Wednesday, August 06, 2008

On Being an Introvert

A friend pointed me toward this article on introversion, and what extroverts need to understand about it. Leaning toward the extreme "I" end of the scale in Myers-Briggs terms, I found myself agreeing with the author numerous times, both in terms of what we introverts need to do to better relate to extroverts, and ways that extroverts can be more understanding.

I remember one time when a student intern came along with a group of coworkers that I regularly went to lunch with. She was a nice person, but she literally could not stop talking from the moment we met up at the office until God only knows how many decades later. Even as she ate her food, her chatter was nonstop. I'm now a bit more sympathetic to the fact that, as an extreme extrovert only a year or two out of high school, she probably couldn't help it. Hopefully she's cultivated more self-control in the years since then, but it's the kind of discipline that takes a long time and a lot of work to develop.

What irked me, though, was a comment she made in passing at the restaurant. In between several other thoughts, she looked at a guy reading a book by himself at a nearby table and exclaimed, "Look at that poor man! He must be so lonely!" For her, I'm sure that eating alone would have been a painful and traumatic experience. But to presume that everyone else thinks and feels exactly the same way is an insult to those who don't, no matter how innocent the assumption may be. It's a very fundamentalistic way of viewing the world, even if one isn't dogmatic in other ways.

So to those reading this who may meet me at some point (at a GCN event or otherwise), you're far more likely to get to know me if you talk to me one-on-one. Chances are it's never going to happen in a group setting, especially if I have to battle with one or more attention magnets to get a word in edgewise. And it is a battle for me; the natural rhythms of such exchanges elude me, and more often than not somebody else will start talking over me in mid-sentence whenever I do try to insert myself into the conversation.

I realize that's just how group dynamics work among extroverts, and I really do try harder than I get credit for to participate in such situations, but if you're going to dominate the conversation, don't turn to me afterward and say "you sure haven't said much" and expect it to somehow enhance our relationship.

Now I'm just getting cranky, so I'll stop while I'm still ahead. But seriously, if you're an extrovert, please don't forget to consider the introverts around you.


Steve said...

Thanks so much for the reminder! It's great to hear from the side of an extreme "I". (I'm pretty much and "E" but dating an "I", so this is timely indeed).

You're so right about the discipline it takes from both perspectives to learn to relate effectively.

The key, i think, is to value one another and our differences.

Thanks again for sharing!
-Steve (ps403)

CrackerLilo said...

My mom is a really extreme extrovert like your former intern. She's 54. She hasn't grown out of it. :-)

I'm pretty well in the middle.

I hope some people at those conferences take the time to talk with you one on one, and let you get some words out, too. It'll pay off for them.