conversation, extroversion, introversion, parties, props, psychology, social skills, The Introvert Advantage
I am an introvert.
I am not shy. I am not quiet. But I am very much an introvert.
It’s a personal pet peeve of mine when people use “introverted” as a synonym for “shy”. That’s complete nonsense. I’m not remotely shy. I am a chatterbox. I smile at people in the elevator. I am comfortable with public speaking.
In high school, when I went to “Dramafest” in Halifax, I wore a black knit hat with very large and colourful butterflies on it. When I was in university, people recognized me by my colourful wool “elf hat” which I wore through the winter. I also had an eclectic collection of scarves. I joined the improv group.
Nevertheless, I am introverted.
Some extroverts think that they are introverts, when really they’re just shy. Some introverts think they’re extroverted, because they aren’t shy.
Introversion is about what you find easy, and what you find difficult. Your average person finds going to parties to be easy, and studying to be difficult. I am the opposite. I would rather study for a difficult test all night than go to a party full of people I don’t know. And it’s not about shyness. It’s just that talking to people is hard work, whereas studying just takes a certain amount of concentration, which is fairly easy.
The introverted brain works differently. An introvert has more brain activity than an extrovert, which makes it sound like we’re smarter, doesn’t it? In fact, the majority of gifted children do classify as introverted, but being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean you are smarter (nor does being gifted make you introverted).
Counteracting our high levels of brain activity is our slower method of processing. It takes introverts longer to process information than it takes extroverts.
This has several consequences:
1. Introverts contemplate their actions for longer before they actually perform those actions. In other words, introverts look before they leap. Introverts are the thinkers and philosophers of the world, but they might get eaten by a tiger while they think about what to do.
2. Introverts don’t converse as easily as extroverts do. It takes them longer to process what has been said to them and to formulate a suitable reply. This often results in introverts being somewhat socially awkward because they aren’t good at the witty repartee… one of the many reasons we hate parties.
3. Stimulation overloads the introverted brain much more easily. While extroverts leap around looking for something to occupy their swift but underused brains, introverts are trying to prevent a blue-screen-of-death situation in their overloaded mental processor. So while extroverts are off installing surround-sound systems and racing off to mosh at a concert, introverts are trying to hole up in their bedrooms with a book and some dim lighting.
Ultimately, extroverts are stimulation seekers while introverts are stimulation escapists. Since extroverts outnumber introverts by three or four to one, it means that introverts are seen as “weird” and get assigned labels like “shy”. After all, the only reason an extrovert would rather stay home on Saturday night is shyness. Shyness is a horrible affliction, in the eyes of extroverts. A shy extrovert is desperate for human company, but afraid to seek it. Very sad.
It is to this miserable state of being which most introverts are mistakenly assigned by misunderstanding extroverts.
In actuality, while shy introverts do exist, they don’t suffer much from it. They wouldn’t want to go to a party even if they were brimming with confidence. Talking to people, especially strangers, is simply hard work. Loud noise and flashing lights are unpleasant, overwhelming and ultimately exhausting. It’s not fun, if you’re an introvert. Fun would be a quiet night in with a couple of friends who are used to the odd way you phrase your sentences. Fun would be a hot bath, a cold drink, and a good book.
Introverts suffer through mixers and bustling night clubs the way that extroverts suffer through War and Peace.
In The Introvert Advantage, the author recommends using a “prop” to help make interacting with strangers easier. I totally use this strategy.
One of my favourite perks of being a service dog trainer was access to dogs who were allowed to go into public. I could take one of my dogs to the movies, to a restaurant, and to a party full of strangers. I would be stopped again and again by curious strangers who wanted to know about the dog. This is not something you want if you are shy. But I am not shy. I am introverted. So I thought it was great.
A prop, like a cute Labrador or a funny hat or interesting jewellery, gives you something to talk about with strangers. Suddenly talking to a stranger becomes much easier. I had my service dog speeches down pat, and I rattled them off effortlessly when I was stuck talking to a stranger. Perfect Husband could have mouthed my answers along with me. Easy!
