Introverts and Extraverts: Understanding Personality Part 2
Welcome to the Loved Called Gifted Podcast. This is your place to come for musings about spirituality, identity, and purpose.
I’m your host, Catherine Cowell.
This week I’m back with Polly, and we’re doing our second session looking at Myers-Briggs personality types. So last time we did kind of a general introduction and gave a bit of information about that. So one of the things about Myers-Briggs is that there are 4 different sort of elements of personality that Myers-Briggs looks at, and we’re going to look at one of those today, which is the difference between extroversion and introversion. We all have a preference, for either extroversion or introversion, we all do a bit of a mixture of both, but we have a preference for one or the other. And the way that introversion and extroversion is understood in Myers-Briggs terms, if you have a preference for extroversion, then you have a preference for focussing on the outer world of people and activities. Whereas somebody with a preference for introversion, will have a preference for focussing on the inner world of ideas and experiences. And you notice that if you see people who are introverts and extroverts. So somebody who is an introvert will get most of their energy from their internal world, whereas somebody who has a preference for extroversion, will get most of their energy from the external world. That’s the first thing, and the second thing is that somebody who has a preference for introversion, will want to work out what they think about something and how they’re viewing the world, internally, and having worked that out internally, they will be ready to share that externally with other people. Whereas somebody with a preference for extroversion is much more likely to want to work out what they think by talking to other people and expressing their ideas in the world, and having expressed those ideas, they’ll have a much better clue as to what they think of them. So that’s a brief overview. I’m wondering, Polly, is there anything that you would have to add to that at this point?
P: Something that came to mind is if you’ve ever been to a meeting, to a certain extent, the introverts are the ones that perhaps need a bit of time to think about what’s being discussed, before they want to contribute to the meeting. The extroverts, potentially, could be the ones to jump straight in, saying, “well we could do this, or we could do that, or how about this, or has anybody thought about that?” And it’s one of those things, when you start reading stuff about management, there’s always this thing that sometimes the best idea in the room may come from the person who takes the longest to actually express it, because they are needing to sit there and think about lots and lots of stuff. But they will think about something and then speak it, I think that’s probably quite a good example.
C: Yes, I think it is, yes. I’m just remembering that I had a friend, who, when she discovered that she was an introvert, and what that meant, I think she probably always knew that she was an introvert, coz it was fairly obvious *laughs* well, one of the things that she said to me, was that having done the Myers-Briggs, she realised that there were other people who formed whole sentences in their heads before they said them.
C: I would be someone with a preference for introversion, and that isn’t quite how it works, but definitely I know that if I’m in a room of extroverts, that it can be really difficult to get a word in edgeways.
P: I’m an extrovert, but I find that as well!
P: I guess you can have too many extroverts in the room, so if you’ve got a couple of people that are very happy to keep on speaking, then even, sometimes even the other extroverts might struggle to get a word in.
C: Yeah, certainly. I wonder if this would be a good point to just think about what are some of the myths –
C: – about introverts and extroverts, that might get in the way of understanding –
C: – which of those you are.
P: When I first discovered the whole area of Myers-Briggs, this was one of the things, it was the introversion/extroversion that probably made the biggest difference to me. Because it made complete sense. Some of the struggles of my husband and I, I introduced you to Tom last time and said we are completely different on each strand of Myers-Briggs, and it was Myers-Briggs that helped me to understand that. For example, I’ve always been quite shy with strangers, but once I know somebody, I will talk quite happily for a long time, and I love being with other people. And I just used to think that I was a people-watcher. But I actually understand now, that I would get energy from just having other people around. And the classic, y’know my kind of classic behaviour is that when I’m in the house on my own, I will have the radio on, and I’m not necessarily listening to what the programs are, but it just gives me that sense that there’s other people around me, so it just helps me to not feel – y’know, I like it. But with my husband, he will come home from work, for example, and I would be wanting to know everything that had happened to him that day, and he just wouldn’t want to talk. He needed time out to sit and, I now understand, to get his energy back. But also he would be, would appear to be, very very confident with strangers when we were going out, or if new people came to church and stuff like that. But when it came to sort of being at a supermarket, or sort of needing to take something back, or having to talk to somebody on the phone, he’d be really reluctant to do that. So there’re all these little things. I thought that I was introvert and I thought that Tom was an extrovert, and it was purely based on this apparent shyness, confidence with strangers, and when I try and explain things now, sometimes, to other people, extroversion tends to be people who are thought of as loud and shouty, who are very, very confident, come across very confident, and if in a worst case situation, they kind of trample over everybody else’s thoughts and feelings and don’t listen to anybody and want their own way.
