Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Introvert or Extrovert?

For years I have assumed I was an extrovert. I knew that I like to help people, that I am generally helpful, I'm not intimidated by public speaking, etc.

Then, a couple of years ago, I was sitting next to one of our high school counselors at a staff party prior to the holidays. She asked about our family plans for Christmas, and I must have moaned or rolled my eyes or something. As my children will tell you, although I love Christ, His nativity, Christmas music, the special family ornaments we hang on the tree each year...I really do not love Christmas. It usually sends me into a stressed-out guilt-ridden funk.

Anyway, my counselor friend then asked me if I am extroverted or introverted. "Uhhh," I intelligently replied. So she took pity on my and asked another insightful question. "When you're with a group of people, like at a party, do you get energy from them, or does it take energy out of you? she asked.  That was a no brainer. Parties suck the energy right out of me. I fake it until it's time to go home. Diagnosis: I'm an introvert.

How could that be, I wondered? How could I be an introvert and get up in front of a classroom of 30+ kids every day? I genuinely do like people. My counselor friend told me that it's because I've learned to compensate for my introverted-ness. I have developed people skills as a way to cope, and they can get me through for a while, but eventually I will need some "down time" to recharge my batteries.

This has been an important lesson for me about myself. It has freed me from the guilt of not wanting to be in complex group situations; I still do them, but I'm not down on myself for not always enjoying it. And Christmas with a large blended family certainly is a "complex group situation."

When Mark and I attended the Courage to Teach seminars a few years ago, we learned an important ground rule: presume welcome. That is, when you go into a new group, presume that the others there will be glad to welcome you and spend time with you. When I go into group situations now, it helps me to presume welcome. But it also helps to go off to my private places, my quiet times, and recharge my batteries.

If you are interested in a more extensive look at introverts, check out this article from Atlantic Monthly. I couldn't have said it better myself.


Hillary said...

I'm an introvert. I have to recharge FOR SURE. I love being with people... but I'm just like you are. I love that "presume welcome" thing. That will help me a lot. haha.

Polly @ Pieces by Polly said...

I have always thought of my self as an introvert...shy, awkward, etc...

But it's been interesting to me that several people recently...particulary some of the new moms in our ward...have commented to me that I'll make new friends easily when we move because I'm to outgoing. (I'm not worried about it. I'm sure we will make new friends...it's especially easy with kids...especially with an eldest child is such an extrovert.) I don't feel outgoing...I'm not...but I do try to be friendly and welcoming to other people because it's what I hope other people will do for me. One thing I've also learned, especially where we're living and in our ward, is that it seems like most people are not really extroverted...someone has to step up and be welcoming and plan activites and such or no one will.

Lisa Lou said...

I am in introvert. Unfortunately, introverts are seen as boring and bookish and awkward. But I don't think I am. I like talking to people. But I can only do one activity per day. And then I need some quiet time alone. I don't do well with a jam-packed schedule all the time. I really like the idea of "presume welcome." Sometimes I get preconceived notions that because I'm more mellow, people won't think I'm interesting. I will have to try this "presume welcome" technique! I enjoy reading your entries!

Katie Lewis said...

I think I am neither and both an extrovert and an introvert at the same time. I was definitely more of an extrovert in high school and maybe even as a college student. But I think I've become much more of an introvert since I've been married, and even more since I've become a mom. I've become really used to hanging out at home more or less by myself. (As much as a baby counts as another human being, they're not much for conversation.) Also, young married wards are strange because nobody is overly interested in getting to know you. Everybody wants to just hang out with their spouse. And since I no longer force myself to rehearse monologues or perform in plays, I have discovered a certain shyness about myself which I never expected. Still, I think I generally gain energy from groups, especially when those groups include good friends. So I don't know what that makes me exactly. Odd? Probably. Long-winded? Yes.

Dorothy said...

Introvert, absolutely, definitely! Even though I enjoy some group things, it still exhausts me and I just want to go home and curl up with a project or a good book. Like you, I have learned coping skills that get me through, but it is really a lot of "pretending". I honestly don't know how I survived being in leadership capacities so often. (Must have had Divine help, for sure!)

Annemarie said...

I think it's SO wise that you were able to discern a part of yourself that allows you to offer compassion instead of ridicule when you are stressed out about large groups. Good job! I too am an introvert, although you may find that surprising. When i need to recharge, I crave being alone. And I would rather spend time with one person (or just a few) than a large group. Maybe that's why I enjoy teaching English so much--as well as the large group dynamic, I can also work one on one with kids on their writing. It's a good balance for me (especially when there is time to do that). Thanks for this wise, insightful post, Kathy.

David Mayer said...

Perhaps I am the only diehard extrovert who will be commenting on this post. As your son, I don't think this is news to you, Mom.

What I do really appreciate is the way that having an introverted mother and so many introverted sisters has helped me relate better with my wife, who is also an introvert. I just get so energized being around other people, it is sometimes difficult for me to empathize with those who don't.

I appreciate this post and the additional insight it gives me.