25 October 2008

extrovert, introvert, humano-vert

Miss Risa has posted a funny picture she built, of the introvert's family tree. I liked it, and got a special smile because I know some of the people she is referring to. It's a topic that's caught my imagination, and in the old-skool concept of what blogs are all about, here's a bit of a response, exchange of ideas.

Miss J, another dear friend, blogs a lot about solitude, personality, space, reflection and art. I get the feeling that many artists need and crave space and time and a certain degree of isolation for the ideas to grow and flourish. I also happen to know that on occasion when she gets to a social event with a room full of strangers, feeling replenished from plenty of time alone, she is one of the most effortlessly engaging, warm, funny people I have the pleasure of knowing. She's shit-hot group facilitator too, where you have to make a one-on-one connection with a bunch of people all in a very short period of time, not something everyone can do.

Most people meeting Mr b.sharp would instantly slap on the description "extrovert" (if perhaps not "gregarious" because he is so firm in his convictions he does not always befriend strangers, to put it mildly). But I've seen him hunched over a piece of computer code for hours on end, barely registering the world around him, or completely lost in series of japanese anime cartoons, totally content with his own company - not needing anyone's attention or approval.

Another darling blogging friend has an acerbic wit online, she's razor-sharp and dares to write political stuff I would barely say, let alone write on the net. But in person, she is a little shy with strangers, a little wary and reluctant until you get to know her and she lets rip with a hilarious social observation or tells you what she really thinks about that meeting you were just in.

I sit here with a smile that I get deemed "extrovert" from time to time. Sure, I've learnt how to perform in front of a crowd (in the dim, dark past - and they were kids, and I got training and practice too). Expecially since I turned thirty I give much less of a shit about whether new people like me when we meet, so in turn I am less worried about what I say. But this week I made a mistake of judgement on something work-related and just now I feel like crawling into a hole not speaking to anyone, for at least a week, to be frank.

The extrovert in me loves learning another language, enjoys trying out new words and phrases in a confortable environment with people who won't judge. But after a period of struggling, making mistakes and getting blank looks, the introvert gives up, goes mute and avoids talking, even when I would dearly love to take part in the conversation going on.

And recently, its been common for me to spend several days alone, not seeing anyone, talking on the phone occasionally, writing, reading and living in my head. So I think I'm turning into a complete gabber mouth when I do actually catch up with a real live human. And is this a personality trait, or the result of an economic decision of this last year, based on my skills and the market in this country for english-language professionals?

Oh and how many of you have met my Dad? Some of his peers would place him as a bit reticent, a bit withdrawn, perhaps a classic introvert. Did they see him in the plays he did each year with students back in the 80s? What about that annual quizmaster role in front of a 100 or more people, oh, and the band he now plays and regularly performs with?

The point? There's no point really, this is just a piece that could be called "on introversion". Sure, we all have tendencies, we all have modes that we are more natural in most of the time. Many of us feel more comfortable expressing our real views only with the most trusted and safe friends. (Except my boyfirend, apparently). I think that's a pretty sane choice. Some are exaggerated performers but find it hard to connect one-on-one, others are chronic friend-makers and social butterflies, but don't be fooled, they have their inner lives too. The introvert can crack up a room with a joke, just as the extrovert can dissappear on a silent meditation retreat.

Also, I personally don't think this means that we're all constantly walking around behind personality masks that cover up our "true selves". Those different elements are naturally part of us, they come out in some situations but not others. It's stressful to be forced into one mode too often, I reckon most will start to crave company just as they will crave solitude if they don't get either as needed in the right doses.

I look forward to getting to know "E. introvert" better as he grows up - he's likely to be a brainy little tacker like his folks - maybe he'll be great at maths, but be in the school plays too - maybe he'll be captain of the debating team, and also learn how to do computer programming. Vive la difference.


meririsa said...

Glad it made you smile. Yes - these traits are all tendancies, aren't they? I'm going to let Mr E have a go at "performing arts" whenever possible - I'm by no means resigned to his fate as an introvert all of the time.
It's all contextual also, isn't it? You, being in a foreign country and working at home, has some effect on how you tend to be. Having a toddler, who often clings to my leg or follows me about *wherever* I go, makes me crave adult conversation more than I used to, adapt to less "me time" than I would have had 2 years ago (ie the time between hitting the pillow and falling asleep or when I'm blogging), and be more assertive about introducing myself and getting to know other parents.
But it is very good to understand the differences between people who tend towards the different "-versions".

J said...

Nice post Miss. Generous and even handed and optimistic :)