introverts

Introverts & Extroverts Vs. Shy & Non-Shy

What if you're a non-shy introvert or a shy extrovert? That might sound crazy to some of you, if you confuse extroverts with people-skills or introverts with not liking people, as stereotypes are hard to break.  But for me, the first time I heard this it made complete sense as it finally explained why my husband talks to strangers more than I do, even though he'd choose a quiet night on the couch over going out with friends.

I'm a Shy Extrovert

No one is surprised to find out I'm an extrovert, but most people seem dubious to hear me

Fortunately, while we might lean slightly in opposite directions on the extrovert/introvert and shy/nonshy scales-- we both like being with each other! :)

describe myself as shy. They seem surprised to find out that I don't talk to the people sitting beside me on the plane and I hate making small talk with sales people ("just leave me alone and I'll let you know if I need help!").  I cringe going to conferences where I don't know anyone and I can easily attend the same exercise class as you for over a year and not say more than hi. I can do those things and even do them quite well... but I don't enjoy them. I actually feel insecure and shy.

My Husband is a Non-Shy Introvert

And while no one who knows my husband is surprised he's non-shy, they never seem to believe him when he identifies as an introvert.  They see him talk to everyone, quick to start conversations and slow to say good-bye, and are in awe of how engaged he is with those lucky enough to connect with him.  His people skills are in the top 1% and he genuinely loves people.  But then he has to go home and recover.  He's worn out.  He has to pace his week to make sure there isn't too much interaction.

I interviewed Sophia Dembling a few years ago about her book The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World for a friendship course I was teaching and when she talked about the difference between being shy and being an introvert-- it made so much sense.

Defining the Terms: Extrovert, Introvert, Shy, Non-Shy

Put simply, an extrovert is someone who is energized by being around people; whereas an introvert can feel drained before or after interacting and need to pull away from people in order to get re-energized. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum-- referred to often as ambiverts, meaning that while we might lean one way a bit, we can certainly resonate with aspects of the other.  This classification tends to speak to what energizes and drains us.

But the above has nothing to do with our people skills or anxiety levels when connecting and that's where the non-shy/shy spectrum comes in.  Someone who is non-shy would tend to feel confident in talking with people, unworried about their ability to keep a conversation going, interested in getting to know people around them, and if not eager to meet stranger, at least not overly nervous about it.  On the other extreme, someone who identifies as shy would typically experience anxiety, nervousness, and uncertainty in meeting and connecting with others. Again, like a bell curve, most of us fall somewhere between the two extremes.

What This Says About Our Friendships

I find this all so fascinating.  Certainly someone who is a shy introvert might have one of the biggest challenges in feeling motivated to connect with others for they feel anxious and they aren't all that energized by it (although that's not to say they don't need deep human connection or that it won't improve their health and happiness to get it!).  Or how important it might be to a non-shy introvert to give themselves permission to withdraw even though they're so interested in people.

There is much still being studied in these fields and much we still don't know, but from what I've read so far it appears that while we don't have much control over whether we're extrovert or introvert, we do seem to have the ability to become less shy.  Neuroscience is showing us that our brains can learn how to experience more calmness in our connections, to feel more accepted, and to feel more resonance with others. In some cases it's that we can learn new skills and practice new behaviors that create stronger brain pathways, or in some cases it's finding healing from traumatic relationships or experiences that still trigger our insecurities or fears.

Maybe you've often thought "I'm just not that good at relationships" or "I'm not sure I know how to be a friend." Or maybe you can even feel your frustration at everyone for not being the "right" thing to you, or the shame you feel toward yourself for seemingly not knowing how to engage.  I really want to encourage you to not give up.

The good news is that we can create new trails/bridges in our brains and stop walking the same tired ones that lead us to anxiousness, irritability, fear, or the temptation to take everything personally.

Apparently, we can ALL learn new ways of connecting.  It's called neuroplasticity-- the ability of our brain to rewire itself, which is what many of us need to do in order to create the healthier relationships we need in our lives!

Have you become less shy? What worked? Have you changed a thought pattern or habit when it comes to how you relate to others? How'd you do it? Have you ever intentionally tried to create a new neuro pathway or stopped treading on one that was no longer serving you? What advice do you have for us?


Two Ideas for Growing Your Brain for Healthier & Easier Connections:

  1. Some of you might want to sign-up for the 13-class virtual course that includes the interview with Sophia Dembling: “The Friendships You’ve Always Wanted: Learning a Better Way to Meet-Up, Build-Up, and Break-Up with Your Friends".
  2. But my favorite option is an invitation to join GirlFriendCircles.com where every single month our members receive a monthly skill or challenge to practice, a class taught by a leading expert, a worksheet for personal application, and a vibrant community for advice, encouragement, and support!  Talk about rewiring our brains for healthy connection over the long-run! It's purposely not too much that it feels overwhelming, but is enough to keep bringing your focus back to relational growth.

