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Introversion Extroversion Overature

Long time no post, right? Let's face it, I don't have the motivation to write a whole post explaining where I've been or what I've been up to, and you probably don't have the patience to read it even if I did. Instead I'm just going to continue on as if we'd never parted company, okay?

So the thing that's been on my mind lately is introversion versus extroversion. Extroverts get their energy from being around other people. They're energized by social interaction and suffer when they spend too much time alone. Introverts, by contrast, get their energy from solitude. They need time alone in order to function and find social interaction draining.

It's a neat little polar axis the world can divide itself along, with the Myers-Briggs people claiming the split is 25% I vs 75% E. Except when it comes to artists and writers and musicians and the other sorts of creative people I tend to hang around with, in which case the balance skews wildly the other way.

Recently, on Tumblr, here, and in other media both social and traditional, I've been seeing a lot of "in praise of introverts" sorts of posts, including this article explaining why extroverts are overrated and this one, covering ten myths about introverts. And there was this one, which recommended the care and feeding of introverts and concluded that the best thing to do was to leave them alone.

One thing that seems to be common to these and similar articles is a defensive attitude, a kind of seething resentment that colors the writing and underlies each point, combined with an attitude of superiority that's downright intimidating. "Screw you extrovert. You're not as clever, delicate, sensitive, or special as we gifted introverts. Give us our space and quit asking things of us. Go hang out with your loud-mouthed, average, extrovert friends and leave us alone!"


I get the defensiveness, because there are a lot of introvert-type traits that get a fair amount of social denigration. I'm sure those introvert authors have been told one-too-many times that they need to come out of their shells and engage when all they want to do is go curl up with a good book, and so they're preemptively snarly when they set out to explain why they don't need to conform to an extroverted world's rules.

But I'm still stung by it.

I'm not an introvert. I'm not an extrovert, either, In fact, when I take the Myers-Briggs test, and I've taken it several times, I come out almost exactly in the middle, equally introverted and extroverted. So on the one hand, I totally get the need for down time and solitude. I have that need. And I get being nerdy, and being gifted, and being different from the mainstream, because gods know I'm all of those things. But I also get needing social interaction, getting energy from it, and finding time with friends invigorating, not draining.

When you compare me to my most introverted friends, I'm a social butterfly with endless energy for going out, staying up, carrying on conversations, and spending time with others. And when you compare me to my most extroverted friends, I'm a recluse. I avoid the phone and don't return calls, I have to be approached and coaxed to go out, and I don't initiate plans all that often.

But the majority of my friends, as I said, fall into the introverted camp, and I'm getting a serious inferiority complex about it. I keep reading these "up with introverts, down with extroverts" articles and cartoons and posts, and I'm starting to feel like the extroverted aspects in myself are flaws. For example, I'm good at small talk and meeting new people, and the fact that I worked hard for those skills, and am worn out after using them for any extended period of time doesn't make any difference. I'm one of the "them", not one of the "us".

I know that a factor here is my disability. I'm not working, and in fact spend a lot of time at home alone, so my inner introvert's need for solitude is amply met most days. By the end of the day, when my introvert friends are coming home from work and getting online, they've had just about enough of social interaction from school or work, whereas I'm sated with solitude. The problem is, that makes me an energy drainer, and I know from all those care-and-feeding articles that I really need to just leave the introverts alone.

So I do.

And I've been doing it now for so long I think some of those friendships might be about dead on the vine. I'm scared to make first contact if I see them online for fear of coming across as too energy-draining, so I wait to be approached. But of course they don't approach because they are introverts, and I know all about the introverted way of waiting for others to approach, because I have that same trait, and I'm just magnifying it.

I really don't know what to do. I don't know how to say, "Hey, introvert friends, if you want to talk to me, let me know. I'm leaving you alone to respect your boundaries but I miss you," without sounding hopelessly needy, and without putting the burden of friendship on them.

And I don't know how to feel better about myself and my oddly even split of extroversion and introversion. So I throw it open to you, if anyone is still reading this: what would you advise?


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 14th, 2012 09:24 am (UTC)
You might not realise it, being somewhat of an extrovert yourself, but the whole world (apart from the internet) is geared towards extroverts. Introvert choices are deemed valueless. We are considered weird, lonely freaks. There's a reason we're bitter. I don't hate extroverts, but those guys have it easy and they don't even know it. The privilege gets to me sometimes.

