12.04.2006

introverts and extroverts can live in harmony?

Like a few others I was directed to Johnathan Rauch's "Caring For Your Introvert" from Neal Stephenson's site . The article was so widely reproduced and generated levels of user feedback such that a follow up interview appeared early this year. I was genuinely touched by his description of the world seen through the eyes of an introvert, and found it quite liberating to read many of my own sentiments laid out for the world to see. However, as a dyed in the wool INTP who grew up in a family of straight-talking chatterboxes (Christians, Jehovah's Witness', and atheists with a splash of Italian Catholic) I feel somewhat obliged to attempt a little damage control.

I generally consider myself to be an introvert who learned how to talk, through exposure to a fortunate combination of intellectual extroverts amongst both my family members and friends while growing up. I've explained to any number of them how I can tell when I'm reaching the point where my people-fuel expires and I need solitary down time. Meanwhile many of my extrovert friends know my personality well enough to tell when I've retreated to my mental refuge and will leave me with my thoughts. And like many other introspective observers out there I've learned to catch the signs in my extrovert friends that say they need someone to be a sounding board, or sometimes just an audience.

To an introvert I suppose this could sound about as much fun as a televised job interview with an ex-mother-in-law. But the inherent value of human interaction should be obvious to any objective and analytical introvert. We're a social species for reasons religious and scientific. Analytical minds could consider a comparison of the current evolution of independent versus social computing here ....

I like the idea of a world of extroverts who can recognize an introvert and interact with them in a way that is comfortable for everyone. I just don't think we'll get there if we paint extroverts as ignorant or intentionally bothersom.

Nobody needs me to tell them to shut up and play nice with each other, but like I said I'm just talking damage control. With statements like: "Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts. Also, it is probably due to our lack of small talk, a lack that extroverts often mistake for disdain. We tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking, which is why their meetings never last less than six hours." I wouldn't blame any extrovert for thinking we'd all rather they just piss off.

Professor Chris explained it pretty well in his seminal discussions on gender issues (Rock, 1999, @6mins). Some folks gotta learn when to talk, others gotta learn to shut up.
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