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?