I miss having a dog always at my heels, but the Babby is proving almost as good a prop. I was at a baby shower yesterday, filled with people I didn’t know, but who wanted to talk to me about my baby. I wasn’t even exhausted by it, because Babby made things easy.
You can trust me, any party I’m invited to? I’ll be bringing the baby.
Much easier and less exhausting, that way.
The only thing that confuses me is this:
Babby seems to LOVE going out into public and being stimulated by others. He gets bored and fussy at home. Does this mean he is an extrovert?
I’m an introvert. PH is an introvert. How on Earth did we produce an extroverted child, and is this going to cause us problems later on?
Hubby and I are both introverts, but my dad and sister are major extraverts, so there is some genealogical probability that one or both of my children could inherit that trait. Pie is very clearly an introvert – she has been described to me as one of the quietest children her day-care provider had EVER SEEN (and this day-care provider is in her fifties). Pie’s a good candidate, though, for the introverted-but-not-shy caveat – she does not seem to be experiencing social anxiety; it’s more that she has adopted quietness as a carefully thought-out policy, and she adheres to it with gusto, but is perfectly calm and cheerful behind that veil of silence.
Bub is much more extraverted than his sister. He is totally comfortable chatting people up, and as a baby he definitely preferred to be out of the house – more stimulation was always better. Nowadays, though, he loves being at home: he is far more outgoing than Pie, but given the choice he would always rather just stay at home where he can recoup his energy. (And that remains true even if the choice is between staying home and going to Walt Disney World.) So I guess in that sense both of my kids are introverted without being shy.
I was painfully shy for many years, and I’ve mostly outgrown that now, though I remain an introvert. I’ve come across a number of articles about introversion lately, all of which begin as yours does with the disclaimer that introverts aren’t necessarily shy. I wonder about that, though. In reclaiming the term introvert, are we suggesting that there’s something wrong with you if you ARE shy?
I don’t think so. I think many introverts are shy, probably because they’ve never bothered to overcome a predisposition towards it. Introverts have less motivation to go out and meet people. I think they suffer from shyness less.
I think the reason that shyness – and consequently, introversion – have such a bad rap is because an extrovert sees it as such a terrible, crippling thing.
Did you find it worse before marriage? (As most things were.) The idea that going out on Friday AND Saturday night is mandated for the single girl has at its opposite the image of the scorned, spinster-to-be, home on the weekend talking to her plants and crafting plans to murder the neighbors with arsenic.
Props are a good idea. I never thought of that. I used to just get drunk to the point of feeling nothing. Then I thankfully married another introvert.
I’ve spent the last 11 years in a relationship, with either my first boyfriend or Perfect Husband, so thankfully I missed much of the singles scene. However, I think a big reason that I never had a boyfriend through high school is because I was so antisocial.
My first boyfriend was an extrovert and THAT was exhausting. He always wanted to combine hanging out with me with hanging out with his friends, when I wanted a quiet evening just the two of us. I spent a lot of time fighting with him, and then gave up on getting private time with him and just went where he told me to go. Our relationship only lasted a year or so after that.
You missed nothing. Nothing, I tell you.
Also, next time I am having a bad day, I will just look at the pictures in this post. Those are seratonin in pixel form.
As long as they aren’t DOPAMINE! 😀
The “extrovert sees it as such a terrible, crippling thing.” Exactly! I once got into quite the spat with my brother (an extrovert) when my husband and I declared ourselves introverts. My husband’s a stronger introvert than me, but we both fall on the left side of that continuum. We didn’t think we were saying anything exceptional. To us it’s perfectly obvious that we are. But my brother? Denied it wholeheartedly! We couldn’t be introverts, see, because neither of us are shy, and we’re both socially skilled. And EVERYONE knows introverts are shy and bumbling social misfits, right?
Gee. Thanks, bro. He meant it as a compliment, of course. Because we’re not social incompetents, we can’t be introverts.
