On becoming an honorary introvert

I have a confession: I am an extravert. Let me paint you a picture of a typical dinner with friends at our house.

My introvert husband gets the dinner ready. I say,
‘Now, don’t just stay silent the whole time like you usually do, you need to make an effort.’
Jon reluctantly acquiesces. Then the people arrive – and I’m off.

I can’t help it. It’s like I turn into an excited puppy dog. I don’t quite jump on people and lick them, but I do the verbal equivalent. As an extravert, I need to be vocalising something in order to really know what I’m thinking. A friend can say something that will trigger a thought in my brain, and before I know it, I’ve just said it, rudely interrupting them mid-flow.

If there’s a silence, I try and count ‘mississippily’ to three before I speak: ‘One Mississippi, Two Miss’ – and then I can’t stand it and I’ve blurted out something random. This means that there are often dinners where, despite my best efforts, my more introverted friends’ contributions to the conversation merely serve as prompts to my babbling, continuous monologue.

At the end of the dinner, exhilarated, I will look at Jon, wondering why he didn’t say anything again.


So often I find myself in conversation with introverts, and they don’t say anything. As long as they’re smiling, and not saying anything, I assume that they are so enchanted by my winsome personality and fascinating discourse that they simply don’t have any room left in their brains for anything else. Sometimes, I will confess, I view introverts as a blank canvas onto which I splash my bright, oh-so-interesting stories.

It came as quite a shock when I entered Twitter and the Blogosphere, and discovered that introverts have thoughts. LOTS of them. Interesting ones at that, and strong opinions and quirky stories. I just don’t always stop to hear them. (That’s mainly because I used to be able to sing opera and my lung capacity, even at my ill level, is still good enough for me to be able to spill an awful lot of words without the need to draw breath.)

I posted last week on Vicky Beeching’s blog about Introverts, Extraverts and Twitter, and loved the discussion in the comments section. It sparked so many thoughts for me, which I may well turn into a later series. I was reminded that because extraversion/introversion is about where you get your energy from, not all extraverts have the need to verbally vomit over people as I do, and not all introverts are shy and retiring.

I was also very grateful for the reminder of how often introverts are overlooked. As someone who is housebound and doesn’t see people as often as I used to, I have a fresh appreciation for what it feels like to be trapped and silenced, and to have so many words that you want to get out, but you’re not being allowed the space to do so. (Introverts and shy friends, forgive me?)

And, lest you think that it is always easy for the extraverts, let me share with you my feelings when speaking to an introvert who isn’t smiling at me. I start panicking that the introvert is silently (and smugly) judging me. My internal monologue goes something like this:
‘Oh no! They’re not saying anything! They must think I’m a moron – or maybe they’re completely offended! Quick – say something to make it better! Oh no – that was even more idiotic! And they’re STILL not saying anything!’

Before I know it, I’m talking about sex, inevitably, and everyone in the room (justifiably) thinks I’m a little crazy. And still they don’t say anything.


I am someone who is exuberant and passionate, and energised by others. Some of that is reflected in my blog, but I also realised that my tone in my blog was far quieter, more reflective and controlled than my ‘real life’ self. This is my shadow-side, my back stage. I hadn’t fully realised before, but I was sharing that shadow side of myself to the parallel world of the Blogosphere.

Being ill has made me into an honorary introvert, pulled into the exciting domain of Twitter where the introverts rule and the shadows of our collective consciousness creep through.

And you know what? I kinda like it.

Over to you:

  • Are you an extravert who feels intimidated by introverts?
  • Are you an introvert who feels annoyed by extraverts?
  • How much do you think your ‘writing voice’ echoes your ‘speaking voice’?

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23 Responses to On becoming an honorary introvert

  1. Melanie 27th September, 2012 at 4:07 am #

    I laughed through much of this. Especially picturing dinner at your house.
    In your previous post I think I labeled myself as an extroverted introvert. I do get energy from people, but am more reserved. My husband is much more uninhibited….but needs alone time more than me to recharge.
    At times I have felt unheard by extraverts, but I love asking questions, so often am able to get those in.
    Blogging has definitely been a place for me to “talk” and show just how much I have to say 🙂

    • Tanya 27th September, 2012 at 11:49 am #

      Thank you! I’m so glad it made you laugh! That makes me happy!

      It’s interesting to draw lines differently of how we relate to eachother – revealing/reserved, being around others/being alone etc. It’s good to remember the ways that we are all different.

      And I am glad you’re blogging – I like what you have to say! 🙂

  2. tanya @ truthinweakness 27th September, 2012 at 3:24 am #

    my favorite line:
    “At the end of the dinner, exhilarated, I will look at Jon, wondering why he didn’t say anything again.”

    • Tanya 27th September, 2012 at 11:47 am #

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I think sometimes I feel the need, having poured out my soul in the hard stuff on my blog, to remind myself that I am quite a funny person too, on occasion! Thank you for seeing this 🙂

  3. Luke Leadbetter 27th September, 2012 at 1:53 am #

    Hey Tanya,

    That’s why I like Twitter. As much as I don’t, I do “know” you, and that means that wherever else I find you on the web I can greet you as a friend (And I like you a lot, so friend is the correct term!). As you are now WELL aware due to my tweets and comments on your blog over at Vicky’s site, I am an introvert. I mean, I enjoy social interaction a great deal, but I find it challenging and extremely draining. I like to think before I speak, which in the mad flow of extrovert conversation is hard to do. Hence Twitter, I love it, in some ways the Twitter community is more real to me than the physical one surrounding me. Right now I am sat in my university hall room with people laughing and drinking and having a great time above me, all gathered together making friends and sociable. I on the other hand seem to be one of the few students who is MUCH happier in their rooms with an internet connection and a compatible device. Here I can think and I am alone with my thoughts, which for me is a much more comfortable place to be. I hope that provides some background into my “way of life”, my habits and preferences, and demonstrates why I like Twitter so much. On there I feel confident to speak to anybody, in person I’d really struggle – but want to change that! Ironically I plan to use Twitter to allow me to meet other introverts and speak to them in person. Daring I know. I’m hoping to meet several other ‘Tweeters’ at the Christian New Media conference this year, which will be a real challenge. It’s also why I’m hoping to get the chance to talk to Vicky at the next Spring Harvest or the like at which she is there. I feel incredibly daunted by the prospect of speaking to her, I REALLY feel terrified by it, but I want to a lot – with the hope of a small interview for my journalism course, for the chance to speak to an inspirational Christian and also to prove to myself that I can.

    Just realised how weird most of that sounds… Never mind.

    As for your ACTUAL questions, I often find extroverts annoying as they leave no space for the introverts to get a word in, and most seem to centre everything upon them self which I find to be in bad taste anyway. And I’ve said this before but never mind – I am very different offline to online, my shadow is very confident and outspoken, whereas I am not. I keep opinions to myself and let everyone else speak, avoiding every possible situation in which I am in the spotlight.

    Please do a series on this! Would be great to see what you come up with!

    • Tanya 27th September, 2012 at 11:46 am #

      Luke – I always love your comments! I also see you as a friend, and it’s fab to have a sense of where you’re at at the moment, in your hall. I think that sometimes the noise of university and socialising can be deceptive – sometimes the people who are laughing the loudest are the ones who are most miserable and lonely inside.

      I appreciate that you find things so tough socially, but I am really sure that you can use that friendly and confident part of your personality and translate it into talking, not just writing. I think it’s really sensible to have these ‘goals’ that you’ve articulated, and it’s great to think in different ways of making friends. Sometimes I think as well that it’s best to pick friends out one by one, rather than ‘hunting in packs’. Actually I prefer to make friends that way. You’re undoubtedly a great observer, so you will know the people that you really want to try to get to know better, and be able to concentrate in investing time in them.

      I hope that the New media Conference will stretch you in good ways, and give you ever-more confidence to be the person God made you to be! And I hope you get to speak to Vicky too! 🙂

  4. Charity Jill 26th September, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    I have to admit, I was surprised to see that article last week where you talked about being and extravert–maybe I’m operating under the assumption that all writers must be introverts. I like these articles. It is good to think about how we perceive/are perceived by people whose experience of the world is so different from our own. I’m the kind of introvert who likes to keep the party going, but then I crash afterward. Sometimes I struggle with feeling that other people’s social demands of me are malicious. Don’t they know how exhausting it is for me to go out, and be pleasant? But I need to recognize that some extraverts read this attitude as me saying I don’t care about having a relationship with them. So…it’s a complicated dance I suppose!

    • Tanya 27th September, 2012 at 11:39 am #

      Thanks so much for this! I think British are perhaps better than other nations at loving people by giving them space; it is probably a more friendly nation than most for introverts. I am realising more and more with these comments just how much pressure there is in society to fit into a gregarious extravert mould, and how hard it is when you don’t fit that. I can definitely understand the feeling that it amounts to malice! And funnily enough, when I think back to school days, I think i felt that a lot as well. I was an extravert, but not in a ‘safe’ space, so ended up behaving like an introvert a lot of the time. It’s hard when it feels like people are demanding that you act in a certain way, but your ‘real self’ is so different to that. When do you put your needs aside in order to relate to them well, and when do tell them that they are being selfish and they need to change how they relate? These are such interesting questions!

  5. Sam 26th September, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    What an interesting topic!! I verbalise EVERYTHING (even when I’m alone, which -kve always found concerning! Haha), and before my M.E set in, I’d have definitely classed myself as an unashamed extrovert! These days, I find social interaction (particularly on my bad days), more anxiety-provoking than I used to – I worry that my constant chatter will be incoherent, as the speed of my tongue far outstrips the speed of my brain!! Hahaha. Previously, when I’d cut someone off mid-sentence (like you tend to do), it was because my brain would latch on a concept they’d raised, and run with it. These days, I do it because if I don’t chip right it, there’s a VERY real chance I’ll have lost my thought forever, by the time they’ve come to the end of their sentence! There are very few things as frustrating as trying to retrieve a train of thought once it’s faded to the periphery of my brain.
    My husband jokes that I talk in “real time”…if an event took an hour, it’ll take me an hour to tell him about it, as I have to go into every minute, irrelevant detail. Bless him, he’s a patient man!! Haha.

