I’m often tickled by the confidence with which people speak about things that they themselves don’t fully understand. Recently at an outing, the concepts of introversion and extroversion was explained in woefully wrong detail to me. As I sat there listening to this person explain to a roomful of people, who were aptly listening to the foolishness; I wondered how best to correct the misinformation. In my professional life or in moments of advocacy, awkward moments don’t phase me. However, I loathe them in my personal life, and actively try to avoid them when possible. I will literally pull a SpongeBob and “head on out”, with the quickness. So alas, there I was, trying to figure out what or if, I need to say anything. Should I correct them privately? Do I need to address it now? Why do I even feel the need to say anything at all? Fast forward into my 5 minute long musings, and the decision was taken out of my hands, thanks to the help of a well meaning and dear friend who simply posed……….
”Keeks, what do you think?”.
Here begins the awkward moment that I was trying to avoid; because now, “the professor”, is affronted that their knowledge on the subject is being blatantly questioned. Mentally stumbling around my now blank mind trying find an exit, I mumble through sips of my drink:
“Well, I’m an outgoing introvert.”
There is more to the story that I don’t think I need to get into, but it ended with affronted feelings and the bruised ego of “the professor”. I chose to write about this because I realize after a bit of processing, that the misunderstanding of this particular topic is one that irks me. I find it so irksome because it’s one of the few topics related to psychology that far too many people think they understand. The inundation of “think pieces” and articles trying to help each respective personality trait is tiresome, at best. The writers, much like your average layperson, ascribe a myriad of behaviors and personality traits to said people, based on their own belief of what introversion/extroversion is; which is usually incorrect. So, let me break it down in the simplest way I know how; introversion and extroversion speaks to the way a person gains energy. Introverts gain energy by being alone, whereas extroverts gain energy from being around people. That’s it. The shyness and outgoingness ascribed to introverts or extroverts respectively as inherent traits, is incorrect.
I’ll use myself. I have a very high level of introversion. On a scale of 100, where 1 is a complete introvert and 100 is a complete extrovert, I am a 32. For the people that have interacted with me, this might come a shock. It was a shock to me when I was first told. In fact, I dismissed the assessment (the world renowned Myers Briggs assessment) out of hand because I just knew, that I was an extrovert. I am not shy. I will talk to anyone, anywhere. Though I don’t like public speaking, I am able to do it, and from what I am told, I do it well. At any party, I can start out knowing only the host and by the end of the night most people will know me. I love trying new thing and I am very sociable in public. However, at the end of anyone of these, should it last more than 3 hours, I would find myself drained. Once it was explained what exactly introversion and extroversion was, it fit completely. I treasure my alone time. By alone, I don’t mean just silence, I literally mean being able to not have to interact with another human for at least 30 minutes (sleep doesn’t count). On the flip-side, you have shy extroverts. Yes, that’s a thing. They will still go to every party but not speak to a single solitary person, because just being around others rejuvenates them. If they are able to engage, they can gain more energy; however it’s not a requirement. People will probably and wrongfully assume, they are introverts because of said shyness. When they are forced to be alone, it can be taxing for them.
All this being said, yes, some of the stereotypes about introverts and extroverts are true. This is because, it allows them to get their needs met faster. If I am an introvert and I need more alone time, the easiest way to do that is to “act” shy. Likewise, If I gain energy fastest by engaging people, I’m going to do just that. However, these behaviors are more about getting needs met than actual traits associated to being an introvert or extrovert.
Alright, imma head on out now.