Sunday, 29 May 2016

On being an extrovert

Yikes - sorry for the ridiculously long time since I last posted! Not quite sure what happened there... I have a long list of 'things to blog about' on my desk so hopefully in the next few days/weeks I'll crack on a bit and there will be a few more blogs to read.

Anyway, the thing I've pondering a lot lately is the whole introvert/extrovert thing. I'm totally fascinated by this!

It will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am a massive extrovert - whenever I do any sort of quiz I end up pretty much off the scale! But, even though it seems totally obvious now, for years I didn't know this about myself. And it really helps now that I do!

Obviously we can't be totally defined by these 'personality test' type things - there's much more to us than just a collection of numbers or letters churned out by answering a few questions. Of course saying that I'm an extrovert and someone else is an extrovert doesn't mean we'll behave in the same way. And don't even get me started on the ridiculous misconception about extrovert = loud and outgoing, and introvert = shy. That's just misusing words!

But, having said all that, I have found the concept of extroversion and introversion really helpful to understand myself (and my friends) much better.

For me, this is some of what being an extrovert looks and feels like:
  • I process things externally. Ideally this would be by chatting to someone in person, although it could also be over the phone. Journalling and social media work well too, especially at times when the 'other person' option just isn't available!
  • I relax and unwind by being with other people. Even if I've had a really busy day or week, the way I will most easily feel relaxed is by doing something with other people. We don't need to be having a big chat - just being alongside others can work. Generally, though, this will help me unwind much better than being on my own.
  • I don't know what I think about something until I've talked about it. Genuinely! I know that sounds a bit mad but it's true. I need to talk things over and 'think out loud' in order to work out what my opinion is.
Much about being an extrovert is great - it's who I am, and that's fine. I like being around people, I know how I tick, it's all good.

But of course there are also some bits of it that are really tricky. And that's especially true as a single person, and as someone who lives alone. Getting in from a tough conversation, or a tough meeting, or a tough day, and having no one to talk to about it is - well, it's tough! There are times when I so want there to be someone there to talk to, because I know if I can talk it through I'll be able to get my head round it in about half an hour, as opposed to the week it'll take me doing it alone!

That's when social media can be amazing! If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram you probably sometimes think "what's she on about now, posting some inane bit of nonsense from her life" (unless you're also an extrovert, in which case it's all good, we can be social media social butterflies together!). Oh, and if you're not, and you are thinking that, I'm not sorry btw - if you don't want to know the inane details of my life, feel free to not follow me any more ;-)

This is also where my nearest and dearest friends come in - bless them! I have a mix of very extrovert and very introvert friends, but whoever they are, if our friendship is going to last, they've had to get used to my extrovertly processing and over sharing all over the place - the text messages and Twitter DMs which go on for 2 pages, and the late night splurges when I just need to get something out of my brain.

I'm trying to learn how my introvert friends and colleagues tick, and give them the time and space that they need to process and sort their heads out too. (On that, if you haven't read my friend Mark Tanner's book 'The Introvert Charismatic', you really should...)

I'm a bit of a slow learner, so I'm still figuring out stuff about myself in this area - like why I rarely ask questions after lectures, even though (not-really-a-spoiler-alert) I'm quite gobby ;-) Turns out it's because, if the lecture finishes and we're immediately invited to ask questions, I don't yet know what I think, because I haven't been able to process it. Whereas, if we're given 5 minutes after the talk to chat to the person next to us (which I realise is introvert hell!), I'll be able to process the talk, work out what I think, and then ask a question.

I'm trying therefore, whenever I speak, to offer both options so that both introverts and extroverts can make the most of it.

Now it's quite possible that this whole blog post has just been one long extrovert-process-think-out-loud exercise. I'm ok with that. I love figuring out a bit more about who I am and how I tick and what makes life work better for me. Maybe it'll help someone else along the way too...


  1. Hi Kate, a fellow extrovert here! If you ever get a moment, I'd love to hear what you think about how extroverts can rest. I love spending time with people, it rejuvenates me. But, I physically can't always keep going! "Me" time often looks like being slumped in front of a TV series, so I can stop and wind down. However, I don't think that's always the healthiest! I'd love to hear what you do for rest, if you'd be up for sharing :) Best, Jess

  2. Thanks so much for the comment Jess! Great question - I'll have a think & maybe come back to this one!

  3. Judith Dunkling30 May 2016 at 07:42

    Hi Kate, really interesting post. I am fascinated by what you have said about needing time to think things through before asking questions. I am just the same, and have always thought that this was because I'm an introvert! I wonder if there's a separate responder / reflector aspect to our personalities rather than it being an extrovert / introvert thing? At least I now know I'm not on my own when 10 minutes after a meeting has ended I think 'erm...actually....'! All the best Judith

  4. Interesting! Maybe you're right. I think that's why it took me a while to figure it out tbh as I thought "but why don't I immediately know what I think?"

  5. just saw this too...