I love public speaking when I’m sharing about something that is important to me. Teaching and motivating others is one of my favorite things to do. I could be put in a room with just about anyone and manage to have an interesting conversation. When I attend a class or workshop, it doesn’t bother me at all to sit by a group of people I have never met. The last time I flew in an airplane, the people around me were very quiet, but by the end of the flight I had drawn them into a delightful chat.
You might think by reading the previous paragraph that I am outgoing and extroverted. I may be outgoing at times, but I can easily become overstimulated by the external world. I draw energy from the internal world of ideas, emotions, and impressions. I am definitely introverted.
Socializing can be difficult for me, especially if it involves a lot of small talk. I’ve probably used a lot of excuses over the years to avoid attending parties and get-togethers. If I go to a social gathering, I may need a day alone afterward just to reflect, recharge, and regain my balance. Many times growing up I felt like I was a social misfit and just not as interesting as other people. I like a lot of attention to be given to what I am saying if I consider it important, but I don’t like the attention to be on me. If everyone in a room is chiming in on a certain subject, even if I have something to say, I would never raise my voice or interrupt to be heard. I enjoy interactions with people, but, like all introverts, I can easily become drained by too much.
Extroverts are energized by the external world – people, going places, lots of activity. They need to be out and about to recharge their batteries. They like lots of friends and experiences. They tend to talk more than listen.
Introverts are often good listeners but also enjoy talking about things of importance to them. They probably need to think more before speaking or acting and don’t like feeling rushed. Sometimes their minds become blank when feeling under pressure. They like more connection and intimacy.
I had no understanding of the differences between extroverts and introverts until I was in my 30’s. I spent a lot of years thinking there was something just not quite right about me. Of course, I knew I had talents and good qualities, but I just felt like I didn’t quite fit in. It can be so empowering to realize that people are just made differently, and now I believe that the qualities we have are there for a reason.
According to Marti Olsen Laney, author of the book The Introvert Advantage, research has shown that introverts have more blood flow to their brains than extroverts , indicating more internal stimulation, and the blood flows along a different pathway than that of extroverts. Each pathway requires a different neurotransmitter. This makes for some fascinating reading, but I won’t go into too much detail here. The exciting thing is that this research sheds light on why we behave the way we do. It also makes me feel that I am exactly the way I am supposed to be, and you are too. It’s good for us to know about the differences between people because it helps us to understand them better and benefit from their gifts. It also helps us to understand children and not try to change their basic make-up.
Sometimes I have to push myself to be out there a bit more. I’ve learned to keep my life pretty much in balance and allow myself extra down time if I’ve had many days in a row with lots of activity and conversation. Extroverts probably need to learn to slow down from time to time and become comfortable with being alone. As with all differences, accepting and learning to understand one another is so important. I’m thankful for people that like to be in charge (up to a point) and get things done. I’m thankful for time to contemplate and plan and appreciate. I’m thankful for differences because it makes life more interesting and colorful. And the next time I’m in a group and someone just won’t stop talking and monopolizing the conversation, I’ll think to myself “they must be an extrovert who hasn’t had enough stimulation lately” and try to be a bit more patient. If it goes on too long though, maybe I’ll just step out of my comfort zone and actually interrupt!