liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
[personal profile] liv
So someone on FB, who is an introvert, expressed a desire for extroverts to talk more about what it's like to be an extrovert, as this is something they don't understand. So I thought I'd give it a go, here rather than FB cos I don't like posting thinky things that just vanish into FB's ether.

So I'm starting with the definition than an extrovert is someone who draws energy from being around other people. Energy in this sense means wellbeing and enthusiasm and the ability to get things done, not literal calories. I do also have many of the other traits typically associated with extroverts, like being talkative and socially confident, but I'm aware that these things are not really part of the definition of extrovert. I'm also spelling it extrovert rather than extravert, because I don't want to imply that I'm talking about serious psychological research, I'm really just using a popular conception of what an extrovert is. And yes, I do acknowledge like any binary, anyway way of putting people into a small number of non-overlapping boxes, can be challenged, whether it's cat people versus dog people, or Hogwarts houses (so Ravenclaw it hurts!) or whatever.

But I do think there is something which is true of me, and is not true of many of my friends who define as introverts, that I feel good about time spent interacting with other people, and generally start to wilt if I spend too long on my own. Like anyone else, I'm sometimes rooted to my comfy chair and don't want to go out, but as soon as I arrive at a social gathering, I perk up, and nearly always feel more awake and happy by the end, even if it's many hours on my feet and runs late. And I know this not true of many introverts, who may find themselves pressured by well-meaning friends who assume that they should just get over the activation barrier and go to parties, because they'll enjoy it once they get there. I'm not very often shy, but I do sometimes find it hard to start up conversations with strangers; however, once I do manage it, the conversations end up making me feel good. It's not that I'm never annoyed by chatty taxi drivers or hairdressers or whatever, it's that there's always a baseline of emotional reward I get from having these kinds of conversations, even trivial small-talk with people I'm never going to see again.

When I'm emotionally down, sad or grumpy or anxious or whatever, talking to people basically always makes me feel better. I don't mind whether people offer 'fixing' types of responses rather than 'listening' and acknowledging my emotions, both are good because both get me the soothing balm of making a connection with other people. Indeed it often helps me if people just chat about whatever happens to be in their head, because I still get that sense of connection. It's really hard to think of any occasion when I've withdrawn because of feeling bad, I basically always want to reach out. To express to someone I'm angry with why I'm angry rather than storming off to sulk. I mean, sometimes I don't want to cry in front of other people because I'm an uptight English person and I find that embarrassing, but I never feel sad in a way that makes me feel I don't want company right now.

My idea of heaven – almost literally my idea of heaven, I absolutely love the midrashic picture of the afterlife as a giant yeshiva where everybody argues about text for all eternity – is time spent with a large group of friends. That's how I spent most of my honeymoon, and it's what I very often want to be doing with my free time. Indeed, I sometimes end up annoying my more introverted friends because I don't understand how much they value one-to-one time and feel neglected if I only ever see them at parties and group events. I love that being in a relationship with four adults and the three children of one half of the quad means that a lot of our relationship interactions take place in a group context. I think some of my partners find this is an obstacle to the relationship, that it's hard to find time for actual romantic dates, but for me it's a great advantage. Maybe that's not just being an extrovert, it's because I grew up with three close in age siblings, so family events of six or seven feel like a very natural environment to me.

Extrovert energy isn't magic; lots of things where I spend time with other people are still hard work. Talking in a language I'm not fluent in will certainly tire me out, as will going to the kind of conference where I have to repeatedly approach new people and build connections with them from scratch. I love public speaking, I get a real buzz out of it, but I can still feel pretty exhausted at the end of an hour's performance, giving a lecture or running service or whatever. And sometimes just getting myself into a position where I can recharge my extroversion will be tiring in itself. I don't particularly love crowds where I'm just in the same physical space as lots of other people without any real opportunity to interact with them. So sometimes the way that a particular gathering is physically tiring may outweigh the benefit I get from being with other people, but I still always get that benefit.

