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Introverts Unite, or at least consider it quietly over a cup of tea - Accretions

Fata Morgana
2006-03-20 14:10
Introverts Unite, or at least consider it quietly over a cup of tea
Public
identity, news, online, psychology, research
I've been told often enough throughout my life that I need to "get out there" more -- be more assertive, be more aggressive, be more social, or just plain talk more (dammit!). However, when it comes to teaching, presenting, hosting a party, or interacting in other social situations, I can do just fine, and I even enjoy public speaking (as evinced by my years teaching planetarium shows at Holt Planetarium and dance lessons for UCBD). But being "out there," especially for long periods of time, and especially in unstructured social situations such as parties, sure does wear me out. I've never been a partier: I often get to know more of the books on my party host's bookcase than strangers at the party. In high-school psychology I realized I was just introverted, and throughout my life I've learned to "cope" with my "impairment." Well, a couple of years ago, an introverted writer decided to speak out. Nothing's wrong with being introverted, he said, and there's a lot that's right. And further, introverts are rather inconvenienced by the smalltalk and sociality that is expected of them. "Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts." And from a later interview: "Extroverts should understand that if someone is being quiet it doesn't mean they're having a bad time; it doesn't mean they're depressed; it doesn't mean they're lonely or need psychiatric help or medication. A lot of the battle is making the extrovert world more aware."

In the article and follow-up interview, the author stated that we live in a world that favors extroverts. I would agree completely for the physical world. (I've been lucky in that pretty much all the people I've been close to have been introverts. As an aside, a high-school classmate of dag29580863's once said that he'd only ever heard D say three words in all of high school. D, in his usual inimitable style, retorted, "Make that six.") But I would argue that the virtual world can be as well suited to introverts as extroverts. Online I can take my time responding, walk away, or sequester myself completely (... at least with most of my friends). It lets me stay connected to friends, but on terms I am more comfortable with -- less intense and more ambient, like the occasional connection one has when working independently but with someone else in the same room.

Are you introverted too? Do you also like the affordances of online communication? Does it also help you extroverts out there feel more connected?
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Becca
rebbyribs
2006-03-20 22:53 (UTC)
(no subject)
Absolutely. And yes, online stuff is so much easier. Not only for interacting with friends, but for being able to look stuff up - it's much nicer than having to ask a person.
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shallwedance_
shallwedance_
2006-03-20 23:10 (UTC)
(no subject)
Yay! I spent all of the previous weekend surrounded by people. So after dinner on Friday, when I said I didn't want to go to the party, everyone looked at me funny. Frankly, I couldn't take a few hours of loud music, shouted conversations over said music, and general high-energy insanity, even if with people I like. The reason I gave was, "I'm tired," but what I really should have said was, "I need some alone time."

And, yes, online communications suits me better for much the same reasons as you list.
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Liz
stellae
2006-03-21 02:55 (UTC)
(no subject)
I'm an introvert!

And I used to always say that I loved IM for communication because it was people you could 'turn off' -- when I didn't want to be around, I just put up an away message and that's that. nobody gets offended. That and I can have several conversations at once with lulls that don't feel like awkward silences, just times when people get distracted by things happening externally or something.
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threadwalker
threadwalker
2006-03-21 03:21 (UTC)
(no subject)
Hmmmm. Anyone seeing me out with people would think I'm more of an extrovert, hands down, but given the descriptions you give, I fit introvert pretty well too. I like going to places where I'm anonymous and just watching. Sometimes I even do my best to be invisible. If I don't get the time alone to be still and read and paint and sew without people intruding (unless they are also quietly working by themselves, I go a little nuts.

I've been trying to work out what middle social gears are there over the last couple years. Tricky.
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Liz
stellae
2006-04-11 02:06 (UTC)
(no subject)
A friend of mine told me that in the complete meyers-briggs, there are several categories of introvert, and the sum of them determines whether someone is an introvert or an extrovert. For instance, I am an introvert, but am opinionated and not particularly shy. So I end up scoring high in the 'gregarious' category, as once engaged, I have lots of stories to tell, opinions to share, etc. However, I won't generally seek out new people to add to my life (though I generally welcome those who wish to add themselves), and I have a set of stories and mannerisms and so on that are public and are quite distinct from those that are private or friends-only.
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threadwalker
threadwalker
2006-03-21 03:27 (UTC)
(no subject)
Also, to make a point, so many people equate introvert with Pssive, and it's just not true. Just because stuff is under the surface doesn't mean it isn't intense and intricate and impassioned even. In all the flurry of my own madness during social stuffs where I'm being an "extrovert", I'm also closely watching more quiet people for ripples on the surface that indicate mtion beneath it.


