No, I’m not talking about social trendiness, a topic in which I have zero interest. I’m interested in Introverts and Extroverts.
I’ll mention here that I am no psychologist, merely a reader of pop psych articles. But the I/E split intrigues me because it’s a useful frame for dealing with life, and it represents a prime aspect of personality. And always has, the past as much as the present.
I’m going to make lots of sweeping generalizations. You are warned. <G>
For starters, who are these “I” and “E” people? As Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraversion ) says, “ Extraverts (sometimes called "extroverts") are gregarious, assertive, and generally seek out excitement. Introverts, in contrast, are reserved, thoughtful, and self-reliant. They are not necessarily asocial, but they tend to have smaller circles of friends, and are less likely to thrive on making new social contacts.” Carl Jung more or less came up with the idea, but it’s such a useful concept that it is now slung around pretty casually.
My sister, who as it happens IS a psychologist, once explained the concept to me more simply: extroverts are energized by being with people, and introverts are drained. Extroverts outnumber introverts about three to one, and they tend to get better publicity. Contrast “life of the party” with “disaffected loner.”
Many of you have probably taken a Myers-Briggs test, or equivalent, which judges four personality traits: Extroversion/Introversion; Sensing/Intuition: Thinking/Feeling: Judging/Perceiving. The test results in a four letter score like INFJ or ESTP.
The Myers-Briggs is often given to young people as part of vocational testing to establish what their preferences are. For example, someone who likes peace and quiet probably wouldn’t want to work on a stock exchange trading floor. A person who likes to be right in the middle of the action will die of boredom as a night watchman at a quiet suburban mall.
If you haven’t ever taken the Myers-Briggs, or have and would like to do it again, here are three internet sites that offer free M-B type tests with 50 or so multiple choice questions. I like the top one best because it offers a five point scale rather than a simple either/or.
If you don’t like the results at one site, try another. <g> All of these traits exist along a spectrum, and if you’re toward the center of the scale, you could shift from one mode to the other with slightly different questions or a different mood. Overall, though, the results should be similar.
My first experience with this kind of testing was the Keirsey temperament sorter in the book Please Understand Me. ( http://tinyurl.com/2om3hq ) I rated as an INFJ, subtitled—“The Author.” <g> This was well before I started writing. My SO, aka “Mr. Extrovert,” tested out as ENTJ: The Field Marshal. He loved that. <g> Here’s the Keirsey website, which has lot of good info on the personality types:
As an example of how this works in practice, Mr. Extrovert threw a big party in August to which he invited basically everyone he ever met, and I’d say about half of them came. By the time it ended, he was lit up like a Roman candle while I felt like roadkill. I do not even want to THINK about another large party for at least a year. Preferably five.
Speaking of which, when did “party” go from being a noun to a verb? That usage has to have been invented by an extrovert. <g>
Of course, how much an introvert is drained depends a lot on who the people around are. The vast majority of writers are introverts from what I’ve observed, but turn us loose at a writing conference where we’re surrounded by our own kind, and we can get crazily interactive. (When I gave the keynote at an RWA national conference a few years back, the one thing I said which everyone remembered was that it was “a group of 2000 introverts pretending to be extroverts.”)
Many conference attendees periodically withdraw to their rooms to recharge, or leave the hotels for a long, quiet walk. Some of us get into an over-stimulated, buzzy state, strung out and exhausted but not wanting to miss anything or anyone. Almost all of us go home at the end of the conference feeling deeply depleted and ready to sleep for three days. But while there, we can give a pretty fine imitation of extroversion.
I’ve had people say, “Isn’t it hard to work at home alone all the time?” to which I reply, “No, it’s WONDERFUL.” I love great billows of time where it’s just me and the cats (and the e-mail and maybe a few phone calls.) Because my work life gives me lots of time for peace and recharging, I actually score more toward the middle of the I/E scale than I used to, because my “I” needs are so well met.
Contrarily, an extrovert with a demanding, people-filled day job, may score more toward the “I” end of the scale because her extrovert needs are being so well filled that the need for quiet time becomes more pronounced. Even the most effusive E needs some peace now and then, and even the most solitude-craving “I” tends to want to interact with people now and then.
Not that all writers are “Is.” I know at least one proven E who has produced over a hundred books and is still going strong. For years she worked with a collaborator. Eventually they went their separate ways, but then her husband retired and is happy to do web and business related work for her, so there’s always company nearby.
Other “E” writers compensate by becoming active in writing groups, I suspect. Or if they have an active family life, that may take care of their extrovert needs very nicely.
Most experienced writers learn to deal with the public fairly competently, but it’s usually a lot of work and time-limited. For example, I can be gracious and friendly in a book signing for maybe two hours. After that, all bets are off. <G>
Another good bit from my sister: She says that if you invite an extrovert to join you for a movie, they’ll ask, “Who’s coming?” An introvert will ask, “What’s playing?” 🙂
In my own observation, when receiving party invitations, the “E” will say, “Great! When and where?” The “I” will say “Do I have to go?” unless she knows and likes a good number of the people who will be there.
I suspect that many of the regulars here at Word Wenches are introverts since you’re book people. I think one reason books have value to so many women is because in a stressful, over-full life, a woman can find mental privacy in the middle of a family food fight if she’s reading a good book. (This may be why women have always been greater readers than men.)
I went to my Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and found lots of quotes on solitude and tranquility, but none on partying. Clear proof that it’s the introverts who are the writers, so naturally they’re the ones producing the quotes. <g> Like this one from Shelley’s “Song to the Men of England”:
I love tranquil solitude,
And such society
As is quiet, wise, and good.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? So which are you, and introvert of an extrovert? Have you shifted with time and circumstances? Please share any appalling experiences you have with the opposite polarity!
Mary Jo, who avoids crowd scenes like the one on the left