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On Introversion...

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Mar. 20th, 2006 | 06:50 pm
mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

chimerically posted links to an article and follow up interview about what it means and is like to be an introvert. I really enjoyed reading it, in the same way I've enjoyed detailed descriptions of personality types. Not that they describe me perfectly, or capture all of who and what I am in every situation, but they give me a positive way to view myself and where I fit in the world. And I really appreciated how it was stressed that introverts often have good social skills, but would be the sort of people who insist that they have a cell phone primarily as a concession to other people who wish to find them or coordinate things with them and the sort of people who love good conversations but who have to be drawn into those conversations.

I was once told that part of the complete Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator scores different categories on the introvert/extrovert (and other scales)... so it is possible to score fairly highly in gregariousness, while remaining an introvert. This is true of me. I like to talk, I like to tell stories, I'm very opinionated... in many situations, it would probably be very hard to tell that I am indeed an introvert because people assume all introverts are quiet. However, once engaged I am pretty animated and quick and have little trouble keeping up with and remaining in and attentive to a conversation. And it turns out to be fairly easy to engage me in conversation because I've seen and done quite a lot and am genuinely curious about so many things in the world that most conversation topics really spark my interest. But throw me in a room full of people I don't know without giving me a defined role to play and I am instantly quiet and uncomfortable. I tend to seek out a quiet corner for people-watching, or drift around until I find some group having a conversation in which I want to participate, and stick to that group and its small number of members for a relatively long period of time.

I particularly latched on to this quote:

"We [introverts] love people—we're not misanthropic for the most part. We just can't socialize with them all the time. We want to hold their hand or hug them or just sit quietly and read a book with them."

I have wondered, at times, why I love social dancing so much. While the fact that it is dance could be enough, social dancing is much more refreshing than practicing alone or even with my partner, which means it has something to it beyond just the cathartic effects of dance itself. I think this paragraph elucidates matters, somewhat. Social dancing, unlike most social situations, removes the burden of small talk (or, when small talk is there, it is about a defined and interesting topic, so conversations can be engaging, and politely ended quickly if they are dull). Social dance has an etiquette and an activity -- the proverbial hand holding or hug and the feeling of knowing other people are there, but that you don't need to speak to them. Yet, unlike activity-based social situations, the opportunity to talk and importantly to talk about interesting things is very present, with an established common interest from which to start a real conversation, instead of having to endure the painful questions of small talk hoping to find a common theme.

I suppose that this is also true of sewing groups, crafting groups, scrapbooking groups and many other activity-based or interest-based social gatherings. My social life tends to be very demonstrative of this -- though it is quite full and active, it is full of social situations which have plenty of activities to occupy the quiet person, and ways to start conversations through those activities.

I wonder if the other introverts of the world find themselves drawn to social situations that have this sort of setup, much more than to the mostly random/unstructured social world of bars, dance clubs, house parties, etc.

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Comments {7}

The Star For Which All Evenings Wait

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from: drdelfi
date: Mar. 21st, 2006 03:23 am (UTC)
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I think you described me at a party to a T. I'm exactly like that, and I always say how socially inept I am and my friends and coworkers look at me like I'm daft. I'm very, very quiet...but once I get to know you, I never shut up. I prefer to just get together with a few friends and watch movies than go out to the bar. I like happy hour, but only if I'm with a small group of friends--not in order to meet new people. And I love doing things like volunteering at the humane society and marathon training because it allows me to have a whole LOT to talk about with people...and once I get to know them through talking about the shared activity, it might go further than that. So yeah, I feel ya, even if I have grown anti-dance in my "old age". ;)

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Liz

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from: stellae
date: Mar. 21st, 2006 06:44 am (UTC)
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You have good reasons for being anti-dance, though... ;-)

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The Star For Which All Evenings Wait

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from: drdelfi
date: Mar. 21st, 2006 06:47 am (UTC)
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See! I think so. Somebody needs to explain it to my boy though... ;)

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guardmisfit

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from: guardmisfit
date: Mar. 21st, 2006 07:31 am (UTC)
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Thank you for that.

I don't think his description was perfectly accurate with regards to myself, but a lot of what both he and you said certainly rang true. I don't really seek out "alone time" the way I used to in elementary school; in fact, I would usually prefer to have a friend or two around. I like small house parties, provided that I actually know a majority of the people there. However, being required to socialize in groups with unfamiliar people can invoke that need for space in me, and pretty quickly. I also liked that he mentioned how just because we may tire quickly making small talk with random people doesn't mean we don't have anything meaningful to say once we finally discover some depth to the other person. And it's true that I'm not socially inept either; I have no problems joking around and interacting with people, and am easily engaged in conversation. I just also take time for thought and reflection. I've spent several years of my life trying to be more extroverted in social situations, and I've succeeded, too; it's not impossible. It just depends on the type of people I'm around and how much energy I have.

I also like that he affirmed the trait. I look at people like Lyell and Evelyn, who seem to draw in everyone around them until people just can't get enough of them, and I can't help but wonder what it is that makes them tick that I'm missing. You bring them somewhere, and people will ask you who they were so that they can look them up, even if people have already forgotten your name. I don't know if attaining their people-magnetism is a very realistic goal, and it's true that it would be nice if people were more aware of how to interact with me rather than writing me off as just more boring than my companion. I liked as well the quote you quoted.

That certainly leaves much left unsaid, but it's all your lj is getting :).

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Liz

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from: stellae
date: Mar. 21st, 2006 06:56 pm (UTC)
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I don't think you're boring.

For the record, you were one of the first rookies I noticed and remembered this year. Lyell I remembered as your partner. ;-)

And of course obtaining people-magnetism is a realistic goal. I'm far from extroverted naturally, but in the situations where I am, people remember me and want to get to know me. (and I them. At least, sometimes. :-))

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Fata Morgana

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from: chimerically
date: Mar. 21st, 2006 08:23 am (UTC)
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Yep, I often deliberately structure my social life this way ... even my own parties often have "activities" (often just games, but sometimes more elaborate if I have time).

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dag

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from: dag29580863
date: Mar. 23rd, 2006 05:43 pm (UTC)
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And I'd reply and say something, except that would probably just be making small talk, and I'd rather just hang out...

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