Introvert: N. (psychology) a person who tends to shrink from social contacts and to become preoccupied with their own thoughts.
The basic definition of introvert has grown from the one above. Many psychologists now follow the theory that people are either introverted or extroverted based not on their personality types, but by how they “recharge” or gain energy. Introverted people tend to be energized by time spent alone to reflect, while extroverts gain energy by being around groups of people.
But the stereotypes persist. Introverts are socially awkward, extroverts work the crowd with ease and confidence.
Introverts seem to be having a bit of a thing right now. It’s as if the world just noticed they existed. ("Ba-dum-bum-CHING!” I’ll be here all night folks.) Memes about being too “people-y,” too awkward to make friends, and having a bad case of resting bitch face fill my social media feeds.
Honestly, I’m feeling a bit left out. Are all of my introvert friends hanging out without me?
Probably not, but of course I still want to be part of the conversation and I feel it’s time to break the silence. Here goes: extroverts are awkward too. It’s a bit much to cram into a meme, so here are four things you need to know about awkward extroverts.
Know an extrovert? Then I bet you know too much about at least one part of that person’s life. We can’t help it, we open our mouths and words just come out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finished a sentence only to immediately think, “Oh. Nope. Wrong crowd.”
At one point in my career I was a bank teller by day, bartender by night, occasionally enjoying only a few hours off between shifts. One such day, midmorning in the bank drive-through, a customer made a large cash deposit. I jokingly said, “Wow, I’m not used to having this much cash thrown at me without taking my clothes off.”
Way too much information.
Not necessarily because we have a lot to say but because we feel it is our sole responsibility to make sure everyone around us is entertained and happy. Introverts tend to be okay with social silence, extroverts are not.
Here’s a little glimpse into my thoughts when a silence falls:
“No one is talking. They’re definitely not having a good time. I should say something. What’s that random statistic? Every eight minutes there will be a lull in the conversation? I should say that. Or maybe I should tell a funny story. Have they heard the one about the time I told a bank customer that I was a stripper? Or about the time my husband peed in the refrigerator during college? That’s a good one. And it has choreography. Everyone loves a well-choreographed urination story.”
All of this would probably be okay if I checked the crowd first (see #1), but unfortunately my mind hits sheer panic mode at the first sign of silence and I’ll look up to realize that I’m in the middle of a school fundraiser meeting. Definitely the wrong crowd.
Feelings. Extroverts have a lot of them. We’re really good at expressing happy and excited. Sadness and anger? Not so much. In fact, depression is much more likely to be missed by close friends and family members if the sufferer is an extrovert. We cover that shit up. Robin William’s death threw this fact into the spotlight.
Since we don’t like handling these emotions in ourselves, you can imagine how awkward we are at comforting someone else going through them. My best attempts at providing solace to even a close friend usually end up with me patting them on the head and soothingly saying, “There, there, sad person, it will be okay. Now let’s go get you some alcohol so we can stuff all those emotions right back down where they belong. Mmmkay?”
Awkwardly so. We like you. We know that you’ll like us and we can’t wait to show you why. If your best friend is an extrovert I bet you remember exactly how you first met them, and I bet that in hindsight it was pretty awkward.
A couple of years ago a new family moved to town. I had heard enough about them to just know that we would get along well. So I showed up on their doorstep with two bottles of wine and made myself comfortable. So comfortable that when I finally went to leave, I walked right into their sliding glass doors. As my friend Lacey woefully said after a similar first encounter, “I came in too hot.”
The good news is that awkward extroverts make great friends, especially for an introvert. So the next time you’re feeling uncomfortable in a social situation, seek one out. You won’t have to say much and they’ll be happy to have the company. If you’re not sure where to find one, take a look around the next funeral you attend, they’ll be in the corner cracking jokes about the deceased.
It takes a village!
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