And yes, of course the internet, and writing generally are a great way for the "introvert" to shine. Thoughtful, solitary expression can come out all the better in writing. Whatever she was actually like, thee image of Emily Dickenson's actual life contrasted with her writing is a perfect example.

I like what writing brings out- I find a different sort of voice in it. Even more so writing by hand- the time it takes to write by hand draws out different thoughts, and more poetic expression for me.
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Jeff
lbchewie
2006-03-21 05:16 (UTC)
(no subject)
"Extroverts should understand that if someone is being quiet it doesn't mean they're having a bad time; it doesn't mean they're depressed; it doesn't mean they're lonely or need psychiatric help or medication. A lot of the battle is making the extrovert world more aware."

The introverted writer, (I haven't clicked the link to his interviews), speaks clearly about a concept I've been trying to rail into people's heads for a very long time. Classically, I would consider myself an introvert, but what makes matters a little more challenging for me is that I love being in social settings, but with an introverted twist.

I love introverted and extraverted people alike, assuming there's some substance to their character. Definitely, extraversion - especially amongst males - is highly desirable in American culture. However, often the case is that I'm highly annoyed by many extraverts... especially the men... who insist on making grandiose gestures and seem like uncontrollable bundles of energy in conversation. While it's nice to see someone who's engaged in conversations (something I appreciate as an introvert, since I wonder if people really *do* care to speak with me enjoy themselves), the cultural expectations that if I do not reciprocate with exactly the same amount of energy is very intimidating.

Of course, here lies the problem: Extraverts are more likely to get out in the world and grab social power. They're also more likely to boisterously express their opinions, and since they're the ones who speak the most, it's not too far of a cognitive leap - esp. under peer pressure - to translate that as a societal norm.

Extraverts look at introverts and are puzzled. They wonder, "this person is not smiling at me as much as my other friends? Am I doing something wrong?" or "This person doesn't call me nearly as often as another person who doesn't know me as well." They can equate lack of enthusiasm with disapproval. Extraverts love to engage in "black and white" thinking. If something's not good, it's bad. If something's not fun, it's boring. ExtravertLogic(TM) is filled with a lot of false dichotomies. (I'm aware that I'm making sweeping generalisations, but I use it to make a point.) Introverts are typically more receptive to subtle nuances of situations, and perceive experiences as belonging on a spectrum.

In this regard, I think extraverts have a lot to learn about their introverted cousins. However, I know it's tough as an introvert. I've had major arguments with some of my more extraverted friends because they thought I've been disapproving, or too distant from them. It hurts me to overhear conversations such as, "Oh my god, he's such a loser eating there by himself!" when I'm simply enjoying a meal and thinking.

I think threadwalker is onto something. Introversion does not mean passivity. It is possible to assertively inform other people that you enjoy time by yourself, and not everyone lives according to the same standards and preferences. You would be amazed at the reaction... even if it's not always welcoming.

All this coming from a guy who's trying to develop his more extraverted social skills. :P
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2006-03-21 05:36 (UTC)
(no subject)
Definitely, extraversion - especially amongst males - is highly desirable in American culture.

He actually argues that women are more pressured to be extroverted: "In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty." I guess coy and cutesy is one alternative ...
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Jeff
lbchewie
2006-03-21 07:35 (UTC)
(no subject)
Yes, well - I haven't read his article, and perhaps his observation's very valid for the Midwest. I will also agree that women have considerable pressure placed upon them to be extraverted as well.

However, it's not been in my experience for women to be encouraged to be extremely social. Perhaps it's my limited exposure to the outgoing lifestyle, but I've been brought up in circles that the extremely extraverted women are often mocked and considered highly undesirable, often labelled as "trouble."

The pressures might differ around various regions of the country. Perhaps Southern and Midwestern culture encourages the "Southern Hospitality" type behaviour from women, which is at an introverted woman's disadvantage. However, maybe in the Northeast and in California, the introverted, standoffish woman is more acceptable. While I can understand that women who do not speak often are may be construed as timid, withdrawn, and haughty... but sometimes people find that attractive. Again, extraverted hegemony manifesting itself.

