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George Mitchell: Introvert or extrovert or a bit of both?

Introvert or extrovert - which one are you?
Introvert or extrovert - which one are you?

How did you survive lockdown? Did your personality traits make it easier or more difficult?

I’m a proud introvert, so for me, it wasn’t such a big deal, I got my head down and worked on a new book. However, if your thing is living for weekends and meeting friends and socialising in pubs and clubs, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for you.

I don’t know for sure of course, but I can imagine lockdown was easier for introverts compared to extroverts.

Being extrovert seems to mean that someone oozes confidence and charisma. In fact, our western culture is geared more towards extroverts. Our society believes that being social makes you happy.

To a certain extent I’d agree, yet for an introvert, being stuck in a noisy room with lots of people and expected to enjoy the process, does not equate to being happy.

Crowded parties aren’t everyone’s idea of a good time. 

What are the signs that you’re an introvert? You enjoy solitude, personal space, you are very self-aware, have a small close-knit group of friends, or to quote the old saying “you can count the number of friends you have on the fingers of one hand”. No idea how this works today in the world of “I’ve got 400 friends on Facebook”.

Misconceptions of being an introvert

There are definitely misconceptions attached to being an introvert. People seem to think of “intros” as sad, anxious, lonely, boring or shy. They are said to lack confidence and prefer to remain isolated. I’ve even read that introverts don’t accept change easily. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Would you rather stay home and read a book by yourself or chat with a close friend as opposed to going to a big party? Classic introvert. Boring? Absolutely not. Also, introverts are not shy. Shyness is being scared or wary of social interaction, another ball game altogether.

Boring or having a good time? 

On the point of boring, I’ve often noticed extroverts becoming bored very easily, if they can’t get constant stimulation. It’s interesting to observe at gatherings. They work the room, full of beans, but look like they’ve got ants in their pants, always craving more. They definitely get distracted easily, and this causes them to get stressed more easily. From my experience anyway.

From ongoing observations, my extrovert friends need, crave even, external stimulation. For some it’s almost like a drug they can never get enough.

While extroverts tend to become rejuvenated by social interaction, introverts have to expend energy in such situations. It’s not too strong to say that introverts after being in a social gathering of a large group for an extended time, need to “escape”, for want of a better word, and recharge.

I love meeting new people but prefer one on ones or very small groups. My extrovert friends enjoy large gatherings and parties where they can meet numerous new people.

Do you want to get involved here or run for the hills?

And this nonsense about introverts not liking people, is just that, nonsense. Intros tend to choose their friends more carefully, less is more and all that.

I love to chat

If you ever meet me on the street or when out walking my dog in a forest and stop to chat, you’ll probably never get away, as I love nothing more than a blether. I could talk for Scotland. Chances are though, you’re not going to meet me at large party, a room stuffed full of chattering people.

Enjoy a few hours alone, walk in a forest or along the beach with no phone or just one another for company? Yup, me too. My extrovert friends? Bored and frustrated by such activities and quickly need others for stimulation.

A walk in the forest is the perfect day out for some. 

Are you an introvert? You may be in the minority, but you’re not alone. History is littered with famous successful people who were proud introverts. It may be hard to believe but Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, one of the most successful men on Earth, is an introvert. Author JK Rowling is said to be an introvert, as is movie producer Steven Spielberg, who has said that he much prefers staying in and watching movies rather than going out to socialise.

Charles Darwin is said to have enjoyed solitude and preferred working alone. Actress Audrey Hepburn was a self-confessed introvert, even Nelson Mandela in his autobiography admitted that he was an introvert.

The genius that was Albert Einstein is probably the most famous introvert of all. He said: “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

I’m not for a second comparing myself to any of these greats, but after being in the company of a group, I feel the need to be alone. It’s tiring and I need to recharge. My extrovert friends have never understood that, and I guess they never will.

Albert Einstein was an introvert. 

Time to leave the party

I recall countless times when come, say, 11pm, I’ve wanted to bail out of a party and go to bed. I’d had a fun time, enjoyed the company, etc, but I just knew that I wanted to call it a night. I’ve been accused of being rude by extrovert friends for wanting to withdraw from a party situation. They don’t get it. They also seem to think that their company is all I need, and I therefore should be grateful just to be in their presence 24/7.

They really struggle to accept that someone wants and needs regular time alone.
One friend in particular used to actually take it personally that I wanted to leave the party. He never got it. He’d try his best to get me to stay up and party more. He actually believed it was the best for me. How wrong he was.

Of course, I also accept that no man is an island. I’d never try and force an extrovert back into their shell, so I wish that they would stop trying to force us introverts to come out and be like them. They try to change you, for “the better”. Please, if you’re an extrovert, don’t try and “fix” an introvert friend, they don’t need fixing, they are just fine thank you very much.

It’s not all or nothing though, for many of us are a mix of both intro and extrovert. Probably the vast majority I’d say. Rarely are folks 100% at either end of the scale. Those who are a mix of both are called ambiverts. Of course, it has to be said, that neither type is better than the other. The world needs a mix of both intro and extroverts.

I’m not against socialising, I enjoy it in certain circumstances, but I have to admit, like all introverts, I find it draining. Mingling at a party in a room full of strangers? Sure, I can do it, but it’s not me, and I have to put on a performance. An introvert just knows when they need to leave and be on their own. If you are an introvert, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Introverts know when they are ready to go home and have some time to themselves.

Introverts are in general not claustrophobic either. They just don’t like crowds.
That said, when it comes to work, I’m at my happiest right in amongst in. Standing in Maidan in Ukraine’s revolution, in Middle Eastern refugee camps, or in the chaos that is often Russia, I have no problem with, and actually thrive on it. But social events close-up with dozens of strangers? No thanks.

I don’t feel nervous or scared or apprehensive, I just don’t enjoy it. Why can’t extroverts just get that?

Celebrate who you are

If you’re extroverted, be proud and enjoy your life. If you’re an introvert, likewise and don’t ever let anyone tell you you are boring or shy or a loner. I know numerous extroverts; some are exceedingly boring.

Anxiety is a recognised medical condition. If someone finds that anxiety stops them from interacting with others and keeps them locked up inside and all alone, then that’s not being introverted. Anxiety needs counselling. Please do seek professional help if you feel that way.

Where are you on the introvert/extrovert scale?

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