A large portion of the college experience is the journey of self discovery. Whether we find ourselves in intentional and careful pursuits–through the perpetual taking of personality tests and rereading “What Color is Your Parachute”–or if we merely happen into this understanding, we usually come out of school with a greater awareness of what makes us tick. We all undergo the process of seeing ourselves set apart from the elements that once defined us: our homes, families and childhood friends. A simple, but necessary aspect of this process is recognizing the way in which we are able to recharge, determining where we fall along the extrovert/introvert spectrum. With this too, we need to learn the range and how to best live with those who may fall on the opposite side of the scale.
To begin, I have included some definitions. According to the Gifted Kids website, “Most people believe that an extrovert is a person who is friendly and outgoing. While that may be true, that is not the true meaning of extroversion. Basically, an extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people.”
On the other hand, the same website says, “Contrary to what most people think, an introvert is not simply a person who is shy. In fact, being shy has little to do with being an introvert! Basically, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people.”
Logically, the extroverts of the world should live together, while the introverts live on islands unto themselves. Yet this is neither practical, nor beneficial to either group. It is also important to note the majority of people land somewhere along the line of “-vertism.”
The process of living well with one another requires appreciation for the unique aspects the other has to offer. Extroverts thrive in social situations. They are able to make friends quickly, and do so often through the mastery of small talk and quick connections. Additionally, they posses the ability to make quick decisions and work well in groups, and they contribute well to brainstorming sessions. Introverts often prefer dwelling in their minds, considering concepts, processing the information they are constantly accumulating and sharing these with those they trust.
According to the Gifted Kids website, introverts comprise nearly 60 percent of the gifted population (those possessing expectational talents matched with high achievement rates and heightened sensitivity), but only about 30 percent of the general population.
For the introverts:
I spoke with the most extroverted person I know, sophomore Morgan Gilbert. For her, ideal social interactions begin with a casual “hey” accompanied with a statement that will either be inflammatory, shock people into telling her something they otherwise wouldn’t have or incite a laugh. This can be words, gestures, noises, physical contact; ideally they will reciprocate her actions, then the witty banter begins. Social engagements beginning in this nature open the relationship for dynamic fast-paced interactions.
“I look for debate,” Gilbert said. “I seek people with different ideas and opinions. I process verbally, and therefore enjoy engaging conversations with people with varied view points. I am able to refine my arguments by bouncing them off someone else.”
Social irritants of the extroverts: misunderstood sarcasm, passive aggression, lack of verbal communication, fear of interrupting the speaker, withholding details, assuming their inability to keep secrets.
The Social Forms according to extroverts: story swapping, lively banter, eccentric greetings, verbal vivaciousness, matched vulnerability, conversational symmetry.
For the extroverts:
An ideal introvert social interaction begins with a small group of people. The conversation topics range from a wide variety, everyone listens while someone is talking, others will chime in as they wish. They do not enjoy talking over one another, and loathe repeating themselves. These conversations flow naturally among individuals who know and respect one another. It can take a good amount of time to reach this point, but once there, these relationships are highly valued.
Social irritants of introverts: being told they are shy, being misunderstood, constant questioning, needing to answer what’s wrong, being told to get out more or meet new people, interruptions, conversational constancy.
The Social Forms according to introverts: listening well, considering what is being said and your response, silences when appropriate, space to collect and sort in the information intake.
With these insights in mind we can better live in community with those around us. While interacting with friends and neighbors consider their social tendencies, do they match your own? In considering their behavior, we can better see what they seek in relationships, and how to better care for those around us. We cannot assume everyone operates the same way we do; we must be considerate and aware as we go through our days.