Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
I’m excited about Susan Cain’s new book Quiet – The Power of the Introvert. I just started it, but want to write about the subject anyway. I’m betting that most writers, and perhaps more creative people, lean toward introversion – maybe even most bloggers. What do you think? (She writes that 30 to 50% of the population are introverts.) For that matter it seems to me most protagonists are not extroverts. We give them a voice – and in doing so they give us our voice. (I was raised in a household where children were seen but not heard.)
But I’m a closet introvert. I can carry on a conversation or tell stories at a party. People compliment me on public speaking yet I find it drains me for the whole day – the preparation beforehand and the exhaustion afterward. I’m able to do this because I pushed myself from an early age, but if I was an extrovert I would be energized by the attention.
I was the shy child of a sociable diplomat. When I was about seven years old my parents were entertaining a couple who brought their kids and it was assumed I would entertain the children. Instead I stared at the ground and mumbled – but this didn’t last very long as my father took me aside and told me I could not be shy because I would make them feel bad. Furthermore we were guests in a foreign country and we were viewed as representatives of our own country. This had a lasting impression on me. Not only did I become cordial in this case but years later in high school in Costa Rica, I was proud when the principal asked me to act as hostess to new kids who arrived from all over the world. However in my twenties in New Zealand, I failed when a going-away party was held for me and I shrank when they began to clap “Speech, Speech!” I was unable to do more than stand and stammer “thank you” after they had been so kind to me. I vowed that would never happen again and learned how to be more gracious. (College teaching helped me.)
Some parents are disappointed by their quiet, reserved kids because extroverted personalities are so appealing. It seems accepted that we should all be gregarious, alpha and crave the spotlight. We want our children to be bold and outgoing and perhaps we even apologize for their shyness– yet let’s not forget some of the greatest accomplishments by introverts such as: Frederic Chopin, Albert Einstein, William Butler Yeats, George Orwell, Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi and JK Rowlings. They represent all fields from musicians, artists and social activists, to scientists and writers.
Carl Jung gave us the terms introvert, for personality types drawn to the inner world of thought and feelings, and extrovert for one who prefers the external life of people and activities. On one side are people who tackle work quickly and like multi-tasking whereas on the other end of the spectrum are those who work deliberately and focus on one task at a time. Extroverts are the life of the party and uncomfortable with solitude; introverts may have social skills but no love for small talk and prefer to socialize in intimate groups with close friends and family
Much of the information in the two last paragraphs is from “Quiet”. No doubt I will report on it in the next couple of weeks. But in a nutshell the message seems to be: “I’m Ok , You’re Ok”.
So… do you think YOU are an introvert or an extrovert? (Or an “ambivert”.) Do you get lonely or do you enjoy time alone? A good yardstick seems to be whether you find crowds and noise over-stimulating or energizing.