Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Stephen Harper has done everything from playing the piano in public to tweeting a prime minister's day to soften his austere persona. Then came the meeting earlier this month with Darcie Clark, whose former husband killed their three children.

Afterward, talking with reporters, Mr. Harper at first found it difficult to speak.

"Once you become a parent, you see the world through a different lens," he explained, his voice growing increasingly unsteady. "Given the love we all have for our children, one cannot begin to imagine the pain and suffering that this kind of event brings about."

Story continues below advertisement

The moment passed, and the Prime Minister went on to promote new Conservative legislation that would make it more difficult for those found not guilty of crimes through mental illness to be released.

One of the least-understood qualities of this complex politician is the shield he uses to protect himself from the public, a defence that so rarely slips.

"A lot of his persona has been misinterpreted, because he is an introvert by nature," offers John Weissenberger, a long-time friend of the Prime Minister.

"Someone who is by nature a reserved person is often seen as cold and unfeeling," he explained in an interview. "But there are glimpses. When you see him meeting with families who have suffered personal loss … he shows that he can be deeply moved by things."

Aaron Pincus is a psychologist at Pennsylvania State University who has, among other things, examined introversion.

"Being an introvert doesn't mean that you lack some skill that you should have," he said in an interview. "I don't see introversion as the same as being shy or socially anxious." Instead, it marks "a preference for a certain interpersonal distance," he said. Introverts gain strength from having time to themselves, while an extrovert draws energy from being with others.

Yet from an introvert's contemplation can emerge powerful convictions. Stephen Harper came of age during the era of Reagan and Thatcher, in the last decade of the Cold War, and drew from those experiences permanent lessons.

Story continues below advertisement

One of the reasons he ran for public office, Mr. Harper said at the press conference, was that he believed "profoundly" that the criminal justice system had "become unbalanced in a way that was really inexcusable."

Mr. Harper also believes, said Mr. Weissenberger, that Canadians had lost touch with their past, especially their military past; that foreign policy was, as Mr. Harper puts it, too willing to "go along to get along;" that the federal government had become too intrusive in the affairs of the provinces and the lives of the people.

However you may regard these convictions, you cannot question the depth of them. "He wouldn't be in politics if it weren't for his philosophical beliefs," Mr. Weissenberger said.

Prof. Pincus acknowledges that introverts can have a harder time getting ahead. "People prefer interacting with extroverts more than introverts," he said.

"Extroverts, controlling for everything else, do better on job interviews or admissions interviews or getting-elected interviews."

But if an introvert can make it into public office, he or she can bring qualities that extroverts lack.

Story continues below advertisement

"Introverts are more likely to be able to make the tough decision because they don't need everybody to be their friend," he explained.

And because the public can sense how difficult it is for an introvert to run for office, they may trust his or her judgment more than an extrovert, whom voters may suspect is just in it for the applause.

That doesn't mean that Stephen Harper's vision for the country is the right vision. But it does help explain how a man whose smile is demonstrably forced, who would rather be filmed working alone in his office than working a crowd, whose defences crack only when confronted with the raw grief of a mother whose children have been taken from her, can win three consecutive elections.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies