On becoming an honorary introvert

A noisy girl – by telemudcat, creative commons licence

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. Stephanie 22nd July, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    I literally laughed out loud while reading this – to the point I had to explain to my family and then they laughed along with me. The whole dinner party scenario still has me giggling. It’s been fun to see another side to your personality.

    It was incredibly interesting to see ‘myself’ through your eyes: “I view introverts as a blank canvas onto which I splash my bright, oh-so-interesting stories.” I had no idea smiling and listening were perceived that way. I’ve always thought I was just doing my part in polite and engaged conversation, but now I get why my turn never seems to come with certain personalities.

  2. Jess 12th October, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    I’ve found this post a bit late but have really enjoyed reading it. I would love to meet you in ‘real’ life, I think a dinner with you would be fascinating! I think I’m very much a mixture of the two. I thrive on social contact and love being around people, but then I will get to a stage where I need to retreat into a quiet corner for a while (even before getting ill). At school all my reports said that I was too quiet yet once I’m in a comfortable situation you can’t shut me up! 🙂

    • Tanya 15th October, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

      Thanks so much for this comment – and I’d love to meet you in real life too!

  3. Emma 29th September, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    I’m a natural introvert and hubby’s an extrovert, so hearing about the world from the other side is fascinating. But being an honorary introvert means you’re able to analyse both with real insight and clarity in your post. Plus, you make me laugh out loud!

    • Tanya 2nd October, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

      Glad to have made you laugh!

  4. Ruth 27th September, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    Hi Tanya,
    I found your post as a link from a friend’s blog and found it very interesting. I myself am an extrovert, very much get my energy from being with others, but am more reserved when ith people I don’t know so well, or feel so comfortable with.
    I work in Peru, which I love. A country filled with many extroverts, where it is hard for introverts to find their role and value.
    Two occasions came to mind when reading your blog. Both are about energy. The first happened about 7 years ago, when I was starting my work in Peru, after language study. I was spending hours and days n my own, surrounded by books etc as I was writing material to be used in my work. One night I invited some friends to dinner, and I literally felt my energy levels being physically refuelled. I almost felt out of control as a chatted with my friends at the dinner table, and had to really make an effort to control myself. I was just thinking of you being housebound due to illness, and when people come to your house, it must be like this for you, and you probably are louder and much more talkative than normal due to not being with people as much as is probably good for you.
    The past few years for my have been very people-intensive, which I love, but sometimes feel that this brings out the introvert in me as I know I need time alone to recharge. Admin is a great leveller when doing lots of people stuff.
    The other story that came to mind happened about 3 weeks ago. I was in a nearby country, for meetings as part of a committee that I am a member of. As we finished our meetings each day, all the other members, who are introverts, got their computers out and were happy to sit and do their own thing. At one stage I remember thinking how all these introverts were getting refuelled by being on their own, and I really needed some lively conversation! As I got to know the others better, more conversation did strike up, which was good. I think it’s also something to do with the need for good interpersonal relationships with the others I work with – that I feel I know them as people and not just people with whom we discuss work issues. Hope that makes sense.
    Also been thinking about extroverts being house-bound. Do you think there is more risk of people like us becoming depressed when we are not able to be out with other people?
    I’m not a blogger, though often like the idea of blogging. I sometimes think of interesting thought patterns when I’m out and about but they never seem to make it to the page!

    • Tanya 28th September, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

      Thanks so much for these interesting examples! I can TOTALLY relate to what you mean about feeling like the tank is literally filling up again when I see people! It’s such a hard balance for me to keep my mental health and physical health okay. My mental health requires me to be around people a lot, but my physical health prevents it. It’s frustrating…

      It is really interesting to have your perspective from living in Peru. It makes me reflect on what the character of nations is, and I suspect that the UK is one of the more introverted nations. Compared to other nations, I’m probably a complete hermit in my tendencies!

      Lovely to have met you – hope to see you again. 🙂

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