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exoskeleton


Member

Posted Mon Jun 1st, 2009 7:04am Post subject: Introversion
I have been planning this rant for a while in my head, although it didn't always have this title. I was going to write something and call it "I have no personality, who cares, leave me alone!" because that was my honest assessment of myself and my preferences for interacting with others. I tend to care more about reading, and to a lesser extent watching, other people's stories and ideas than I do about having well-delineated personality of my own to share. I don't have a lot of fervent opinions or strong emotions, which I believe makes me pretty boring in conversation. This is not to say I don't think or feel things, but I am equivocal on most polarizing topics, and expressing that in public is not a good idea, because it is like saying I'm uninformed or apathetic, even though I don't really think I'm either of those things.
However, I happened to re-read some seminal internet discourse on introversion last night, which I'm sure I read before, but completely forgot. It was totally unintentional; I was reading a recently-published article about a long-running longitudinal study and there was a sidebar link. My feelings and behavior very obviously land me in the category of introvert. It's been my result on every personal survey besides the first one I took, when I was 12 and pretty sure that to "want to be the life of the party" was far more desirable and therefore deserved my affirming response, whether or not it was in practice something I enjoyed. Anyway, this created an interesting situation, because I had just developed a pretty harsh view of myself as being extremely boring, but every negative trait to support this was also one associated with being an introvert. For example, I don't seem to have convictions? No, I don't, because I'm still having a nice time thinking over the issues, sorting out legitimate arguments, gathering and weighing evidence, and I see no reason to stop this midstream in order to give a proclamation.

As much as I want to be relieved and happily don the introvert label, I am still hesitant. There is a study which finds that cerebral blood flow varies with personality type, but I suppose I like the idea that I can reform my own personality. If my blood going in an unconventional direction is more important, I don't feel like there is any room for me to make good decisions about my own behavior. Plus, as a regular reader of science journalism, I've been trained to shout "correlation is not causation!"
The ranting portion of this post is my wondering whether or not introversion is real. I cannot move beyond the idea that it is an extremely selfish way to be. It is by definition fascination with one's own inner life, which I believe implies less interest in the doings of others. Sitting at home with my books, music, and art supplies is doing basically nothing to improve the world. I suppose going out to drunken parties, or even sitting sober in a circle gabbing for hours isn't changing much either, but it seems like good training for such endeavors. One is supposed "speak out" for a cause or "be a good friend" when someone seems lonely. I think of a girl I know who can approach anyone with ease and actually demonstrate sincere interest in a stranger's wellbeing. I am sure her actions are very much appreciated, but if I admire them so much, why can't I do the same? Am I not being very selfish for thinking it's just my way to hang back and be silent, or not even be out in the first place? One must already have a very easy life to be able to spend time alone on a regular basis. How does the responsible introvert, one who really does want to help others, behave?
The unconscious assumption that extraversion is normal and right, especially in American culture, and especially for a female, doesn't make this figuring any easier. There is also the more blatant nagging one receives with when one doesn't want to join in the fun activities. These are the things that could change, but I don't think it's very likely, because it doesn't even seem like a problem to many. It's always taken on the level of personal experience, and problems relating seem to be with individuals rather than personality types in general. If everyone were introverted, I can imagine some important group negotiating never being accomplished, but I have more trouble imagining the shortcomings of a world of extraverts, even though I'm sure there would be many.

Fortunately, this is an issue that's kind of enjoyable for me to consider, because it is personal, but it also benefits from a scientific way of thinking. I feel a lot better just after writing this, if only because it was an opportunity to write paragraphs using correct capitalization. Replies are encouraged, even if they're not related to my reflections here.

a brief addition:
I think this is also an apt topic for a forum like this one because I have found that, not surprisingly, people who enjoy the camaraderie of an online message board tend to be relatively introverted. A few months ago, with no particular hypothesis in mind, I started a thread on another forum asking people to take an online Myers-Briggs Type Inventory and post the results. Almost every single one of us regulars tested as introverted, which is quite far from the estimated prevalence in the general population, where introverts are always in the minority, and sometimes outnumbered 3 to 1 (or more.)

sockdolager.

