Thursday, August 4, 2022

Am I an Introvert?

 A Facebook discussion erupted a couple of weeks ago over whether I am an introvert or an extravert. While those who know me best understand I am very much an introvert, I can appear to be extroverted at times. The person with whom I had the discussion knows me only through Facebook, so the error is excusable, as I am not bashful about posting there, and I have over 1600 friends.


The fact that I may appear quite the social butterfly on Facebook is misleading. I’m out and about online because it does not require me to actually go out and about. The first year of the pandemic was no great hardship for me. I was already working from home, and having most of our groceries delivered meant I only had to shop about half as often. Even prior to the pandemic restrictions, it was not unusual for me to go six weeks or more without having to buy gas.


Many of my Facebook friends are people I have never met in person, and quite likely never will. (You’re welcome.) They came across me through someone else, or read an interview in conjunction with one of my books, or saw a blog post they liked. That’s part of being a writer, which is an occupation made for introverts.


So what is an introvert? To me, courtesy of The Beloved Spouse™, it’s someone who draws energy from solitude and expends it around others. There’s only so much interpersonal interaction we can deal with before we have to be by ourselves to recharge the batteries.


A note in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary entry reads:


Introverts are typically more comfortable interacting with small groups of people rather than large groups (as at parties). The psychologist Carl Gustav Jung first introduced the terms introvert, introversion, extrovert, and extroversion in the early 1900s to describe personality types that focus a person's energy on either the inner or outer world. The terms introvert and extrovert have since become widely popularized, with introvert often broadly used to mean "a quiet or shy person."


Few who know me would think me either quiet or shy, but that’s because they know me. I’m comfortable with them, so I feel free to open up. Until we reach that point, it kills me to approach someone I don’t already know well. I literally sometimes have to pretend to be a character (“What would Nick Forte do?”) before I can introduce myself to someone, even if this person is already aware of me and I know would be happy for the introduction.


The question also arose as to how I can speak in public at readings and conference panels with no apparent strain. I used to teach, both at the adult and scholastic levels, and always enjoyed it; if I was born to be anything, it’s a teacher. I’m one of those relatively rare people who enjoys public speaking.


So how does that fit into my introversion?


If I’m on a panel, or doing a reading, or teaching a class, the people I’m speaking to are there, at least in part, to listen to me. The introductions have been made, and I didn’t have to do it. It’s easy now for me to tell myself these people want to hear what I have to say, which makes it a bit of a performance. As a recovering musician, I understand performances, and respond accordingly.


That said, after such an event, especially a large conference such as Bouchercon, I’ll be exhausted for a few days. I was speaking to a man at Bouchercon several years ago when I realized I had no idea what he was saying. It was midnight on Saturday and I had hit the wall. Luckily, I ran into him the next morning and apologized for my abrupt departure. He waved it off. “We’ve all been there.”


I spend a lot of time in my own head, where often there’s barely room for me. While I enjoy contact with others, I rarely seek it, and I typically need a reason. “Let’s get a few beers” is not a reason; I have beer at home. “Let’s get a few beers and meet some people.” Fuck no, for reasons cited above. I vet Facebook friend requests by checking to see how many mutual friends we have, and, often, who they are.


I am not evangelizing the benefits of introversion; I understand there are many things I miss out on. You either are this way, or you aren’t. It’s a spectrum, and each person exists on a different level. I am comfortable where I am, and sometimes have a hard time imagining living any other way. I’m sure the same is true for you, no matter where you fall on that spectrum. It’s a primary reason writers enjoy writing. We get to imagine doing things we’d never do in a million years, even if the opportunity was staring us in the face, without having to leave the house.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I understand!