Ever since I put together the FAQ for this site, I’ve pondered one of the answers I gave, and wondered if it was truly accurate. The question is “What is an introvert? What is an extrovert?,” and the answer I gave was (in part):
Most basically, these terms refer to where a person gets their energy from; introverts find it energizing to spend large periods of time alone, while extroverts gain energy from spending time with other people…
What has caused me to wonder about this answer is the frequent experience I’ve had since starting this site of meeting extroverts with “introvert tendencies.” Most of these individuals have been young women, and all have described to me how although they consider themselves extroverts, they still need time to recharge their batteries from time to time. As an introvert I totally understand this, but it confuses me as to whether these folks are really introverts in extroverts’ clothing, or if it is just a basic human need to withdraw from the world periodically.
I’ve decided that it has to be the latter, because rarely are such sweeping generalizations (e.g., introverts get energy from solitude, extroverts get energy from other people) borne out universally in real life. It sounds almost mechanistic to say extroverts are always pumped up by social activity (like plugging in an electrical device), and I know from my own experience that I gain joy and yes, energy, from hanging out with people I love.
With the hectic lives many of us lead, we all need time to simply rest—introvert and extrovert alike. If we are not to become physically run down, we need sleep, and one can’t be around people ALL the time. In fact, those who identify as “people” persons may be under greater pressure to be “on” all the time, even when they find they can’t maintain their usual level of activity. Many introverts simply cannot function when they have too much on their plate, but I think this is a danger for extroverts too.
This realization could be threatening to my concept of just what separates introverts and extroverts, if not for the fact that I’ve found many more examples of what makes introverts tick through the writing and reading I’ve done for this blog. Perhaps I’ll make a change to the FAQ at some point once I’ve come up with a pithy way of expressing these observations.
On a different note, thinking about this topic has reminded me of a great culinary experience I had in Costa Rica a few years ago. Staying in the sleepy surfing town of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, one night we were lucky enough to sample a local dish known as Rondon. Basically a fish stew, our hostess explained that it got its name from the fact that it included everything that could be “ron-don” (run down) that night. I managed to find a recipe for it online, and I’ll have to try it out the next time I’m feeling “ron-don.”