Introverts Among Us

I almost skipped the chapter in Raising your Spirited Child about extroversion and introversion. I am such a classic extrovert, constantly talking, riding an amazing high after a party or gathering, narrating every step of my life… out loud. I ALWAYS want to be chatting, discussing, rehashing, talking it over. I am an extrovert, to a T.

I assumed my daughter was too–she is always the life of a gathering, insisting that all eyes and ears be on her–but as I read through the chapter, and took into consideration some conversations my husband and I have been having about how best to avoid her meltdowns, I realized that she isn’t an extrovert at all, she’s actually an outgoing introvert. Which is to say, she is the life of the party, and wants all the attention when people are together, but she needs to excuse herself constantly to recenter and requires an entire day at home alone to recharge after a big gathering.

This was a huge breakthrough for me, to realize that while she enjoys being out and about, she REALLY needs downtime at home afterward. No wonder I always find her reading alone at the end of the school day. No wonder she needs the rest of Saturday to “recover” from spending Friday night at her grandparents’ house (where she adores being)–because even a night with people she loves more than anything saps her energy.

My husband is also an introvert. I guess I knew this, but I didn’t really KNOW it. This is such a huge revelation for me, and helps me understand both my daughter’s and my husband’s needs so much better. I should probably read a book about what it’s like to live in our über-social culture as someone who needs time alone, because I find it almost impossible to relate to that experience myself. If anyone can recommend any articles or books on the subject I’d be much obliged. The better I understand my daughter and my husband’s needs, the better I’ll be able to meet them.

Hmmm. I wonder where my son will fall on the introversion/extroversion spectrum. I have to admit, the idea that I could be outnumbered 3-to-1 on this is kind of terrifying. What happens if I’m the only one who wants to spend all weekend out and about? What happens if what energizes me, saps everyone in my family of their much needed strength? And what helps them recharge leaves me feeling depleted?

I’m sure we’ll figure it out, but I will admit, I am hoping my boy wants to spend Saturday meeting with friends and exploring the city, just like his mommy…

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Where does the rest of your family fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum? 

23 Comments

  1. I didn’t realize there was a term called “outgoing extrovert.” On the Meyers-Briggs indicators, over the years I’ve been both on the extroversion AND introversion sides. And I’ve spent time thinking about how I can be both, because it seems weird to me.

    I’ve realized: I am an extravert in that I need to work out thoughts outside of my head… but social situations and dealing with people are incredibly draining for me and I REALLY need my alone time.

    My husband is an introvert, hands down. It’s painful sometimes to get him out of his head. I’m not certain exactly where Owen fits on the scale. When he was your son’s age, though about kindergarten, I would have classified him as an introvert. But now that doesn’t seem to fit him, though he does need alone time as well. Maybe he’s like your daughter – the outgoing introvert.

    Or maybe he’s extroverted and just needs a day respite from the being scheduled all the time, where he can wear his pajamas until noon and not have anywhere to be. I do think that with daycare and preschool and school and afterschool programs and sports our kids tend to be more scheduled than they’d like to be, and they have to have some unstructured time so that they can decompress. Hard to tell what’s personality versus environment some days.

    1. I’m not sure an “outgoing introvert” is a specific thing, though I have seen a few things written about that combination. I really do think my daughter is an introvert, because even during a one-on-one play date she needs to remover herself frequently for breaks to have time alone. In fact, she spends most of her time alone and at 4.5yo she still doesn’t play much with other kids. She gets excited about having a friend over but then doesn’t actually play with them very much and a lot of times has to purposefully remover herself from their presence for a while before returning to play. It can be hard to explain to her friends who are over.

      I don’t know, maybe she isn’t an introvert and that is just how she feels comfortable being with people right now, but we’ve been noticing that she REALLY needs downtime even between two events in one day. And that is important to remember about her, otherwise I’d schedule us both straight through, and happily.

  2. It sounds like your daughter knows what she needs and is able (with your support, of course) to carve out alone time for herself. Most people would decribe me as an extrovert but I am absolutely an introvert. I started carpooling to/from work with someone a few months ago and it’s about killed me – I didn’t realize HOW much I needed that alone time to prepare for work/recharge from work (ironically, this was also a time I would often call friends on the phone, but I suppose because I could control when I called/how long I talked, it was ok). Luckily, my husband gets me – as soon as I walk in the door he can tell how drained I am and will often kiss me hello and say “see you in 20 minutes” as he knows I need to head to the bedroom before I can interact any more.

    1. Ohhh, that would be hard, to have to carpool to work and not get that time alone. I used to drive a girl to school for the half the week and I didn’t realize how draining it was (so hard to keep a conversation going with a seventh grader at 7am!) until we started listening to audiobooks. That was a such a great way to spend the time in the car with her. Thank god she liked reading! Maybe you could suggest an audiobook to your carpool? That might make that time a little more manageable.

