Why It’s Ok If You’re an Extrovert

I’ve noticed something in the last few years. Maybe you have too? And it’s not just that one ubiquitous blanket scarf that has been all over Pinterest and every woman from 12-70 years old for a few years now.

(That scarf is to white girl clothes what pumpkin spice lattes are to white girl drinks. It’s not racist when I say it, because I am a white girl who loves pumpkin spice lattes and plaid blanket scarves.)

It’s introverts. Or rather, it’s a lot of stuff on the internet about introverts: memes and gifs about the challenges of being an introvert, bloggers sharing posts with titles like, ” How to Be an Introvert in [insert setting here]”. Just generally there’s a lot of talk emanating from a community of people who ostensibly don’t- well- like to talk. (Or at least they don’t like to talk in a huge group of people… whatever, you get it.)

 

I know there’s truth in this, but “My response would probably be over your head…?” Really? That’s not an introvert thing. That’s just rude and pretentious. Here are a few more:

My husband is kind of like this. He is hilarious, y’all!! But a lot of people aren’t super aware of this, because he’s not like me, interjecting loudly every time I think I have something remotely funny to say. At least that one isn’t overly dramatic or angsty… unlike this next one.
Wow. I can feel your angst through the computer… You’re such a martyr for dealing with all the peasants who must demand your precious time and energy… Too much snark? Not for something this ridiculous. Frankly, it’s an insult to introverts, making them sound like lofty, tortured 13-year-olds. Sheesh. On behalf of whoever made this, I apologize to my introvert friends who aren’t like this AT ALL.Okay, again- there’s actually some good stuff in this. But also? Why aren’t there a bunch of “How to Care for Extroverts” posts out there??? And hello, give ME 15-minute warnings to finish what I’m doing before making me move on to the next thing. I think that would be immensely helpful.

Ok. I love that last one. I relate to it. But maybe that’s because I have kids and going places together sometimes feels like trying to go on a trip to Mars.

A lot of this content is really great! It’s often insightful, helpful, and downright funny. Because real, awkward, uncomfortable life often is funny! Plus, don’t we all need help learning how to navigate ourselves through the world? Sure. But here’s the thing.

Not all of us are introverts. Some of us are extroverts. And if you are such a one, I’m here to tell you, it’s ok.

I did some research (a term which here means: I googled some stuff), and found some great articles about extraversion which were thoroughly refreshing and insightful.

The first was this one:

6 Things Every Extrovert Secretly Has To Deal With

My favorite quote from this article is as follows:

…there seems to be some romanticizing of introversion (via tumblr and social media) that involves depicting introverts as deep, philosophical, misunderstood, quirky unicorns… or something along those lines. Since when has ‘outgoing’ been a synonym for ‘shallow’? Extroverts are just as capable of complex thought as introverts are of talking to people.

Quirky unicorns, indeed. And how much of all this talk over introversion and extraversion really comes down to issues of people skills or a lack thereof? (Side note: if you’re like me and wondering whether extrovert/extraversion is spelled with an “a” or an “o” there is apparently some debate, but it doesn’t really matter. Here’s a whole article about that.) 

I mean, to label all the quirks of your communication as products of extra- or intro-version seems, well, lazy (or at the very least an overgeneralization). Just because you renew your energy by being alone doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to warmly greet someone, make eye contact, and say, “Hi, my name is Haylie. It’s nice to meet you.” And just because you love talking and being the life of the party doesn’t mean you can’t also learn how to listen and be aware of other people.

When I was a child, I remember waiting with my mother in a line somewhere and, upon seeing another little girl with their mother- somewhat nervously, vulnerably- attempting to introduce myself to them. I remember the girl hiding behind her mom’s legs. That’s totally normal kid behavior, right? But I was so super-sensitive that in the moment I felt hurt that the other kid didn’t seemingly like me or want to play. (I was just trying to make the most of having to wait for a million years! That kid missed out on the most epic line-waiting-playtime of her life.)

Of course, growing up, my mom had to help me understand things like this, and ultimately to learn how to put on my big girl panties and just be cool with the fact that sometimes it has nothing to do with me, and that people are different.

Just recently, I watched my little girl introducing herself to a kid who didn’t talk back. Which just prompted her to talk even more loudly at them. Bless her heart.