C: Whereas introverts are sort of seen as being very quiet, shy, wouldn’t talk at all, sort people who wanna sit int he corner with a book. And I’m an introvert who likes holding parties.
P: Yes. Well, I was going to say, you’re very, you’re very sociable, in that sense, aren’t you? Y’know, dinner parties and having people round, but I guess that you do it in your own time. You know, it has to be planned, in terms of energy and stuff. It has to be kind of a planned activity.
C: Well it’s interesting, because I manage my energy in that kind of context in a number of ways. One of them is that I find it much easier to host a party than to go to a party.
P: Ok, yeah
C: Because if I’m hosting a party, then there are automatic opportunities to
Both: escape! *laughs*
C: Well because you can just say –
P: I’m in the kitchen, I need to go and floss the cat now!
P: Before the cat comes and does it’s…
C: Yes. And I need to go and I’ll go and get you a drink. Whereas actually, if you go to somebody else’s party, there might not be very much escape. One of the things that I think you touched upon was that whole thing that as an extrovert, you’re kind of looking for external stimuli. Whereas as an introvert, I don’t particularly want too much external stimuli. So I know if I am either very peaceful or a bit stressed, then I don’t want any noise at all.
C: So I’ll be much more likely to want to go into a room and turn the radio off than turn the radio on. So yes, I would manage my energy in a social situation, and I would also choose what kind of social situation I would want. So I would much rather have a conversation with a couple of friends in a quiet pub, than I would to go to a nightclub, or somewhere that was loud, or where you had to kind of fight your way to the bar and talk over people. Because actually that, just being in that sensory environment of quite a lot of noise going on, can become overwhelming.
C: I heard about some research once which said that, and don’t take this the wrong way, but that there’s sort of more brain activity going on in introverts than there is in extroverts.
C: So it’s almost like there’s already quite a lot of noise going on in my head, thank you very much –
C: – so I don’t need your noise.
P: I think again this is part of the confusion when I first came across this, I think, so I worked out that some of my issue with strangers is because I never learned how to do sort of small talk, and how to sort of approach people that I didn’t know. Whereas when I looked at my husband’s upbringing, y’know, his parents often had people around for drinks. So he learnt to do the kind of, the initial talky stuff really, really well, very, very competently. So we have this thing now that he will go and talk to new people and when he runs out of stuff to do, he then comes and introduces them to the wife. So he gives them a little bit of information about themselves, because he knows that I can then take that information and then we can then have a much, much deeper conversation, because I have that massive interest in people and wanting to connect with people.
C: So it’s interesting, isn’t it, how kind of our upbringing and our experiences make a difference. One of the reasons that I think it’s really helpful to talk about this stuff is that we can have ended up trying to be a particular way because we think that’s what we ought to be, or have kind of roles placed upon us and expectations of ourselves, and when you actually discover what you do have a preference for, and how you work, and how the other people around us work, then that both gives us permission to be ourselves a bit more; it also means that we’re not expecting the people around us to be exactly like us, you can kind of lose some of that “be like me”-ism that we sometimes get.
P: Yes, I have found it quite a lot in the church sometimes, because there are particular roles, and I kind of discover that people think that they have to be a certain way, and they sometimes struggle; I do know that Myers-Briggs can be part of some of the training that vicars and layreaders and things like that do in the anglican church. I remember having conversations with some of the people when I was doing a pastoral course and we were talking about things like Myers-Briggs, and some of the people, they really struggled to just do the questionnaire. And I really think that there is this thing that we get ideas about who you have to be in a certain situation. And I remember one of the chats that we had, wasn’t it, where we were talking about leadership, and how in different strands of church, leaders tend to be a particular type of person. And if you’re not that type of person, you can be written off, potentially, as not being leadership, and it’s not, y’know, leadership is not necessarily the thing we should all aspire to, but I think we both of us know people who were definitely operating as leaders, but to a certain extent “unofficially”, or in a capacity they were doing their leadership in a different, in a completely different setting.
