One characteristic of extroverts I’ve recently learned about is their tendency to “talk to think” while introverts “think to talk”. It’s possible that this is the trait of introverts that I most deeply envy. If you didn’t know, I fall WELL on the extroverted side of that scale. Way over there in the E category. Completely. Name an extroverted trait, and it’s one of the strongest guiding traits in my life.
I’ve seen a number of posts on the benefits of extroversion lately. Introverts wish they were more outgoing. Social behavior is praised. These things irk me. They often very nearly make me crazy. Extrovertedness and being social are not even close to the same thing. The only commonality is that extroverts are recharged by social behavior. Interacting with others is instantly rewarded by the boost of energy, engagement, awareness, and brilliant light that we feel. A conversation is a strong charge. A hug is a lightning bolt of energy. I am social because I am an extrovert.
Introverts are social, too. People are social by nature. Social interaction can just be a draining activity for the strong introvert. The gratification is not instant. The reward is less obvious. That does not mean there is no impetus, however. It’s just a less-strong drive. So?
There was a very long span of time in my 20s where I wanted to call a friend. “Come over, hang out, we can talk. I’ll tidy the living room and catch up on dishes.” I was living my myself, and it was utterly draining. I just wanted someone to hang out and keep me charged while I was performing these mundane tasks. Without that, things weren’t getting done. If I wanted a glass of water or a bowl of cereal, I’d have to get the cup or bowl from the dirty dishes and wash it to use it. I’m not flattering my 22 year-old self by sharing this, but it’s absolutely true. I took a job in a restaurant, not because I needed the money, but because I needed the interaction. My day job was too boring and isolated.
In this way, extroversion can be crippling. It’s like Superman being denied the rays of the yellow sun. And now there’s the talk to think concept. This is brutal. Extroversion should not be anyone’s goal.
Talk Stupid, End Smart
Introverts think to talk? That sounds AWESOME. Imagine a world where I could sit here, think all sorts of smart thoughts in my head, and then occasionally say a profoundly brilliant thing. What a dream. I’d be a skinnier, less hirsute Silent Bob. Instead, I’m the jackhole Jay, constantly flapping my gums, rarely saying anything of real consequence. And when I do finally produce a worthwhile sentence, no one is listening because I’ve been prattling on for so many ages that they’ve tuned it out.
My signal to noise ratio is crap. I say unkind things far to often (not intentionally, but because I start talking before I’ve sorted out my thoughts.) I react poorly and strongly. I usually hate quiet time. I’m incessantly needy.
My saving grace is that I rarely come off as something better than I am when you first meet me. I’m talking to think in our very first conversation, so you know what you’ll be dealing with later. Consequently, I have very patient, understanding friends. My wife, of coruse, is the most patient and understanding of all. And my son, of course, is a constant source of energy for me now (even as he drains it).
At work, things are slightly funnier. I have a picture of Spider-Man as my wallpaper on the computer right now. I work with a team of introverts (of varying degrees) who understand what a needy wreck I am. So they gave me Spider-Man to talk to so I don’t have to ask them questions I can answer myself (as long as I have the opportunity to talk myself through it). If you’re like me, you already understand what I mean. If you’re not, I don’t really know how to explain. Since I talk to think, I talk my way through problems. This often manifests in the form of me asking you a question and then answering it myself. For you, it can be extremely frustrating, but it looks like I just wasted your time. (The first time, not so much, but the eleventh time that day is slightly more tedious. At least that’s what your expression is telling me.) For me, you were instrumental in that process. I truly could not have done it without help. I don’t care if it LOOKS like you helped. You did.
It has taken me years to learn to cope with these things, and I’m still trying to find my way. I used to think I had Adult ADHD. I used to think I was lazy, too. I used to think I was a complete failure of a headcase. I thought I was a lost cause. I no longer think any of those things, but I am coming to the conclusion that extroversion is a disorder. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
This post may seem disorganized to you, but it’s done wonders for clarifying my internal thoughts. Type to think.