A friend recently explained to me introversion and extroversion in a way that finally made sense to me: an introvert gets energy in solitude and is drained by crowds, while an extrovert gets energy from crowds and is drained by solitude. Reading about it a little more the other day, I find that while introverts understand extroverts, extroverts can virtually never understand introverts. That explains the confusing definitions I have come across before: they must have been written by extroverts.
I've been thinking about this distinction often recently as I sit alone at lunch reading. At least, other people must think I'm alone. Actually I have a book, and I've said for many years, "I'm having lunch with Spenser" -- or Homer, or Kierkegaard, etc. They make great lunch partners. They have a lot to say, yet they never get tired of being interrupted. They're actually surprisingly responsive: besides waiting for me when I want to think about what they just said (or when I need a refill of Diet Coke), they actually quite often answer my questions within a couple of pages. They are in fact the perfect conversation partners for an introvert.
The Life of Johnson seems especially suited for the introvert. When I go to a party, I usually look for one person to talk to -- preferably a person under twelve. I often like every person present at a party, but I go home exhausted and longing for a string of quiet evenings at home.
Reading Boswell, on the other hand, I am invited to every party, yet I can deal with each one on my own terms and end up energized by the experience. I enter the Crown and Anchor, sit between David Garrick and Oliver Goldsmith, listen to the Great Man, enjoy the steak and kidney pie, and go home satisfied. I even offer up an opinion or two without any embarrassing consequences.
I suspect that anyone reading this post understands perfectly well and has never written a confusing definition of introversion.