Introverts and Extroverts

8 Mar

I went to a Toastmasters meeting the other day. It was my first experience there. The table topics session was enjoyable (you are given a word and you need to talk for 50s to 60s on that word. The words were inspired by “My County” by Dorothea Mackellar). After some admin, there came the longer (5m to 7m) prepared speeches. The first was a research talk. Here the the talker has to research an area and give an informative talk based on what they had learnt. This talk was titled “Introverts and Extroverts”.

In this talk he kept to the traditional stereotypes of introverts (quiet, don’t like to talk to others) and extroverts (loud, want to talk to everyone). Then compared introverts to the stereotypical asperger (person? It isn’t a disease, so patient isn’t the right word, and I wouldn’t say they suffer. I digress). The example he kept on coming back to was that you were at a party. There is someone sitting in the corner not really interacting with  anyone. You go up to him, he doesn’t seem that interested in talking to you. That person is apparently an introvert. And it isn’t his fault that he doesn’t want to talk to you, he is an introvert, he can’t help himself and there is nothing wrong with that. But maybe if you talk to him about, say physics, he will suddenly talk to you and become the most enthusiastic person you have ever met.

This pissed me off

I do strongly identify as an introvert. But that doesn’t make me so socially inept that I can’t find someone to talk to at a party and hold a decent conversation at a party. I feel that an introvert is some one who gains energy when alone, loses it when surrounded. Conversely, an extrovert gains energy when surrounded by others, by loses it when by themselves. This really does fit me. I actually quite like being around other people, but my upper limit is about 3 social evenings each week. Maybe a bit higher if the people I’m socialising with are good friends. Of course, introversion/extroversion are just different ends of a continuum, not everyone is one or the other.

The fantastic article, Caring for Your Introvert, points out that for many introverts its not so much an issue with having a conversation, its just vapid conversations. Whats really the point? Yes, there is the social ritual you need to go through (“how are you going, plans for the weekend?”), but once you’ve acknowledged the person shown that you care about what they are doing, what else is there? Whats the point of participating in a circle jerk where you are all whinging or congratulating each other about the same thing? Go out and fix it and then you can talk about how you fixed it. If you have all done it, it isn’t worth the extended congratulations.

So just remember, introverts aren’t necessarily antisocial. If some one is not interested in talking to you, maybe they actually want to talk about SOMETHING, not your vapidity or just plain don’t like you. Introversion is not a social fault. Introverts aren’t all shy or socially inept. We probably are happier with our own company than with you.

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