A wonderful little piece recently appeared over at The Wall Street Journal with quite a bit more year-round relevance than its title implies, “All I Want For Christmas…Is Some Space” by Sophia Dembling. Ms. Dembling comments on a form of contemporary righteousness that is increasingly filed under the Type A-Type B dichotomy, namely, the difference between extroverts and introverts. The distinction, of course, is a real one; what’s interesting/sad is how quickly it becomes a hierarchy, i.e. extroverts are good, introverts not so much. Or at least, extroversion is a desirable quality, while introversion is something that needs to be remedied. And while I’m not sure these traits are always as neutral as she seems to suggest, neither are they cut and dry. When Dembling claims that the value judgements associated with these dispositions are especially pronounced this time of year, when parties and socializing are a bit more frequent, she has a point. Thankfully, the party survival pointers she gives to introverts translate to anyone looking to dictate their surroundings at any time of year, i.e. all of us, ht LG:
Extroverts love being around lots of people and lots of fuss. They need it for their well being. We introverts love being alone with our thoughts in a quiet room, and we need it for our well-being. It’s a matter of energy. Extroverts gain it around other people; introverts are drained of it. Needless to say, these can be conflicting needs.
Introverts are often urged to “fix” their personalities, to come out of their shells. But introversion is not the same as shyness, and it doesn’t need to be fixed. Shyness is fear and anxiety in social situations, introversion is just low motivation to get out and mingle. Psychologists consider introversion inborn and a “stable” trait that stays constant throughout our lifetime.
Of course, introversion and extroversion are extremes on a continuum, with most of us falling somewhere in between. But even though roughly half of Americans fall on the introverted side of the scale according to various studies, extroversion has been held in higher esteem. So when extroverts and introverts skirmish, extroverts usually come out victorious, holding the moral high ground because they “love people” and are not “stuck up” or “surly,” like those introverts, sulking in the corner.