Conversations about introverts and extroverts can tend to be quite polemic. In an attempt to be understood and validated we can often make sweeping generalisations about either temperament that are actually contrary to the goal of understanding.
Here are a few thoughts that I think represent common misconceptions about extroverts and the nuances of how they tick.
They aren’t all outgoing. One of the most outgoing people I know (Hey Paulie!!!) is an introvert. Introverts can be socially competent and dynamic. Conversely, not all extroverts are outgoing. While they may crave social interaction they may not be the ones to generate it. It can just be enough for them to be present in a socially vibrant space rather than the ones hosting or leading such interactions.
They aren’t all good at meeting new people. Because of their need for social interaction at a high level many extroverts develop social skilfulness- but not all. Extroverts aren’t all naturally self-confident and often face the same fears as many others face when meeting new people or stepping into potentially awkward social environments.
They need good people, not just any people. This may be more a function of age and maturity – but I find that not all people fulfill my extroverted need for social fueling. It’s not always enough to just be present in a large or loud social gathering – there needs to be social stimulation and satisfying personal interactions for energising to occur. While they may be good at small talk they can also crave deeper forms of communication and social exchange to feel more fulfilled.
This isn’t an “extrovert’s world”. As much as introverts might feel ‘the world’ is innately geared toward the extrovert – extroverts could make a similar case. The very concept of people needing their own bedroom, a private office, or silence for effective work in exams or libraries – the general social norm of being in large public places but not talking to each other (waiting rooms, shopping centres, trains etc) – prayer meetings, lectures, and movie theatres where information is received without interaction – these are all potentially more satisfying for an introvert even though they would be perhaps deemed as “social” environments.
They need physical rest in non-social places even if they don’t crave it. The energy they gain from being with others is physically finite. It doesn’t replace their need for sleep or to pause for physical renewal. In moments when they are emotionally deenergised by being alone, their bodies are still rejuvenating and necessary biological processes are taking place.
Their need for others makes them vulnerable. An introvert is completely self-sufficient in regards to reenergising. In different lifestages that alone time may be harder to find but ultimately a few moments behind a locked toilet door or in the car on the way to the next social gathering can top up their tank. An extrovert cannot replicate the social energy found in the company of others and is therefore reliant on others to re-fuel. Whilst all humans need other humans for a myriad of reasons, this aspect of the extrovert makes them needy of other people which puts them at the mercy of others.
[Read more about Extroverts & Quiet Times]