Leave me alone, but not now

As a species, we like binary — it makes counting so much easier, if a trifle unwieldy — and we especially like to be able to classify people as either A or B. Actual people, however, don’t necessarily fit well into pigeonholes:

Everyone is either an introvert or an extrovert right? Could it be that’s not true — that maybe some people are somewhere in between or a little of both?

Suppose nature made you an extrovert. You like attention and love being around people. But then you go to school and the other kids reject you or even outright bully you. In time you come to feel that being a loner is safer. You discover that being alone with your own thoughts can even be pleasant. You are an introvert. But if this happened to you couldn’t you still retain some latent extrovertedness? Because it’s your nature, crave the company of others and secretly long to be the center of attention but because of your experiences never be comfortable with the attention you crave?

I can speak only for myself here, but I am very much an introvert — unless I have something resembling total control of the situation, in which case I will emerge from my shell. (Those who have encountered me in person on Tour will note that I didn’t have control of those situations, but that I figured it was safe to cede it for the moment.)

Besides, there’s that whole lonely-nights thing, and once you get past a few thousand of them, you start assuming that it’s the default.



  1. Francis W. Porretto »

    11 April 2014 · 11:25 am

    Introversion and a preference for one’s own company are often found together. However, as a recluse of many years who turns extroverted in the company of others, I can testify that exceptions to the pairing do exist.

  2. McGehee »

    11 April 2014 · 11:45 am

    I’m with Francis — I think people are most likely to be one or the other situationally, with the boundary between situations unique to the individual. Circumstances, audience size, familiarity with the group, all contribute to a person’s social comfort level at any given moment.

    I consider myself more introverted because I sometimes may find that any company at all, even just my wife’s, is a crowd — yet under other circumstances I can be quite comfortable addressing a roomful of strangers.

  3. fillyjonk »

    11 April 2014 · 2:48 pm

    As I said over there – I am an introvert who can play being an extrovert when she needs to. I can talk to people and can even come across as fairly charismatic (or so I’ve been told), but dang, after too much time around other people, I just need to go and hide somewhere alone for a while.

  4. Roger Green »

    12 April 2014 · 5:06 am

    I’ve said to people that I’m generally shy, to the disbelief of about 83% of people. “But you speak in public”, and so forth. But those are usually at events – church, my work annual meting – where it’s relatively safe. I greet strangers at church because I KNOW what it feels like to be the stranger.

  5. canadienne »

    12 April 2014 · 10:21 pm

    I think this tendency to see things binary instead of a continuum or something more complicated is a big fallacy and leads to a lot of grief and misunderstanding. Pretty sure there is a continuum between introvert/extravert, as well as almost everything else. Except alive/dead, unless you are a zombie fan. Or on/off, as in computers and light switches.

    Myers-Briggs tells me I am an introvert. It’s my understanding that extraverts get energy from other people, while introverts have to be alone to recharge their batteries. Think I am a classic example: while I have no fear of teaching or public speaking, I don’t go mingle with the group afterwards.

  6. CGHill »

    12 April 2014 · 10:55 pm

    I took the MBTI-ish Keirsey Temperament Sorter, which finds me INTJ; however, I did make a fuss about the four continua that determine the findings; the T is perhaps the most arguable of the four.

  7. April Rambling: Buy the niece’s new album, and end Daylight Saving Time | Ramblin' with Roger »

    30 April 2014 · 6:14 am

    […] Leave me alone, but not now. I’m convinced that MOST of us are like this; certainly I am. […]

  8. Daniel Van Riper »

    3 May 2014 · 8:06 am

    You know what? This tendency of people to see everything as a binary drives me half crazy. I generally don’t see the world that way, so I am constantly trying to explain things to people who can’t understand a word I’m saying because my thoughts don’t fit into their two exclusive categories. In addition, people are encouraged to think in often absurd binaries by the corporate media, which is a very effective form of manipulation on their part.

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