I am an extravert. Sometimes I show introverted behaviour, especially in loud and lively environments with lots of other people, but at heart, I am an extravert.
'Wrong letter and wrong post,' you may say, but bear with me.
My husband is an introvert, and so are several of my closest friends. Many years ago, I thought introverts were shy, reserved, absent-minded or aloof. Now I know better. They're just different. And fascinating.
I want to dedicate today's post to the wonderful introverts in my life (lives). I hope it will contribute to a better understanding and higher appreciation of introverts all over the world. In other words: to World Peace *beatific smile*.
The main thing we need to know - and accept - about introverts is that their attention is focused on what's happening inside their minds. While we extraverts are 'out there', interacting and observing everyone and everything around us, an introvert is doing something similar in his or her own inner world. And that inner world doesn't necessarily look or feel like the world outside.
Now, we extraverts do this as well - to a certain degree. We, too, have our inner worlds. But we attribute a different value to them. For an extravert, the outside world comes first. We often put other people's beliefs, interests and concerns before our own. Our thoughts and emotions are triggered by factors around us, and then we internalise them.
Sometimes we need to process what happened by being alone and digging in, but more often we'll process by talking to other people (or pets, or imaginary others).
Introverts process what happens in their lives by being on their own, undisturbed. They don't need to talk about something in order to deal with it. To the contrary. Often they can only communicate something after they've worked it through.
What we Should Know about Introverts:
- Introverts are not necessarily shy. In fact, I have the impression shyness occurs more often in extraverts, because they are more aware of the people around them, and place higher value on their opinions.
Introverts don't prefer solitude because they're anxious about interaction with others, but because they don't feel a strong need to.
(It's interesting to note here that many shy extraverts - and extraverts with non-mainstream beliefs - like to think they are introverts, because it gives them a less emotionally charged term to identify with. If you would like to interact with people, but you're anxious about it or don't really know how, you're probably an extravert.)
- Being around other people costs introverts a lot of energy, especially in larger groups and when they are forced to interact. They will do it for the people they care about, but be aware that it drains them, and they'll need to be alone afterwards to recharge.
- Introverts don't hate people. They are not anti-social. They just need to spend a sufficient amount of time on their own.
- Because introverts don't feel the urge to interact, when they do, they prefer to talk about ideas and feelings that matter, rather than small talk and social chit-chat
- You cannot turn an introvert into an extravert. (Besides: why would you want to? Our world needs diversity!)
You can make them act in a more extraverted way, but it will still drain them and they'll need to be alone afterwards. You can change some of the behaviour, but not the person.
What Introverts should Know about Extraverts:
- When extraverts talk, they're not doing it to be loud, to dominate the conversation or because they believe what they think is more important than what everybody else thinks.
Often they're just responding to an urge to get something off their chest. Once that's done, and when they notice they've been heard, they can listen to what others have to say.
(So yes, introverts, giving feedback by means of facial expressions and 'uhuhs' is a good idea - we're not mind readers, and aren't you happy about that!)
- Extraverts structure their thoughts, make sense of emotions and form their opinions in interaction with the outside world. When they are confronted with issues or questions, they'll start talking about it. This is a way to bounce off ideas, gather feedback and see which responses resonate.
- Extraverts are not shallow. They might spend less of their mental time in their inner world, but that doesn't mean they think or feel less. They have a keen interest in the world and in other people, and are often aware of different layers and subtleties in social interaction that introverts would miss.
- Extraverts are energised by being around people, but not just anyone. Interaction with people they can't identify with or with whom they don't have much in common, can wear them out as well.
- Everything else you need to know about extraverts: don't worry, we'll tell you.
Are you an introvert? How do you deal with the people around you?
Photo 'Alone he sings' by Luis Humberto Molinar Márquez. Available under a creative commons license. © 2009, Luis Humberto Molinar Márquez.