Two main personality types, extroverts and introverts, have unique ways of being energized and stimulated, as well as quite a different manner in which they interact with the outside world. Interestingly, 50-74% of the population is estimated to be extroverted. However, there’s more to this than meets the eye.
According to an online dictionary, an introvert is someone who ‘tends to shrink from social contacts and become preoccupied with their own thoughts,’ while an extrovert is ‘a person concerned more with practical realities than with inner thoughts and feelings,’ that is ‘someone interested primarily in the physical and social environment rather than the self.’ Bull. I know quite a few extroverts, none of whom fits the description entirely. Just because you’re big-mouthed, forthcoming and laid-back, it does not mean you’re an emotional cripple, incapable of introspection. In other words, our outward expressiveness and social cooperation do not make us skin-deep, one-dimensional pricks lacking intellectual depth and thoroughness.
Now, before I go any further, I’d like to share with you the result of a 2012 study by a Harvard psychologist that I recently came across, according to which ‘people who identify as introverts tend to have larger and thicker gray matter in certain areas of the prefrontal cortex, a highly complex brain region associated with abstract thought and decision-making. People who identify as strongly extroverted, on the other hand, tend to have thinner gray matter in those same prefrontal areas—which hints that introverts tend to devote more neural resources to abstract pondering, while extroverts tend to live in the moment.’
Alright, let’s start from scratch. In the course of my self-analysis, I came to discover I am an extroverted introvert, even though my talkativeness and outgoingness subsided with time as I learned to value the intimacy of close-knit relationships. Still, regardless of the fact that I haven’t been in the mood for people lately and opening my mouth like I used to, I am certainly not a loner in the long run. I don’t mind being alone, though. Quite the contrary. I desperately need alone time. I don’t need people around me all the time to validate my own existence. Anyhow, today I’m presenting you with a seeming paradox of a talkative introvert, which was the case of my research in the past couple of weeks.
You see, I used to be a real chatterbox; in fact, I rarely knew how to shut up. In my youth, I was a very gregarious and candid person who enjoyed living in a flock (or a herd). If you want to make friends, you can’t keep to yourself, right? I was open, enthusiastic, carefree and naive and believed that all animals were equal. Little did I know that ‘some animals are more equal than others.’ Anyway, before I got a baby at the age of 39, I was a real party animal. I enjoyed going out, hanging out with my friends, getting to know new people and attending social gatherings such as music festivals, dance floors, concerts, movie theaters etc. I was no stranger to the club scene and would often hit buzzing bars, kicking on until dawn (and beyond). Nevertheless, although I took enormous pleasure in being surrounded by people and talking to them and about them for hours, I would be quite selective about what secrets to share, and seldom confided about things which had been bothering me, which made an apparent extrovert actually introverted. Mystery solved. Or not that easily?!
The thing is, even though I have throughout my life more often than not thrived on being around other people, and enjoyed social events, I have never found time spent alone less rewarding, nor have I ever been bored when by myself, unlike typical extroverts. They usually reach out for their phones to text or call someone as soon as they are alone. Not me. I’d rather reach for a book or the computer. Besides, I get worn out by extensive small-talk, which might have to do with age, though. If I don’t feel like talking, I will even physically step away from the chatter and seek a quiet place for myself, preferably another room. This is precisely what my late granddad used to do, being a classic introvert. Back then, I found it out of the ordinary, to say the least, now, however, absolutely necessary. If we happen to be outside though, what I’ll most probably do is shut off entirely or simply be myself (read: put on an act), nodding and smiling, pretending I’m actually there and having tons of fun. So, while I obviously won’t be able to pull out, I’ll make sure I change into a sleep or hibernate mode after a few minutes of inactivity. My sensitive generator has a sensor which will, once I start to get bored and wish to spend some time alone (but can’t), shut off by itself so as not to overheat. I know it’s hypocritical but I’m pretty sure you do it too, choosing not to waste energy that easily but rather save it for the things which require your undivided attention, right?
Now, typical introverts are generally thought of as reserved and reflective people whose energy tends to dwindle during interaction. Like most introverts, I don’t confide easily (reserved is too strong a word to fit the description). I am reflective and often derive happiness and enjoyment from rather solitary activities, everything but fishing. I know it’s a way of life and all that crap and I bet it’s a gratifying experience when you take an active part in supplying food for the table, but those who know me also know that when I get hungry I have to fricking eat NOW. Not later, not in an hour, not in 10. N.O.W. If not, you’d better stay out of my way or I’ll bite your head off. And I mean it. I know it’s not your fault, but since you’re in my way, somebody needs to take the blame…So, you go fishing to eat that fish you have caught eventually (that is, if you’re skilled and/or lucky), and in spite of the fact that it took you 5 hours to catch your lunch, it’s still rewarding in the end, I guess. By contrast, fishing for recreational purposes is really dumb since you’ll end up eating canned fish in nature. Just swell! Long story short, NO, I don’t consider fishing a challenge or a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. It does not and cannot make me more focused, relaxed and patient. When I feel like eating fish, I go to the supermarket/fishmonger’s to buy fish. Dead. Okay, enough with the fish already. I got carried away, which is BTW another common trait of mine, getting worked up over irrelevant matter. But, at least I acknowledged it (this time). My point with the whole fish thing is: I do not like such pastime when time seems to have stopped. I think I’m too much of an extrovert for that.
However, like most introverts, I delight in reading, writing, working on the computer (everything but games), or hiking for example. Speaking of which, I’ve always loved individual more than group sports. Tennis over basketball. Or take cooking. I guess the majority of extroverts consider preparing food with other people a nice way to catch up with their friends prior to eating. It is wonderful, I agree. You’re sipping wine, listening to music, laughing, and telling stories. Not for me, I’m afraid. I’m not the type. You see, I’m very confident in the kitchen. I love cooking and enjoy eating. But, I don’t like when it takes forever. An hour tops is the time I can and will dedicate to it. So, while I’m preparing food, so as not to be bothered and distracted, that is to get over with it quicker than I would with people around, I prefer it to be me and me alone in the kitchen. Trust me, this has nothing to do with not wanting to share granny’s secrets. It means what it says: don’t help me out, don’t offer to help me out, don’t pass me the salt, don’t fetch me a drink, don’t ask me where I keep the cutlery, don’t ask me questions. DON’T. I’ll talk to you later. Is that so hard to understand? So, I’d appreciate it if you could get out of the kitchen while I’m in it. I’ll come and get you when it’s ready. Pretty much as you’ll get me when you’re the chef. Didn’t I just say I love individual sports more? I don’t mind you doing the dishes afterwards, though. It’s actually expected of you. Because if you don’t, I’ll get grumpy again.
For more proof why I’m not a typical extrovert, why I’m not a typical introvert either and why introverts rarely talk, JOIN ME NEXT TIME. You’ll also get the chance to find out why we shouldn’t mistake introversion for shyness and how come many extroverts are actually shy. In the meantime, talk to me (I’m not cooking).