I find text-based interaction nearly equally satisfying as in person interaction; I'm not someone who needs a lot of touch, and I find shared comfortable silence quite challenging with most people, even those I'm close to. I am not sure if this is in fact typical of extroverts, I think I'm more highly verbal than most as well as being an extrovert, cos often you see a stereotype that it's introverts who like to do their socializing online. But I like that a lot because it's low effort, as in something I can do sitting at home with my cup of tea, but very nearly as rewarding as an in person event which may require me to travel to a venue and otherwise put myself out.

Another way I'm, as I understand it, typical of extroverts is that I like to talk things through. That is, I do my thinking by having conversations with anyone who's willing to engage with me. I find the mindset of wanting to come to a conclusion before informing anyone of what I think rather strange. If I can't find a willing ear, I think by typing out DW posts or just having imaginary conversations in my head; my inner voice is a dialogue most of the time, or at least I imagine an audience present, even if not in very great detail, sometimes I'm just explaining my perspective to an undefined 'someone'.

Do I think extroverts are favoured by the society I live in? To an extent, yes, there are definitely ways that being happy in group situations is an advantage, partly because most people in my culture live in cities with a historically unprecedented population density. I think a lot of what's considered to be bias towards extroverts may be more bias towards confidence. The white, middle-class, masculine man who is (often unconsciously) viewed as a default human often has an elevated sense of his own value, and I'm not sure that's exactly an extrovert thing. Lots of things about jobs in the typical working world advantage extroverts, from being able to tell a panel of strangers why you're the right person for the job to being able to interact with colleagues for n hours a day. But also lots of things advantage introverts, like being able to deal with being bored for several hours a day, or being able to keep your controversial and work-inappropriate views to yourself, so I really don't know. Also I personally have chosen a career path where my strengths are an advantage and actively sought out situations where I'll be in contact with other people. I get the impression that there may be more bias towards extroverts in US culture, particularly US school culture, but if what I read on the internet is even halfway true US public schools are pretty toxic to just about everybody who's different in any way from the expected norm. I don't feel particularly offended by the memes that paint extroverts as all loud, brash, annoying people with no sense of personal space who can't shut up babbling about trivialities; I recognize that my flaws are extrovert flaws just as many of my strengths are extrovert strengths.

Obviously I have lots of experiences that are related to other aspects of my personality, and I shouldn't assume that everything about my interaction with the world is simply a factor of being an extrovert. Like, I know there are lots of shy, quiet extroverts out there, and I imagine they would report things entirely differently.

Any other extroverts want to comment? I'm making this a public post and will link it from FB for the benefit of the person who wanted to learn about what it's like to be us.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-16 02:51 pm (UTC)
ambyr: pebbles arranged in a spiral on sand (nature sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy) (Pebbles)
From: [personal profile] ambyr
I identify as an extrovert, but one with a fair amount of social anxiety. I love being in crowds at festivals and other big events; I get a lot of recharge from just the physical presence of people and snatches of overheard conversation. I like talking to strangers on the street and subway, too. Just a brief exchange about how cute someone's dog is can add spring to my step. In general I'm more comfortable with conversations that involve listening to other people and asking them questions about their life; that's the social anxiety thing. And I like board gaming as a hobby because it gets me face-to-face interaction with friends and strangers in a non-anxiety-producing way.

A lot of my introvert friends say something along the lines of, "Being around friends is restorative, but being around strangers is draining." But I find strangers just as restorative as friends, presuming I don't find them actively unpleasant as people.