C: Yeah. So there is something, isn’t there, about appreciating one another
C: And learning that it’s alright
C: to be who you are. On that note, one of the things that is interesting to note, and it comes back to that thing about misunderstandings
C: Is that what’s happening within us will be influencing what we do. But what we tend to do is to assume that if somebody’s doing what we’re doing, they’re doing it for the same reasons.
C: So before we started to record and we had a conversation with your husband Tom, and he said, was I familiar with the idea of running out of words?
C: And his lovely description and it’s coming back to that energy thing, was of being at work and needing to talk, and talk, and talk, and interact with people all day, and then getting home from work and really not wanting to respond to your very loving extrovert “tell me about your day”
C: And his response was “well, I don’t want to tell you about my day, because I’ve been talking to people all day and I have run out of words, I have run out of talking, there is none left so I don’t want to do that.” But as an extrovert, if you were going to NOT talk about your day, it would be quite a deliberate act, probably
P: Mmhmm, yes
C: And quite possibly and act of “I am annoyed with you”
C: And therefore I am NOT going to talk to you. And so that external behaviour looks like grumpiness
C: But actually, it’s not, it’s just a
P: It’s a, it’s a need.
C: Yeah, a need to –
P: In the same way as we need oxygen and food, I think introverts need space.
P: And quiet
P: It’s critical
C: And by contrast he could easily have interpreted, and it sounds like possibly did on occasions, your desire to talk about your day as being a desire to be a bit annoying. *laughs* Because why would you do that when you know somebody needs a bit of space?
P: Well I think again, this is why I say, once I discovered about the Myers-Briggs and that in effect gave me really good reasons why we behaved in these different ways, we could then find ways to work it. Quite happily I would go to meetings quite a lot, and I would be away at weekends, doing training and stuff like that. And people used to say to me, y’know, “does your husband mind you being away from home all the time?” I was like, “absolutely not, he loves it”. In some ways it was the secret to us getting on, because after, y’know, depending what his job has been, at times y’know he’s been in environments where he’s had to use loads and loads and loads of words, so y’know, it’s been really good that he’s had the weekend, or one – there would normally be one day of the weekend, so I wasn’t usually away for the whole weekend, but for him to have that space to just do his own thing, to sit and read, or to just sit and contemplate and do nothing and to not have to have the radio on, for example, was really helpful. So it was definitely one of those things that saved us from having a huge number of arguments.
C: I remember when I was married to Andy, we used to have a Friday night argument. So the Friday night argument was that we had both, and it’s back to this energy thing again
C: We had both expended quite a lot of energy, at work, and he wanted to get his energy back from the external world
C: I wanted to get my energy back from my internal world and just having space to be by myself. And so the Friday night argument was, well what do we do now, because we both need to relax, and my desire was to possibly go to a quiet pub with a couple of people and have a really good chat, but quietly. Whereas his desire was to go to a noisy pub with lots of friends, and then go for a curry. And I’m like, “that is just… I can’t, I don’t think I can do that. No.”
P: THe other thing, I don’t know if any of the people listening have ever watched The Big Bang Theory, there is this thing, there’s a character in that called Sheldon that you’ll know is very, very, very introverted. It’s one of his things. But they, they have this wonderful phrase which I’ve probably forgotten, but in effect they had to train Sheldon that sometimes, just sometimes, he had to go out, and he had to be friendly. So there was a minimum amount of social interaction that he had to kind of do. And that’s also been really helpful because it’s a way that we can negotiate, so there will be certain things that we can kind of, we don’t so much sit down and discuss the week ahead anymore, because we’ve been married nearly 30 years, so I think we’ve worked some of these things out, without having to do it explicitly, if you see what I mean. But certainly initially there would be things like, we would think about what was gonna be happening in a particular week and we could then negotiate, “Right, I need you – this particular occasion is something that I need you to be at, you need to come and you need to be friendly and talk to people nicely.” And we would kind of talk about what events were, in effect, compulsory, and what events he could *laughs* have a ‘raincheck’, I think the Americans call it. So even, y’know, things like that, and both of us being really happy with that, because it would mean then that I could go to something and I didn’t need to worry too much about what time we finished or when we needed to go home. Because I would be happy to just run with it until had run it’s course, whereas I know that sometimes at a lot of things, if Tom’s there as well, we have this joke now that some of our friends know as well, where we call “pumpkin time”. It’s like there is a time beyond which we really need to be going home, because the energy levels have gone to such an extent that it kind of starts to become critical.