I guess what this country needs is a good, healthy dose that embraces individual differences on a fundamental level that go beyond race, gender, and sexual orientation, and start looking at basic core personality attributes. I believe, when it all comes down to it, people's preferences in how they choose to behave in social settings and what personalities of people they want to interact with is a very individual choice... and that a "one-style-fits-all" approach is just irrational thinking.
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Liz
stellae
2006-04-11 02:01 (UTC)
(no subject)
There are a lot of ways of defining 'extremely social'. Women who are extreme flirts are labelled as trouble. But flirting and socializing are two completely different things.

Men may be pressured to make the first move to engage someone, but they may bow into, or out of, a conversation at any time for basically any reason with no real social repercussions. Additionally, it is a social norm for men to be doing something -- stereotypically playing poker, watching a ball game, playing golf, etc.

Women, in comparison are much more frequently expected to have some amount of social grace. That is, women are still expected to play hostess in a group, to make sure everyone is comfortable and having a good time. Which means making idle small talk, the very thing the introvert despises. It is often perceived as a slight or an insult, among groups of women to not remember someone's birthday/anniversary/child's name/child's list of extra curriculars, etc, even if the someone in question is not a particularly close friend. Men can get away with remembering some assortment of these details about their families. A woman who falls outside these social norms, who would prefer not to speak until spoken to, and even then to not say much unless she feels she has something interesting and valuable to add to the conversation is written off by other women as aloof, arrogant or distant, and largely unnoticed by men, or labelled 'too much work'.
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Kris
anemone
2006-03-21 12:47 (UTC)
(no subject)
I don't know if I count as an introvert, but parties are difficult. People are difficult. That normal social interaction that everyone thinks is difficult.

The problem, though, is that for me, this does hurt me. I would be estatic if I'd found someone at my local barn that I could maybe go riding with or made a few friends that way. No dice. (Best dice is with online friends I have never physically met.)

When I change working environments, it takes me 6 months to a year before I can talk comfortably enough with people to do work.

Parties are difficult. I like people. A life at home in perpetuity is unappealing. I don't like loud parties. I find it difficult until I know people reasonably well.

Like Becca, I love it when you can do things online instead of asking a person.

As to whether I interact online, observe my (perhaps overly) prolific journalling.
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John
surpheon
2006-03-21 15:57 (UTC)
(no subject)
I'm definitely an introvert. I don't like strangers. At all. One way this manifests itself is I don't remember the first time I met anyone: you, my wife, my favorite college roommates who tapped me for best man duties. I like showing up at the start of parties, when there are just a smattering of people and the party hasn't "gotten going" yet. But extroverts don't drive me nuts. In very busy parties, with people I know, I will often be quiet and just enjoy the performances of extroverts talented in party improvisation.

The virtual world is definitely a boon to me because I do not have the nagging feeling that I am imposing on people. And it definitely, without a doubt, makes me feel and be more connected. I would never call 90% of the people on my friends list, but livejournal keeps them from slipping into the stranger category.

Your post reminded me of a favorite comic strip.
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Tin Bubble
urox
2006-03-21 19:12 (UTC)
(no subject)
I met you in the Lander dining hall when JR invited me to have dinner that night with you and E. I'm pretty sure this lead to a dinner where you and your wife dined together.
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John
surpheon
2006-03-21 21:42 (UTC)
(no subject)
Yes, but I do not recollect that at all :)
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Becca
rebbyribs
2006-03-22 02:05 (UTC)
(no subject)
I definitely like being at the start of parties (or at the ends) when there are fewer people and things are a bit quieter.

And I agree about enjoying watching the extroverts at parties. I'm starting to run into a lot of trouble with that though, because they all think that there must be something wrong, or I must be terribly unhappy if I'm so quiet. :-/
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josephhall
josephhall
2006-03-22 01:28 (UTC)
(no subject)
I think I'm somewhere in between... I switch from introversion to extroversion depending on my mood, circumstances, etc. I wonder why...

At some point in college (when I definitely considered myself an introvert like my parents), I was working up the gumption to ask a girl out. I realized, what the hell could possibly go wrong... the worst case scenario is that she'd say no, and we'd either never talk again or she'd be a good friend with clearly defined boundaries. I think after that experience (I was turned down and we were friends throughout college), I approached a lot of interaction like that.

