The Lament of the Introverted Extrovert

May 17th, 2010

I’ve always thought there was something lacking about the personality typing of “extroverts” and “introverts.” While there are people who are primarily one or the other, I’ve always found myself on a middle ground–not a tempered balance, but a set of strong traits of one kind or the other. Then I’ve met some people who I consider the opposite. I’ve called myself an “introverted extrovert” and the friends with differing tendencies “extroverted introvert,” but the order of the words is kind of arbitrary.

The two major factors I see are the ways we get energy and the way we process information/express emotion. Some people get more energy from being alone, and some get more energy from being around other people. I think of it this way: Suppose you say, “I’ve had a really tough week, and this weekend, I just need to unwind.” Do you define “unwind” as “stay home with my shoes off and turn off the phone” or as “go out and make some noise”? The other factor is inward or outward expression and processing. When you have to think about something, do you think out loud?

So my type, the Introverted Extrovert, thinks out loud. When the music’s great, we have to dance. When we find something funny, we laugh long and hard. We’re not usually shy or afraid of expressing ourselves to people. And yet, we’ll shut down if we don’t get enough time alone. Essentially, we don’t need other people.

The Extroverted Introverts I know are kind of puzzling. They have high hopes for being around other people. They want to impress people. Sometimes their way of dancing, joking or laughing seems like a big show, like something they’ve carefully planned because they want someone else to see it. Other times, it’s just guarded, reserved, acknowledging that something is funny, but they don’t want to make a fool of themselves. They get really depressed when they spend too much time alone.

When I told one friend about this theory, he said that it seemed self-serving–like I was giving myself the category that made sense and the other people “the wrong one.” Maybe. I wouldn’t trade off, that’s for sure. And it’s part of my temperament. I like approval from other people, but I don’t see the point in craving it.

But I have realized one weakness of the I-E. When I’m reading, and encounter something funny, I laugh out loud, and sometimes people ask what I’m reading or what’s so funny. Sometimes I want to share and sometimes I don’t; I wasn’t laughing for you. So when there are other people in the room, I find it hard to get writing or reading done, not if those people are in any way with me. People at another table in a coffee house are fine, but houseguests or relatives, no.

Which is why I feel like I didn’t get anything done this weekend. We had houseguests, and while I was tempted to take off for a coffee house, I didn’t. I just sat at my computer, not getting anything done.

One Response to “The Lament of the Introverted Extrovert”

  1. encyclops says:

    Your “Extroverted Introvert” just seems to me like an insecure extrovert. Maybe a fairer reversal would be the person who loves and needs to be around others but is usually quiet in company, never in the limelight, thinking silently and then finally coming out with just the right thing to say. I feel as though I’ve known some people like that.

    I need a LOT of alone time, but often I need to talk or write to other people to think things through, and I find that spending time having fun with friends can really help my morale even when I think I need just the opposite. I’m not sure if this is the “tempered balance” you mention, or if it’s more like your “Introverted Extrovert,” or something else entirely.

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