Are you an introvert, or an extrovert?
I try not to label or judge people in my day today life; there’s already enough of that going on daily on social media. However, when it comes to judging myself, I’ll go all out. Especially when it helps me to understand the reason behind my various personality quirks.
It took me 30 years to come to the conclusion that I am an introvert (apparently I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer). But as soon as I did, it was like a light bulb going on. I saw stars and rainbows and heard unicorns singing. Everything made sense suddenly!
So, what are the main characteristics of introversion, and what is the difference between introverts and extroverts? To put it simply, introverts tend to look inwards, finding stimulation from inside. Extroverts, on the other hand, find stimulation from their outside environment. Introverts find other people draining, extroverts ‘feed’ off others.
Small talk is just plain awkward, and mingling is – quite frankly – terrifying. This isn’t because we don’t like people, it’s just that small talk is hard work, we would much rather get stuck in with a proper conversation. If an introvert goes to a party, they aren’t there to make new friends; they are there to talk to the ones they already have. We would rather skip to the good friends stage, without all the awkward ‘getting to know you’ stuff beforehand.
This can often lead to introverts being labelled as too intense. You’ve just met someone and they are already discussing the complexities of bringing girls up in an image obsessed world, before you’ve even covered what the weather is doing? There’s a good chance your new friend is an introvert.
Do you have a friend that never answers the phone to you, but will happily text you back straight away? Probably an introvert. We like a little bit of time to mentally prepare ourselves to talk, even to close friends. We don’t like the surprise of an unexpected phone call, although texting/emailing/tweeting is perfectly acceptable.
This can result in an introvert feeling alone, even in a crowd. Have you ever felt like the party is just going on around you, and you’re the only one that doesn’t fit in? Everyone else is having fun and bonding, and you’re over here thinking of funny and engaging topics of conversation, but feeling too overwhelmed to join in. Sometimes the isolation will be self-imposed. An introvert will typically choose very carefully where they sit in public places. We don’t like to feel trapped, so will choose end seats, and those that don’t leave us surrounded by people. And anything with audience participation? That’s the stuff of actual nightmares.
Introverts can often come across as very wise and thoughtful. As a general rule, we think before we speak, and are not as outspoken as our extroverted friends. There is an internal monologue going on in there that just won’t take a break, making us seem more serious than our extroverted peers. As an introvert, this can be frustrating. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have been so caught up in arguing with myself inside my head, that I have been unable to contribute to a conversation going on around me. Then, in the car going home I will suddenly come up with the perfect, hilarious-yet-thought-provoking response that would have (I’m certain) made everyone roll around on the floor laughing.
The world can sometimes seem too much to an introvert. With the stresses that come with socialising, and generally being ‘up’ comes a big crash. Being around others, and even being out for the day in a busy environment, is exhausting. This means that for an introvert, down time is essential. Personally, the only way I can recharge my batteries is with time alone. Sitting, preferably doing very little. This isn’t lazy time, it is self-preservation time.
Career-wise, introverts will probably gravitate towards some sort of solitary profession, such as a writer (what a coincidence). Whereas an extrovert may find it unbearable to be on their own all day, and would go quietly mad with nobody around to talk to. One of the downsides of being an introvert is the ease with which we are distracted. Because we find the outside world so overly-stimulating, it can be hard to focus on the task in hand.
There are a couple of positives to being introverted too, I promise.
Introverts are great listeners, and make excellent friends. Assuming you can get them to answer the phone to you that is.
Often we would rather be an expert on one topic than a general know-all. We can focus well (when there aren’t too many distractions), and make great learners (I suspect my secondary school teachers would dispute this, but in my defence school was boring). We also notice details that others don’t, because of the whole taking a step back and observing thing.
If you are an introvert, you will identify with how it feels, and if you’re an extrovert, I hope this helps you to understand the complex workings of that special introvert in your life. I’m off to get my husband (the extrovert) to read this now; it may help him to feel less offended next time I leave the room mid conversation. After spending my days with chatty two and four year olds, sometimes I just need to be able to disconnect from all the talking. Just. So. Much. Talking.