in a lot of places, and while Western Canada isn’t as inescapably social as some cultures, there’s still an expectation that if you’re in an elevator with someone, you’re going to come up with something to say about the weather, or the headlines, or what a pretty top they’re wearing. Going into a shop here can be quite a challenge for an introvert, as a number of stores train the staff to get right in your face as soon as you enter, ask what you’re looking for, can they bring you anything, and start small talk. The upside for me is that Canada, while cherishing the North American extroverted ideal, is also largely pretty tolerant. Canada also benefits from huge amounts of wild space; hikers and skiers are lost and never found within half an hour of my front door, so if I really need to escape for an hour or so, it’s not that hard. It’s a pretty good fit.

Maria: The location where I currently live, in northern Virginia right outside of Washington, DC, is certainly more of an extroverted culture. There is definitely a social pressure to “see and be seen” and to attend events, and also a strong “fear of missing out” (as opposed to my fear of social gatherings and small talk). People here seem to feel more important the busier they are, and that kind of frenetic activity is anathema to me. The idea of a happy hour at a loud bar makes me want to run away. For me, the activities that I do must have meaning, and “busy” does not necessarily equate to “meaningful.”

That being said, there are plenty of opportunities where I live to visit museums, parks, and historical events, which is fantastic. I do, however, make sure to visit the art galleries when they are the least crowded. The DC area is also well-situated for travel.

I’d say that this area is generally a good fit for me because of the cultural and travel opportunities, although ideally I would live a little further from a big city and have more space and engage with less people and traffic.

Do you find some types of extrovert, or culture, are more accepting of introversion than others?

J.C.: Yes, absolutely. There are a few incredibly extroverted people I know who are nonetheless able to get outside their own heads and understand that making their weird-ass introvert friend happy actually doesn’t mean dragging them out to a party, but can mean simply standing between them and the rest of the group and doing all the talking for two. I really appreciate that kind of person. Often, people willing to make that kind of leap of understanding can also often have the kinds of conversations introverts do like: zero small talk, and frequent dives down conversational rabbit holes about nature versus nurture, what decision you made in a parallel universe, and why no one put the writers of ‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’ out of our collective misery before they could inflict a crappy plot on the world.

Maria: Of all the places I’ve lived, I think the U.K. seemed to be the most accepting of introversion, where the idea of going out by yourself or sitting alone to read a book was not seen as unusual. In Spain, you were branded as “weird” or “anti-social” if you did things by yourself. In fact, the only people I knew in Barcelona who went sightseeing or to the movies by themselves were American ex-pats.

What is your go-to coping technique that helps you function among extroverts?

J.C.: I spent several educational years in a boarding school in the UK, so along with excellent signature-forging skills, a 90% proof liver, and some light breaking and entering, I gained a lot of coping mechanisms. My most socially acceptable favourites are a book in the wrong language for whichever country I’m in, which lets me play the “I don’t speak…” card; permanent headphones; and keeping a set of mental flash cards current with some excuses I can pull out of my hip pocket on the fly to get myself out of encounters.

Maria: Hide in the bathroom! Just kidding (but not really). If I can’t get home right away and crawl under the covers with a book, I’ll seek out a quiet corner and tune out for a bit. At work sometimes I’ll wear my earbuds or ear plugs.

At what age did you realise that you were introverted, and what brought it home to you?

J.C.: I realised pretty early on that I wasn’t like most other kids. Their idea of fun was to swim and run all over the harbour making extraordinary amounts of noise; mine was to hang out (literally, if the bosun’s chair was rigged) and read a book. While I could enjoy noise and group activity for an hour or so, a full afternoon would leave me so exhausted I would sleep-walk – not a great idea on a yacht.

Understanding that introversion was actually a thing, rather than ‘shyness’ or ‘laziness’ took a lot more time, and a lot more self-awareness, than I had in my teens and early twenties. I drank far too much in school and university, which let me camouflage just how difficult being out and surrounded by people was for me. These days, I preserve my mental health and produce a lie that extroverts can accept to avoid most social events.