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PamJH


Member

Posted Mon Jun 1st, 2009 3:32pm Post subject: Introversion
I don't think being an introvert is any better or worse than being an extrovert or perhaps a personality that's down the middle. Some people like to hang back, as you call it, while others damn the torpedoes and go full steam ahead.

I know, because my brother is quite introverted, unlike his sisters. My brother is a good man, but he is not someone I would contact if I needed emotional support. He doesn't know how to give it. I know he wants to, many times, but he's uncomfortable with physical contact and chatting about anything in-depth makes him nervous. I used to get angry with him because we were so close as children, but as we've both got on in years (I'm 48 and he's 50), I've realized that it's just not in him to, well, be like me. And that's OK.

He does come to family gatherings whenever he's asked. He doesn't stay long, but he makes sure to have a little conversation with everyone, and last Christmas he even hugged me back which was a breakthrough for us. And recently he started texting with our 16-year-old niece. She showed him how to do it, and now they keep up with each other that way. So you might be right about introverted people enjoying electronic communication. Our niece said he's a lot of fun to talk to in this fashion.

I don't mean to hijack your thread with my own family example. But just because a person doesn't feel able or even the need to get out there and offer opinions, take stands or make themselves heard doesn't make that person selfish. There's something to be said for taking the time to weigh opinions and facts and then quietly come to a conclusion. I wish more people would do that instead of just saying the first thing that comes to their heads.

I've noticed you being very supportive of people on this forum. That's your way of reaching out and that's fine. I and many others appreciate your efforts.

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exoskeleton


Member

Posted Mon Jun 1st, 2009 4:50pm Post subject: Introversion
Thank you!
I enjoyed your family example. You have observed your brother well. I like the texting comment, saying that he's "fun to talk to." I know some people from high school who always seemed to quiet and I fell into the trap of interpreting it as unfriendly, but when I found them on facebook they had so many interests in and ideas, and expressed them so well! Sometimes a different medium makes for better communication.

sockdolager.

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TheElephant


Member

Posted Mon Jun 1st, 2009 5:01pm Post subject: Introversion
Thanks for posting this.
I guess I'm an introvert most of the time.

I enjoyed the article, and found this one from the same page even more fascinating:
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/199409/gallagher

I guess it was there as a related item.

Technology can be a double edged sword here.
Social networking makes it that much easier to keep in touch with people, without the need to even leave the house, but (at the moment, particularly) I'm finding that it makes it too easy to stay in and become a hermit.
I wouldn't want to not have it though, especially forums like this, which I much prefer to going out and socialising (most of the time anyway).

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Nitro


Member

Posted Mon Jun 1st, 2009 5:12pm Post subject: Introversion
Thank you!
I enjoyed your family example. You have observed your brother well. I like the texting comment, saying that he's "fun to talk to." I know some people from high school who always seemed to quiet and I fell into the trap of interpreting it as unfriendly, but when I found them on facebook they had so many interests in and ideas, and expressed them so well! Sometimes a different medium makes for better communication.

It's kind of hard to comment on this without being a little self-referencing. I agree with Pam that there's no good or bad. I have friends who recharge their batteries by going out and about. I'm just the opposite. I'm the reserved listener in person usually, but that's been true since being a kid. Which is maybe why I started writing at a really young age ( 5 - gawd X-D ). Most of my friends are extroverts which works out well. If I feel like going out, I can usually count on one of them wanting to. I also think it's kind of a myth that all introverts must be self-absorbed, anti-social, or some other negative connotation being applicable.

Exo, fwiw, I don't think there's anything wrong with your personality or your interests, which you already know I'm sure. And I don't say that just because I'm an 'I' instead of an 'E' myself. You like what you like. Now, maybe there's some small part of you that really wants to get out more so you're thinking about this topic in your own way. I don't know, that's quite a leap on my part of course. There's bias on my part probably X-D Maybe because most introverts don't really need a ton of social interaction, then even a little bit is more than enough to carry them on or has the same impact as an extravert who's gone to seven parties in the last two weeks. I think, too, plenty of intraverted types in history have contributed plenty for the 'good' of mankind without being at every function or protesting in the streets or [insert some other obvious gesture/action].