I pointed out that there are socially skilled and unskilled people of both persuasions. The stereotype of the introvert he cited does exist, of course, but there are also socially adept introverts. (Like me, like my husband!) And then there’s the dork at the party — I’m sure you’ve met him/her — the one who won’t shut up, won’t give another person a chance to get a word in edgewise, the one who everyone else tries to avoid? That, I pointed out to my dopey brother, is a socially unskilled *extrovert*. They exist, too!
Yes they do! The difference (I think) is that extroverts care more about social graces, whereas many introverts just don’t bother to develop them.
I am an introvert, but one that has worked at it long enough that I can make small talk with anyone. I don’t like it, but I can do it. I think it has a lot to do with my responsibility complex and that I can’t stand being rude, it makes me anxious.
But I don’t think baby extroversion is the same thing. It’s looking at new phases, seeing new things, learning about the world. From what I’ve heard, even seeming extroversion and introversion in toddlers doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
There’s such a difference between the interactions that who knows what Babby will be? But genetics are nutty, no?
They really are. I’m consoling myself with the following (conflicting) facts:
1. Signs of giftedness in young infants are often listed as being: easily bored, in need of constant stimulation, sleep less.
2. The majority of gifted children are introverts.
(so they’re introverted but in constant need of stimulation?)
1. My parents said I was always well behaved in restaurants and out in public in general, never screaming and making a fuss.
2. I am an introvert.
(So maybe Babby can still be introverted?)
Mariah McMillian said:
I’m such an introvert and I LOVE it. However, (there’s always a however right?) I’m about to start a group imagination session for the kids at a local playground. Working with kids is like the best thing for me because I don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing in front of them. They don’t give a crap what I say because half of the stuff they say makes no sense anyway (gotta love’em). The problem is that their parents will be there and I’ll have to interact with them *GULP* I’m so terrified of screwing up that it’s actually holding me back from getting started, which brings me to your wonderfully timed post.
Because I’m doing an imagination session (kids participate in completely made up roleplaying games), I’m thinking I could like dress like an elf or fairy or something. Kind of like a prop that stays with me. I think it would take the focus off of me specifically and it would give me something to talk about with the parents so I don’t stumble over my words. Plus the kids would get a kick out of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m excellent at public speaking…no nervousness or anything like that. But I think that’s because in public speaking, everything I say is rehearsed more or less. I’m sure the parents will provide me with plenty of surprises *GULP*.
Anywho, gonna try it and see where it takes me. Do you have any other suggestions because I’m really freakin out over here. Thanks.
Good for you! Sounds intimidating, but what a great idea!
I wouldn’t worry about whether Baby is an introvert or an extrovert…what will be, will be and you will enjoy and love what makes him uniquely him.
Personally, I am now a little confused as to whether I am an introvert or extrovert. I am happy to stay home on a Saturday night, but enjoy meeting new people and have learned to put myself forward in social situations. I don’t suppose it really matters, as I will just get on with things.
Lisa (ICLW #112)
P.S. I’m speaking about fertility support today at the Fertility Focus Telesummit, which is free. I would love you to listen in to my talk and the other 11 speakers this week, either live or to the recordings afterward. You can register through my blog: http://www.yourgreatlife.typepad.com. Please help spread the word to anyone who is infertile and trying to conceive, or make decisions about treatment.
Thanks! Introversion and extroversion are a coninuum, not clear-cut divisions. Maybe you’re an ambivert!
Very interesting post but I thought the title was the best part. That made me snort coffee out of my nose.
I am definitely an extrovert – but I’m shy. Explain that one, friends and neighbours. It’s nutty. Hubby is an extrovert and doesn’t even really understand the concept of “shy”. Harry is an extrovert To The Max. Not sure about Ron yet. And all the kids I look after are also extroverts.
He’s such an introvert I worry about his ability to function in child’s social group. I really do have to make an extra effort to include him in things or he’ll just spend the day in the corner playing alone. He stares wistfully at the other kids but doesn’t seem to know how to approach them. I’m learning with him… but it’s hard.
Is he an introvert, or is he shy?
Hard to say because he’s only 2.5 years old – but I think introvert. He doesn’t like a lot of noise and chaos, that’s for sure. Could be shyness I suppose but there you go… he’s a lot older than your babby and I wouldn’t want to take bets on which it is.
