It is safe to say that out of all the people in my circle of friends, I am easily the most introverted. I’m not shy; my avoidance of social interaction has nothing to do with fear, but rather a need to recharge on my own, to relax and unwind without the distractions of conversation or company.
Most of my friends, on the other hand, relax by spending time with each other or going out to noisy clubs and restaurants. They thrive on noise, chatter, and all-around loud mayhem. This can cause problems in our friendships, because often my dislike of crowds is perceived as a lack of desire to spend time with my friends.
This is a common problem when introverts and extroverts mix. There is a lot of confusion about what these terms actually mean.
Introversion is not the same thing as being shy or antisocial. Introverts enjoy socializing and conversation as much as the next person, but as the size of a social group increases, they need more and more time alone afterward to recover. These periods of solitude are what introverts get their energy from.
Extroverts, on the other hand, get bored easily on their own and wilt somewhat if they don’t have people to interact with. Their energy is derived from the presence of others, and they enjoy feeding off that energy in groups.
Although I do enjoy spending time with my friends, I prefer to do it one or two at a time, rather than all in a large group. I find one-on-one interaction stimulating, because I can concentrate all my effort on the one person and not have to try to cover several bases at once.
If everyone is in a room together and there’s a lot of conversation going on, I tend to sit quietly, because I feel like there’s already too much noise in the room without me chiming in as well. Often I’ll excuse myself to step outside and enjoy the quiet for a few moments, just to give my batteries a little boost before diving back into the fray.
I’m usually ready to head home before everyone else is, and this typically leads to people being worried that I’m either not having a good time, or that I don’t like to be around them. I do like to be around them, but I also need to have my alone time, and a lot of it.
As an introvert, it can be difficult being understood in a world that equates extroversion with friendliness. It seems that in recent years, my circle of friends has evolved, and now many of the people I spend time with are introverts themselves. We can sit quietly and drink coffee together, and the silence doesn’t feel awkward.
However, we are just as likely to engage in lively conversation on a variety of topics, if the mood strikes. At the end of the day, we retreat back into our sanctuaries, thankful for the social interaction, but also grateful for having a quiet home to return to. Far from being antisocial or shy, we are not afraid to meet new people, but we are also not afraid to be in our own company for extended periods.
For me it feels like a comfortable balance, one that I hope more extroverts will learn to understand over time.