Monday, March 17, 2008

introverts vs. extroverts???

A while back, someone close to me stated that I'm too shy to do something I considered to be an important personal accomplishment. I hadn't thought about being shy for many, many years. I found this accusation to be ridiculous and absurd. While I went on to prove the "shysayer" wrong and accomplish my goal, I never forgot the accusation and have since spent some time researching introversion, shyness and extroversion.

As a kid, I was always told that I was shy. I accepted that as fact, but now wonder how true it really was. I imagine I was a shy little kid. I can remember hating when adults got loud and in my face. I REALLY hated the ones that once they realized they scared me, kept trying and trying until I was so uncomfortable my entire outing was ruined by anticipating their return. I watched Logan suffer through this exact situation this weekend.

We walked into a Fuddrucker's restaurant and right up to the order taker. Logan had no trouble whatsoever placing his own order and answering any questions asked. That was all stuff he expected. What freaked him out was when a very friendly older gentleman employee (who obviously LOVED kids) unexpectedly approached Logan and very loudly and enthusiastically greeted him, asked him a pointless question and wanted a high five. Logan was totally overwhelmed and turned his head away and hid behind a pillar. I smiled and shrugged at the guy and he went off to do his work. BUT, he kept coming to our table to bug Logan. Logan was so upset he could hardly eat. He just kept looking around, keeping an eye on the whereabouts of the "scary guy." It was so ridiculous I was serioulsy considering LYING to the guy and telling him Logan was autistic or something so he'd leave him alone. Instead, I kept reassuring Logan that this guy was only trying to be nice and had no idea how much he was upsetting him. I told Logan he'd probably keep coming back to our table and bugging him, but that he REALLY wasn't trying to be mean. We watched as he did the same thing to many other kids and Logan eventually understood that this guy was a harmless nutjob. He was relieved when we left the restaurant. He then had no trouble interacting with the adults at the Ikea play area and made several "friends" while he was there. So, is he actually shy, or is he just a normal introvert who is overwhelmed by loud people unexpectedly getting in his face and invading his space???

Introverts are not shy. We're just more concerned with our own thoughts than what is going on around us. We are perfectly happy and even energized by being alone. I very much enjoy time with my friends, lunches with coworkers and hanging out watching tv with my family. I also enjoy time to myself. I LOVE my job because I get to work outside by myself. I prefer to work out at the gym alone and it would never occur to me to call a friend to come with me to shop for groceries. I have no use for my cell phone other than the occasional emergency or perhaps calling home to see if we need bread. Again, it wouldn't occur to me to call someone "just to talk" while I'm wandering the aisles of Target.

Introverts are very independent because we enjoy being alone. We think before we speak. We see no point in small talk and most of us tend to avoid it. We are often deep in thought and are therefore surprised when some loud person unexpectedly brings us out of our head. I'm no longer "scared" by the extreme extroverts, but they do annoy me and I'll try to avoid them. I always prefer to email rather than talk on the phone- unless the phone call has an actual purpose.

I was surprised to find that introverts make up only about 30% of the population. We are a definite minority. I was also enlightened to read that extroverts have extreme difficulty understanding that introverts enjoy time alone. They interpret our behavior as antisocial or even arrogant.

While I certainly believe everyone (including me) has room for personal improvement, I have decided to embrace my introverted nature as the way I was meant to be. I will never feel bad about myself for not being an outgoing party animal or a whiz at small talk. I will do my best to never stereotype my son as "shy" or make him feel bad about the personality he was born with. Instead, we'll work together to understand the extreme extroverts and the situations where our introversion causes us to freeze like deer caught in headlights. I want Logan to realize that for the most part, being an introvert is a gift. I mean, I'm almost NEVER bored because I LIKE being with myself :)

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Kathy Schrenk said...

Great post! Have you seen the book "The Introvert Advantage"? It echoes many of the statements you make. Nathan and I read it a while back. It was interesting to learn about the attributes of true introverts and extroverts. I think it helped Nathan and I to understand each other better, since I'm a classic extrovert and he's a classic introvert.