Extroverts are not the demons you imagine.
It’s become popular for about 90% of the denizens of Facebook to identify as introverts, and to detail their social anxieties out where everyone can see and chime in with “Me, too!”, while implying (when not declaring outright) that this is all the fault of those horrible extroverts.
As an extrovert, I feel somewhat beleaguered and unfairly stigmatized, and while most of us ARE in fact, sympathetic to your woes, we sometimes look at each other helplessly and wonder what it is you want us to do about it.
And we feel desperately misunderstood, because what most of you describe as “extroverted” is what extroverts describe as “high-school jock/sociopath”.
Seriously. You don’t get us, and it’s probably high time someone did explain it to you.
First of all, extroverts do not pathologically NEED to be in the company of others at all waking moments. Plenty of extroverts spend lots of time alone quite happily – they, too, enjoy reading, and music via headphones, and long hikes in the wilderness by themselves.
That’s why extroverts do things like sail around the world alone. That’s why extroverts don’t demand traveling companions for every excursion. We know that, should we need company, we can probably find some. But we’re okay on our own, too.
In fact, one of the things that extroverts do very occasionally and quietly observe to each other is how much more booming a social life most of our “introvert” friends seem to have: they are constantly arranging outings and parties and game nights and lunch dates. To us, it sounds pretty enervating and exhausting, like introverts think life isn’t worth living unless they are celebrating Saturday night on a daily basis.
Extroverts know that social occasions come around all the time. If you miss one – well, like buses, you just wait for another. Extroverts aren’t the ones weeping every time someone they know goes out with other people and has a good time without them.
Secondly, extroverts are not naturally unkind humans on the look-out for reasons to ridicule, shame, or ostracize other people. Those are called “mean people” and that has zero to do with how much of a social butterfly you are.
You know what the difference between most extroverts and most introverts is?
Social anxiety. Not the fact of it – we have it, too: this is called being human.
No, what extroverts have is the awareness that everyone – absolutely EVERYONE – is so conscious of their own shaky grasp on the rules, and that everyone is running their own interior movie monologue of self-critique on their behaviour in public, that the chances that anyone ever noticed YOUR faux pas is probably around the same odds as getting struck by lightning.
How do we know this?
Because extroverts, contrary to popular belief, are really good at observing people and analyzing why/how/where they do the things they do. And we noticed very early in life just how much one can get away with before anyone disengages themselves from their inner critic long enough to notice you just said/did something maladroit.
Thus, extroverts enter each social situation with the assumption that, until proven otherwise, that encounter will please us on some level. We might suffer from social anxiety, but we subordinate that emotion to our role – either as host or guest – to being a willing participant, ready to be pleased by what occurs. We take the responsibility – as host or guest – to making sure others have something to be pleased about, too.
Our observations have also taught us that people respond to fun, and to kindness and interest, and so, when we meet new people or social situations that might be uncomfortable, we turn the spotlight back to you. If you seem to need it, we entertain you with jokes or something until you seem comfortable enough to contribute something of your own.
Extroverts actually have taken this in so entirely that we barely even notice that we do it – and that, perhaps, is the actual difference: we come primed to do our part, and in so doing, are less fixated on ourselves.
We aren’t looking to make you feel uncomfortable – quite the reverse. We aren’t asking to be the star attraction, but we are willing to stick our necks out to keep a social situation from degenerating into one long, awkward silence.
We’re as flawed and mutable as you are, but we’ve come to terms with that.
And we’d really, really appreciate it if you’d stop lumping us in with bullies and psychopaths, because we hate those guys just as much as you do.