Saturday, July 16, 2016


There are certain things that make a person into who they turn out to be. Some of those things are your environment, your parents, your parents' parents, and some might even argue the food you eat affects who you are.

Your personality is an interesting aspect of your humanity and inherently affects your relationship with the world around you and the people in it. We have been grouped into two basic categories: introverts and extroverts. And while I realize that the nature of human beings goes a lot deeper than intro and extroversion, today these are the two aspects I'll be talking about.

The world, or possibly just our culture, has determined that extroverts are who we should all strive to be. They are loud and charismatic. They are the people at the center of attention at parties, the people with all the crazy stories to tell. They are the ones that we all ought to be like and if we aren't like them already, well, we should be. Because the alternative in our culture is to be the introvert - the book lover. The weirdo in the corner. The wallflower. The girl with a notepad and a pen in her hand not talking to anyone. But these, my friends, are the extremes. And we know that not everyone fits directly into those two ideas.

I like to think of intro and extroversion as a spectrum. There are some people who fall along the outsides, there are some people who are more spread out, and there are those right smack dab in the middle. And none of these people are wrong or weird or don't belong. We just need to understand them, and as long as we keep believing that extroversion is the way to go and introverts are the weirdos, we'll never reach a mutual understanding.

Introverts may prefer a book or video game or art project over a loud, fancy party - but that doesn't always mean that if you invite them they won't show up. It also doesn't mean that if they show up they're going to be glued to the wall all night quietly talking to themselves and trying not to make eye contact. Introverts can be fun! Sometimes they're even more fun than extroverts because part of them is hidden and then once you catch a little glimpse of their humor, you're hooked.

I may even make the case that introverts are always cooler than extroverts - but I'm just a little biased. Also, I know that's incredibly and undeniably untrue. The world needs introverts just as much as it needs extroverts.

But let's make this clear distinction - while there is a spectrum for intro and extroversion, what determines if a person is more intro or extroverted? I always look at it as a way of giving and getting energy.

As an introvert, I like to sit in my house and not talk to anyone for a majority of the day. I will happily lounge around on my couch watching Netflix and drawing if it means I don't have to be constantly interacting with someone. My alone time allows my creative juices to flow. I get to sit in front of a sketch pad, watercolor board, canvas, or computer screen uninterrupted and just make something.

However, there is such a thing as too much alone time. Because having "alone time" is what helps me recharge, eventually I'm ready to spend my energy. I do that by hanging out with my friends and going outside in public to do things like run errands and hit the beach. I also enjoy talking to people - not small talk, per se - but sharing ideas and inspiration, advice and experience - those are the conversations that I soak up.

It's not that I don't necessarily enjoy people, it's just that I have to give them my energy when I do it. So I'm very picky about who I give that energy too. It takes a lot of energy for me to answer the phone. My heart rate goes up, my breathing shallows, my palms get a little sweaty. Even though answering the phones is part of my job, it doesn't make me like it any more the more often I do it. I have recently improved my telephone skills because of my job, but it remains one of my least favorite aspects. I much prefer email or text messaging, as I feel I am a better writer than orator.

It also means that people sometimes assume I don't like them after we have first met. I come off as quiet, shy, and unfortunately, I was blessed with a resting-bitch-face, so sorry in advance if we ever meet. I'm working on it - but am still often reminded to "Smile, Natalie! Act like you're having a good time!" even though I'm not upset about anything.

But some of my best friends are extroverts. They know how to have a good time and bring me out of my little quiet shell. Which is why the world needs extroverts. If you haven't guessed it already, extroverts gain their energy by being around people. They do best in crowded rooms full of strangers. I worked for an extrovert once, and his need to meet people was kind of like my own worst nightmare, ha ha! But seriously, he didn't enjoy being alone because that made him spend all his energy and feel drained - causing him to seek out the company of others.

If you look even at professional relationships - my favorite example of the need for intro and extroverts is the beginning of Apple computes. Steve Jobs was an incredible extrovert. He knew how to sell a product. And on the other hand, Steve Wozniak was his introverted counter part. Woz created the system in his alone time - allowing for his creative juices to flow. While this pairing certainly had their share of drama, it goes to show how introverts and extroverts need each other to make the world go around.

Looking into the personality of your friends and family as well as your own can lead to better, higher quality relationships. Understanding how it is that people give and receive energy, their approach to criticism, questions, communication and life in general will lead to more productive outcomes and deeper connections. Try it and see. You never know what you might learn about yourself, or how some aspect of your personality could suddenly make sense to you.

Take the test (I prefer the one on 16personalites as it has roots in two very old studies of human personalities) and see what you can discover!

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