On socialising and being an introvert

The last BDSM event I went to was with e, there were maybe 200 people there.

He is quite involved in his local community and knows pretty much everyone. Obviously, I didn’t know anyone.

We hung around together, whispering and laughing, having some drinks, talking to people, and at some point we drifted apart.

I spent some time speaking to a rigger about a book project he was working on while he explained in gleeful detail what it was and showed me photos of some of the images he had created for it. I spoke to another man about his long history in the scene and his links with and travels to Australia. I chatted with a man who had a fabulous laugh exactly like Eddie Murphy. I talked to a photographer about his work in the scene. I complimented a submissive man I saw on his latex police-style shirt. I chatted with a cross dresser who smelled deliciously like lemongrass and we talked about scent and hair products. I told a mostly-naked submissive server that she looked amazing and got a beautiful smiling thank you. I excitedly held hands with a man in a kilt and had him twirl for me while gushing about his attire. I flirted madly with two vanilla looking men who agreed that I was ‘rockin’ that corset’. I had a good night.

Hello world, I am an introvert.

When I tell people who I have never met (for example, online friends) that I am an introvert, they assume that I am somehow socially incompetent. That maybe I’m terribly shy, or lack confidence, or am awkward around people, or am in some other way unable to function well in social situations.

When I tell people who I *have* met that I am an introvert, they don’t really believe me because of the above assumptions that socially skilled people cannot be introverted: “But but… when I came back you were having a good old chat with the bartender!”

What being introverted actually means is that I find socialising completely draining. Other people exhaust me, and after I have been out there putting social energy out into the world, I need to hibernate and recharge.

I only really explain it to people who I expect to be impacted by it, otherwise it is irrelevant. I tend to use a vague ‘I’m anti-social’ explanation without any detail unless we really need to ‘have the discussion’. It is actually a difficult concept for many to understand because the world is mostly made up of extroverts: extrovert behaviour is encouraged and lauded, being a ‘people person’, or having a large circle of friends, or going out a lot… all those things are social success markers for most people.

This last weekend, I had a friend stay for two days, then I had lunch with another friend on Monday. I was socially tapped out. I had been emailing a lot with Jay, as is pretty normal these days, and he asked sweetly on Tuesday if we could have a voice call. I said I didn’t feel like it, but that we could talk again later on in the week when I was over my “uber socialising weekend”.

He accepted it, but then made some little jokey references about it in subsequent emails:

“It’s Monday here, Tuesday there. You’re like 72 hours from said ‘uber socialising weekend’…”

“But since you’re all tired from socializing three days ago…”

It made me bristle, because I felt as if we had talked about it, and I had assumed that he understood how it worked for me. But clearly, he didn’t. At all. I admit I got really cranky with him over it.

I sent him an article about introverts, and suddenly he ‘got it’, a revelation. Not just in relation to me, but in relation to other people in his life who, he realised in retrospect, were introverts, and he hadn’t understood them.

His revelation after reading the article made me realise that I am really rubbish at explaining it in a way that makes sense to people who struggle to ‘get it’, and I also realised that I am quite sensitive about it.

There is nothing ‘wrong’ with me, I don’t need to be ‘fixed’, it’s not an affliction, it is simply a way of operating that is not in line with the majority of expectations. It is actually much easier to explain shyness, or social anxiety, or something that people understand almost instinctually. Introversion, though, yeah, that’s a tricky one.

So if you are an introvert, deal with an introvert, or maybe just want to understand a little better what it means, here’s the article I sent to Jay:

Caring for your introvert * –Jonathan Rauch

* I have to add a caveat here that some of the stuff in that article is clearly debateable and the author uses a ‘holier than thou’ tone and sexist language that I don’t enjoy, but the basics are sound. And to all the extroverts in my life, you do NOT ‘put me through torment’, I enjoy you, and I am quite capable of setting boundaries for my own needs.

Edited to add: There has been a lot more information put out into the world about introverts since I wrote this post. In particular, Susan Cain released a book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” that got a lot of attention. I found an interesting interview with her here in Scientific American that had another clear explanation of introversion.

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50 Comments

  1. I know that one. My sister & mother are shy and they think it’s the same thing as being introverted. They both constantly tell me all the things I have to do to overcome my “shyness” because they know exactly how I feel.

    ARRRGGGHH!

    1. *laugh* ARRRGGGHH! <= Yes!!It is frustrating to be misunderstood, and also uber frustrating to try and articulate the difference knowing full well that you *aren't* being understood.Ferns

  2. See, I used to be so much more extroverted than I am now. Spending time with the right people energizes me, but, for lack of a community of the right kind of people I’ve been spending far too much time being a recluse.