Really? Wow.

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michael


Member

Posted Mon Jun 1st, 2009 8:18pm Post subject: Introversion
i've been both at different times in my life. can't say my personality is actually down the middle...it's more like, one year i'm very introverted, another year i'm very extroverted. if you had told me when i was 16 that i wouldn't be an introvert my whole life, i would NOT believe you. but i uh....i change. a lot sometimes.

but both are good. i have friends at both extremes. we work together, and play together, very well.

i don't know if this helps you in thinking about what an introvert can do for others, but...

for me introversion and extroversion aren't all about who talks the most and who isn't afraid to sing karaoke while riding a mechanical bull naked.

for me it's about where you focus your attention, in...or out. people can be not-so-talkative but still know more about their friends' needs and desires than they know about their own. and some very talkative people may actually spend 80% of their time in reflection, or wrapped up in an inner struggle. it's good to know your insides, it's good to know your outsides. i don't know many people that are skilled at getting to know both at the same time. (not any young ones that is. friends i have that are 50 and over...they're different...can't explain why...cause i'm not that age yet...heh)

there are some quiet folks who can do damn good karaoke naked bull riding...

"HELLO I'M TACTILE !" is an anagram of my name

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PamJH


Member

Posted Mon Jun 1st, 2009 9:32pm Post subject: Introversion

for me introversion and extroversion aren't all about who talks the most and who isn't afraid to sing karaoke while riding a mechanical bull naked.

I talk a lot, but I am not so extroverted I could sing karaoke while riding a mechanical bull. Actually, I'm pretty sure no one wants to see that anyway.

Michael, you crack me up.

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Maxx England


Member

Posted Mon Jun 1st, 2009 9:38pm Post subject: Introversion
I talk a lot, but I am not so extroverted I could sing karaoke while riding a mechanical bull. Actually, I'm pretty sure no one wants to see that anyway..

Somebody call?

In all seriousness, I live so much inside my head but what the world sees is the clown suit I put on when I was a kid to blunt that world's sharp edges. Only time can give it to you, but you will be able to come to terms with yourself. Took me a long while, and I know I'll never be what or who I want to be, but I've finally come to a point where I'm learning to be happy without any sense of guilt or pressure about what the world expects of me and I can't provide.

The only way is forward. Now where's the bar?

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PamJH


Member

Posted Mon Jun 1st, 2009 9:50pm Post subject: Introversion

In all seriousness, I live so much inside my head but what the world sees is the clown suit I put on when I was a kid to blunt that world's sharp edges. Only time can give it to you, but you will be able to come to terms with yourself. Took me a long while, and I know I'll never be what or who I want to be, but I've finally come to a point where I'm learning to be happy without any sense of guilt or pressure about what the world expects of me and I can't provide.

Well put. We none of us can be what we aren't. If you're a person who is quiet and is comfortable with living inside yourself a bit more, then that's who you are. Same as if you're a loudmouth like me. People either accept you or they don't, and if they don't, well, they weren't really meant to be friends but perhaps nodding acquaintances.

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exoskeleton


Member

Posted Tue Jun 2nd, 2009 1:21am Post subject: Introversion
Now, maybe there's some small part of you that really wants to get out more so you're thinking about this topic in your own way. I don't know, that's quite a leap on my part of course. There's bias on my part probably X-D Maybe because most introverts don't really need a ton of social interaction, then even a little bit is more than enough to carry them on or has the same impact as an extravert who's gone to seven parties in the last two weeks

I like this. There could be a small part of me interested in this. I know that there are some really great people out there, and I don't want to miss out on them completely. I could probably enjoy a nice group lunch, for example.
Plus, although I entirely identify as introverted, it is not as though I'm constantly silent either. I have great fun in class discussions, because I'm always sure do the reading ahead, and I am usually among the most talkative in any given class. I think I like it because it's so organized, though, and afterwards no one expects to keep talking. During my senior year of high school I had art class directly after English, so I could put extra energy into discussions.

(btw, read and appreciated your whole post, just wanted to specifically address this part.)

sockdolager.

