Monday, April 7, 2014

Do Extroverts Feel Pressured to Speak? (And Other Questions For My Extrovert Friends)

In the midst of all these articles about "things introverts have to deal with," someone pulled together a similar article about extroverts, and one part in particular caught my eye:
When there’s a lull in the conversation, do you know who starts it back up again? The extrovert does. However, being the engine and the fuel for social gatherings can be extremely tiring and feel like a lot of work, so sometimes it would be nice for us extroverts to be allowed a break and have other people take over (though, for some of us, not talking can be quite the challenge).
The first time I read this article, it was actually from a blog by an introvert who was responding to the article, and they had basically the same response I did: Do we need to keep the conversation going?

This led to a few other thoughts which I kept hoping would solidify into a coherent theme, but it really hasn't yet, so here they are in no order at all.
  • I know for me, as an introvert, I feel definite pressure to keep most conversations going, but that's because I assume I'm talking to someone more extroverted than I am (because everyone is more extroverted than I am). But I really would be just as happy not talking if I have nothing to say. The pressure I feel to keep up the conversation is entirely external -- I assume other people want me to keep talking, so I try. When extroverts feel pressure to talk, is it mostly external or internal? Do they feel like they should talk because they think I want conversation, or do they feel like they should talk because they want conversation? Or a little of both? Because, hey, I'm totally fine with occasional silence if you are.
  • When I spend time with introverted friends, it's quite common for us, after the initial burst of conversation, to spend much of our time together in the same room but doing individual things, laptops open or books in hand, with the opportunity to lapse back into conversation as it arises. Does this count as social interaction for extroverts? Or does their interaction need to be more driven/active? How necessary is conversation to the feeling of having spent time with someone?
(I was hoping I could find a picture of me and a friend on computers together,
but this is the closest I found. Anyway, I'M socializing while on the computer here...
I'm not sure what Jacob is doing. Posing? Stretching?)
  • Which is more socially fulfilling for an extrovert: constant conversation with someone about something you don't really care about (because, watch out, you get some of us introverts talking about something we love and we can go on for hours) or scattered moments of conversation you're interested in interspersed with long silences? I would always choose the latter, but are extroverts more likely to find that uninterrupted social interaction is worth it, no matter the subject?
I am kind of fascinated by this and would really love any of my friends who consider themselves more on the extroverted side of things to chime in with any thoughts of their own. Introverted friends, feel free to ask the extroverts in your life and report back to me on what they say. I'd like to post a follow-up blog next week with some of the comments.

I am so far on the introverted side of things that sometimes I'm reminded that I really have very little concept of what it's like to see things from the other side. I'm sure it varies from person to person, but I'd love to get some feedback.

1 comment:

  1. I'm about evenly split, and it really largely depends on the setting as to which half takes over. In one-on-one conversations, or even a very small group of, say, four or fewer, as long as I'm comfortable with the others, I'm A-OK with lulls. I used to have phone conversations in my teens that would go for hours, and sometimes we'd have 20 minute bouts of silence where we were both doing other things, but didn't really feel our conversation had come to an end so we kept the line open.

    When my inner extrovert comes out in a group setting, I call him "The Entertainer". He keeps things lively, he knows how to include others - and, more importantly, he knows whether to include others at all, aware of those who are more comfortable just watching him and others do their thing without wanting to be an active participant themselves. The Entertainer can hold court for hours, leading discussion in any number of directions.

    He is also completely exhausting and I need days to recover from his escapades. It's become more taxing in recent years. I had a whole lot of anxiety throughout most of 2013 and that made it especially difficult on me to be in situations where The Entertainer was expected.

    On those occasions, though, I really do enjoy being him. I'm comfortable speaking in front of people, whether I know them or not, and I think I'm reasonably good at it. I actually do enjoy letting The Entertainer take over. He's exciting and fun to be around, and he lifts to spirit of any room he's in - unlike when I'm depressed, where I tend to have the opposite effect. Friends accustomed to my moods can handle it okay, but people who don't really know me well are often really put off if they've first met The Entertainer and then encounter me in a depressive episode. I can come off as being worse than I really am, just because of the contrast.

    The Entertainer doesn't consciously process things like, "Uh-oh, there's a lull; gotta say something!" Rather, I liken him more to a surfer who has just finished riding a wave. Instead of getting out of the water, The Entertainer goes looking for the next wave, because he came there to surf, not sit. He's happy to share a wave with other surfers, and he's happy if people on the beach just want to watch him surf without joining. What matters most to him is that everyone at the beach - in the water or not - feels comfortable and is having a good time.