    I find alone time, sort of feeds into this, headspace, where I have lower tolerance for annoying people, and so I spend more time alone, and it’s a vicious cycle.

    1. Hmmm… that sounds like something quite different than ‘extrovert/introvert’ ways of relating to the world.

      Yours sounds less like a ‘way of being’ and more like a ‘situational problem’ that will pass if you find the right people to hang out with. In fact, dear Peroxide, it sounds terrible.

      What are we going to do about that, hmmm? The weather here is lovely. If you stay in the spare room and don’t try to talk to me, you can come visit!

      Ferns

      1. Well, I am extroverted, but I almost feel like this situational problem is/has been affecting who I am.

        I’d love to come visit but someone convinced me that I haven’t got enough kidneys to sell for airfare. I’ve looked into parcel shipping and the prices are just as bad.

        1. “Well, I am extroverted, but I almost feel like this situational problem is/has been affecting who I am.”

          I think that makes perfect sense, Yes, that’s what I thought you meant. I am sorry for it. I do hope it resolves soon.

          “I’ve looked into parcel shipping and the prices are just as bad.”

          Shrink ray gun! Look, you can buy one here!!*.

          * (btw, that entire site is completely awesome!)

          Ferns

        2. I’m not sure I’d trust you to un-shrink me when I arrived, and being bite sized on your death trap of a continent is actually a reoccurring nightmare of mine.

  3. Ok, that is really interesting. I have always considered myself an extrovert because I can be the literal ‘life of the party’ and I do enjoy socializing. But, I am also a hermit and can go days without seeing anyone except my kid & husband(and need to do so often). He and I are alike and often will spend all day apart even though we are in the same home (both with studio & office). We need to. My close girlfriend is always trying to make more plans for going out than I want to.

    I didn’t read the article, but what you wrote sounds so familiar. I always attributed my hermit-ness to my creative/painting – as if that was the only way to get it done. But even when not painting…I do often huddle in.

    Interesting!

    -MistressKimm

    1. I’m glad it was interesting!

      “I have always considered myself an extrovert because I can be the literal ‘life of the party’ and I do enjoy socializing.”

      I think the definition of extrovert and introvert in popular parlance is often still ‘gregarious’ vs ‘shy’, but with Myers-Briggs, the *original* definitions have come back into play.

      “But, I am also a hermit and can go days without seeing anyone except my kid & husband(and need to do so often).”

      Yes! And I think that if you *need* to be a hermit, then that is what defines it. Most extroverts recharge *with* social interaction, and time alone drains them.

      Truth be told, when I first encountered the concept of an ‘introvert’, and the idea that time with people drains my energy, I was relieved because it ‘explained me’ in a way that made sense. And it was so much better than ‘anti-social’ (which seems more like a ‘problem that needs to be fixed’ than an acceptable ‘way of being’).

      Ferns

  4. Thanks Ferns – that has made me reassess a few things. I’m sociable when I’m out and about, but I really need time on my own to replenish.

    Some of my closest friends are extrovert by that definition, and can’t stand to be alone – it makes them feel rejected that I need to spend time away from them, and it has left me feeling as if I’m selfish and less tolerant than them. It never occurred to me to connect it with introversion because of the shyness implications you mention. I thought I was just a selfish extrovert!

    Hmm *ponders*

    1. “… but I really need time on my own to replenish.”

      I think that’s the very definition of it. I’d note also that there are degrees of it, I tend to be on the extreme end.

      “… it makes them feel rejected that I need to spend time away from them, and it has left me feeling as if I’m selfish and less tolerant than them.”

      Oh yes. I have struck this too. It can hurt some people’s feelings when you claim time for yourself because they *do* take it personally. They can’t accept that it’s not about them, and I can understand where they are coming from.

      “It never occurred to me to connect it with introversion because of the shyness implications you mention.”

      I think that’s really common, and it’s often also the first assumption people make about you when you use the term ‘introvert’ to try and explain it.

      Ferns

  5. I don’t so much notice a need to “recharge” after socializing, but I definitely like time to gear up for socializing. I like to know the plan days in advance, or there’s a good chance I’m not going to want to be involved. I don’t know how much of that’s introversion and how much of that’s just liking structure. Probably both.

    1. Ahh… interesting.

      I am difficult with planning.

      I HATE to have things planned too much in advance because what seems like a good idea at the time often gets less and less appealing as the ‘event’ gets closer and by the time it arrives, the introvert in me wishes I had never agreed to it.

