Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Extroverts Explained... as best I can :)

This post is extremely long, my apologies!!!

Due to the recent surge in introverted pride, (don't get me wrong, I am thrilled introverts are identifying themselves) it has made me feel that extroverts are as misunderstood as introverts are.  In their explanation of what is an introvert, many of these blogs/posts/articles make extroverts seem... well... pretty terrible, and inferior.  In reading it as an extrovert, I have actually been slightly offended by what is being said. 

To me, the gist is: Introverts are wise introspective and intelligent souls who are misunderstood and mistreated by extroverts and a society that values extroverts, because no one understands them. Extroverts are loud, boisterous, party people who never think, just act, and are usually dumb, shallow, and superficial, with no feelings (and are constantly bulldozing over introverts).
These articles/blogs/posts also imply that extroverts need to accommodate introverts in all circumstances because, well, "it is their personality and so they can't help it". (Completely disregarding that being an extrovert is also a personality trait, and not something that can just be changed, but should also be accommodated in certain circumstances).

So psychologically the real question is: what is an introvert/extrovert? These are personality TRAITS (not a person's actual defining personality) that describes both how a person finds enjoyment, as well as how they recharge/recover when tired (this does NOT include intelligence, social skills, outgoing, shy, organizational skills, assessing situations, processing emotions etc.).  Myers-Briggs personality type indicator tests cover several major personality traits (and claim to not be complete!), and rank everyone on a scale in each category based on a (very long) test. and include (in addition to introvert vs. extrovert), sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling, and judgement vs. perception. When taking this test, a lot of people have characteristics in all categories and rank just slightly stronger on one side than another, and a lot of times the results are surprising. It is the combination of ALL the traits in different strengths that makes someone who they are (not just if they are introverted or extroverted).

I don't want to get into all the personality traits (you can look that up for yourself if you are interested) but to make my point, I am an ESTP - extrovert, sensing, thinking, and perception. The sensing and thinking part of me goes directly against what these blogs/posts/articles are saying about me as an "extrovert" - the MBTI (WAY SIMPLIFIED) tells me that I sense everything around me before I make decisions, and I think through my emotions and analyze them, finding solutions to problems... the articles would say "that can't be possible because you are an extrovert, so you are impulsive and verbalize everything!" NOT THE CASE!!

A little bit more about me to help you understand... I am on the more extreme scale of extrovert... basically I have little to no introverted characteristics (according to MBTI).  I have a severely introverted mother, an introverted but closer to mid-line father, a severely introverted older brother, and a fairly introverted husband.  Almost all of my close friends are introverts.  I spent the majority of my time growing up sitting in my living room with my family as they were quiet doing their own thing (reading, playing video games, more reading, etc.).  I remember overwhelming both my mother and father (and older brother, but that was more on purpose), frequently... probably daily. I always wanted to DO SOMETHING. (Some of that also has to do with my ADHD, but thats a completely different topic). They just wanted to sit and be quiet. OR if they FINALLY appeased me to go out, it was to a movie... someplace quiet... where you couldn't interact or talk... fuuuun...

Don't get me wrong, I can self-entertain. I can read a book. I can be quiet. I can knit. I can play with toys and make up entire worlds in my head... it is just EXHAUSTING. But being in a family of people that recharge by being quiet, I learned to accommodate them. I played outside where I had neighborhood friends, I played on sports teams, and I spent a lot of time hanging out with my younger brother who was borderline intro/extro because he was the only one who could tolerate me (he passed away several years ago, but that is another topic in itself).

Somehow I ended up with friends and a husband that are also introverted.  As with growing up, I generally end up accommodating them with what they want.  My family likes day long movie watching get-togethers and trips up to the mountain cabin where there is absolutely nothing to do and no people within a 40 mile radius. My friends like to sit and knit and read. And again, thats fine... most of the time.  BUT I NEED TIME TOO!! I hear a lot of comments like, "you always bring me out of my shell" because I am always the one that initiates going and hanging out (the one day a week, maybe, that we do!!).  That is harder than you think!  Especially growing up and hearing how miserable that made everyone, simply asking my introverted friends/husband to spend one evening with me always makes me feel bad. There is always that struggle between what I need and what I know would make everyone else happy... I would just ask them to remember that sometimes I need to be accommodated too, and them suggesting something fun to do would be amazing :) And it doesn't have to be out... it can be at home, just talking and interacting involved - not a movie, or sitting around, but board games or even just talking - IDEALLY it would be somewhere social, but again, I AM WILLING TO ACCOMMODATE!! (And no, going out by myself to a social atmosphere is not an option, because though I can have conversations with anyone, I am not friends with everyone - extroverts do have friends!! I want to hang out with my friends because I like them, I trust them, I like spending time with them, and THEY recharge me).

