Monday, December 3, 2012

Introvert or Extrovert and "Know Thyself"

Have you ever read a book that gave you instant insights about yourself and people you know?  Quiet by Susan Cain is such a book.  A friend or husband reluctantly agrees to go to a party or dinner with you and leaves before the dessert course, leaving you surprised, hurt, mystified, puzzled, angry or all of the above.  Embarrassed, especially if is your husband (or ex-husband as it was in my case). You smile and leave later still smarting over what you consider was a deliberate rejection.  This, and similar scenarios was my experience. The telling sentence I remember was:  "I don't care what you do, just don't include me." Assuming it was all my fault, we never worked out our differences and divorced.

Another example, as in the case of friends, you ask and ask a friend to go somewhere with you, perhaps to an event, and are turned down, more than one time.  Why, you ask yourself, as you perhaps wrongly assume that the friend just does not want to be with you.
Book recommendation

In Ms Cain's book, she explains the introvert personality through history, science and research. True introverts are not good at making small talk; it makes them uncomfortable --  parties and large groups may be too much, and even having to endure a long dinner with friends where everyone just talks, is difficult.  Or large, noisy crowds where extroverts are energized by people, introverts are drained by them and have to leave to re-group.  It is almost physically painful, which explains the sudden departure.

There are degrees, of course, on the spectrum of introversion and extroversion.  Introverts are the best listeners.  They do not feel that in social situations they have to talk all the time.  Observing the scene is their preferred method of participation.  Introverts enjoy and thrive in their alone time.  This is where they work best, writing, thinking, reading, planning, creating, enjoying their inner world.  But in our have-to-be-extroverted society, introverts are often misunderstood in many situations like school and work, and in school situations, especially before college, have to be "fixed" by parents and teachers who don't understand.

And of course, I am not talking about ignoring a child who is depressed and having real problems at school.  Imagine a a child who is quiet, loves to be alone much of the time, likes to read, work on projects, is happy, has a few good friends, gets good grades, but. . .the parents are worried.  Why doesn't he/she like play dates, going to social events at school, or talk much?  What is wrong?  He/she will never be a success in college or in life unless he/she becomes more outgoing, more assertive, think the parents. 

Consider a few examples of introverts who have changed the world:  Albert Einstein, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Rosa Parks. . . .

Can an extrovert and introvert be married to one another and be happy?  Yes!

To be continued. . . .

Thank you to whomever was my two thousandth visitor today, 12/03/12.  I wish I could thank you personally.  


  1. Loved and appreciated this thoughtful post Natalie! I believe that we can possess both introvert and extrovert qualities with one being predominant. The old adage about opposites attracting is true about marriages as well. My spouse is an extrovert who gains energy from interactions, crowds, noise and they drain my energy. However, in the company of people who "bring something to the table" and are not draining, I truly enjoy engaging. I also think that a person's sensitivity level is a factor in social interactions.

  2. Thank you, IS. I think you should write a blog too. The next part of this post will be about sensitivity levels. But reading this book has made me more aware and appreciative of people's differences and not so quick to judge others' behaviors.

  3. When we were in pre-marriage counseling with our pastor, he had us take the Myers Briggs test. He said it would be helpful in our marriage to know how we are different from each other. One of the elements of this test is introvert/extrovert I believe. I too believe you can possess both qualities and that opposites do attract. I often think about the examples the pastor pointed out for us - and it has been great guidance. 27plus years of a great marriage later!

  4. It does help -- what a great idea! I did take it, but not in connection with PM counseling. I am an ENFP, but in many ways think I am an extroverted introvert. Understand one another is critical to a good relationship, I think.

  5. frank and i are total opposites---i guess it works!

  6. But love and respect are there -- that's what works. Thanks, Lynn.

  7. My husband and I are both introverts, so it's a wonder we ever get out. However, I can be more extroverted than he can, thanks to years and years of being expected to be like my mom by everyone around us. I had to put myself out there. It did eventually make it a bit easier, though I am always drained after a big gathering, even if it was pleasant.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  8. You would really appreciate the book, Shannon. It comes out in paperback in January. It talks about stretching yourself when you have to, like a book signing, and that you can, but it still is not totally comfortable. Thanks for checking in :)