But I’m wandering into rambling-soap-box territory… Where was I?

The second article I found was this one: 17 Things Everyone Gets Wrong about Extroverts 

The two most pertinent points I think she makes are this one:

Life is somehow easier for us to navigate

Ah, yes. The secret to a successful, A+ existence is to be a bundle of awkward that talks way too much and too loudly and feeds on human companionship like it is their life blood. YOU’RE TOTALLY RIGHT.

 

Seriously. Does it ever occur to anyone that we might be talking because we are uncomfortable?? That maybe we feel as awkward being around you as you do being around us??? That maybe being extroverted results in us being nervous-talkers because we are wired that way and you are making us straight up anxious with your super power of being quiet????

And the second point:

We don’t realize when we’re talking too much

Truth bomb: I totally know when I’m talking too much. I know it before everyone else knows it. It’s like a runaway train. And nothing on the planet is more humiliating than someone pointing out that you have been talking too much, especially because, at that point, you’re fully aware and already trying to reign it in. Speaking a reasonable, socially acceptable amount is an actual struggle for a lot of extroverts—but we always know when we’ve crossed that line.

Again, yes. My propensity to talk has often been a source of frustration for me. Must I fill every silence??? Yeesh. I like to think I’ve gotten better at this with age, but there are still days when I feel my inner, awkward, talky fifteen-year-old self stumbling out of my face and SAYING ALL THE WORDS.

Like in the first quote I shared, this quality often seems to leave an impression that extroverts are shallow, that we’re all vapid, messy twenty-two-year-olds who love going clubbing and steam-rolling other people with our personalities. But I posit that it’s no better to paint extroverts as shallow, annoying party-goers as it is to paint introverts as pretentious, brooding philosophers who can’t even be bothered to use full sentences when they meet someone new.

You know what kinds of people are introverts? Albert Einstein and Rosa Parks, according to Google (so of course it MUST be true, because Google knew Rosa Parks so well). You know what other kinds of people are introverts? David Berkowitz, the .44 Caliber Killer (a serial killer from the ’70’s… I don’t recommend reading about him, but if you want to, I encountered his story on Wikipedia, so once again, my sources are rock solid).

You can make either personality type sound good or bad. I mean, if we listen to Professor Google, then supposedly famous extroverts include Gandhi, Hillary Clinton, and Moses (yes- as in Moses from the Old Testament. Sounds totally legit, right?) 

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure Google is just making this stuff up… I mean, A) if anything, Moses sounds like an introvert to me, what with his whole, “Uh, God? Uh, public speaking is just not my jam, sooo… I mean, the burning bush thing was cool, but like, ask someone else, because words are hard.” and B) Are you kidding me? Hillary Clinton?! Come on, man.

If you think I’m being unfair by citing a serial killer as an introvert, keep in mind I literally just googled, “famous introvert serial killer.” There was a whole list of articles, but the Berkowitz guy was the first one I found. You know who shows up when you search, “famous extrovert serial killer?” No one.

Ha. Okay, okay, don’t burn me at the stake just yet… This is not a hate-on-introverts post. If it was, I would’ve titled it “Down with the Introverts!!!” But I have plenty of close friends who are introverts, not to mention my husband is an introvert… and not to mention as I’ve grown older I’ve identified more and more with introvert tendencies.

And guys? Obviously I don’t mean there haven’t been terrible extroverts throughout history. I mean- has anyone out there researched Hitler?? I haven’t. Maybe he was an extrovert…or maybe he wasn’t. I don’t know. Maybe he was just a straight up psychopath. That’s not the point.

Whether or not you are introverted or extroverted, you are still a person, and that aspect of your personality is just that- one aspect. People are not boxes and for the most part, they are not extremes. Regardless of how comfortable you feel talking to strangers (or acquaintances or even friends), you can still learn good people skills. That goes for extroverts and introverts alike. Just as the former can be mindful of squashing other people with their enthusiasm and ready stream of words, the latter can be self-aware enough to realize that being quiet is totally fine, but that it can come across as judgy and aloof if you don’t at least smile and/or acknowledge someone else.

Is this totally unnecessary? You guys already know all this stuff, don’t you??