P: but it’s just a way, it is a way of maintaining harmony. And because I’m the kind of person that really, really likes harmony. It just really works.
C: I think in work places as well these things show up.
C: So if you’re an extrovert, the idea of an open plan office is great.
C: If you’re an introvert, it’s just really tough. When I became a bit more senior, and I got my own office
C: That was fantastic, because actually, it was so much easier to work if I didn’t have to be trying to do it in the middle of a room where there was a lot of other stuff going on. And I don’t think that is something which is often considered. And I suspect that these days when there’s quite a lot of home working going on, that that will be something that will really make a difference to people.
P: Well, certainly in our house, I know that I really missed, I know there was contact with people on zoom but it just, for a full-blown extrovert, it just isn’t the same, having the warm bodies around, it’s like you can make the best of it by talking to people, phoning people, stuff like that, but I think for the full experience, there is something about having those other bodies
P: in the room as well to do with the interaction. But with Tom I just knew that there was no way that Tom would want to go back into an office, and fortunately, the place where he worked, other people had been moved into the space that they used to occupy. So he’s been able to stay working from home. We have a lot more conversations, I would say, at the end of a working day, now, to what we used to have, just because he’s not got that pressure of just the noise. Because even if he wasn’t talking to people, so it wasn’t so much that he’d always used all his words up, but it was just the energy that it took, having people chattering in the background, and having, y’know, music on, and hearing other people on the phone, and all of those sorts of things that it… I guess you can attest to this, it just de-energises you. It saps energy. It’s like having too many windows open on your screen, so it just saps your energy. Even when, y’know, nothing appears to be happening, in that sense.
C: Yeah. So one of the things, one of the things that I have discovered later in my life, really, is that how tidy my house is makes a difference to the amount of energy that I’ve got. And I’m sure that some of that is just about the fact that there’s not so much to see. So having a quieter sensory environment really helps. If you go into primary schools, quite often I think they get this a bit badly wrong. Because, I don’t know whether
*both talk over each other*
C: primary school teachers are all extroverts/P: Can I just say…
P: I love going into primary schools, coz there’s all this brightly coloured stuff everywhere, which is exactly what is really not helpful for some children, is it, but they’re not
P: Not able to express… you can’t kind of explain why it is that you’re always grumpy when you finish school and potentially it’s because there’s too much
P: too much stuff everywhere.
C: We did, our boys both had sensory integration therapy, so there are things from a sensory perspective that they find difficult
C: And what really interested me about the sensory integration therapy, was that the room was very carefully curated
C: so there was not much stuff out.
C: So it felt very spacious and quite calm, just because there wasn’t much stuff out. And then you contrast that to walking into their primary school. And even walking into reception, at one point they had kind of created this sort of cave-thing, where they had covered all of the walls in reception, there was kind of like a pretend tree with branches coming over, and there was like 90 gazillion things hanging from the branches, and every single wall is plastered with school work, and artwork, and all of that kind of stuff. And then they had a sensory room, which was that but on steroids.
P: *laughs* Like you hadn’t had enough sensory direction already.
C: Well, people kind of get the idea about creating a sensory space which is supposed to be calming, and I was talking to an OT once, and she said, “well, the problem is, is that what people do is they go online and they buy sensory toys and they buy all of them, so you go into the sensory room and it’s like…”
P: It’s full of stuff. You don’t know which one to play with.
