Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
The answer is not as simple as it appears.
The traditional view is that extroverts are those who are the life and soul of a party; they are vivacious, chatty, “Hail fellow, well met,” people. We think of introverts as being quiet; staying in the background, not saying much.
Another view, however, is to look at where people draw their energy. Extroverts gain energy from being with other people; introverts need time by themselves to recharge.
My husband and elder daughter are extroverts. Before meeting me, my husband was single for twelve years. He once told me, with some pride, that in all those twelve years, he had spent only two weekends alone in his flat. He always had people around him: at work; in clubs, sporting activities; community organisations; social events. My elder daughter subscribes to the “Work hard, play hard,” philosophy: if she’s not working, she’s out with friends. She once asked me, in honest bewilderment, why anyone would ever turn down an invitation to a party! Neither of them, however, will ever be the focus of attention; they will join in the conversation but never take centre stage.
It is otherwise for my younger daughter and me. We love being with people, but each have a small, intimate group of friends, and we each need to spend long periods of time alone. It is not merely that we are happy in our own company but that we need it. If you were to meet me, you would find me (usually) vivacious and chatty, a raconteur and happy to “perform.” Afterwards, however, I need time alone to recover, because being with people takes energy.
The problem arises when extroverts do not understand or have sympathy for introverts and vice versa. My younger daughter and I feel injured when we are accused of “hiding ourselves away.” My husband and elder daughter are hurt because we do just that - they feel rejected because they need us with them. It has taken 20 years for me to realise I need to spend more time with my husband to meet his need for company, even if that time is spent just watching TV. It has taken time for him to be reconciled to my need for solitude.
I’m taking a few days for myself down at the coast. Looking out at the sea, with nothing to do but sleep, read and watch the birds is exactly what I need right now to recover. The family can look after themselves for a little while and, with each other for company, won’t be lonely.
So, where do you get your energy; from being with others or from being alone? What about the people you live with?
Once you understand your own needs and theirs, you can start to meet in the middle.
In the meantime, I send you greetings from the flat and wide, silver and grey, lonely peace of the Essex coast.
A Moodscope member.