816 North Opinion

When introverts and extroverts mingle, understanding the basics is best

Of the five people in my immediate family, three of us are extroverted. We are the majority.

And yet, it feels as though the minority rules in this house. Somehow, thanks to an odd turn of events (that I like to call, “my life”) I live like an introvert.

I don’t go out much; we don’t have many people over.

I read a lot of books and listen to a lot of podcasts even if there are people around me.

I can, and often do, go a full eight, daytime hours without any other human interaction — heck, we don’t even have a dog that I can talk to. But at the end of those quiet, non-interactive days…I’m wiped. Drained of energy with no real reason for it.

Oh sure, I’m busy, often even physically busy, but I’m more tired than after a non-stop, work-with-people day. Not a surprise to anyone who knows me at all…this is classic extrovert behavior.

Overly simplified: You’re introverted if being with people drains your energy and you can only recharge by being alone; extroverts are exactly the opposite: social or work interaction with real, live in-the-flesh people charges us.

There is, of course, science behind our behaviors. It all comes down to how we use neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals that tell our bodies how to act and react. In other words, the thought processes of introverts and extroverts are different.

You didn’t need science to tell you that, right?

Given a free evening, an introvert would delight in staying in with no one or a very small group of someones; the extrovert wants to do something with as many people as they can rustle up. There are online quizzes you can take to discover where someone falls, but, to me, understanding this makes it easy to put loved ones in one camp or the other.

This doesn’t mean that extroverts are always boisterous and hate being alone; and it doesn’t mean that introverts are shy, some of my favorite introverts have professions they love that require public speaking and constant human interaction. It also doesn’t mean that extroverts are sucking the energy from introverts like social vampires…but it does mean that it might feel that way.

Through life’s odd turn of events this extrovert has figured out how to respectfully live among the introverts.

There was a time when I felt that we didn’t care for each other on the same level; I felt rejected when certain friends didn’t want to talk on the phone or go to lunch. There was a time when I thought my own daughter was troubled when she made a straight line from school to her room then closed the door.

There was a time when I questioned why my husband didn’t like the kids pouncing and excitedly talking when he first walked through the door after work.

It wasn’t me, it was them. Or rather, their brains, but once I figured this out it wasn’t too hard to be considerate of the way those brains worked. I learned that texting or private Facebook notes were the best way to keep up with the lives of my introverted friends; I learned to cherish the one-on-one time I have with them and not whine for more.

I learned that my daughter always came out of her room. I know that when she comes home now, especially after happily being with people at school or work, she’ll make that straight line from opening the front door to closing herself in her room to recharge. The kids and I both learned that Dad needs a few minutes alone before he’s ready to take on whatever they have to offer.

And I’ve learned to enjoy the silence even when it drains me.

Susan Vollenweider lives in the Northland. To listen to the women’s history podcast that she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com

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