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Other People at Breakfast

February 14, 2013

Recently I was eavesdropping on overheard a conversation in a restaurant in California.  They were discussing a book about extroverts and introverts, how the former are recharged by time with people and the latter are drained by it, how it’s not a matter of confidence vs. shyness.  Introverts can, in fact, be “people persons” in that they can be outgoing and interactive in a group, be friendly and likable, but it costs them energy to do it.  Whereas, extroverts soak it all up and are drained when deprived of that interaction.


Even more recently, a friend posted this article about the same thing, written by an introvert.  Yeah, sometimes I am a bit of a misanthrope, mostly for groups of mankind and their stupid behavior rather than individuals with whom I’ve chosen to associate.  But I am not shyYou people just exhaust me.  And that’s okay… normal even… for us.

You think I’m an extrovert because I can turn it on, but that is a learned and valuable social skill.  I’m grateful to my father for teaching me how to get along with folks that way.  I always assumed he is an extrovert, but was recently challenged by an observation that he watches and listens, then interacts mindfully.  Effectively.  And yes, I remember him spending untold hours in his home office doing work and working on lessons he taught in class.  Perhaps he was recharging, alone, to be able to put on that game face when it was time.  Maybe not, but if so, I totally get it.  If he is an extrovert, all those hours working alone must have been drudgery, but worth the payoff of making the presentations and leading the classes.

What a curious idea!  Half (or some other percentage ~ it doesn’t really matter) of the world is energized by what drains the other half, and vice versa.  The world loves the company of extroverts but values the work of introverts.  How many of us make our choices dependent upon how we want to be appreciated rather than understanding what makes us tick?

Okay.  My name is Molly and I am an introvert.  I like you and want to be friends.  When I don’t join in the group, it’s only because it would take more energy than I have to give right then.  “Joining in” is an investment for me, not necessarily a payoff… except when it is.  Friends are important.  Everyone needs friends.  But sometimes, just knowing you’re there (rather than here) is enough.  Thank you for understanding… or at least accepting.

*  “Hell is other people at breakfast.” ~Sartre **

**Turns out, he actually wrote only “L’enfer, c’est les autre,” Hell is other people.  I nearly fact-checked it myself, but the first is absolutely true and I’m kinda lazy.  The blog title remains as is, with apologies to M. Sartre.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Kathy Holman permalink
    February 14, 2013 17:24

    Molly you are so very good at articulating your ideas!! I have pondered this line of thought several times, but haven’t quite gotten it before. I think I am bipolar when it comes to this introvert/extrovert situation. There are times I can be energized by others- it feels sooooo good. But mostly it is the draining situation. I wish I had had your Dad to teach me how to deal with social interactions. I think what drains me most is knowing I don’t understand social situations most of the time and worry about what I am doing wrong. Surprisingly I am most comfortable with people I don’t know well. I think I am a closet extrovert. When I am with people I care about and I want to care about me, I am so afraid of losing them that I go inward.

    Thanks for listening.

    • February 14, 2013 22:18

      Kathy, Very perceptive that you self-protect rather than self-promote when you really care. Interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  2. February 14, 2013 20:13

    How true! Most people do drain me, but that’s understandable since I am definitely an introvert.

  3. February 15, 2013 14:00

    Excellent points. I too “overhear” things at the coffee shop–even have a blog about it called Coffee Spills. I once had a friend (now deceased) who was always seen as an introvert. Then he got sober. Came out of the closet. His wife used to say she wished he’d go back to drinking–she liked him better. Introverts actually outnumber extroverts, but have been covering it up. It also is a moving target. When I was 25-30, I loved going to gatherings and doing the nonsense, chit-chat. Now, that is just draining, also a poor investment of my time. I’d much rather spend those minutes with people I care about.

  4. Dad permalink
    February 22, 2013 04:13

    You are very preceptive. Sometime ago I decided I was either an extrovertedintrovert or an introvertedextrovert. I was never happy with the extrovert title nor did anyone really think I was an introvert. I think this helped me deal with the many variable situations in life. While I didn’t consider time in my home office drudgery, the isolated time alone prepared me for what was required on the outside. I am pleased you feel I had a positive effect on your “getting along”. Love, Dad

  5. March 8, 2013 19:39

    This is a good read. I’m an ambivert, so I vary depending on situation and mood. I hate when people assume that people who are introverted are shy. I’m glad more information is coming out to correct that thinking.

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