Monday, January 27, 2014

Which Vert are You?

Introvert, extrovert...these terms get thrown around all the time, and I sometimes wonder about them. They are often described in such clear cut terms, but I think most people aren't one or the other, but rather a mixture. My husband is introverted, for sure, unless he's in a group where he feels he has something worthwhile to contribute and then, whoa, look out. This is the Man who often goes into the other room to read a book during a party, because he just can't be involved any more, and who literally never seeks out the companionship of friends. Yet give him a neighborhood pool next to his house, and he's Mr. Friendlypants. (Just add water?) Give him the opportunity to expound upon a topic during a class, and he's an orator. Not that he'll necessarily speak to any of the people in the class afterward, but man, he's on fire when he's sharing his knowledge.

Small is a similar creature, in many regards. As I mentioned before, she eschews group activities, and prefers to spend time playing alone, setting up elaborate games, for hours. On the other hand, she's extremely friendly and talkative, always ready to reach out to someone if she thinks that person needs a friend.

Does that make her an introvert or an extrovert?

What about me? When I was a child, my mom had to pry me away from my books and make me go play with the neighborhood kids. On the other hand, I was a total blabbermouth who loved being in dance recitals and school plays, concert choir and flag corps. As a grown up, I spent years in the marketing field, constantly glad-handing and schmoozing. Now, I work from home, and see people pretty rarely. Sometimes this bothers me, most of the time it doesn't. I have days when my only communication with other people, aside from Small One and the Man, is online. That's ok with me. On the other hand, I'm often delighted to have a marathon phone call with a friend or my sister or mom. I talk to complete strangers. I seek out lunch dates with friends. I volunteer for things. I tell good stories, and I'm great at making small talk, when the occasion calls for it. I used to really love singing and acting in front of people. On the other hand, if I'm cracking a joke in a group, it's typically to the person next to me, under my breath. If someone asks me to repeat a funny story in front of a group, I feel like my face is on fire. Don't get me wrong, I tell the story, and I would guess that no one else knows that I'm embarrassed, but I am. I love the idea of a party with good friends, but I always almost chicken out before we go. I very much dislike social events where I'm not going to know people.

Does that make me an extrovert or an introvert? I think maybe I'm an ambivert.

This raises another question for me, though. Why do I care? Why do any of us care? Why do we have a need to be classified, and to classify others? My only guess is that it's part of our need for order- everyone needs to be in the appropriate box.Maybe we also feel that if we can classify ourselves, we can truly know ourselves, and by truly understanding ourselves we can be the best, most successful versions of ourselves.

Readers, what do you think? Is the introvert/extrovert distinction clear to you? And why does it matter?


Lissa Johnston said...

This is a favorite topic of mine as you might have guessed from a previous comment. I 'care' not so much because I want to judge or label people. I find it helpful to AVOID judging too harshly. For example someone I might initially judge as a clown or a jackass at a social event might just be an extrovert who thrives on external inputs and interactions. 'Extrovert' is so much kinder than 'clown' or 'jackass', dontcha think? Seriously, it really does give me better empathy and understanding of my fellow human beings when I feel I have a little insight into how their brains are wired. You are right, few of us are 100% one way or the other 100% of the time. I am an introvert most of the time, but every so often I need to get out and mix with people just for a little variety. I enjoy it, but there always comes a point where, like you mentioned, I want to just go into another room by myself and read a book.

amy said...

You raise a good point, Lissa. Yes, by understanding someone's personality we can get a better grasp on their motivations. For me, I find that the only thing I'm able to nail down in classifying myself is that I'm indecisive. I'm all over the place. This applies to most aspects of my life, but this topic in particular- there are days I desperately want to interact with others, and days I turn off my phone and pretend I'm not home. Of late, I think I have a need to figure it out because my youngest child is such an enigma, as opposed to my clear cut oldest (introvert) and second child (extrovert).

Lissa Johnston said...

Was it on your blog that I saw mention of the new book about introverts? I have seen so many blogs this month due to NaBloPoMo I don't recall. If not, it is Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.