      By the same token, spontaneous suggestions made by someone else will often get a lukewarm response unless the person has read my (rare) social mood correctly and jumped on it.

      What works best for me is either spontaneity coming from *me* and/or a partner who is really good at gentling me along (it’s a special skill!).

      Ferns

  6. I know that we’ve discussed this before, Mme Ferns, but I think that it bears repeating, n’est pas?

    We live in an extrovert-biased world, and it’s become only more so in recent decades. *Everyone* wants to be on Twitter and Facebook, so that they can spend all day wittering with people they barely know about inane trivia. Even the word ‘introvert’ is defined as synonymous with ‘shy’, which is a negative. It describes a failing – that is, the failure to connect with other people. Extroverts don’t value what introverts do. You are inside your own head, in that world, and there’s so much energy there. But all they can see is someone who doesn’t say much.

    Though, there’s a certain irony with this new world of internet forums, and the like. Introverts tend to read more than extroverts. This means that they’ll tend to write better. Suddenly, in this new world of writing rather than speaking, they find that they’re the centre of attention. All the extroverts can do to try to match them is write in CAPITAL LETTERS and talk loudly, but unavoidably boringly, about how much of a hit they are ‘in real life’.

    Oh well. I used to wish that I was an extrovert. I spent a month, nearly always alone, in the Scottish Highlands, a while ago. Oh god it was good. But so many people thought I was a looney for doing so!

    1. “*Everyone* wants to be on Twitter and Facebook, so that they can spend all day wittering with people they barely know about inane trivia.”

      *laugh… eyes off twitter feed*… and also… blogs!!

      I don’t think that’s the realm of extroverts as much as ‘chronic over-sharers’.

      I think the online medium is perfect for introverts. I don’t find online interactions draining at all. It’s great!!

      “Even the word ‘introvert’ is defined as synonymous with ‘shy’, which is a negative.”

      It often is, yes, which is one of the reasons why introversion is so difficult to explain because the first reaction is often, “But but… you don’t *seem* shy!”.

      “Introverts tend to read more than extroverts. This means that they’ll tend to write better. Suddenly, in this new world of writing rather than speaking, they find that they’re the centre of attention.”

      That’s an interesting theory. I’m not sure I agree, but it makes me wonder if there is a much larger percentage of introverts online overall. It makes sense because for me, at least, it allows a level of social interaction that doesn’t sap my energy. And I would think that conversely, extroverts would get much less out of it.

      For example I can imagine that extroverts are much more likely to use a site like Fetlife as a place to arrange get-togethers with their RL friends than to participate in the discussions, or exchange emails with online friends.

      “All the extroverts can do to try to match them is write in CAPITAL LETTERS and talk loudly, but unavoidably boringly, about how much of a hit they are ‘in real life’.”

      I think that’s an unfair generalisation, and no more accurate than someone saying introverts are all socially inept misfits. Extroverts are not somehow a group of dumb insensitive jerks, though to my point above, I can imagine online interactions would be quite uninteresting for many of them.

      Ferns

      1. “it makes me wonder if there is a much larger percentage of introverts online overall. It makes sense because for me, at least, it allows a level of social interaction that doesn’t sap my energy. ”

        That’s one of the things I love about online interaction, that it doesn’t drain me the way actually seeing people in person does. I also really like having the chance to gather my thoughts instead of just blurting something out because people are waiting for me to finish my damned sentence already :)

        1. *nod nod* Exactly!

          The ‘gathering thoughts’ thing applies for me also. I don’t like to go off half-cocked, I like to mull things over and then go off fully-cocked (heh, ‘fully-cocked’…*snigger*).

          Ferns

  7. Good post and good article link.

    I too am an introvert and find it difficult to explain to people that I do not dislike people but it is draining to be around others. I am not hesitant to tell people about my preferences for a lot of alone time, though, in part because I am comfortable with myself and mostly because I do not worry that others may not accept me.

    1. “Good post and good article link.”

      Thanks, Ted_subby.

      “I am not hesitant to tell people about my preferences for a lot of alone time…”

      That’s great.

      I think the difficulty that I strike most is that they *say* that they get it, but then will *still* be hurt when I say ‘no’ to something because they take it personally. Or sometimes they will irritatingly try to suggest ways to *fix* it… grrr…

      It’s at that point that I need to be able to explain it more clearly.

      I think that article is a good start-point.