I am not sure why everyone thinks that society is geared toward liking the extroverted personality better.  Think about schooling... You spend grades k-12, then 4 years undergrad and possibly 4 years graduate school stuck in a classroom, in one seat, not able to get up or move, or talk, or interact... just expected to listen and be quiet and learn... ANY IDEA HOW MISERABLE THAT IS TO SOMEONE WHO NEEDS TO INTERACT?!?!?! It is so exhausting and DRAINING!  And to do it every day starting when you are 4yr-24yr?!?! I was CONSTANTLY in trouble. For talking. For distracting people around me. For being late to class because I was talking to someone in the hall. I remember so many teachers LOVED my older brother, would sing his praises, and would get so excited when they realized we were related.  Second day of school, "you are NOTHING like your brother..." one week into school, detention. Truthfully, I HATED school. And worse: STANDARDIZED TESTING... Here, sit in this seat for 6 hours straight, not speaking to anyone and answering questions. Oh. My. God. Kill. Me. Now. But that is how you move forward to get higher levels of education, and that is how they (falsely) determine your intelligence!  Doesn't sound like an extroverted society to me!  An extroverted society would have group activities, problems or projects with a discussion that determined if you moved forward or not. No individual tests... ever.

Professionally there are a gamut of jobs ranging from a lot of interaction to none.  Being an introvert or an extrovert does not effect how well you can do in life, even in severely social environments (a LOT of actors and musicians are introverted!!) This gets into the rest of MBTI.  So please, just because one person gets a promotion and another doesn't has nothing to do with E or I. The person that got promoted might go home, alone, prop his/her feet up and open a good book... INTROVERT!!

Here are some of the things those articles say about extroverts... some are true, some are not. I will try to explain each:
- Extroverts want to do everything and be involved in everything: This is true.  Mostly because the more things they are involved in = more opportunities for social interaction! This has nothing to do with trampling over introverts, it really is that if you cram every second of your day with things to do, then you will never get stuck at home!

- Extroverts hate being alone (from either boredom, loneliness, insecurity etc): Not true.  An extrovert can be alone, just like an introvert can be at a party. It is possible, and for a short period of time not a problem, but it is exhausting, and afterward we want interaction.

- Extroverts have to talk to everyone, all the time, about everything, and express their opinions about everything even before they think: Again, not true. Extroverts CAN talk to everyone. They do have opinions just like introverts do. They WANT to talk to their friends because it gives them energy. But as I explained before, there are other aspects to personality that determines how you handle problems and emotions and whether you are an E or an I doesn't matter.

- Extroverts are "clingy" or "needy" because they always want to hang out and talk: NOT true. I talked about this earlier. It is very hurtful to be deemed a clingy or needy friend just because you need some recharging. Many extroverts (myself included) have to constantly be aware, even when we feel the need to call someone or talk to someone, to suppress that feeling because you don't want to overwhelm people. (and no, a text convo does not count as social interaction).
- Extroverts don't have feelings: WAAAYYY not true. I think I have said enough to support why this is false.

- Extroverts don't listen: Just false.

- Extroverts always want to be the center of attention: Not true. We may not want to be the center of attention at all, it just ends up happening a lot of the time. (Maybe because we are always going around groups of people and interacting).

- Extroverts are intense, loud, overwhelming people: Not true. We get excited around friends because we are recharged. This often is externally demonstrated with talking and activity.  Like I said earlier, I try not to overwhelm my introverted friends with requests to hang out, and often feel that I do accidentally, even when only asking for the occasional day because I am having one of my OMG I NEED TO BE AROUND PEOPLE days. (Just like introverts have days that they have to be by themselves).

- Extroverts hate intellectual conversation and only like to have small-talk/idle chatter and have no substance: VERY false. Extroverts love intellectual conversation. We love to get deep and talk about meaningful things.  We have very deep ideas and thoughts. Just because we CAN make small-talk with anyone and everyone and it doesn't exhaust us, doesn't mean that is what we would choose to do.

Extroverts don't want to change introverts... and hopefully introverts don't want to change extroverts.  We all should learn to accommodate each other... Just like I spend a lot of time (like right now) sitting on the couch with my introverted husband after his long work day of having to be around people and letting him recharge, play on his phone, and not talk to me, when all I want to do is tell him every second of my day, or go out, or DO ANYTHING BUT SIT ON THE COUCH; I would LOVE for my introverted friends to go out with me (especially if it is their idea! So then I don't have to worry about nagging/clinging/being needy to them -hint hint-) after I work, because that is how I recharge! Being an introvert has nothing to do with being shy or boring or snobby.  If that were the case, I wouldn't have married one, or choose to be friends with them!!  They just sometimes need time to themselves to recharge.  Just like I am not a shallow, dumb, loud, clingy, party animal; I just like to be around people! :)