I don't get any energy from online exchanges, and find them draining more days than not. For me, it's all about the face-to-face. (I do of course get other useful things from online exchanges, like exposure to broad perspectives and rapid exchange of information, which is why I keep engaging in them. They are useful, they're just not energizing. Possibly they feel to me the way large parties feel to introverts.)
Edited Date: 2016-06-16 03:38 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-20 11:19 pm (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
I am basically an introvert (people who are not good friends are on balance energy-draining, especially unfamiliar people) but I totally get the interactions on the street thing. It cheers up my commute no end to exchange a word or two or a smile, or even just a "thanks for letting me past" gesture.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-16 05:11 pm (UTC)
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
I would offer a refinement on But also lots of things advantage introverts, like being able to deal with being bored for several hours a day specifically --

-- It's perhaps not that we deal with being bored better, it's that our possible solutions to boredom include a lot of solitary activities that might still be dull to an extrovert. (Call centers are perhaps one of the worst types of job for any type of person: too many people for an introvert, and rarely an opportunity to actually connect, while still being surrounded by people. I learned a lot about boredom in my time in various call centers.)


I identify as an introvert but I'm relatively sociable, and spending time in great groups does charge me -- overcharge me, in fact. If I spend too long with people I'll be keyed up enough that it delays when I can actually get to sleep by several hours.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-17 06:52 am (UTC)
shehasathree: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shehasathree
I identify with this comment!

I deal *terribly* with being bored, but am highly unlikely to become bored due to lack of external stimulation. Problems relating to overthinking, otoh...

I actually have wondered about the introvert/extravert distinction ever since I learnt about it in high school, because it didn't seem to reflect my experience well at all; how 'outgoing' i was, and whether being around other people drained or recharged my batteries seemed almost entirely context-dependent.

I LOVE talking to people, in small groups or structured environments (as long as it's quiet enough that i can actually make out what people are saying; hooray CAPD). I generally find being around other people who i've chosen to spend time with highly energising, AND i still desperately need alone-time afterwards to recover/wind down after being "overcharged" (yes!) from socialising. (My partner generally counts as being part of alone-time, but almost no-one else would.)

I also *need* to talk to people about stuff on a fairly deep level on a regular basis, or my brain gets very unhappy. Thank goodness for the internet, because that's generally the easiest way of making that happen.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-17 06:11 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
I also *need* to talk to people about stuff on a fairly deep level on a regular basis, or my brain gets very unhappy.

Ah, that's not introversion vs extraversion. That's the next Myers-Briggs axis: intuition vs sensing. People with a preference for intuition (N-types) need a certain amount of intellectual stimulation or their brains start eating themselves for want of an adequate diet. Having a preference for depth and interacting around ideas is very N-type.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-18 10:08 am (UTC)
shehasathree: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shehasathree
Right - that's definitely part of it, a lot of [what i'm describing] is about the ideas and thinking an depth, but there's also something very important for me about being able to share that with people on a regular basis. I don't think I could be happy as a nomad or an author living in a cabin in the woods.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-21 10:37 am (UTC)
mair_in_grenderich: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mair_in_grenderich
yes I wanted to say something like that about boredom. I mean, kind of by definition being bored is bad. However my own thoughts are usually sufficient to amuse me in a situation without other stimulation. I'm not sure how well I deal with e.g. being forced to listen to long boring speeches, or carry out tedious calculations, but I'm quite happy to do manual work where my mind can do its own thing, long (days) walks or cycles alone, sit on buses, etc.



(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-16 05:26 pm (UTC)
damerell: (games)
From: [personal profile] damerell
"I absolutely love the midrashic picture of the afterlife as a giant yeshiva where everybody argues about text for all eternity"

I daresay I would not mind a heaven for rules lawyers, but I submit it would double as a hell for some people.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-16 09:23 pm (UTC)
penlessej: (James Crest)
From: [personal profile] penlessej
I would identify as an extremely shy extrovert. I feed off of the energy of people but I am absolutely terrible with one-on-one encounters, especially between strangers. I used to think that I was more of an introvert, but I have come to learn that it is not the case. I am simply extremely shy, to the point where it manifests itself to others in the form of arrogance (people will say to themselves "he speaks so confidently in public but cannot take the time to say hello in the morning").