So I throw it open to you, if anyone is still reading this: what would you advise?

When you've got something you want to discuss, open a dialogue with your introvert friends. Introverts engage in conversation for the subject of the conversation; we tolerate the personal contact. Extroverts engage in conversation for the personal contact; the content of the conversation is not as important to them. So, for me, the 'pleasantries' of conversation: "Hi, how are you? How about this weather?" is something to be endured, in order to get to "What did you think of last night's Doctor Who?"

I don't know if this is the same for all of your introvert friends, but I am happy to have a conversation when it's about something. I don't feel comfortable or safe during idle chit-chat, and it's hard to justify spending that limited amount of energy for that kind of contact.
Sep. 14th, 2012 01:32 pm (UTC)
t I am happy to have a conversation when it's about something. I don't feel comfortable or safe during idle chit-chat, and it's hard to justify spending that limited amount of energy for that kind of contact.

I wish I could like this content, but as LJ demands more personal interaction than Facebook I will say, Yes, totally, I agree, and thank you for stating this so succinctly.
Sep. 14th, 2012 05:42 pm (UTC)
Seconding Ki's comment.
Sep. 14th, 2012 11:32 am (UTC)

I have found some of those articles annoying, and I'm off scale introverted for Myers Briggs. Bleh.

Speaking for myself - one on one conversation with a friend isn't draining the way social situations are. And sometimes I (unfairly) rely on my more extroverted friends to do the initiating on friendship maintenance. You know how much talking withbyou means to me, and how bad I am at picking up the phone to call you.

Online socializing is different than in person or by phone. My guess is that a lot of introverts find it easier, less demanding. Maybe we've had more influence shaping netiquette, IDK.

*smooshes you*
Sep. 14th, 2012 01:18 pm (UTC)
I'm an extrovert with mainly introvert friends. I'm not reading the articles, I dont want a complex :)

Though this is how I view my friendship contacts. People became your friend knowing how you maintain contact & socialize. Don't change that out of an article. You have the right to communicate like you want just like they do. If they don't like it and won't tell you that then you probably aren't compatible as friends anyway.

Us extroverts are the ones usually doing the friendship maintanaince! :)

So try not to stress - people like you the way you are :)
Sep. 26th, 2012 12:46 am (UTC)
As the introverted to friend to this extrovert here, I've got to say, she knows what she's talking about. There's not pressuring introverts to talk -- and then there's putting them in the position of initiating all contact, which is a type of pressure that can be even worse. I'd say talk to your introvert friends in a brief chat and then let it be, but they probably want to know you want to talk to them.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 15th, 2012 01:09 am (UTC)
I've read some of those articles before. Not impressed.

I can manipulate my scores on those tests pretty easily and so my scores can vary from highly introverted to modestly extroverted depending on my mood at the time of the test. From that, I take it that the tests are trying to discretely measure something that isn't really meant to be easily quantified which, really levels of extroversion/introversion aren't.

I'd prefer to look at the scores and just go "oh that's nice" and then go carry on as normal. Yes, some people find social situations draining. Some people find they get to be more energetic the more people they interact with. And yet, I find that both cases can be true for a single individual.

We can only be ourselves. We can't contort ourselves into some strange shape that isn't true to who we are just because some one else says we should. To me, the expectation that I should try exert myself to be more sociable beyond what I'm comfortable with is insane.

Sep. 15th, 2012 01:22 am (UTC)
We get the vitriol from some of those articles, too, and we are definitely both introverts. This post has given us a lot to think about, but we've needed to really focus at work today, so we haven't come up with much that's really coherent.

Anyway, as far as advice is concerned, I think it's only fair that if introverts expect extroverts to give them their space, they can also be mature enough to understand if an extrovert friend comes and says hi to them. Like, "Hi, Introvert Friend! It's good to see you online!" "Hi, Extrovert Friend! I'd love to talk to you, but I'm feeling a little drained from being around people recently. Can I get back to you after I've recharged some?"

So our advice would be to just say hi, and hope for the best. As much as they like to deny it, introverts need social interaction, too, and friends are the best way to go about it, since you really can skip past the small talk and into the really interesting stuff.
Sep. 19th, 2012 06:03 am (UTC)
I'm always about and never see you on!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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