      Ferns

  8. Yes, same for me: an introvert with well developed social skills, I can engage with the best of them, but come away drained and longing to spend my next days barricaded in my writing room, as in the case of the lovely Seder to which my Lady and I were invited last night… Three hours of socializing, no matter how engaging and lively, is about a hard limit for me. By chance, on the way home we heard a National Public Radio interview with Susan Cain, the author of new book on this very subject that may interest you as it does me.
    “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”
    http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Power-Introverts-World-Talking/dp/0307352145/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333775717&sr=1-1

    1. It seems there are quite a few of us here!

      “Susan Cain, the author of new book on this very subject that may interest you as it does me.”

      Thanks for the link, and yes, it does look interesting.

      I noticed there was a recent Time article on it also (is it suddenly a big topic? Hell, that would make it so much easier to explain to people!), but I am not subscribed, so can’t read it: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2105432,00.html

      Boo hiss!

      Ferns

  9. Thanks for the reminder. Needing several days to a week to recover from a party, especially a really good party, sounds so familiar. And people not understanding that I’m an introvert… YES!

    My partner struggles with this, at least partly because they like to think of couple time as “us being alone together”, not understanding the gulf between “alone” and “together” for me. It makes living together more difficult than it might otherwise be. For them couple time is recovery from the socialising they do, but for me it’s too often effort to be put into looking after them. One ex had a great way of saying “you called me, you talk” that I still treasure. It meant “don’t call me up when you want to be entertained”. Which was great, we spent a lot of time being alone together in a really non-needy way.

    1. “Needing several days to a week to recover from a party, especially a really good party, sounds so familiar. And people not understanding that I’m an introvert… YES!”

      *smile* Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one!

      “It makes living together more difficult than it might otherwise be…”

      It absolutely can, yes.

      For me, my partner a) has to understand my nature and b) becomes part of my ‘inner circle’, so he is like a part of me.

      Being with him is like being alone in terms of energy drain, and that’s a huge compliment.

      “One ex had a great way of saying “you called me, you talk” that I still treasure.”

      Oh that’s a great line!

      I HATE it when people call me ‘to chat’, idle chitter chatter drives me mad. I let most of my calls go to voicemail and unless they have told me what they want in the message, I will wait until I’m in the mood to chat before I call them back.

      Ferns

  10. @ Miss Ferns:

    Me :”“All the extroverts can do to try to match them is write in CAPITAL LETTERS and talk loudly, but unavoidably boringly, about how much of a hit they are ‘in real life’.”

    You: I think that’s an unfair generalisation, and no more accurate than someone saying introverts are all socially inept misfits. Extroverts are not somehow a group of dumb insensitive jerks, though to my point above, I can imagine online interactions would be quite uninteresting for many of them”

    Yes, true, quite an unfair generalisation, on reflection.

    As you know, I’m quite an introvert myself.

    As you might also remember, I used to see a therapist some years ago, for depression. One of the first things I talked about with him was my feeling of being unusual and different. Particularly what I remembered was primary school, and how I used to wander around the playground on my own while the other kids played together. It was a painful time.

    My therapist was a Jungian – it was Carl Jung who coined the terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’. He was well-placed to ‘sort me out’ on that matter. Yes, I was unusual, he told me, but not *that* unusual and certainly not mentally ‘ill’ in any way. He went on to tell me that, during times past, introversion was much more favoured than it is now. Before the industrial revolution, people had to work and live with far less communication between them. Cranky people who went off ‘into their own worlds’ were more tolerated and, without them, the 19th century, particularly wouldn’t have been so replete with inventions.

    On a different level: I do have a feeling that there might actually be a political aspect to the present-day preference for extroversion. If you are a company owner, you may well be fine to work on your own. But company owners want *teams* to work in their companies, not individuals. (Or, God help us, “crews” if you work at McDonald’s!)

    That last is a vague thought only. Mostly it’s borne of so many of my employers, in the past, banging on to me about ‘team spirit’ and my thinking, ‘No. You can shove your “team spirit”‘.

    ;-)

  11. Please ignore my boorish French cousin, Miss Ferns. When he slates extroverts, he’s really slating *English* extroverts and the English in general. Everything comes back to losing at Agincourt against Henry V for him and his branch of the family.

  12. It’s interesting that so far mostly people who *are* introverts themselves have replied to this post… I myself do not fall into that category. I am probably the most extroverted extrovert if there has ever been one. I hate being alone, I get bored with myself quite easily and I love having a full schedule (even if I also love to complain about just that, too :D).