Well, I’m just going to keep talking anyway, because I can and apparently that’s what all of us extroverts do…

My third and favorite article relating to this issue was this post: 5 Myths About Extroverts That Need to Die. Now, I will say this post contains what Shakespeare might have referred to as saucy language. But girlfriend is on point as far as the content goes.

Her first myth is the following:

Myth 1. Extroverts don’t have feelings.

I can only assume that introverts think this about extroverts when I read articles like Revenge of the Introverts.

I get it. I talk too much. I’m loud. You feel overlooked and marginalized. You’re afraid you’re being left out.

That said….

WE ALL FEEL LEFT OUT.

You don’t have the market cornered on feeling unwanted or under-appreciated..

I’m not your enemy, and it hurts my feelings when you label me as one. Stop it.

Also, she says this about extroverts caring about what you have to say:

When I get excited, I tend to talk my [butt] off. I can’t seem to help it, although I am getting better. Later, I am totally traumatized, because:

A: I am petrified of being a bore, and I’m certain you don’t like me.

B: I wanted to learn all about you, and I totally sabotaged myself.

So I stop myself, sometimes mid-thought, to turn the conversation back on you.

Again, YES. I get so excited and/or nervous to meet people sometimes that I find that- again- I’m saying ALL THE WORDS. I still often have to stop myself when I realize, “Hmm, the most prominent sound I’ve heard for the last 5-10 minutes has been my own voice. Dial it back, girlfriend. Try and listen as well as speak.” (Something which I have yet to master, and which will probably be a lifelong learning process.)

You know what else? Extrovert or introvert, it’s hard to communicate. It’s even harder to communicate well. Whether you only like talking if you have something to say or talking until you have something to saycan’t we all agree that communicating is often awkward and uncomfortable and challenging?

Then there’s how being a mom affects this whole saying-all-the-words situation. Being around my little ones all day is such a wonderful thing for the most part! But when I get to be around other adults, I often notice the stream of words escalates to a flood and the decibel of my enthusiasm rises to a piercing shriek because ADULT CONVERSATIONS WHAT?!?! Plus, chances are I haven’t gotten to finish a single sentence the whole day with my almost-three-year-old who talks more than I do. Did you hear that? MORE THAN I DO. Just think about that for a minute.

Now, think about my husband, who gets home and immediately gets hit with a bunch of word-bombs from both of us! Bless him. (Evie can’t talk yet, but just imagine when there are THREE talkative girls in our house… Unless Evie is introverted, of course.)

If you are like me, then this article about having zero chill by Amber Salhus will be like a great big “Me, too!”  for, “All of you nervous-talking, big-feeling, over-thinking, off-beat, sensitive, hilarious souls. I got you, boo.”

So, what was my point again? My point is, it’s all ok. Being an extrovert? Fine. Introvert? Totally good. Just remember it’s only one part of who you are.

Point #2? Don’t paint the opposite -vert as a weirdo or crazy person, or your own type as the sane one, the more fun one, or more intellectual one etc. (Although funny memes and gifs are still fun, and laughing at ourselves IS pretty important too.)

Point #3? It’s part of being human to learn to care for each other- for all types of people. And it’s hard- for everyone- to learn how to do that.

Here is my most favorite post about introversion/extroversion:

The first time I read through the How to Care for Extroverts part, I was all- YES!!! Exactly all these things!!! I love especially #2 where it says, “Compliment them in the company of others.” I don’t know why, but that is huge! I mean, a compliment is kind no matter what, but this touched a nerve, because I’ve never heard anyone put this into words, and it’s SO TRUE for me. (To be clear, it doesn’t mean I need compliments given to me from a stage in front of a billion people, but for example, whenever my husband tells people we’re hanging out with something nice about me, it seriously sends me over the moon. It tells me he thinks I’m worth telling people about.)

Also #4 because VERBAL PROCESSING PEOPLE! It’s a real thing.

One of my favorite quotes that is empowering to anyone, regardless of your vertness (a word which I just made up, because I’m good at words), is this:

Let people deal with the full force of who you are. – John Eldridge

When you do that, you give others permission or freedom to be more fully themselves as well. So, maybe that can be our goal? I’ll say my words and you can be quiet if you want, and then we’ll trade, and everyone can wear cute blanket scarves and be friends.

Deal? Deal.

P.S. I’m not immune to the power of that blanket scarf. See?