C: Yes! So there’s like 19 light tubes and some have got bubbles, and some have got fish, and then there’s quiet music, and then there’s a piece of black cloth with flashing purple lights on it. I would be very interested, as a random aside, I would be very interested if you could do some research about personality types and the setting that people choose to put their Christmas tree lights on.
C: Because I would just like them to be ON. Or OFF.
P: Yeah, not flashing, at 26 different… *both laugh*
C: I do not need kind of strobe lighting, it’s just too much. The other thing I think is worth just touching on, in terms of how introverts and extroverts come across to one another
C: Is a thing about sincerity.
C: And for an introvert, I think sincerity means that you say what you think. And so as an introvert, listening to extroverts talking, sometimes somebody will, as an extrovert, say something, and then decide that they don’t agree with what they’ve said.
C: But they didn’t know whether or not they agreed with what they’d said or not
P: until they’d said it.
C: Until they’d said it.
C: If you’re an introvert listening to that, then the only reason you’d say something is because it’s what you think.
C: So if you’re listening to an extrovert saying something, and then they change their mind, that can seem quite insincere and quite, potentially, deceptive.
P: And I imagine that if, the fact that extroverts, potentially, say, you might ask them a question, and they start replying, they start talking straight away, may make the introvert think, “Oh, well, you’ve not thought about this at all”, because they’re expecting you to have a time of silence, perhaps, or say “well I need to think about that for a bit and then I’ll come back to you”. It just reminds me sometimes again, the conversations I have with Tom – sorry Tom! – it’s like it’s this thing where I’ll be talking about something and I can tell that Tom’s thinking, “let’s go and do that then” and I’ll be like “no, no, this is not, I’m not saying this is what we’ve got to do, this is just me rehearsing, practicing, kind of going through the options.” So sometimes there is that thing that if he expects me to do what he would, he expects that what is coming out of my mouth, that that is the final, the final thing. Whereas for me, I’m like “this is just the pre-amble”.
P: I’m just kind of practicing
C: Working out what I think
P: Yes, yes
C: So please don’t go and buy me that thing, because I haven’t decided yet.
P: Yes. I might want something else even more than that.
P: Even though I’m talking about it a lot.
C: I was speaking to my spiritual director the other week, and she wanted to know whether I was learning anything new from our conversation, because she said “I realise that introverts generally tell you what they already know”, which was an interesting comment. Some of the way that I understand the world, I do do extrovertly.
C: So I do do some of that. But that contrasted, that contrasts, though, that sense of “introverts tell you what they already know” to, this Tuesday we had a women’s group here, and somebody said “I don’t wanna bore you, but I want to say this, so I can work out what I think about it
C: Which I thought was wonderful
P: That helps them, then.
C: Yes! Yes!
P: It’s helpful to know that that’s what we’re doing at this moment.
C: So it might be helpful to tell people that sometimes. But the other way that the kind of sense that the other person you’re talking to is perhaps not being entirely honest, is that I have heard extroverts say, “well, I think you’re holding things back”
C: Because as an extrovert, you would just talk about stuff
C: And you would ‘show your workings’, if you like. And in the process, from your perspective as an introvert, what your listeners are getting is not just the final result, but also the thought processes that run up to it, and actually, if you were to hide some of that thought process, you would be doing it very deliberately, because it’s not something that comes naturally
P: Yes, yes
C: So if you are being quiet, you are doing it in order to withhold information.
C: So it can be very easy for extroverts to look at the way introverts interact and potentially think, “that person is withholding information”.
C: When actually, that’s not what’s happening at all.
P: I imagine as well that in arguments and stuff as well, it has a real, it will have a real impact, because potentially, y’know, an introvert may appear to be giving you the silent treatment
P: whereas actually in effect they’ve just received a whole load of information that is all completely new to them, and they’ve got to go away and process that against, compare it with whatever information they’ve already got and decide what they think about it. Which is not very good in the middle of an argument when you think that you’re trying to resolve something, perhaps, or something like that, and somebody says, “sorry, I need to walk off” and…or they might just literally walk off.
C: Ohh, I am… I mean, when I think back, it is the case that often as we get older, we kinda grow into our shadow side
C: so I’m a lot less introvert now than I was in my teens and in my twenties.