Maria: I didn’t understand the chemical component to introversion until I was in my 30s. From the time I was around ten I knew that I was different in that I didn’t enjoy social gatherings as much as others seemed to, and I preferred to read alone in my room much of the time. I would “melt down” after too much stimulation, when others didn’t seem to. I remember being called anti-social and selfish by others. I would disappear from social events without saying anything because I could no longer handle it (and hated it when others pressured me to stay), and people thus branded me as “odd”.

I had an a-ha moment when I learned to tell people “I have plans” to decline their invitations instead of “I want to be home alone”. If you say, “I have plans”, they don’t question you, but if you say you prefer to stay at home, somehow that appears unacceptable and others will often pressure you to go out, and I hate feeling pressured.

What is your least favourite extrovert reaction to an introvert?

J.C.: I absolutely have to agree with Maria on this one. People trying to pressure or guilt me into entertaining them at the expense of making myself miserable is right up there. I’d love it if trying to force conversation on someone who clearly isn’t interested one day ended up in the same category as groping someone without consent. Frankly, it’s about what it feels like on a bad day, with the caveat that I’ve got 15 years’ martial arts training, and I’m allowed to break a groper’s fingers and call it self-defence, whereas it’s ‘rude’ not to submit to forced small talk.

Maria: When people try to pressure me into attending social gatherings or pressure me in general. Please accept my first response and leave me alone. Also, when I don’t respond to texts right away, some people appear to get antsy. I always have the volume on my phone off because receiving calls and texts (especially texts) invades my private space, and I will deal with them when I am ready. I’m not going to respond to calls and texts immediately. I absolutely hate that about texting, the idea that people expect immediate responses. If it’s not urgent, I may take days to respond because I need alone time.

What do you most wish society in general understood about introverts?

J.C.: I’m not shy. I don’t necessarily dislike you. I’m not afraid of you. I simply don’t have the need to make pointless noise with other people in order to be happy. My brain is wired differently to an extrovert’s, and it’s not something that being forced to spend more time being noisily sociable will ‘cure’. If you want to spend time with me, be intelligent, be interesting, give me civilised warning, bring pizza and beer, and my couch and movie collection are your couch and movie collection. Come riding with me. Come to open mat night at my dojo and spend an hour sparring if you have the cojones for it. If I find you interesting, I’ll happily spend time with you. It just won’t be noisy time spent talking about nothing important for the sheer sake of making noise.

Maria: I wish more people understood that introversion is not something that can be changed. Introverts are more sensitive to stimulation and, as such, require solitude and quiet to recharge. Our brains are built this way. It’s like having blue eyes or being six feet tall. You can’t change it!

Reading timeDo you feel there’s usually a direct correlation between introversion and the size of the book collection?

J.C.: *Cough* Over two thousand books in my house *cough* Um… I’m going with ‘very probably’ on that one. If I like a book, it stays with me and gets read and re-read, but I’m incapable of literary fidelity and tend to have two or three books open at once. Having a bookshop near enough to take my lunch break browsing for new bookshelf-fodder gives me spasms of glee.

Maria: Oh yes. I can’t speak for others, but I find myself rereading books out of familiarity. And I don’t like letting go of books; it makes me feel bad!

As an introvert, do you find the company of animals soothing?

J.C.: Very much so. I’ve had Siamese cats all my life, and while they aren’t most people’s definition of restful, I find that they’re actually a perfect offset for me; they’re perfectly happy to roost on top of me while I read, but if they want attention, or food, they’re loud, persistent, and irrepressible, which gets me off my rear to throw glittery balls for them and ensures they’re fed on time. I also love riding – horseback is my absolute favourite way to explore countryside, because horses, for the most part, are big, friendly, warm creatures that smell good and provide company without needing endless validation.

Maria: Mostly. I grew up with dogs, and I envy their carefree, seize-the-day attitude. Also, whatever horrible day you’ve had, they’re always happy to see you. And their goofiness is therapeutic. One of mine chased a leaf this morning!

Do you feel there’s any truth to the perception that INTJs simply don’t like people?

J.C.: Point of order: we don’t like dumbasses. We don’t like the helpless types that start the kettle and then come running in in a panic to tell you the water boiled and expect you to tell them what they should do next. Intelligent, non-needy people we can tolerate just fine (in limited amounts).