      I will admit that I wasn’t always sure I was an extrovert, because there are plenty of times when I really want to be alone, at home. I also consider myself a bit of a homebody and the idea of traveling for long periods of time makes me nervous. But I’ve also come to realize that even though I don’t always feel like going out, I almost always feel better when I do. It’s a lot like exercise. Sometimes I don’t want to do it, but I rarely regret it when I do, and I almost always feel more energized afterward. I actually have a hard time falling asleep if I’ve had a really great time out with friends, that is how much energy I get from the situation. And if I sit with a friend for 15 minutes and chat before I drive home from work, I don’t feel sleepy on the commute. It’s a noticeable difference.

  3. There’s a book called Quiet that talks about introverts, although I forget the author. There were 2 points that really resonated with me:
    1. Introversion & extraversion aren’t an either/or dichotomy. Rather, there’s a spectrum of how much time each person wants to spend time alone or with others, and we all feel uncomfortable when we’re on the wrong part of the spectrum for ourselves. On the Myers-Briggs, I always tested close to the middle, slightly on the introverted side. Now I think I’m slightly over the line to extraverted. But did I really change that much? No.
    2. Getting your energy from being around people is not the same as being comfortable in all social situations (so, you can be an extravert who hates public speaking). I love being among large groups of people who I know. But large groups of strangers freak me out. I used to think that made me an introvert. But I actually like the noise as long as I don’t have to talk to strangers. After reading that book, I started to think of myself as an extravert with social anxiety, rather than an introvert.

    1. I am definitely an extrovert who HATES public speaking. It’s funny because I can stand in front of my class and not give it a second thought, but just speaking up at a staff meeting makes me nervous and I HATE standing in front of a group of parents at Back to School night, or even worse, mingling with them at Open House.

      My daughter is definitely social–she loves to be with people–but she REALLY needs her time alone to recharge. That is the piece I wasn’t clued in on before, and I think knowing that about her will really help me to accommodate her needs better, especially since mine are so different.

      It’s interesting that you think you’re an extravert with social anxiety. Has knowing that about yourself helped you make different choices about how to best spend your time, for maximum positive results?

  4. A few years ago I finally came to the conclusion that I am a very outgoing introvert. I love being the center of attention, am loud, and never mind being on stage or public speaking. But I also am horrible at small talk, hate parties with people I don’t know, and being a retail manager was tremendously exhausting. I think there are a lot of us out there, but if you aren’t shy, people assume you’re an extravert. It’s great you’ve already realized this about your daughter. I think being an extroverted parent might be easier in some ways, as after work and then dealing with my son, I’m just done. I haven’t caught up on energy since he was born almost 2 years ago.

    There are outside activities that I find relax me, such as reading at coffee houses, going to museums, wandering around the city, and swinging at the park. I just don’t want people constantly talking to me while I do those things, though they can be near me. This is obviously hard now when you can’t leave them alone, but when they’re older, you could all go out together, and they could wander alone while you take a tour or stick with friends. Then afterwards discuss your day during dinner or on the trip home.

    In addition to “Quiet”, I recently started reading “Self-promotion for Introverts.” It might give you a deeper understanding if introverts and help your daughter in the future. I also like the Facebook memes that go around on introverts, such as http://higherperspective.com/2015/01/introverts.html?utm_source=cleo&ts_pid=2

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience as an outgoing introvert. It is so valuable to hear about other people who self-identify that way, because I don’t think it’s that common and it was hard to identify that my daughter is an introvert because she is so outgoing. And thanks for the link to the meme. The more I read and see about this, the better!

  5. I am a classic introvert–and shy–which is a painful combination in a social world. I would definitely recommend Quiet, by Susan Cain, which even has a chapter on raising introverted children. There’s also a chapter on Free Trait Theory, which suggests that introverts are capable of acting more extroverted for the work or people they love, which might be another possibility for your daughter’s outgoing-ness in certain situations. I find all of this stuff fascinating, and I can’t wait to see where my daughter falls on the introvert-extrovert scale.

    1. Thanks so much for the book recommendation, and letting me know specifically what I might gain from reading it. I just put the eBook and audiobook on hold at the library, hopefully one will become available shortly.

      I am also becoming fascinated with all of this. I am someone who can tolerate just about anything if I understand why it is happening or what mechanism is behind it. So better understanding why my daughter and husband need what they need is SO HELPFUL. I can’t wait to learn more.

  6. I found this article helpful when I realized my ex-partner was an extreme introvert: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/caring-for-your-introvert/302696/

    And to echo the above sentiments, it might be interesting for both you and your husband to get a sense of where in the Myers-Briggs personalities you each lie. I know finding out my type has given me better insight into why I am the way I am, and how I react to situations around me.

