I promise you, it’s not an oxymoron. But it may be one of the biggest misconceptions out there regarding the introverted nature — that introverts are not outgoing.
Recently, I got together with one of my fellow introverts. I’ve known her for a while in more of a professional capacity but recently had a chance to sit down and chat, over coffee of course.
You never know how these in-person things will go, but by my account, it turned out quite lovely. Even though it was our first sit-down, our visit felt exceedingly natural. There was a quick familiarity even without an obvious reason for it. In fact, our lives are very different in some ways, and yet I didn’t feel that at all.
I offer this background for a reason. In thinking on it later (we introverts do that kind of thing – a lot), I’ve come to believe that part of the familiarity had to do with our common introversion. Though we do share certain passions, too, like writing, and we’re similar ages, there was something more that helped me feel so quickly at ease.
But here’s the interesting part. I don’t think either of us would be thought of by most as introverts in the way the world commonly views that word. This friend is a phenomenal writer with a flair for humor, someone who has bold opinions about things. Her persona is very much “out there” and she has a beautiful and hearty laugh when something gets at her funny bone. When she needs to be heard, you won’t have to come looking for her.
Introverted? Who knew?
The confusion comes from the many who connect the word “introvert” with “recluse” or “hermit” or, if not those extremes, than at least “someone who is not very outgoing.” I was among the confused for a very long time, which is why I wrongly identified myself, and others in my life.
I know confusion abounds because I shared with another friend not long ago that I see myself as an introvert. She’s spent 50 hours with me on a crowded bus, so has a pretty good idea of what I’m about. And yet when I mentioned this, she paused, then said, “I wouldn’t have thought that about you.” I had to convince her with examples. And why? Because she sees me as outgoing, and indeed, I can be very outgoing.
As much as my coffee friend can be outgoing at times, she has another side to her, too, just as I do. She’s able to stop and be reflective, a good listener. She’s been listening a lot through the years as an interviewer for the stories she’s collected. And, as she told me herself, some of her best writing happens when she’s hidden away somewhere. She has to be careful with the ways in which she gives so she doesn’t exact all her energy in the span of an hour. If that hour happens at 9 a.m., she’s doomed.
Yep, I get all of that, because it’s my way too, the way I was born. I don’t think this is something we choose, because in looking back, I can see it, remember it, from as early as around age 3.
Introversion doesn’t mean that we are not capable of or don’t enjoy being “out there.” It only means that that is not the main well from which we draw the bulk of our energy; that the majority of our energy comes from quiet places. And so we can be very outgoing, but our batteries will run out of charge much quicker than our fellow extroverts (think the Energizer Bunny).
As I’ve mentioned before, part of this is because we live so much insider our heads, in the exotic rooms of the interior. And that consumes a whole lot of energy. So when we give, we give large, but it exhausts us, and so we have to go running for cover for a quiet spot to fill up again.
Despite all my talking about this introversion thing, I have yet to read a book about it, but my order is in for, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” and if I get through that soon, I’ll be on to the one my friend recommended, and said changed her life: “The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extroverted World.”
Speaking of “in a world that can’t stop talking,” I’ve found that when we get together, we introverts don’t have a problem at all finding things to say. It’s as if our time hiding out brings with it a plethora of words and ideas that, if not shared, will wreak some kind of havoc somehow. So, really, we’re not that quiet at all. But we need plenty of it to survive.
Tell me, fellow introverts, about an experience you’ve had that’s made you more aware of your introversion. Or, extroverts, share what you wish we introverts knew about you.