I am also an enemy of small talk. I cannot stand having conversations with the cashier over how green my peppers are or with the person at the bus stop about how the weather is. If the cashier wanted to crack open a debate about the increase cost of living in the city or if the person at the bus stop wanted to debate the effects of global warming, I would be game. I used to again think that my aversion to small talk was a sign that I was an introvert, but I realized over time that the problem was the subject not the fact that a conversation was taking place.

I do get degrees of social anxiety. And while I feed off of a group, I can become full so to speak and dip out without anyone noticing. I find that I seek solitude in order to build my own confidence. That means that I spend it bettering myself whether that be reading or physical activity. So my introverted tendencies actually contribute to my overall extroverted nature.

I really enjoyed reading this post and the comments. I am glad that you were moved to write because you had a lot of really interesting points to get across. Thank you for taking the time to write this piece.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-16 10:37 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
I think I am naturally an ambivert or perhaps slightly to the extrovert end of the scale rather than strongly introverted or extroverted, but this is tempered by issues with crowds and chaotically noisy environments, and with complex social rules, so that my functional preferences end up looking more introverted. I think this might be why I enjoy engaging with larger groups in much more structured formats (worship at the formal end of the scale, concerts, singing in choirs, some classrooms): there is still the meaningful connection with people that I crave, but the costs to me are much lower. I'm aware that this is not everyone's cup of tea, though.

I do think things through essentially by talking or writing about them -- but sometimes (often?) it is the act of making words, rather than telling a person as such, that is helpful, so that I find a private journal somewhat useful.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-17 04:06 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
This is really interesting and so absolutely the opposite of how I work!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-17 09:43 am (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
I am... such an ambivert.

I get the "ooooh PEOPLE" thing (small talk with people you will never see again is great!), but also I love to sit by myself with a good book or my knitting...

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-17 07:05 pm (UTC)
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
I might be a performance extrovert, then, as the same situation will produce very different reactions based on whether or not I have a conversational hook or icebreaker to apply. For work, and at conferences and conventions, since there a common thread to be able to pull in, conversation comes easier, and if there's a thing that I can use as a conversation-starter, ask the better.

But without a way in, if I'm in a group of people I don't know that well, you'll probably find me on the sides of the room, observing and trying to figure out group dynamics, instead of wading in.

So, strangely enough, if you want me to appear extroverted in a new situation, it's probably best to give me the role of the person that introduces people to other people.

And then give me some time and a nice beverage to unwind from that afterward.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-18 10:10 am (UTC)
shehasathree: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shehasathree
Same!
(Although I actually specifically hate introducing people, becaues I have a thing about calling people by their names directly to their faces. Facilitating discussion amongst a group of people, though: totally. And the rest of it: also yes.)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-17 11:08 pm (UTC)
switterbeet: (devilgirl)
From: [personal profile] switterbeet
This is really interesting! Thank you for sharing. I feel like the introverts are getting more of an explainy-showcase of "here's how I am" these days, so it's really neat to see the other side. I'd say I lean towards introvert, but at the same time, I think it's sort of a spectrum. There are certain people who charge me up to the point of giddiness, but they're exceptional.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-18 05:22 pm (UTC)
solitarywalker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] solitarywalker
Interesting definition. As an introvert i tend to find interactions with people to be draining (the opposite of energizing). But i do sometimes have energizing interactions... they are wonderful, but they're the exception rather than the rule. i come upon them only by chance, and rarely. So i wonder if an extrovert is not so much someone who finds interactions energizing, as someone who is more able to find energizing interactions, or who is better at whatever it is that makes interactions energizing. (i guess i'm suggesting that extroversion may be more of a skill than a disposition.)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-20 08:33 am (UTC)
lilysea: Rainbow ammonite (Rainbow ammonite)
From: [personal profile] lilysea
Thank you for this post. ^_^

Serious question: is reading people's Dreamwidth and leaving comments (and replying to comments) an introverted activity, or a extroverted activity?

Because talking to people face to face is very draining for me (usually) but talking to people on Dreamwidth can be energising for me.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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