Our brain development is like exercise-- the more we do it and the longer we do it for-- the stronger we get.  We can't just try something once and expect a new habit to be formed. But we can see growth and change over time!  xoxo

 

 

 

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Many Introverts are "Coming Out" :)

"I am an introvert.  And there's not a damn thing wrong with me." So says Sophia Dembling, author of The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World on the second page of her book that boasts chapter titles like "I Like People, Just Not All People All the Time," "Hell Is a Cocktail Party," and "Science Says We're Not Necessarily Shy."

Huge thanks to Sohpia Dembling for the good work she's doing for Introverts everywhere!

I had the privilege of interviewing her recently for an entire hour where I asked her all things related to friendship and introversion.  In my work around female friendship, you can appreciate that how we're wired will play a huge role in how we go about fostering friendships. (She's just one of a dozen amazing authors I interviewed for "The Friendships You've Always Wanted.") It was a delightful and thought-provoking conversation where she shared her own illustrations about friendships in her life, while also giving voice to the growing number of introverts who interact with her via her blog on Psychology Today, called The Introverts Corner.

Introverts Coming Out Everywhere!

Fortunately, there has been such a growing awareness and education process around this subject.  We've so needed it!  Our culture has all too often idealized extroverts in our world, often leaving introverts feeling like there is something wrong with them.  (My favorite chapter title of Dembling's is "Introverts Are Not Failed Extroverts".)

In defining introversion, it was often seen as the opposite of extroversion--which was always described with these culture-valued words like outgoing, sociable, and fun--leaving introversion with words that sounded like they were missing something. We've too often confused introversion with a lack of friendliness or people-skills, which simply isn't so.

While I've long understood extroverts to be those who are energized by being around people, needing more external stimulation; and introverts as those who get re-energized primarily by decreasing the stimulation, often by needing to withdraw from people, it does seem to be a definition still in progress.  But there is a fast-growing list of characteristics and descriptors going around that seem to be resonating with a lot of people.

Whether it's Susan Cain in her TED talk that went viral, conferences like the World Domination Summit starting to put Hang-Out Hammock Lounge's in places where introverts can go re-charge away from the crowds, Facebook links with familiar titles like "23 Signs You're a Secret Introvert," or books like Dembling's that validate the introvert life-- the world is waking up to the fact that we are all wired very differently. Hallelujah! Popular bloggers, speakers, and well-known experts are being way more open and vulnerable about their own introversion.  All of this is helping way more people to self-identify with this name and own the parts of them that haven't always been well received.

And I do mean a lot. Following my Facebook news feed has been a bit like a coming-out party with all kinds of people posting articles and blogs about introverts and then saying things like "I finally feel understood!"

In fact, I've had that feeling too.  While listening to Dembling talk during our interview  about introverts preferring a small group to a large crowd, not enjoying small talk, and choosing email over the phone; I found myself thinking, "check, check, and check."  But trying to tell someone in my life that I might be an introvert is a little like trying to sell an igloo in the desert-- my friends and family just roll their eyes and laugh.

And to be fair, I'm definitely not a true introvert, as much as I'm probably more of what some people are now calling an "ambivert" with characteristics of each, sitting somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between extroversion and introversion.  Though I definitely don't feel "middle-of-road" as much as I feel like a person who has some extreme extrovert tendencies and some extreme introvert tendencies. Or, as I listened to Dembling talk about the extrovert/introvert scale, I was intrigued when she also mentioned the separate shy/non-shy scale which is entirely different.  Her descriptions left me wondering if maybe I was a somewhat shy extrovert since I hate walking into a room full of people, can feel anxious about attending conferences, and don't ever talk to people in lines or on airplanes. (Whereas my husband is probably a non-shy/introvert--someone who can carry a conversation with anyone, on any topic, with amazing people-skills, but will then need to come home to re-charge.)  Or maybe, as they keep studying, they'll find the category where I belong.  :)

Introverts and Friend-Making

But regardless of what labels we identify with, or which descriptions best capture who we are; what is clear is that we all need to know ourselves well and be responsible for our own energy management.  We can breathe deeply knowing that there is nothing "wrong" with us, that we're wired how we're wired, that we all have some tendencies that make certain tasks easier than others, and that we each have gifts that are valuable to others.

During my interview with her, we talked about which aspects of friend-making might come easier to extroverts and which ones might come easier to introverts, how we can make friends based on our own preferences, and what's important for us to know about each other as make friends with people who are wired differently from us.

For what is abundantly clear from all research is that no matter how you're wired or what behaviors might be most natural to you-- the truth is that we all need meaningful relationships.  So we're in it together... each of us stepping in to friend-making with our own temperaments, our own style, and our own energy.

How about you-- was it easy for you to identify yourself as an extrovert or introvert? Have you always known or has it been a process of learning?  I'd love to hear your own journey!

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To listen to the interview, join us this September as we embark on a whole month focused on friendship growing: "The Friendships You've Always Wanted."