C: But the thing which sends me back to a very, very deep level of introversion, is if I’m having an emotional argument with somebody.
C: Or if something happens that has impacted me emotionally, then at that point I just…it’s not that I don’t want to continue to talk, it’s that I really literally
C: There is too much feeling going on, I really don’t know what I think, I need quite a bit of time to sort of unpack that and get to the point where I know. And I definitely can’t extrovert at the same time as doing that.
P: Well I’ve learned as well to use things like that in myself, I kind of use it as a bit of a traffic light system. Because I find it really difficult to know whether or not I’m stressed.
P: I just seem to be able to put up with things, and put up with things, and then something will happen, or somebody will say something, and it’s kind of like I explode, and it’s like, “where did that come from?” or…and it’ll just be because I’ve just taken it and taken it and taken it. So I’ve learnt to kind of use this thing that if, if there is a situation, and I’m behaving in a way where I, that I wouldn’t normally, so I’m being more introvert than extrovert, it’s a way of me saying, “Oh, there’s obviously something wrong here” or I’ve got something going on that is using up so much of my energy, that I haven’t, I literally haven’t got the energy to be extrovert. But also I’m glad you mentioned sort of shadow type again, because I think sometimes if you deliberately, and I think… I’ve deliberately done quite a lot of shadow-work, and I think also because Tom is so, he’s exactly the opposite of me, I perhaps understand how to operate in my shadow, I’ve had this role model showing me –
C: How to be an introvert!
P: – what that looks like, yes. So it’s like I get a masterclass every day in how to be the opposite of who I am. But that takes energy, because it’s something that you kind of have to think about consciously. Whereas I kind of think that your own preference, the whole idea of this is that when you have everything so that you can work to your preference, that is, y’know, for either one it is the most energising, because that’s the one that you don’t have to keep thinking about. Because it’s that thing that comes naturally.
P: So again, if you, and I think it’s really good again for things like work, in the workplace, if you find that you’re having to operate a lot of the time in a way that doesn’t really suit your personality type, you can get to the place where you’re happy to work in that way, but there will be some days where you’re like “I just haven’t got the energy to do that, I just want to go and be myself”.
P: And kind of go off with the clown outfit in the shopping mall or whatever, and just be really really extrovert.
C: Sort of get it out of your system.
C: The pattern of what tends to happen under stress is that when you’re really – when you’re not stressed, and you’re kind of really at your best, then you can make longer excursions into the world of your sort of opposite preference.
C: And you can do that more effectively, and then as stress happens, the more that that’s demanded of you, the harder that becomes.
C: And you get to the point where you really have to kind of hide away in being who you are, so, well, I say ‘hide away’ as an introvert, you can’t really hide away as an extrovert. Unhide as an extrovert. But then there does come a point, doesn’t there, when you sort of reach a tipping point. And in Myers-Briggs language, it’s called being “in the grip”. And actually what happens then, is that you suddenly do a really bad –
P: version –
P: – of the other self.
C: Yes, yeah. So there are, there have been a few times in my life, not that many, but there are times when, in extreme stress, then I would become very shouty, loud, extrovert, expressing feelings, that’s not something that comes naturally –
C: – either, in a way that is pretty dysfunctional. But actually through that experience quite often, that quite often unlocks things in you
C: And you do grow a bit through those
C: And you kind of recognise what’s happening. So there is that sense that if life is more demanding, it’s really good to be able to spend more time operating in a way that suits you best. So, I wonder, Polly, what are the things that you do, if you need a bit of extroversion time, and then I’ll talk about what I do if I need a bit of introversion.
P: So for me, I’ve had days where I’ve gone and visited somebody, in the morning, for example, and then gone out and we’ve had lunch and done stuff, and then on the way back I’ve popped in to see somebody else because it’s their birthday, and I’ll pop in somewhere else, and just having all these different places, and just having different interactions with different people, so it’s one of the things that I’m able to do in the holidays that I really love. But also, in my job, going in, y’know, being in a classroom and watching the people come in and then having this kind of interactive conversation and stuff, and especially if they bring something up that I wasn’t expecting, and we just kind of, or I’m just able to talk and interact and stuff.