Happy ICLW! I think most babies like people, because they’re curious. Once he figures out how strange people REALLY are, he’ll change his mind. 😉
It might take him a while, because his models for “normal” are me and my husband!
I love the way you seem to tap into my brain sometimes. I was just recently thinking that I should write a post to clarify that term. It bothers me a lot that introversion is so often confused with a lack of social ability, or is targeted as deviant. I used to have a coworker who, rather than sit with the large group, would often sit off to the side and read over the lunch hour. It made me really mad the comments that drew from others. It’s too bad that kind of peaceful recharge time isn’t socially acceptable.
I told someone that I was an introvert once, and they looked at me in shock and asked me what ever possessed me to get into a social profession. I had to do some clarifying to get them to realize that being introverted doesn’t mean that I’m not GOOD at social interaction or don’t like it even, just that it tires me out after a while.
I’m an odd mutt anyway, though. I would say that I am most definitely an introvert. My brain works in introverted ways. I need time to recharge and have the desire to spend some time on my own after too much social interaction (especially with people I don’t feel any kind of deeper connection with). I would greatly dislike it if somebody just “stopped by” my house, or if I had to spend a couple of hours chatting with a random neighbour or something. But like you, I’m not antisocial or anything. I would be very friendly to that neighbour. …I just might secretly rather be reading. 🙂 I also crave social attention, though. I hate spending too much time alone, and get lonely easily. I love deeply connecting with people (which is one of the real keys to introverts to me – that deep connection vs. superficial interactions). I really like parties and social events provided I’m in the mood and they aren’t sprung on me. Afterward, I feel extra good…but tired. Same thing when I get up on stage, or do a good presentation for work. I thrive on being in the spotlight and stretching that social side of myself successfully. But I want to go home afterward.
I am shy in some contexts, though, which makes me even weirder. I can play the lead role in a musical no problem. I had a blast in jobs that required a hard sell or loud “barking” at customers. I’m great at teaching or leading a group. I like being unique. …But I wouldn’t pull up a chair with a table full of acquaintances in the lunch room, unless I was certain I was welcome there. When I’m just being myself rather than filling a role, I am less certain about whether or not I’ll measure up, and can get quite nervous. I am a shy introvert who craves the spotlight but can’t keep up the show for too long. 🙂
Same here! I’m comfortable when I have a defined role – instructor, actor, receptionist, etc. But conversation with a stranger at a party! Forgeddaboudit!
I LOVED to read during my lunch hour. I always had a book with me.
I used to have a few days a couple times a year during exam time that I was just doing back-to-back individual evaluations with students at work, and I would always bring a book and schedule in ten minute breaks now and then where I could just hide in my little room and read. 🙂 Somebody walked in on me once. I’m pretty sure he thought I was nuts.
Such a wonderful post I’ve already shared it in two places and just ordered the book mentioned. 🙂 The test said I scored 60 on Introvert which was … well, not a surprise!
Sometimes I feel overloaded and like I need a break and just sit on my own in silence. In fact, last year, I brought my laptop to work and sat in the breakout area one day simply because I felt as if my head was about to explode and of course had to explain to people why I was sitting out there. We have an open plan office and I sit with my back to the room with people walking behind and it’s not a good place to sit – I would prefer to sit with my back to the window but my desk can’t be turned around because there’s no space that way. 😦 At least I no longer have a door behind my back. I never thought about cognitive overload until I started doing psychology (one of the reasons I really enjoy your blog!) but I’ve found it to be very true.
I’m not exactly shy either. Classmates were working themselves into a nervous frenzy before going on air (did radio studies, me) and I’d just casually walk into the studio and up to the mike ten seconds before the news were due and start reading them no problem. Nervous? Why, should I have been? o.O I’m fairly quiet, though. I tend to listen a lot more than I talk but I wouldn’t say I’ve got a little mousy voice. Not a great, big booming one either, but anyway.
Maybe radio appeals to me because it’s a way of not being overloaded (I run from video cameras) and I can actually be heard, as there’s no one to interrupt.
