Jan 20, 2015

Verted - Neither Extra Nor Intro

I think people tend to oversimplify extrovert or introvert.  I know I used to.

If you're shy, or you don't like to go out, people will say, "Oh, you're an introvert."  And if you like to talk to people, then they assume you're extraverted.

I remember Sister2 telling me she was introverted and how I scoffed at her.  "You?  You party all the time?"

Then I did my research.  It's not that simple.

Being extroverted or introverted is not simply a case of being social or not.  It's how social and non-social activities are reflected through your energy.  Do you feel more energetic when you're out with people?  Or do you feel more energetic when you're alone?  Extraverted people are more likely to be outgoing, because being social makes them feel energized, so it's a feeling they'll pursue more than introverts, but it's not a definitive correlation.  (For more, see the Myers & Briggs Foundation Site)

In the case of my sister, she did go out far more frequently than is typical for an introverted personality.  And she enjoyed it.  But the effort required left her feeling drained and tired, while something like relaxing at home would build that energy back up.

I think I didn't fully understand what this meant until I started attending Meetup groups.  And even then I suffered enough anxiety beforehand, and last-minute lack of desire to attend (which I'm now convinced is a form of social anxiety - when you want to do something right up until 5 minutes before and then all of a sudden you desperately want to cancel) that I figured I was probably an introvert.

But then, at a dog group happy hour, I talked to just a couple people, and I got giddy.

On the way home I was filled with a bubbly rush of energy, and I called people so I could keep talking.  I was excited about the small talk I had made, and I wanted to keep connecting with people.

And this trend has continued.  I've gotten more comfortable in social situations with practice, and while I still occasionally feel social anxiety beforehand, I'm better at ignoring it because I know I'll be fine when I get there.  And when I do finally talk to someone, there's almost always that rush that makes the whole rest of the night worth it.  All the awkward pauses, and the standing around waiting for a good moment to speak.  All of it.

But I say "almost."  Because after having gotten comfortable with this extraverted energy that enjoys getting to know new people, and finds such satisfaction in the occasional well-placed pun, it abandoned me.

Not permanently.  But just this past year, I was at Ryan's work holiday party, and I was waiting for my extroverted-ness to rise to the surface and save me, and it didn't.  I was caught off guard, and found it really hard to enjoy myself, because every exchange, every attempt to speak and be light-hearted, was such an effort.  And after an hour or 2, I felt drained and exhausted and ready to curl up in bed, and it was very difficult to convince Ryan that I don't hate his coworkers.

Afterwards I was confused, and I tried to pin myself down with an exact definition.  Finally, I gave up.  I frequently get energy from social interactions, but sometimes they leave me feeling drained.  I frequently feel energized after a good bout of writing, goal-setting, or introspection, but sometimes I feel lonely.

So while it's possible to be an introvert who socializes, or an extravert who enjoys the occasional night in, I'd say I'm so finely balanced between the 2 that I wouldn't call myself either.  But maybe both.

Do you feel more introverted or extraverted or would you put yourself in the middle?  Do you ever flake out at the last minute because of social anxiety?

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  1. I think you hit the nail on the head - it's really not as simple as one or the other. I think I lean towards being an introvert. I enjoy being alone, or at home. But sometimes I like going out - most of the time it leaves me drained and exhausted. It's a real effort for me to talk to strangers, I'm very shy and I feel like my sense of humour and whatnot do not come across well at first, but that's a cultural thing as well. And then sometimes, like you, I get this rush of extroverted-ness and I can talk to strangers and have fun and it makes me feel energised.. and other times not. I really don't know. I think other things factor in as well, but who knows. I definitely have the want to cancel something 5 minutes before, even though I was totally excited leading up to it.

  2. You know, I am really glad you posted about this. I have always said that there is a middle between the two and that I feel I fall there but people are like no you are either one or the other. I can get social anxiety real bad sometimes and have wanted to bail at the last minute. No matter how excited I was about it that entire planning process. I am glad I am not the only one who feels in between!

  3. I had to do the DISC profile for work (I feel like I do this every year) We are having a all staff leadership growth thing tomorrow where we talk about our personalities blah blah. Anyway, I always score extroverted and while I am super social when I am out. I am chair of a few organizations and always volunteer for things, but when I finally get home I don't want to be bothered. I don't want to talk to anyone (except my kids) and I don't want to do anything until I've recharged.

  4. I also get stereotyped as the introvert and people never seem to understand like you said, it can be way more then that! I always seem to gall somewhere in the middle when I take those tests. Thanks for sharing!


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