Care and Feeding of an Extrovert


March 4, 2017 by readlisaread

Like most binary concepts, the Battle of the ‘Verts is often seen as a This or That, if you are One you can’t be the Other, and as is also often the case (do you notice how the pendulum is once more swinging from Feminist Activism to “Don’t discriminate against me just because I am a White Male”?), we have been worried about the Introverts to the detriment of some perfectly lovely Extroverts.

I’ve seen “How to make Introverts Feel Welcome” articles in everything from K-12 classrooms to online learning communities to business environments to sports/arts/entertainment environs.  And I get it. They are often quiet (although I know some VERY outgoing introverts), they tend to hang back from a crowded gathering, they don’t easily share their thoughts or feelings in certain (most) situations, and they often are able to keep their emotions hidden or encrypted.  Think about an Introvert you know well, and consider if you are able to easily tell how they are feeling. And an Extrovert?  You know that’s who you want to challenge to a poker game.

Even though it’s sort of gone out of fashion, the Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory was one of the first tools that really helped me to understand and map the traits and particulars of what it means to be an E or an I (and the sub-categories of Sensing, Intuiting, Judging, and Perceiving). It didn’t come to me at much of a shock that I hit the E for Extrovert with a 95% strike. In other words, I had almost no qualities in common with most Introverts. I became sensitive to how my E-ness affected the I’s around me, and began to notice that the trend toward Introvert-whispering. I started to be mindful in meetings of not dominating the conversation, not overwhelming the Introverts with my noise.  I even tried to quell my online extroversion, knowing that noise is noise, whether in person or at a distance. And I did notice the impact this had on others.  I felt good about listening to my I-friends and meeting them partway in the Communication Minefield.

But recently, I have become aware of the fallout of this noble plan to be more Respectful of the Introverts needs. I’s and E’s are a dichotomy, and treading too far into I-territory for me meant I had to compromise things that turned out to be really important for my own sense of self, and self worth. Here is a photo, but way of example: The woman wrapped in my embrace is my best friend, and in every picture of the two of us together, I am in her space, physically: arms around her, leaning in closer, heads together; verbally: finishing her punchlines, being her straight man, and laughing, always.  It never occurred to me, until recently, that that tendency I have of filling in the space is not an effort to take pressure off the other person, but also a real need on my part to know that the other person knows the details of my life. I can understand how exhausting this is to the overwhelm-able Introvert.

I have a feeling that’s one of the reasons behind this very blog–it’s another way I have of filling in the spaces.  Sometimes it feels like bragging, or at least boasting (and perhaps sometimes it is), but it’s more this undeniable need for others to know who I am. Meeting people in person that I have only communicated with online or by phone pay me the biggest compliment when they say I am EXACTLY what they expected. Not only do I not try to be something I’m not, I put intense effort into being exactly who I am.  If you don’t know some of the following things about me, we are either strangers, or you have been on the other side of my Introvert-Screen. I’ve decided I’m taking the screen down.  I’m done pandering to the I’s. If they can’t learn to filter my emails, tune out my voice or set up their own E-Screen, that’s not my problem or responsibility.  Extroverts are people too.

Lisa’s Extroverted List of Did you know facts:

  • I had 2nd and 3rd degree burns on my foot this winter– the same foot I severed a toe-ligament in with exploding Pyrex a couple of years ago
  • I created a presentation last spring that sparked enough interest to get me an invite as a Keynote speaker this spring
  • I’m teaching myself to play the ukulele
  • I can’t eat any grains except corn
  • I spent some time in Whitehorse this autumn, and it changed my perspective on the North, and on whiskey
  • I am going on my first ever girls-only hen-do get away this spring
  • I still desperately want to travel to Iceland
  • When people refer to my car by name (“The President”) I am thrilled beyond all reason
  • I have friends that I don’t talk to for months or even years at a time and I don’t feel as much distance between us as people I speak to daily.

The final point tells me that I can’t take responsibility for how well someone knows me. That is their responsibility/loss/gain/reward/punishment. Depending on where they fall between the I and the E.


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