It is often said that the world can be divided into groups of two people.The definitions of these groups vary: for high-school English teachers, it is “good” and “bad.” For psychologists, “clinically insane” and “probably insane.” Politicians may divide us into “Democrat” and “Republican” — or, more broadly, “liberal” and “conservative.” I have many friends that define people as “those who like peanut butter” and “those who are allergic to peanut butter” (I fall, most unfortunately, into the latter category).
Today, we’re going to tackle another divide, one that crops up with alarming frequency on Buzzfeed articles and in the about me section on tumblr. Today, we discuss “introverts” vs. “extroverts.”
Full disclosure: I’m focusing on what it means to be an extrovert, and some of the confusion that clouds the definitions. I do this because I believe myself to be an extrovert, and because I see a ridiculous amount of articles that herald the difficulties associated with being an introvert and how exactly it is extroverts grossly misunderstand the delicate social nature of all introverts. To you, introverts, I say this: WE’RE MISUNDERSTOOD TOO.
Here are some of the most common misconceptions I encounter about being an extrovert, presented in list format for your everlasting pleasure.
1. Extroverts Need People
I’m sorry: this just isn’t true. Do I enjoy being around people? Absolutely. I work as a tour guide and I can honestly say talking for 90 minutes straight to complete strangers about why I love UCSB is often the highlight of my day. I’m aware this would be some people’s worst nightmare (although my best friend happens to be an introvert and she loves this job as much as I do), but just because I enjoy people does not mean I need them. Extroverts do not “need” interaction with people to gain a sense of self-worth or happiness: what extroverts need is more social interaction than the average introvert, which brings us to our next issue:
2. Extroverts Welcome any Form of Social Interaction
NO. SO MUCH NO. What I welcome is satisfying social interaction, and this is tied into my earlier point. Extroverts may enjoy social situations on a more frequent basis than the average introvert, but that doesn’t mean the quality of the socialization is allowed to plummet. If you try to throw me into a large group of people I dislike (or don’t know very well) I’ll cope with the situation, but I won’t be very happy about it. Ever see an angry extrovert? We’re often adept at handling confrontation.
3. Extroverts Enjoy Constant Company
This is, again, similar to my previous point. Extrovert do not always want to be surrounded by hordes of people. Like any normal human being, there are times when I just need to be alone. Similarly, I would much prefer my own company to company I don’t enjoy. What I have noticed (and what I think classifies me as extrovert as opposed to introvert) is that I will almost always welcome the company of my closest friends. I might not be too chatty on certain days, but I will always be happy to have my favorite people in the room with me. I also make an effort to extend invitations to this close group for almost any social occurrence I’m present for.
I urge you to remember that extroverts can be just as awkward as the next human being.
4. Extroverts are All Social Climbers
This isn’t necessarily a common misconception, but it is an unfair stereotype. This point was actually brought up in a class of mine the other day when a self-proclaimed introvert explained that he feels most extroverts have a certain “social climbing” element to their personality. I don’t think he meant it quite as harshly as it came off, but it highlights a negative trait some associate with the desire to be social. I do want to emphasize that meeting new people and being talkative is not a tool I use to climb from one status rung to the next — I just like chatting.
5. Extroverts Can Master Any Social Situation
Uh, I wish. I’m often volunteered by my moderately more shy friends to take the lead in certain situations, but before you push your extrovert friends into uncomfortable situations, I urge you to remember that extroverts can be just as awkward as the next human being. I was out at a restaurant the other day and in the process of paying for the bill, I spilled water on my waiter. Poor Keith never saw it coming.
6. Extrovert = Friendly
Again, I wish. I consider myself a friendly person … but also not really. I’m definitely a polite person, but I won’t make conversation with you for the sake of conversation; there has to be a mutual level of interest on both sides for me to really continue lengthy conversation.
The moral of the story is this: extroverts are, by nature, social beings. That doesn’t mean they’re defined by their social interactions! I’m perfectly capable of being by myself for long periods of time, but if given the option for some promising social encounter, I’ll jump at the opportunity. Interestingly enough, my closest friends are all introverts and I’m often shut out of rooms when they “need their space.” Introverts of the world — I absolutely understand this. Something to keep in mind: your extrovert friend might just want to sit in the room with you, like a little lost puppy. We don’t always need to talk.