I’m not antisocial, I’m just a tad asocial. Good thing hubby is an introvert too, I suppose, so we can leave each other in peace when needed, and he doesn’t drag me away to lots of social events. Sometimes, he’s invited out to something and when I’m reluctant to go but he obviously wants to, I just say that if he wants to go, then he should go and I’ll stay at home and be perfectly happy. I don’t want to spoil his outing by cutting it short because I’ve had enough and want to go home, after all, better he goes by himself. He’s a bit more social than I am, though. 🙂
Thing is, I have trouble with dogs because they’re very social creatures and want a lot of attention and like to follow you around. It drives me insane that I need to be followed when I just go from one room to another. (Cats that casually ignore me until they want a cuddle – now that’s twu wuv!) That’s one of the reasons I’m really not keen on having children (aside from never really liking them much even when I was one myself) because they’d be there ALL THE FRIGGIN TIME, they’ll be all demanding and noisy (especially when they’re tiny) and there’s NO ESCAPE. It’s not like you can borrow them for a day and then give them back like you can with nieces/nephews, because hey, they’re not YOUR kids, you were just babysitting or something. So umm … yeah, that would be my question to you as an introvert – how do you cope with being a mum?
You know, right now, it’s not too bad? I think that’s because he’s still a baby, and so it’s like interacting with an animal – no social graces required, just hugs and kisses. Even so, as soon as he’s down for his nap I retreat to the interwebs for a while.
Also, a lot of stay-at-home moms have trouble with being so shut-away from everyone. It’s not unusual for an entire week to go by in which I see no other human being but Babby and my husband. That drives a lot of women nuts. I barely notice. It’s only when I see a friend or get into the car for the first time in two weeks that I realize how isolated I am. An extrovert would go crazy.
I think the challenging part will be when he turns into a people and starts wanting conversation…
Thanks for the reply, it’s much appreciated. Wishing you good luck when he grows up a bit. 🙂
A sister-in-law has recently had a baby and she definitely feels isolated being in the house. I’d definitely be like you there! When I was between jobs and studied, I was at home and I was perfectly happy with that. Now that I’m working, I miss the tranquility of being at home and hubby has started working from home instead of in an office and finds it a culture shock and doesn’t really like it! So yeah, there are different types of introverts definitely. 🙂
maybe it’s like multiplying two negatives- they become a positive?
All I know is he keeps getting cuter in these pictures.
Thanks! I hope you’re right!
I recall reading somewhere that introversion/extroversion is a character trait that is established first, but even then it said five years old. At this point Babby is curious and lively… how that will translate into character is yet to emerge. You’ll love him no matter what, and develop patterns of interactions that work for all. My private feeling is that an extrovert raised by introverts will have a better chance of being sensitive to the need for solitude and down-time. EVERYONE benefits from peace/solitude/down-time, though how much we need varies greatly. Even extroverts need it (though not as much as introverts), but they tend to deny themselves the time because in our extroverted-valuing culture, solitude is held suspect.
So, should he turn out to be extroverted, Babby will end up with the best of both worlds!
Given that introverts are meant to be a minority, it’s amazing how many of us commenting are introverts. I definitely am. Is there any link between introversion and blogging? It’s a way of being social that gives you time to consider and process, and the capacity to set the boundaries and retreat when you need to.
I bet there is. While I am sure that there are many, many extroverted bloggers, I think that introverts like this way of expressing themselves and receiving feedback without actually having to socialize.
Great post. I think I’m both because I need my alone time to recharge almost as much as I need to be around people to keep me sane. I will have to do the quiz at some point.
Pingback: Owl’s First Scholarship « If By Yes
Pingback: 18 Months Later… « If By Yes
Pingback: If By Yes
Pingback: Totally Overthinking Child Spacing BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT I DO « If By Yes
Pingback: We Get Our Peace And Quiet Via Noise and Confusion « If By Yes
Pingback: The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney (2002)
Pingback: Introverts Are Born That Way | Nyssa's Hobbit Hole