    The best part about talking about EVERYTHING, means that my husband and I have no real secrets. And if we have a disagreement, we talk it through, resolve it, and agree on ways to prevent that particular disagreement happing again in future. The sun never sets on an argument in our house…and I’m grateful for that.

    So, all in all, I’d say that I’m a constrained extrovert, living an introverted life.

    • Tanya 27th September, 2012 at 11:34 am #

      I can totally relate to this! High-five! It’s so weird the way that M.E. can even influence how your personality is and can feel like it’s taking over your personality so that you don’t feel like your real self now. I can totally relate to being ‘constrained’ by the illness, though my neurological symptoms have now vastly improved over the past year.

      Thanks so much for using so much cognitive energy to write this – it was lovely to get a shout-out from a kindred spirit! 🙂

  6. Kim 26th September, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    The blogsphere does seem an equalizing ground for thoughtful, back and forth conversation. I am an introvert, but as an American southerner – I know how to fake it: be charming ( I think) and garrulous: you know, to keep the classroom discussion or party going. I did not realize how very much an extrovert you are. I took you as someone sort of in the center. Blogging may indeed serve to temper you just a lttle. It certainly makes me feel more confident to speak honestly and freely. ( I don’t over-read people and their body language cues. Therefore, I don’t react and shut-down or dumb down my words based on responses which I assume they will give me.)
    I love it here dialoging with you. But, I’m sure you would be tons of fun in real life! ( Most of my friends are way down at the far end of the extrovert side of the spectrum. I like you folks. You make me laugh and keep me entertained!

    • Tanya 27th September, 2012 at 11:32 am #

      You are ever-gracious and affirming! I always feel a warm glow when i read your comments! Thank you, sweet Southern lady. 🙂

  7. pace_e_bene 26th September, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    Hi Tanya,
    A really interesting blog. I’m an introvert, probably fairly extreme, and get all of my energy from being on my own. I do socialise, but in a limited way – even more limited since I’ve had M.E. I find I do get really exhausted with any social interactions, even when I’m enjoying them. But I was interested in what you said about conversations/interactions. I’m usually the silent one in the group, and often only join in occasionally. It can be really frustrating for me when other people (?extroverts?) keep talking on and on, with hardly a pause. I suppose I’m not very socially confident, and often need a pause in the conversation to join in, or even for someone to invite me in, or ask what I think. I also quite like silence, solitude and spaces, in life and in conversation, so I’m not someone who jumps in to fill the silences. For me, that’s good thinking space, or just a pleasant pause. It’s just really interesting how different we all are, and how often we assume others are the same as us, and then misjudge their actions using our own criteria. Thank God for variety and difference, and let’s pray for greater tolerance and understanding. We really have no idea what’s going on for the other person….

    • Tanya 27th September, 2012 at 11:31 am #

      I love how gracious you are, even while admitting how frustrating it is not to be allowed the silence and space to be able to interact. It is really interesting how different we are, and it is bringing home to me how important it is to remember that. Thank you.

  8. kath 26th September, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Ooo so interesting! I’m trying to figure this out in my own head, I struggle with the internet world because I can’t see peoples response, I can’t sit down with them and read their body language to see if they want me to carry on talking or shut up, I can’t see if they need to get something off their chests or if they are happy to let me witter on. Husbandface constantly laughs at my refusal to play online games with strangers in case they think badly of me (lets face it he should laugh at that!). Not sure if this is an introvert/extrovert thing or just more revealing of my idols of approval from others… I think I’m shy of making those new interactions but when I do I know I get energy from them (was very energised by them yesterday…).

    I’m not sure introverts become extroverts in this internet world, it’s just maybe an equalling up of relationship with us introverts (I think I fall somewhere on the edge of introvert/extrovert- def inspired and motivated by actual conversation with people but also need the time to work out my response over a long period of time to big ideas) as we have the time to process that we don’t normally have in everyday conversation.

    As for my writing voice, I think that reflects my speaking voice if I get the time to ramble on, I think putting it into writing clarifies it in my mind so when I get the chance I know what I can say without stumbling over the thoughts… if that makes sense…

    Ah the chance to reflect on my inner world in writing…. alright, I’m an introvert when it comes to thought processes 🙂 but I think I need people contact to be able to survive my inner world on my own- they take me out of myself and enable me to be in solitude without going too far down the rabbit holes of my over analytical brain!

    • Tanya 27th September, 2012 at 11:30 am #

      Cool comment, thank you! You sound introvert but in-betweeny too…

      I have to admit, I half had you in mind when I was thinking of introverts who smiled at me when I spoke. All the time we were in Durham, I didn’t ever ask for your advice or wisdom, and I completely underestimated you, just cos you were gracious and humble and smiled a lot. I wish I had asked more questions of you back then, and sat at your feet more. I am very glad for your blog, where I get to download your brain every now and again. 🙂

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