Friday, March 10, 2017

The Praise for Introverts: An Extrovert's Rant

If you're an introvert, you should probably quit reading now, because you're not going to like what I'm about to say.  In recent years, I've noticed a dramatic trend in the glorification of the introverted personality type.  They're made out to be a marginalized group who society and extroverts (ahem, me) have bullied and demeaned and attempted to change into outgoing little fireflies of energy and enthusiasm.  Well, introverts, I. Am. Over. It.


I'm outgoing and extroverted by nature.  I thrive on talk and connection.  I have a large swath of friends.  There is not a single extrovert among them.  So hopefully, reader, you can understand why I've about had it with this notion of the oppressed introvert.  It's time we debunked some of myths out there about extroverts.

The World is a Challenging Place to Be for the Introvert; He/She Needs to Recharge in a Way that Extroverts Just Can't Understand

I'm sorry, you delicate little snowflakes, but has it occurred to you that perhaps extroverts also need to recharge?  It's a complicated notion, I know.  So while I fully understand your need to recharge, when your extroverted friend reaches out and wants to exchange a million words about something on her mind, it might behoove you to recognize that maybe that friend of yours isn't the energy sucking pariah you perceive her to be, but that she is trying to recharge through connection, which is what extroverts need.  An extrovert alone with her thoughts for too long a period of time is not  a pleasant thing.  This is not to say that introverts aren't deserving of the right to a solitary hunkering down to recharge, but in friendship, I think it's important to think about our actions.  Friendship is about balance, about give and take.  And often, introverts, you can come across as a little selfish -- it can feel like you believe your need to recharge is more important that ours.

Introverts are More Complicated and Sensitive than Extroverts
So much of the literature out there posits introverts as complex, emotional, insightful, and philosophical beings who need to be alone with their thoughts as a result.  So extroverts -- those who need to feel a sense of connection with greater frequency -- are shallow floozies?  We're more simplistic?  Because here's the thing: when I seek out others, I value depth not surface.  I'm not satiated by small talk.  I strike up conversation with others because I love stories and value perspective.  Because I seek a common thread.   Because I believe that each person has something to offer.  I'm not on a quest to merely fill a dance card.  People are important to me; the relationships I strive to build are not superficial or trivial.  Yes, extroverts easily connect with new people, but don't assume we're in it for the small talk.

Extroverts are Naturally Cheerful and Buoyant While Introverts are Sensitive
This is where my frustration really comes to a head.  In Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, she offers this little ditty: "[Introverts] tend to listen, [extroverts] to talk; [introverts are] sensitive to beauty, but also to slings and arrows, while [the extrovert] barrels cheerfully through his days; one pays the bills and the other arranges the children's play dates."

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive (but probably not, since apparently extroverts aren't capable of real emotion), but isn't this the entire issue argued in literature about introverts?  That they're forced to adapt to roles that don't feel comfortable or natural?  Look at what Cain just did.  She stereotyped extroverts in an incredibly limited and narrow scope.  I certainly don't "barrel cheerfully." Ever. Why is an extrovert cast in the role of the happy-go-lucky-puppy?  Extroverts are made out to be superficial, void of depth, just flitting from one person or group to another, in it merely for the social element.  That simply is not true.  In the same ways that introverts enjoy meaningful conversation and exchange with an intimate audience, so too do extroverts.  It's that talk extroverts need -- the perspective, the ability to bounce ideas off the other -- which leads me to my next point of contention.

Extroverts are Confident; Introverts are Self-Questioning
Facade.  Misinterpretation.  While extroverts may exude something that looks like confidence, hasn't it occurred to those waving the sad blue flag of the questioning introvert that perhaps extroverts are -- dare I say? -- even more insecure than you?  We don't trust ourselves.  We need the reassurance and validation of others.  That's why being alone is so challenging for us.  We confront all those insecurities in a way that cannot be absolved because we can't read the body language of others that comfort us that we're okay, people like us.  We spiral, riddled with deep anxieties, consumed in the seas of our flaws that don't abate until we are again bolstered by the love of our friends.  So, All Mighty Insightful and Sensitive Ones, the next time your extroverted friend begs you to talk to her, to go for a walk, perhaps you might call this point to mind: maybe your friend is in an anxious place and is reaching out to you to provide reassurance, even if she doesn't say that's what she needs.  And when you rebuke her because you just need alone time, the anxious somersaults are accentuated for your friend, because now she's questioning her value and destructive self-talk reigns supreme.



I'm not here to argue that one personality type is better or worse than the other.  It shouldn't be polarizing.  And yet (you may have missed this point as I was so incredibly subtle about my feelings), the trends in the way we talk about introversion vs. extroversion seem to argue that the quiet isolator is superior to the outgoing communicator.  We need each other.  But we also need to understand one another.  When we use blanket statements and categorize too broadly, we miss opportunities to connect and celebrate what each individual has to offer.  I acknowledge that I too have painted with a wide brush here. There are a host of issues at the heart of these personalities we could hash out; this is merely a starting point.

So this is me,  an extrovert alone with her thoughts (a bit wounded that no one wants to hang out, a little bruised by recent suggestions that I want and need too much from people, that I don't give them enough space) putting myself out there. Here I am, striving to recharge, complicated, sensitive, and insecure, reaching out across the divide.  Maybe we could go for a walk.

5 comments:

  1. Hey, friend. I'm an extrovert too. I really FELT this writing. Loved it. Some of my favorite lines:
    "extroverts (ahem, me) have bullied and demeaned and attempted to change into outgoing little fireflies of energy and enthusiasm. "

    " it can feel like you believe your need to recharge is more important that ours."

    "I certainly don't "barrel cheerfully." Ever. Why is an extrovert cast in the role of the happy-go-lucky-puppy?"

    "It's that talk extroverts need -- the perspective, the ability to bounce ideas off the other" (SO TRUE)

    "...the trends in the way we talk about introversion vs. extroversion seem to argue that the quiet isolator is superior to the outgoing communicator. We need each other. " Love the punch short sentence following the long, complicated one.

    " I'm not on a quest to merely fill a dance card. "

    Your ending is perfect.
    xo

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  2. I am more of an introvert - and really enjoyed reading about the differences/similarities. Great slice

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  3. Your passion and voice shine through in this piece! As a fellow extrovert, I have felt much of what you articulated (very well, I might add) as I read articles touting the superiority, or at least mysteriousness of, introverts. Thank you for this post! :)

    My blog: aggiekesler.wordpress.com

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  4. Is there a term for someone who is both? Can you be both? I know that sometimes, after exceptionally large gatherings, I need to be alone, home, writing, listening to music, etc. But once in awhile, I question if a true introvert can be a teacher. I also need to be in groups, to be social. Hmmmm. I think we need a new term :)

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    Replies
    1. Deb, there is a term: ambivert. And few people are entirely one or the other, there's always some overlap. :)

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