Saturday, August 18, 2012

Introverts and Friendships/Relationships

One thing that has remained constant throughout my life is that I have always been an introvert. Wikipedia has a great definition of introversion:

Introversion is the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one's own mental life .... Introverts [are] people whose energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction. 

Introverts tend to be more reserved and less outspoken in groups. They often take pleasure in solitary activities such as reading, writing, using computers, hiking, and fishing. 

Fairy Falls from the Side
Going on a hike at Fairy Falls.
I was with my sister on this walk.
(Taken on June 1, 2008.)

The archetypal artist, writer, sculptor, engineer, composer, and inventor are all highly introverted. 

Inspire the Artitst Within You - Sounds Heard in One Hour

A page from one of my journals.
(Taken on March 9, 2009.)

They prefer to concentrate on a single activity at a time and like to observe situations before they participate. They are more analytical before speaking. 

Introverts are easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement, introversion having even been defined by some in terms of a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment.

Sunrise and Waves
Sunrise over Lake Superior in Duluth.
(Taken on April 15, 2011.)

Introversion is not seen as being identical to shy. Introverts prefer solitary activities over social ones, whereas shy people (who may be extroverts at heart) avoid social encounters out of fear.

In terms of friendships and relationships, for me, that means that I generally enjoy solitary activities. That being said, it's nice to have close friends with whom I can do some things that I enjoy.

When I think of where I have met most of my friends who I have known for more than 15+ years, it has been through:
- school or college
- being neighbors
- work (either places I've worked or through the non-profit I founded and ran for many years)

This upcoming year, I am going to be participating in a spiritual growth program from September through June. It will definitely take me out of my comfort zone since there are bi-weekly meetings and talking in front of a small group of people. However, it sounds like - from past participants' experience - that friendships are formed as the months pass by and the level of sharing deepens.

When I begin the program in September, there are some helpful things to keep in mind from the book How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends by author Don Gabor. He encourages the use of the S-O-F-T-E-N technique. This basically is an adjustment of your body language before you ever open your mouth.

Smile (as opposed to your regular facial impression of perhaps guarded interest)
Open your arms (rather than crossing them over your chest)
lean Forward (slightly and without imposing on anyone's personal space)
Touch (such as via a firm handshake)
make Eye contact (keep it natural)
Nod to show you are listening and interested to hear more

In the article All About Introverts by Carol Bainbridge, the author gives an excellent overview of what it is like to be an introvert, especially as it relates to children. However, one of the sections I found particularly interesting was about the feeling of being drained when around others.

She states, "Introverts become emotionally drained after spending time with others, particularly strangers." (As a side note, I become drained after being with family members at gatherings - even though I enjoy seeing, for me, it's not just with strangers.)

Mom, Dad, Girls, and Ruth
Having lunch with my parents, 
Ruth (an exchange student who was back visiting from Brazil), 
Sophia, and Olivia.
(Taken on June 4, 2009.)

"They don’t like crowded places and introverted [people] can even become grouchy and irritable if they’ve been around too many people for too long. Even when introverts enjoyed a party or activity, they can feel drained afterwards."

Olivia Enjoying Dessert at the American Girl Tea Party
Olivia at an American Girl Tea Party.
(Taken on February 2, 2008.)

What is especially relevant to how I grew up was the following statement by Ms. Bainbridge, "Parents often sign their introverted children up for numerous activities to help them improve their social skills, but an activity-filled schedule is overwhelming for these children." In my opinion, that doesn't change - whether you're an adult or a child.

What is truly important to me, is not the quantity of friends or associates I have, but the quality of those friendships and matter where I met them.


Kim said...

Wow, really hits home for me as well. I'm a sort of forced/trained extrovert and I catch myself doing the same to my daughter. Thank you for this information and reminder how overwhelming it really can be..

CrochetBlogger said...

Love this post. Introversion/ extroversion is a super fascinating thing to study and I think it can be really helpful for everyone to know which area they fall into. It helps explain why you feel certain ways and allows you greater self-acceptance.

I'm a complicated case, though, because I fall almost equally between the two. I have many traits of the introvert but also many of the extrovert and whenever I've taken the various tests I'm always about 50/50. It's all about balance for me!

Jeanine Byers said...

I think leaning into the curve where introversion is concerned is good. I have become MUCH more open to others after nurturing my need to be alone, to minimize noise and other overwhelm, to be at home, etc. I am an INFP and love being one!

Shannon said...

John and I are both extroverts. We have passed that on to our daughter. We shall see how our son is when he is a bit older, but at 7 weeks, he too is very social.

here is my post.