A few weeks ago, one of my Facebook friends posted a diagram that helped the public in knowing how to deal with introverts v. extroverts. It was an interesting diagram to say the least, and made me really think about which I was. Problem is, most people probably don’t know whether they are introverted or extroverted.
I was in middle school or early in high school when I first became aware of the distinction between introversion and extroversion. I remember the person who told me he was an introvert, and because I had very little in common with that person (or so I thought, from my young perspective), I assumed I was an extrovert. And I lived my life believing I was extroverted until a few weeks ago, when I read that diagram. I related to 90% of “how to deal with an introvert” and less than 10% of “how to deal with an extrovert”.
Since then, I’ve contemplated the difference, and really which I was.
On my drive home from dinner tonight I was listening to OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting) and an author of a popular book which discussed introversion & shyness was speaking. Of course my ears perked up and I listened, though nothing really grabbed at my heartstrings. Then a poet came on and read his poem about introversion and one line in his poem said something to the affect that ‘if it wasn’t for introverts, Public Broadcast Radio would become obsolete.”
That could be my first clue.
I got home and immediately needed definitions. Here’s what I found:
a shy, reticent, and typically self-centered person.
• Psychology a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.
ORIGIN mid 17th cent. (as a verb in the general sense ‘turn one’s thoughts inward [in spiritual contemplation]’): from modern Latin introvertere, from intro- ‘to the inside’ + vertere ‘to turn.’ Its use as a term in psychology dates from the early 20th cent.
- reticent |ˈretəsənt|
not revealing one’s thoughts or feelings readily: she was extremely reticent about her personal affairs.
preoccupied with oneself and one’s affairs: he’s far too self-centered to care what you do.
According to the author who was speaking on OPB, shyness and introversion are not always grouped together. You can be shy without being introverted and you can be introverted without being shy. So perhaps this is why I never considered myself to be introverted, because I don’t consider myself to be shy. I used to be shy when I was a kid, but I grew out of it.
Frankly, I have never heard of the term reticent before tonight and I would have to say that this blog is proof that I am in fact not reticent. Anyone who knows me knows that I am very open and transparent in my personal life. I like to share things and I rarely hold things in.
The third word used to describe an introvert is self-centered, which is not at all how I would describe myself. But then the origin of the word, which dates back to the 17th century, turning one’s thoughts inward in spiritual contemplation, really describes myself. In fact, if that alone was the definition of introvert I wouldn’t be writing this blog.
Which am I? I am struggling to relate.
extrovert |ˈekstrəˌvərt|(also extravert )
an outgoing, overtly expressive person.
• Psychology a person predominantly concerned with external things or objective considerations.
ORIGIN early 20th cent.: from extro- (variant of extra-, on the pattern of intro-) + Latin vertere ‘to turn.’
usage: The original spelling extravert is now rare in general use but is found in technical use in psychology.
overt |ōˈvərt, ˈōvərt|
done or shown openly; plainly or readily apparent, not secret or hidden: an overt act of aggression | in untreated cases, overt psychosis may occur.
As it turns out, I think I will have to borrow a copy of the author’s book to read more about introversion, because her description of an introvert was something that I could relate to – much more so than I am relating to the definitions in the New Oxford American Dictionary.
She said that introverts typically enjoy smaller groups of people, more intimate connections. Because I am not shy, I don’t mind public speaking. In fact, I often enjoyed giving presentations in school and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching. But it is true, at the end of the day I would rather spend my time either alone, in reflection, or with a small group of people. Introverts typically do better with less chaos and clutter in the environment. Again, I can relate. I don’t like when there are loud noises and I am either trying to talk or listen. I find it very difficult to block out someone’s loud voice from afar to hear someone’s soft voice who is sitting within 5 feet of me. I stress out when I am trying to do something and someone interrupts my thoughts or my process. And I absolutely can’t talk on the phone and listen to someone who is trying to talk to me over the other person on the line. If I had known that was a sign of introversion, maybe my reaction would have been different. Instead I was made to believe, based on the first introvert I ever defined, that an introvert was a lonely, friendless person who was not into sports or group activities and would most likely spend his/her life alone, unmarried. If you knew the person I am writing about, you’d understand why I drew those conclusions.
At a party, I usually find a small clique to dance with. I don’t feel comfortable being the center of attention in an environment like that. I do spend a lot of time reflecting inwardly, and while I am open and honest with those who are close to me (and choosy about what I want to share in my public blog), I struggle to relate 100% to the term introvert.
It’s food for thought, I guess. After some careful reflection and a little research, I would have to say that I am probably 85% introverted and 15% extroverted.
For me, this is extremely eye opening. It really changes how I will spend my next moments in internal reflection.
Which are you? (a true introvert, according to the definition, wouldn’t care to ask).