While I still have introverted tendencies (I often don't go out and rather stay at home with my girl of 7 years, Michelle), I do talk quite a bit and am always the first person to ask the stupid question. While that may affect other people's perceptions of me, I think in the long term, those perceptions converge upon the true me.

I guess I would urge people to be comfortable... if you're comfortable being quiet, great. If you're being quiet because you're uncomfortable (undue influence) or because you're afraid of being put in a position of being uncomfortable, I guess it seems best to eliminate the source of that.
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Jeff
lbchewie
2006-03-22 04:51 (UTC)
(no subject)
On online communications -

I find them far more comfortable than face-to-face interactions. One of the reasons is that in normal conversations, it's extremely difficult for me to think of a response on the fly to normal chatter. Now, if I'm being asked a question about a subject I'm very familiar, I can field them effectively, but even simple questions such as "How was your day?" can be rather difficult to answer to an inquisitive extravert, with their probing gazes wondering that there must be far more you're not telling them.

The online medium better suits my speed of thought. There's no pressure for an instantaneous response. There's no pressure even to have a full conversation. Having the freedom to merely say, "Hello" and then to carry on with something else is sometimes sufficient and highly satisfying.

If it weren't for online communications, I wouldn't have met some of the most influential people in my life. My network of virtual friends probably rivals that of even the most ambitious of extraverts' physical networks. What I enjoy about being an introvert, and the online medium, is that I feel like I have a close personal relationship with people from all different backgrounds, locations, and schedules. People are often astounded to log onto my computer and see that I have a Buddy List of nearly 200 people, and that I'll have 40 IM windows grouped on the desktop simulataneously, if my computer's been on for a few days.

What I love about the current technology is that virtual friends can easily become real friends. Combinations of Internet, phone, and travel have greatly expanded my life experience, and in particular, I greatly enjoy social organisations that maintain websites to plan events, but then assemble in the real world.

Interestingly enough, as my social network increases, I have less patience for the Internet. I would rather pick up the phone and call someone than have conversations lasting several hours. You might say the Internet has helped allievate many of the challenges and insecurities that some introverts face, and allow my extraverted side to breathe. As it becomes expressed more, I find it's much easier for me to interact in an extraverted mode - virtually or in person - though it's a slow transition and I'm not sure how far it will go. Sometimes I love downtime to recharge, but I'm also energised by the presence of others a lot of the time. I lie about on the 40%-ile on the Extraversion axis (according to the NEO-PIR).

I'm conflicted, much of the time, because I haven't discovered a pattern or balance in desiring to satisfy introverted or extraverted tendencies. This confuses a lot of people, and it's not to be confused with bipolar disorder. Sometimes I'll go to a party with the ambition to be social, and then decide, once I'm there, that I'm bored to death. The only pattern I can think of is that I'm very easily reinforced by positive social energy. If somebody pays me a lot of attention, I open up. If I'm off on the fringes of the group, I withdraw. It's likely the degree of my extraverted behaviour is a function on how much attention I seek from others. However, that doesn't explain the conflict of having a very challenging day and desiring to reach out to people, but remain apathetic and silent to the world.

However - one affordance the Internet communication has: long conversations tend to be substantive and deep. The boring chitchat is filtered out and often dismissed off the radar. It's a wonderful selection process, which has given me the opportunity to meet a wonderful group of people: introverts and extraverts alike.

(I've heard from a few extraverts - those who enjoy the Internet - that it's very refreshing to have in-depth conversations in the virtual world, since they are very atypical of those they encounter in their daily lives. I guess that's something that most Internet-lovers have in common.)
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sydneyintrovert
2008-05-05 16:12 (UTC)
Introverts hidden and not so hidden
I realize yours is a long ago post; congrats on your phd - wonderful achievement. We introverts are finding out that the online/virtual world is ours for the taking. The likelihood of remote work teams becoming more the norm puts us in a strategic spot for our professional futures. The introverted management style is exceptional for said environment; where the extroverted manager's style tends to alienate remote staff. So: it will be an exciting few decades to see how our work world's shift toward the introverted orientation. My blog (http://sydneyintrovert.livejournal.com/816.html) throws a little humor at the idea, and my site introvertbydesign.com is devoted to us: humor, sarcasm and serious resources. Thanks.
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