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exoskeleton


Member

Posted Tue Jun 2nd, 2009 1:29am Post subject: Introversion
Took me a long while, and I know I'll never be what or who I want to be, but I've finally come to a point where I'm learning to be happy without any sense of guilt or pressure about what the world expects of me and I can't provide.

One of the things I'm trying to remind myself is that I know better what will make me happy/not-frustrated than someone else who is telling me what I ought to do, whether they're doing it implicitly or through some sort of nagging instructions. I realize that sometimes we are not able to figure out what will make us happy, but I have enough experience to know the basic classes of situations I do and do not enjoy.

I'm off to mow the lawn now, a task I love because it affords great thinking time while also taking one outdoors. I don't like the loud noise when the mower turns on, but as a background drone the sound is OK.

sockdolager.

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joan


Member

Posted Tue Jun 2nd, 2009 3:54am Post subject: Introversion
As an introvert, I found hiking was my perfect pastime. You can do it alone, with a friend, are in a club. I did much of mine in the Yorkshire Dales in a YHA club. I liked the fact we were all ages and jobs and types. though there were a lot of educated people and deep thinkers among us. A lot of well travelled people too.

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ginj


Member *

Posted Tue Jun 2nd, 2009 4:54am Post subject: Introversion
Fascinating discussion. I actually started answering at lunchtime, without reading everyone's responses. I'm glad I didn't. I see Nitro has taken the Myers-Briggs, as well. X-D So did I (12 years ago) and I believe the highest number on the scale for introvert was 53, I scored a 49, don't get much more introverted than that. And I really did like the way they explained the difference between introvert and extrovert as being where a person gets their energy (an introvert getting their energy from within themselves, and an extrovert getting their energy from others). It has actually helped me understand a lot of things about myself. For example, you may have seen me say on numerous occasions that I do not like people. True, but probably more correctly it is that I find it totally draining and nerve wracking to deal with them. At the end of a day of work, I don't really want to talk to another person, I just want to walk my dogs and stare at the TV or computer screen, but don't ask me to interact with anyone, I just can't do it.

Don't worry about how you are going to make a difference, like those that react to others in a more demonstrative way, you will make a just as much of a difference. You are young, before you think that is a put down or like a pat on the head, read on. At your age, I didn't know either, and I can't tell you how to do it. As you mature you will find your own way. The easiest things to say to you is to do the things that you enjoy naturally, and that will be making a difference without even realiziing. I was in my 30's before I found a way to get out and get involved. So see it wasn't at pat on the head, I was sharing my experience. I am not suggesting this as a way for you, but my way of learning how to deal with others was through my dogs. It was much easier because I could start by talking about dogs, and to the dogs, and even use the dogs as a way to move on, so I actually started getting comfortable around others without dealing directly with them (but with the dogs). I also found it easier to help people briefly (someone's car won't start, offer a jump and never see them again).

You already have good people skills. I see the way that you respond to people and posts on this site and twitter, and you have an open, natural way that will allow people to trust you. You will be able to make a difference just by exhibiting those characteristics, and listening to others.

And lastly, something a friend said while telling about something that had happened to him that day. He said, and I am paraphrasing: One thing I have realized as I have gotten older is there is no such thing as "normal" and I take pleasure in not being any more "normal" than anyone else. X-D And no he wasn't drunk at the time, although it may sound like he was. But having said that, I agree with him. There would be no progress in the world if everyone was like me. And there would be no research in the world if everyone was like the doers. I think having people of each ilk is important for the balance of the world. X-D

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exoskeleton


Member

Posted Tue Jun 2nd, 2009 5:24pm Post subject: Introversion
ahhhh Ginj, your new avatar-- very nice!

I like how you use your dogs for interaction, especially because they can be both a reason to start a conversation and a polite reason to leave one when you are ready to be finished.
Your friend's idea of no one being normal is useful, I think, so one doesn't feel inferior or superior to some other homogeneous group.

sockdolager.

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PamJH


Member

Posted Tue Jun 2nd, 2009 6:18pm Post subject: Introversion
This has been a wonderful conversation so far, and it's making me think about my brother all the time. I l love that guy. I really do.

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