P: I find that really energising
P: Sometimes to the point that, y’know, because I’ve got all sorts of issues with joints and stuff, I’ll be having such a good time bouncing around the classroom and doing stuff for 2 hours, and then afterwards when everybody’s left the classroom, I will suddenly realise that actually *laughs* bits of me are actually quite painful. Now because I’ve just been having so much fun –
P: – that I kind of forget.
C: But that thing about kind of popping and seeing lots of different people, and interacting with a number of different sorts of things, and watching life and wanting to be part of it, so finding ways of doing that is helpful to you. And you did speak earlier in the conversation about the fact that sometimes you’ll leave Tom at home and go and do stuff –
C: – and go to meetings and things
C: And get a bit of a fill-up of that time.
C: I think for me, I think it’s really helpful if I can have some quiet, and sometimes that’s quite difficult to get. My kids, less now that they’re teenagers –
P: 2 quite energetic boys
C: Yes, yeah, yeah, yeah, and much less so now that they’re teenagers and they want a bit more time to themselves, which for me as an introvert is marvellous. One of the things that’s taught me how to cope with doing more extroverting, actually, is the fact that I had a very extrovert husband for 20 years, and I’ve had 2 quite extrovert kids who’ve wanted a lot of attention.
P: Needed your attention.
C: Yes. But what that has meant is that there’ve come points when I’m just absolutely full
C: Yeah, absolutely.
P: Too much
C: Yes, yeah. So, getting time that’s just me, actually, I don’t mind going to a coffeeshop, coz there’s just enough kind of going on, but you can be ignored, you don’t have to talk to anybody, and I certainly wouldn’t people watch.
C: So I wouldn’t go to a coffeeshop in order to people-watch, I would go to a coffee-shop in order to not be surrounded by my stuff
C: And to have the opportunity to focus on something quite deeply. So I do a bit of writing, sometimes, and actually, having that one thing to think about, focus on, I find really helpful. Which is one of the things that we’ve not talked about, actually, is the fact that quite often, there is a subtle difference between the range of interests that extroverts and introverts tend to have. So introverts can be much, much more focussed.
C: Absolutely. And people with a preference for extroversion are more likely to want a variety of different thoughts and ideas and activities. I mean, I’m not somebody who would focus on one thing exclusively, but I do notice that it works better for me if I do one piece of work and finish it, and then move on and do a different piece of work and then finish it
C: – than if I’m kind of flitting around between stuff.
It would be good to talk about what we value about the other. I would say that one of the things that introverts bring to the world is a sense of quiet. If you want to go and be listened to, then quite often an introvert will have the edge. I think one of the things that can be quite difficult for me as an introvert is that I’m often not the person who decides what the conversation is about. And so spending time with somebody else who’s an introvert, sometimes gives me the option of being the person who decides what we’re talking about. Which otherwise sometimes wouldn’t happen. When I’ve facilitated groups, one of the things that often can potentially happen is that you can potentially miss the contributions of the introverts, and we talked about this at the beginning, but quite often, the introverts, the people with the preference for introversion within the room will be the ones who have been listening to what everybody else has been saying
C: And so when you do ask them what they think, or what their contribution is, supposing that you create the space to do that, and often it’s really important to deliberately make that space for people
P: Yes, mmm
C: Often what you will get is something which is really well thought through and quite, quite often quite profound.
C: We definitely in our society I think, tend to value extraversion over introversion, I would say.
P: I suppose – ooh, this is – the thought that’s just come to me…
P: Is that I think it’s to do with speed. So I think because society has definitely changed and it’s all about the sound byte and the who gets there first, who’s going to be the first one to communicate about such and such an event, so obviously extroverts, the kind of media and stuff that we have, is probably going to have a lot more extroverts in it because they have, y’know, shove a microphone in their face and they’re happy to say something straight away.