 

 

 

Defending the Introverts, Defining Mutuality

If I had to put money on the table next to what I thought was a primary barrier to women building new friendships, I'd put it next to a mistaken view of what mutuality means. Sure, lack of time will be listed as a more common excuse, but when a woman decides to be more proactive about fostering healthy friendships around her, the fear of unequal give-and-take can stall many budding friendships before they have a chance to get started.

Our Fear of Unequal Give-and-Take

We use language like "the ball is in her court" and "I don't want to impose" and "I invited her last time so this time I'll wait to see if she reciprocates." We justify our wait-and-see approach by reminding ourselves that we sent the last email or initiated the most recent plans, and we conclude that we're always the ones doing the inviting.   Not this time, we say. This time it's her turn.

While we may not call it a fear of rejection, we are in part acting out of that fear. We don't want to come across as desperate. We don't want to feel like we're putting ourselves out there all the time, unsure if it's wanted.  We've been told we don't need to put up with any behavior that isn't perfectly mutual. We want to feel like they like us too.  We want to feel wanted. We definitely don't want to be the ones who give more than we receive again.  So we protect our egos and wait her out.

In the meantime, our budding relationship never gets momentum so it never really happens.  And we're left complaining that no one out there seems to be interested in a mutual friendship.

Our Misunderstanding of Mutuality

On Friday evening I was sitting in a room with two friends.  Both lean toward introversion when it comes to interacting with people.  (Which means they have amazing people skills but being around people can cost them more energy than it gives them.) I was basking in the glow of how intimate those relationships felt, both of them so able to engage in deep, beautiful, meaningful conversations.  Their questions were thoughtful, their intuition spot on, and their love so genuine.

But if it had been up to either of them to get the three of us together it wasn't likely to have happened. I initiated.

As I had the week before.

And as I had the week prior to that.

The truth is that there are just many, many people out there who have so much to offer a friendship-- but initiating and scheduling may not be their forte.  That doesn't mean they don't love us or want to be with us.  And it certainly doesn't mean they don't have other meaningful ways to give to us. It just means they aren't going to assertively send out the invitation. Or if they do, it won't be as frequently as it might be for some of the rest of us.

This is not limited to introverts.  Take any self-awareness inventory and there are always types of people where scheduling and initiating will not come naturally for them. I've been studying the Enneagram which has nine types of people, and three of the types are withdrawing types, which means they tend to step back or retreat when there is stress (which any new situation can cause.) So that's at least a third of our potential friends who won't be out there trying to schedule time with us.

Even beyond personalities and types, we know that we all have different love languages.  Someone with the love language of quality time might tend to be more aware of reaching out with invitations than someone with the love language of gift giving.

Just add stress and busy-ness to any of our lives (even those of us who are extroverts, schedulers, and assertive types) and we may not reciprocate in the way you want, when you want.  But that also doesn't mean we wouldn't make great friends who will give to you in other ways!

What Does Mutual Really Mean?

As I sat there Friday evening thinking how lucky anyone would be to have these two individuals in their lives, it occurred to me how few people will get that opportunity if they only build a friendship with someone else who reaches out an equal amount.

Mutuality cannot be confined to 50/50 scheduling.  Equality doesn't mean sameness.  Being in a give-and-take relationship doesn't mean we give-and-take in the same ways.

For those of us who live with someone-- we know that having someone else divvy up the household chores doesn't mean we each vacuum half the room and cook half the meal. It means I tend to track our finances and he tends to make sure dishes don't pile up in the sink. Balance doesn't mean we split up every chore, but that we both contribute to the overall picture.

Somehow, in friendship, we have elevated the scheduling and initiating "chore" to becoming the litmus test for an equal friendship.

What we risk if we wait for equal initiations is missing the gift that introverts or non-initiators can bring to our lives.  And we risk feeling rejected if we wrongly attach that meaning to their lack of initiation.  And worst of all, we're still left without the friendships that we crave because we just sat and waited, allowing the momentum to falter.

Give. Give. Give.

I am all for balanced friendships.  I don't want you to feel used.  I want you to be in a relationship that feels mutual.

But if you are a GirlFriend who is good at initiating-- then do it. Generously. Invite her five times in a row.  Be the one who is okay calling to start the conversation. Give where you're best, knowing you will be blessed by how she gives to you in different ways. And know how lucky you are that you have the ability to give in a way that starts friendships!

And if you recognize that you're someone who struggles to initiate-- then at least be sure to tell your friends/potential friends how much you appreciate it when they do. Express your gratitude, lest they ever feel that you're not interested. Tell them what it means to you that they keep calling. Recognize that this gift they give is a necessary ingredient in the building of a friendship.

What we need is a little less judgment of each other and a little more hopeful curiosity to discover and appreciate who the other person is.

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I blogged on the perceived imbalance in give-and-take friendships for a two-part series for the Huffington Post: In Friendship, Do You Give More than You Receive? and Six Ways to Bring Balance to Your Relationships if you're interested in more reading on this subject.