I’ve heard INTJs called the Sherlock Holmes personality type, and having watched the BBC remake, I can’t really argue. According to studies, there’s a strong correlation between INTJ and high IQ, where ‘high’ is defined as the 130 and over zone. Mind you, most of the population would say there’s also strong correlation between ‘INTJ’ and ‘asshole’, so there’s that. Since we’re a pretty rare type, it’s not usually a big problem.

Maria: Ooooo, maaayybe. INTJs like doing things our own way and we can’t stand incompetence or indecision. We also need a TON of alone time. When we don’t get to work on our own projects and be in “flow” state, we get very cranky. We also don’t see the point of “hanging out.” For us everything, even social activities, must have a purpose, such as seeing an interesting movie.

We also can’t stand wasting our time. It galls me when someone takes fifteen minutes to say something they could have said in thirty seconds (that’s why I can’t stand most work meetings). I’ve been told that extroverts need to voice a thought out loud in order to process it, so I try to be more understanding, but I can’t stand it when people waste my time.

What do you find the primary difference to be between someone who’s shy and an introvert?

J.C.: Tricky. In some ways an introvert and a shy person will present in a very similar way in a social setting. They’ll both tend to avoid big gatherings. In addition, there’s no restriction not on being a shy introvert; because you’re one doesn’t mean you aren’t the other. However, primarily I’d say it would probably present differently if there was some stress present in the setting: push an introvert far enough, and you may well get an earful. A shy person might have a greater tendency to stay quiet.

Maria: I’d say that a shy person may be afraid to speak up and may be cautious about meeting new people. An introvert will usually speak up only if he/she has something worthwhile to say (they typically won’t talk just to fill space), but they’re not necessarily afraid to speak up. Likewise, an introvert typically enjoys meaningful one-on-one conversations and, as such, would enjoy meeting new like-minded people.

Introversion is not something you can change. It has to do with your sensitivity to chemicals such as dopamine produced by the human body. This is something that Susan Cain really hits home in her  book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. When we’re overstimulated, and the body produces too much of these chemicals, we become irritable and start to melt down. What does an introvert meltdown look like for you?

J.C.: I get cranky as hell. Usually, if I’m forced to deal with groups of people when sober (work being the most common example) I pull up a fake personality and compartmentalise. If I run into someone who just is that irritating, or if the requirement to be sociable goes on too long, there’s a (very) short progression from exhausted to irritable, and shortly after that I start losing control of my reactions. That’s when my alone time gets crucially important for everyone’s safety.

Maria: When I’m overstimulated, I start to get frontal lobe pressure, then ear pain. If the overstimulation continues, I have trouble concentrating and become fatigued, jittery, and short of breath. My head feels heavy and, at that point, I need to lie down and have absolute quiet. If I don’t get to recharge at that point, then after a while my digestion shuts down. If I’m at that final point, then it takes about two to three days of alone, quiet time to calm the jitteriness, and it takes a few more days after that to recharge my batteries/catch up on sleep. That is why I plan my activities carefully. I have a difficult time doing back-to-back social activities.

Care and feeding of the INTJ in the wild

So, you think you might know someone who might be an INTJ, and for some masochistic reason, you want to make it onto their ‘tolerate’ list, or maybe even into their little black book? Interesting.

Introverts, and INTJs in particular, don’t have casual friends. You’re either in the acquaintance zone, or you’re competing for a spot on a very, very short list – usually two to five people – of those the introvert really trusts and likes.

Go slowly. An INTJ will push your buttons without even meaning to. Take a deep breath and apply logic before you assume the worst. INTJs are rational to a fault and make shitty ‘there, there’ types. They’ll problem-solve and state what they see as the obvious solution. It’s how they help, and it can be a bit Old Testament-style.

 If they’re being deliberately obscure, take the compliment; it means they assume you’re capable of keeping up.

If they don’t give you an opinion, take the hint; that’s the limit of INTJ social skills, in that they’ve realised you won’t want to hear what they have to say. Look on the bright side; they’re bothering to exercise them on you.

If you want to find out what your Myers-Briggs type is, there’s a free evaluation you can take here.

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