C: One of the things that I would say is that actually if you’re an extrovert and your best way of reflecting is to sit down with somebody and talk, well then, it might be that there is an extrovert way of doing the reflecting. I think going back to what do we appreciate about the other, if I was to think about, “what do I appreciate about people with a preference for extraversion?” a really key thing for me would be the energy that, y’know, you guys bring into the room. And the fact that –
P: the life and soul of the party –
C: Yeah, yeah, yeah
P: – so that you can go and hide in the kitchen leaving your extrovert friends with your other friends and then knowing that I’ll talk to them all.
C: But then there is something very lovely about kind of having that level of energy. I remember going for dinner with a family. Everybody in this particular family were introverts. And you – and the atmosphere was just –
C: Well, there wasn’t an atmosphere. Because nobody felt the need to say anything, and I know I’m an introvert, but I was sort of like, “this is… –
P: “why did you invite us round??”
C: Yes, “I could have done this at home!” Whereas if you are, if you are in a room where there are some extroverts, then actually, having people who will bring the energy, and immediately have something to say, and something to offer, that’s a really cool thing, and I hugely value that. And the creativity, and that kind of ability to think about lots of different things, and to hop from one thing to another, so long as you’re not overdoing it.
P: But just don’t make it look like a primary school sensory room.
C: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. “I’ll come to your house but not for long.”
C: *laughs* Yeah, yeah. So that’s introverts and extroverts, and I think I would say in sort of summing up, that we all have things of value to bring
C: So it’s worth just reflecting on what you reckon your preference is, and it will be for one or the other, whether you have a preference for introversion or extraversion. Are you getting enough time to spend in your kind of comfort zone where you can function well, and if you’re not, what might be some of the things that you can begin to put into your life that would help you with that?
C: Are you feeling obliged to behave in ways that really don’t suit you, because you feel like you need to fit into somebody else’s mould? And how can you sort of let go of some of those obligations? And actually, if you are an introvert who’s being expected to extravert a lot, or an extrovert who’s being expected to introvert a lot, then just giving yourself a bit of a break if you’re finding it hard work, I think is worth –
P: Even something as simple as insisting that you have a lunch break, for example, and use that lunch break to go off by yourself, don’t be tempted, just because everybody else goes and sits in the canteen with their sandwiches, that’s just, y’know, if you’re in an open plan, I imagine for an extro– for an introvert, in an open plan office, to go and sit in a canteen to eat your sandwiches, is just like “no”, y’know? Go and go outside, or if you can go and find a room that isn’t in use, or if all else fails go and, go and sit on the toilet *laughs*
C: I’ve done that in past years. I used to do that a lot, I would sneak off to the loo, and then you find that you’re out somewhere, and you sneak out with a book, and then you find that they’re piping music into the toilet!
C: Noooo, don’t do this to me!
P: But it is, y’know sometimes you might need to talk to somebody else, I’ve got, the book in my cannon that I use the most, it’s like a very thin, about the whole “in the grip” thing, and I find that I use that most, and I use it with other people the most, coz I think when it comes to stress, especially, and lots of people are under stress, and it’s all to do with this thing because you are spending too much time –
C: Trying to be something that you’re not.
P: Out of –
C: Out of your comfort zone
P: Out of your preference, yeah.
C: And hopefully the other thing that this might have given you the opportunity to do is to think about some of the people you’re interacting with, and are there ways of seeing the way that other people are interacting with you through new eyes? And there may be ways that you can communicate a bit more about how you are and how you work.
P: Maybe ask them.
P: I know a lot of the time with Tom, I’ve just said, “right”, y’know, “ how do you, how are you processing this?” What?
But it is that thing, ask them.
C: Yeah, yep
P: Ask them. Are they able to explain why they do something? And if you can make it sound like you’re asking and not as a “WHY DO YOU DO IT LIKE THAT??” if you can kind of do it when you’re not frustrated or whatever in that sense, it can be really illuminating.
P: In that sense
C: Well, thank you very much, Polly
P: Thank you
C: That’s been really interesting.
Hope you enjoyed this episode of the Loved Called Gifted podcast. If you’d like to get in touch, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org You can find a transcript of this podcast at lovedcalledgifted.com and that’s also the place to go if you’re interested in the Loved Called Gifted course or if you’d like to find out about spiritual direction or coaching.
Thank you for listening.