Close your eyes ... no, wait, I didn’t think that through ... sit back and imagine that you’re in a group of people that you know and like. You’ve been with them, talking, laughing, being together for a few hours — how do you feel?
Energized or exhausted?
Now, imagine yourself alone for the same amount of time. Just you, maybe a book or Netflix but you aren’t sick, you aren’t working, you’re just hanging out with yourself.
How do you feel now? Ready to talk to another human or comfy cozy? Are you energized or drained?
If people drain you of energy and you recharge by being alone, you’re an introvert; if you perk up by being with others, you’re an extrovert. It’s really that simple.
Of course, life is usually a beautiful blend and we all fall someplace on a spectrum of vert: not only and always an introvert or extrovert, but we do favor one over the other.
I like alone time, but I don’t need it and am usually invigorated after being around people, sometimes any people. For almost three decades, my husband has watched me small-talking to cashiers, chatting up co-shoppers in the produce section, making lame comments to people in elevators, and he’s asked me the same question over and over: “Do you always have to talk to everyone?”
No ... I just like to.
But he doesn’t. My daughter doesn’t. My friend Rachel doesn’t. She posted this on Facebook the other day:
I really wish extroverts would better understand how draining it is for an introvert to be “on” when dealing with people. I wish they’d just get that sometimes we introverts need alone time.
This extrovert does understand that. These days I’m an Introvert Ally, but I wasn’t always.
In college, my friend Juliet would say she was going to go out with a group of us but, at the end of a busy school day, all she really wanted to do was be alone in her room.
“Are you sure?” I would ask.
“Come on, it’ll be fun!” I would whine.
“I’m really good.”
“I hate to think of you alone on a Friday night.”
At first, I thought it was me, that she didn’t like me. Then, I thought she was shy and didn’t like being with any people. But after she became my roommate, I finally understood.
She needed that alone time. She wasn’t shy and she really did like people — but after being around them all day, she needed to recharge by herself.
If I had been alone all day, I would want to be around others. What I did was make the mistake of thinking that everyone was like me.
Juliet’s an introvert; I’m an extrovert. My job as her friend was to not try to make her do something she didn’t want to do just because I did.
My daughter is very social. She likes to meet people, talk with them, and being around them doesn’t make her miserable or mopey. It usually makes her very happy.
What Juliet taught me all those years ago made me a better mom to my introverted daughter. I know that when she’s done being around people, she needs to be alone; she’s a happier person when she has that time to herself.
It took a long time for me to understand this, maybe longer than it should have, but when I got it, I’m happy to report that I really got it. Understanding how people that we care about function best is a crucial element of caring about them.
Thanks to Juliet and my husband, my daughter, my friends like Rachel — I’m an introvert ally ... and the people who care about me? They’re extrovert allies.
Susan Vollenweider lives in the Northland. To listen to the women’s history or historical media recap podcasts that she co-hosts, or to read more of her writing visit The History Chicks or The Recappery at www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.