Monday, 22 February 2021

Extrovert musings...

So, you might not have noticed, because it's not obvious and I don't mention it much, but I'm a bit of an extrovert...

Ha! I am, in fact, quite literally 'off the scale.' (Seriously, I did some sort of test once and somehow my score was beyond the 100% line...)

When I first discovered, years ago now, the real difference between extroverts and introverts, I was fascinated - it all suddenly made sense! Before that, I think I'd just fallen into the trap (that you used to see perpetuated a lot, although less so now), of thinking that extrovert = outgoing and confident, and introvert = shy and withdrawn. That's not really the case at all, it's actually far more interesting and complex than that.

I learned then a method that I still use now if I'm explaining this to people who aren't sure which they are. 2 questions:

1) If you've been working all day and are tired, how would you most like to relax and wind down? a) by going out and meeting up with lots of friends; or b) by curling up on your own with a book.

2) If you have a big decision to make, or a problem to work through, what's the best way for you to do that? a) by chatting it through with other people; or b) by some time on your own to mull it over.

As = extrovert, Bs = introvert.

Obviously it's all a bit more nuanced than that in reality, and some people find themselves somewhere in the middle, or one side sometimes and the other side other times. 

For me though, I'm extrovert all day long! It sounds a bit mad to those people who aren't the same way, but those who are will totally understand:

  • I don't know what I think about something until I've said it out loud. Sometimes I hear myself speak and am quite surprised to find out what I think! This can be disconcerting for other people in meetings, especially ones I'm chairing - I have to make sure there's a disclaimer at the beginning about 'thinking out loud.'
  • I can't make a decision without talking about it. Often I don't even need the other person to say anything, but the process of saying it out loud helps me to decide. 
  • I can't process or work through any stuff unless I have someone to talk it through with. That's a bit of an issue in a year which has been packed full of All Of The Stuff. (Spare a thought for my Bubble Of Joy who are faced with an extreme amount of splurging every time I visit).
  • I don't really know how I'm doing unless I say it out loud. People will ask 'how are you?' and I invariably think 'hmm, how am I?' I then start to reply, and discover the answer at about the same time as they do.
  • I get my energy from other people. It took me really quite a long time into this whole pandemic thing to realise that was one of the reasons why I was so exhausted (I mean there are lots of other reasons too, who isn't exhausted?!). But I simply was not getting enough energy from other people to keep me going. (A good (introvert) friend of mine observed early on that Zoom is too much people for the introverts and not enough people for the extroverts!).
  • I prefer to do about 12 different things at the same time, because it genuinely helps me to concentrate better on each of them.
Writing can help a bit, as a sort of substitute for talking if that isn't possible. Talking to myself can also sometimes help, but not always (though I still do it. A lot). 

I've known all this about myself for some time, and I find it helpful to know, because it means that I'm better able to understand who I am and how I tick and what I need. I imagine it's helpful for my friends to know too - and I always know that a friend really 'gets' me when they say something like 'so shall we arrange a chat so that you can work out what you think?'

The thing that has been interesting lately is pondering what all this means during lockdown (and particularly as a single person who lives alone during lockdown). I guess I could have predicted all of the big stuff that I'd find hard - the process of making big decisions about worship in church, the working through my feelings and emotions about it all, the isolation of spending SO MUCH time on my own.

But what I don't think I would have expected or realised until it happened, was how much I've also missed every other small, everyday interaction that I probably barely noticed. That quick hello in the supermarket. That chat with the neighbour while walking down the street. That moment of bumping into someone by the shops. That car park chat at the end of a meeting. That conversation over coffee during the break in the meeting. 

Those things take only a few moments, but all of them give me energy and help my brain work better - and all of them have all but disappeared. When every meeting is on Zoom, we have 'Zoom fatigue' and eye strain, and understandably as soon as there's a coffee break we get up and walk away from our screen, and only come back when the meeting restarts. But then how am I supposed to find out what I think about how the meeting is going?! (That's the main reason why I'm always the person using the Zoom chat function nonstop - so sorry to those whom it distracts!). Without all of these things, I have lacked energy and focus and drive. Everything has taken longer and felt harder.

I realise that not all extroverts will recognise themselves in what I'm saying (and equally that not all introverts will find themselves at the opposite pole - in fact quite a few of my introvert friends have said "this was great to start with but even I am over it now").

I'm actually a little bit apprehensive, I've realised, about what happens as we come out of this weird year - as we follow the 'roadmap' that leads ahead. 'How long will it be before I can hug my friends?' is a question I've been asking for a long time, but now I realise I'm also wondering things like 'will I still be the same sort of extrovert as I was before?' and 'will the ways in which we interact with each other have changed forever and will that be ok?' and 'can my friends really handle the explosion of extroversion they're going to be faced with over the next few months?!'

I do realise that there's not really all that much that I can do about any of this. As you might expect, I'm mostly just writing this to help myself to work it out! But certainly it's helped me to get to know myself a bit better - and hopefully to understand others a bit better too ("some of my best friends are introverts...!")


  1. Friend, you are seen, and deeply understood.

  2. Very interesting reading for a deep introvert whose life was changed when I discovered that finding people draining rather than exhilerating wasn't because there was something wrong with me, but because it is who I am.

  3. Brilliant Kate. You’ve reminded me of the things I sometimes forget I need to do and then wonder why I feel the way do. Andy J

  4. As an extreme introvert I used to find it very annoying and frustrating when well meaning extroverts tried to make me more like them and failed, with them wondering why they weren't succeeding. Then I found out about Myers-Briggs personality types and suddenly everything made so much more sense. God made us each individually the way we are. There's no point in implicitly criticising His handiwork.