Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Parties for Introverts

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.


  1. This makes me remember my dad telling me "Get your nose up out of that book every once in a while and experience life. You can't live in a book." The funny thing is he'd usually say this when he was driving me somewhere, so the only thing to do was stare blankly out at the street-side or engage in conversation, neither of which were as fun as reading. My parents never understood why I wanted read and write all the time, and they often made me stop to do something else (like go outside). If I could get away with it I'd sneak a book or notebook wherever they had me go.

  2. I had to add a comment because it said "1 comments" at the bottom of your post. I read the "1 comments," and it/they was/were very good. But it's obvious that the blog company doesn't want comments to have to be alone, so I'm adding a comment to make the comments plural. I guess the blog company and I are extroverts.