    Try http://www.16personalities.com 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for the article and website. I’m definitely going to ask my husband to take the quiz and have us go over our results. I think it would help both of us so much.

      I actually asked my daughter last night if, after a party, she feels full of energy or just wants to go home and after some thoughtful moments she responded that she likes to go home and snuggle with me. I was so impressed with her ability to recognize that, and I was pleased that I had guessed correctly. I’m definitely going to watch her more closely on this stuff to see how she responds and what she does for self care. She will be my best teacher on what she needs. I hope I remember that.

  7. QUIET! Super good on introversion. Use library to read it.
    My family calls me a hermit… I am actually per M.Briggs almost on the middle ~ just a tiny tiny bit more introverted. Says a lot actually about how extroverted the rest of the family is! Also Quiet talks about the value of introversion which is really really nice as in this culture introverts are so devalued.

    1. Wow. I definitely need to read Quiet. I just put a hold on both the eBook and audiobook versions from my library. I can’t wait until they become available.

      I think this is going to change my relationship with my daughter, but especially with my husband. This makes so many things clear, things that really bothered me before, or I just didn’t understand. I can’t wait to read the book.

  8. I’m pretty sure I’m a “mild” introvert. I’m also shy–the two combined make it really hard to meet & get to know people! I definitely need to decompress with alone time, hate small talk or “networking” but also like performing (singing/drama/dancing) and get a lot of energy out of hanging out with one-two good friends (vs. being alone). I think I always scored right between I and E on the myers-briggs test. Since having kids I’ve noticed I need more alone time because of the constant NOISE and NEED.
    While also jump in to recommend “Quiet” there are good parts about how extroverts can better understand their introvert partners/children. There is also another category I recently learned about—Highly sensitive. I think I may fit into this one—aversion to noise, conflict, stimulus. There are a couple of books about HSP, but one about Highly Sensitive Child http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0767908724/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_dp_ss_2?pf_rd_p=1944687502&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=0553062182&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0RJTBZP6RYRTY758XC70

    I haven’t read it but was recommended on another blog.

  9. This was really interesting! I’m definitely an extrovert in every sense of the word. I don’t know if I’ve ever really gotten tired of being around people and being the center of attention. Ha! My husband TOTALLY DOES NOT GET THIS. I kind of want him to read some literature about it, b/c he thinks it’s all about drinking, but that’s just sort of a by-product of what my friends and I do when we’re together. I just lovvvve being out and about.

    My husband is most definitely an outgoing introvert. He loves his down time (though he loves hanging with a cpl friend to chat and have drinks). He can chat with anyone in any situation… but he loves to go home at the end of the night and talk to noone and decompress.

    My kids… I really don’t know yet. Like you, I’d be a little terrified if I ended up surrounded by introverts though!

    1. I am seriously panicking about being the only extrovert. My son is way too young to know yet where he falls between the two, but if he’s an introvert too I’m going to have to get my energy recharges with and from others. 😉

      I also wish there were more written about being an extrovert. I guess there isn’t because we are in the majority and are therefore not as misunderstood. I get that, but I do think it can be hard for introverts to understand our needs, even if they see those needs reflected in a lot of people.

      1. THIS. He totally doesn’t understand why it’s SO hard for me to stay home all the time (which happens for weeks on end in the winter). I’ve mentioned how grateful I am that our friends come to our house and drink (and usually it’s his buddies, honestly, though I consider them to be my friends too). At the same point, going OUT for a couple of hours fills my cup SO much better. I just wish money wasn’t a concern you know?

        PS – I feel bad b/c I know I often miss your replies to my comments since there is no notification system. I’m pretty wordpress illiterate when it comes to self hosted, but is there a plugin so that I could be notified of responses to my comments?

        1. We never have people over to hang out in the evenings. I wish we had some friends we could do that with, but we just don’t seem to. My husband doesn’t do much to stay connected with his friends and my friends (nowadays) have kids or live far. It’s hard to get places in the city, because public transportation takes forever and parking is such a drag. Also, my husband would HATE having people over in the evening. That is when he needs to fill his cup, by watching mindless TV and playing games on the iPad. So I go out a lot these days.

          There must be a plug-in so that you can be notified of my responses. I will figure that out and install it.

  10. If you’re the only extrovert, just think – you wear your family out, they stay at home chilling and recovering, and you get to go out/stay out and do whatever it is you want!

    I’ve just done the introvert/extrovert test on the Quiet website, and according to that I’m an introvert. Like others, I love getting together with friends, going out, meeting new people. But I like to recover at home after all that too, and I’m very happy with my own company.

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