    But I do have a boyfriend who is an introvert.
    Now that I think about it, it is pretty amazing how he manages to put up with me all the time (we live together) – but he also admitted that his tolerance towards me is just way higher than towards other people.
    I recognized a lot of the things from the article in his behaviour, things I was never really able to put my thumb upon in trying to figure them out, but while reading I also realised that we’ve been making it work pretty nicely to make sure he gets his alone-time (i.e. we don’t sleep in the same room – except when I want to fall asleep next to him) even without me knowing exactly what I’m dealing with.
    Even though some things might be complicated a little if you throw an introvert and an extrovert together like that, I wouldn’t wanna change him in the least. We complement each other so well and I love him to death.
    So I still gotta say thanks for posting that article – it did help me understand my loved one even better!

    ~ Aoide

    1. “It’s interesting that so far mostly people who *are* introverts themselves have replied to this post…”

      I know!! Funny! I figure the extroverts are just shy… heh.

      “…but he also admitted that his tolerance towards me is just way higher than towards other people.”

      Yes, exactly this for me also. When someone is so close to me, they don’t count any more as ‘someone I have to deal with’, so they don’t sap my energy. It’s lovely how that works.

      “Even though some things might be complicated a little if you throw an introvert and an extrovert together like that”

      Yes, there are quite a few who suggest that an introvert/extrovert couple are a good match. I tend toward extroverts, not *because* they are extroverts, it has just worked out that way, and it does seem to work well. I think there is a complementary thing that can happen there, if you can manage the difference in preferences.

      “We complement each other so well and I love him to death.”

      *smile* I’m so happy to hear that! I’d love a happy femdom story if you have one that you would like to share!

      “So I still gotta say thanks for posting that article – it did help me understand my loved one even better!”

      You’re very welcome.

      Ferns

      1. Ha… I have actually thought of sending you one… I just didn’t get around to pinning it on paper… err… to put it into writing yet… :)

  13. another extrovert here! @Aoide: i am absolutely with you. although my being an extreme extrovert evens out a bit, the older i get. but that means instead of having 3 hours of “me”-time per week i now prefer to have about a day of peace and quiet per week. and that still doesn’t exclude all people.
    yes, i am getting energised by people, but only if i am feeling comfortable with the bunch. having the impression (even if not true) that i have to be on my guard, totally drains me. which then though rather results in needing “positive” socialising than alone time.
    and i totally get the complementation thing in relationships. my ex boyfriend used to be a mixture of shy and introverted, so i was usually the one, dragging him along to the odd social event which he really enjoyed (as long as there was not too much of it, of course ;) ). on the other hand it was always him, who was the rock that was always there when i started to spin and loose direction and orientation because of all those “spare time” activities, that were going on. he would always be there to ground me.
    i don’t know about others, but that combination of introvert/extrovert was just good for both of us, which is, why i think, those relationships work so well.

    m

    p.s.: sorry for long winding/ awkward expression. English is not my first language

    1. …I’m not completely sure exeryone agrees, but I’m totally okay with your English, it’s perfectly fine…
      But then again… it’s not *my* first language either… ^^

    2. The way you and your ex complemented each other sounds very familiar to me, and I agree that that’s why the balance can often work very well.

      If I was with another introvert, we would just stay home all the time. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (in fact, I would thoroughly enjoy it, just me and him cocooned up on a love nest! Bliss!), but I don’t think it’s such a healthy thing.

      And your English is excellent, m, don’t worry!

      Ferns

  14. “And to all the extroverts in my life, you do NOT ‘put me through torment’”

    You only have to ask dearie

    *sly grin*
    Coug

  15. Love this article. I’ve always been active in social circles but because of demands of work. Needing to network. But when people would talk about extrovert vs introvert I would always tell them I was an introvert and they never believed me because I’m not ‘shy’. I even took the Myers-Briggs test… Introvert! Still didn’t believe me!

    Now I can tell them, which I tried to before, that large crowds, lots of people drain me. I even have a hard time in large chain stores “Walmart” etc… way too many people.

    I like my own company! I like hanging out with ME! And then when I’m re-charged I can handle others. But I know when I’ve had my limit!

    Thank you!

    ~ Vista

  16. How to act around other people is something that is learned behavior. Even when people are introverts! As long as someone can pick up most or all of the social cues (and some people cannot), they can be the life of the party.

    You can’t learn how not to be an introvert though. As if anyone should! Of course, as a fellow introvert, I find the prospect of being an extrovert to be exhausting. Why? Because I can’t unlearn my introverted way of thinking. So all I think is, “Extroverts thrive on socialization! Socialization deals with a lot of people. How many people? For how long? I think I need a nap.”

    1. “Extroverts thrive on socialization! Socialization deals with a lot of people. How many people? For how long? I think I need a nap.”

      Perfectly put!! *laugh*

      Ferns

  17. Somehow I missed this post in my first read-through to catch up. Yet again, I’ve learned something new about myself! Thank you!

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