Has this busy and festive month got all the Introverts like… “wah!” And all the extroverts like… “yeah!” Tell us how your personality enhances or takes away from the current mood. What are your strategies to deal?
I love talking about personality. I love when someone in a conversation asks “What’s your type?” and a friend knows to answer with four letters (I’m ENFJ. What are you?!) I love when people have their StrengthFinders strengths memorized (sadly, I do not have mine memorized because I have all of the lyrics to NSYNC’s debut album stored in my brain instead, but I know it includes Woo and Strategic– which someone at work once described as my “planned and deliberate charm.”). Maybe it’s because I have a psychology minor, or maybe it’s the reason I got the psychology minor. I do not know. Maybe it’s because I just love talking. About anything.
I am pretty self-aware when it comes to my personality; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes the very ugly (ask my about my ability to hold a grudge). Note: I still make a ton of mistakes when it comes to social interactions in which I let my personality fly in Full Force when I probably should keep it in check; I don’t think excellent awareness translates to perfect behavior like we might hope it to. But have no doubt that, generally, I know exactly what I am doing when I am doing it or immediately thereafter. Even when it’s ugly. Rarely can I honestly claim ignorance for my bad behavior.
I got more interested in the real difference between introverts and extroverts when an introvert proposed marriage to me and we bought a house together. I realized I wasn’t confident that I could interact respectfully with an introvert every day for the rest of my life.
I read lots of articles that put extroverts down for being pushy and bossy and the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. That didn’t totally feel good. I read Susan Cain’s book Quiet, which I thought was excellent. It sort of felt like reading the other team’s playbook and it was maybe the first time that I really learned that introverts aren’t unfriendly, which is probably how I would have described them prior to that (sorry guys!).
In all of this, I have learned some important things about how we misconceive extroverts that really ring true to me.
- Extroverts are not self-centered. It seems that way because extroverts need people around them. But, at least in my experience, it’s more about you than it is me. I need you– interacting with you is what fills me up; it’s what gives me energy and motivates me. If that interaction doesn’t keep a pace that engages me or the person or people I am interacting with don’t fill the space between us, I will fill it with stories. And the stories I know best are the ones about myself. So that’s why it seems like it’s about me. But it’s not. It’s actually about you.
- Extroversion is not the same as being outgoing. I don’t actually like to initiate conversation with people I don’t know. It makes me uncomfortable and I am shy about it. Probably because I hate small talk, which brings me to…
- Extroversion isn’t the same as being just plain talkative. Some of us are both, but it’s not equal amongst all extroverts. I draw almost no energy from making small talk about the weather or regurgitating current events. And so I am really bad at it. I do draw a ton of energy if you tell me what you think about current events. I like to get deep into conversation– which is awkward to do the first time you meet someone which is why I am shy about meeting new people in the first place without a “buffer person” who can facilitate the small talk. And it’s not always about talking– it’s about connecting, however you define that. This blog, my frequent posts on social media– that all gives me energy to interact in that way.
- It is not about the number of people. You are not all like batteries to extroverts, in which the more of you around the more amped up I get. Quite the opposite. I do not like crowds. I do not draw any energy from herds of sweaty people shuffling aimlessly around a mall or crammed into a kitchen at a holiday party.
- Extroversion is my personality, not my mood. It is self-serving for extroverts to be a bit chipper, right? Because who wants to keep hanging out with Debbie Downers? Extroverts need you to keep coming around. But we aren’t always positive. Because that’s a mood.
- I am not always going to extroverted with you. Sometimes that’s just me or my current mood and sometimes that’s you. Sometimes that changes. A lot of that is built on trust.
So, the opportunities for small, intimate gatherings this time of year totally have me like “Yeah!” The crowded, loud events have me like, “Oh, fuck no.” I will gladly stay up with two or three friends past midnight, drinking beer and talking. But I probably can’t stay at your Christmas party past 9 or 10PM.