Monday, February 21, 2011

Extroverts vs. Introverts

The difference between extroverts and introverts keeps coming up for me. Most people think that extroverts are people who are outgoing, while introverts are people who are shy. That's not it. Extroverts are people who are energized by being around other people; introverts are people who are energized by being alone.

I am an introvert. People don't think I'm an introvert because I like being around other people and I am not shy. Actually I am quite talkative. But being around people depletes me. Last week turned out to be a very people-intensive week. I hosted a two-day workshop at my house, so there were five women there for most of the day. Then Monday was Valentine's Day and I wound up being out the whole day and going to a jazz club at night. On Tuesday I spent the whole day in the city, visiting with friends whom I hadn't seen for a while. It was all fun and I enjoyed myself. But by Tuesday evening I was ready to pass out. I got to bed early and spent the next day home alone to recover.

I need to be alone about 70% of the time to feel good. Talking on the phone does not count as alone time. But working on my computer does, or reading a book, or doing the laundry, or even writing emails. I now realize that I didn't have chronic fatigue syndrome all the years that I went into the office every day. I just couldn't handle being around people five days a week.

Of course extroverts have no such problem. They are energized by being around people. A friend who is an extrovert told me that she never needed to be alone. I gulped. It must be hard for an introvert to have an extrovert partner. The introvert needs some space or he will die. That's how it feels. All the life force will be gone. The extrovert will most likely take this request personally, thinking that the introvert doesn't love her because he needs time alone.

Our society is an extroverted society and I heard that 75% of the people are extroverts. But the 25% of us who get depleted being around people need to acknowledge that we need alone time and give ourselves the time we need. So what if we're not as much fun as the extroverts? So what if we can't go out partying every night? Let's cut ourselves some slack, sit on the couch, and read that book. When we've had enough alone time we will feel like getting dressed and going out on the town. And we will enjoy ourselves because we're listening to our own body rhythms and not to everyone else's expectations.


Anonymous said...

Bravo for the introverts! :) //pamela

gill said...

I agree, although I think that 70% alone time is generous. I am more of the 80% alone-time, but I never tire of my dog and cats. They can hang out with me 100% of the time.

Despina Gurlides said...

Well, Gill, I almost wrote 80% and then I thought that made me too anti-social :-) I probably do need more than 70% alone time. And I totally agree that my cats, Max and Bradley, can be with me 100% of the time. In fact they energize me.