Introvert? Extrovert? Does it Matter?

Kristen Lamb’s blog about introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts is quite interesting. What does it have to do with writing? Tons! You’re creating protagonists and antagonists, major and minor characters, walk-ons… and they all have a personality. I’ve covered personality types and love language before, but I’ve never done a post on introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts. If you’re asking what an ambivert is, read Kristen Lamb’s post. Or keep reading.

I took the little “test” and discovered I’m not as ultra-introverted as I thought. I’m marginally in the classification of ambivert. I think I learned how to do that from my dad. He’s a Type-A mega-extrovert. Watching him over the years, I’ve learned to talk to people and how to behave in a crowd. Also, being a performance nut, I’ve grown accustomed to singing in front of large groups of people. But I still draw my energy during alone time, and since being with people draws energy from me, I’m firmly entrenched on the introverted side of the scale. I’ve merely learned how to “look” like an extrovert (when I have the energy to do so–when I’m drained, I’m heading for the nearest shadowy corner). 

Look at the protagonist in your work-in-progress. When he’s stressed out, does he head for home and a good book? He’s an introvert. Does he head to the noisiest bar he can find? He’s an extrovert. Or maybe he’s an ambivert: he heads home and turns on a gaming system where he meets up with a few buddies on-line to shoot/maim/kill baddies. A little human interaction is what he craves, but not a ton. 

Now turn the scenario around. When your protagonist is feeling relaxed (which should only happen at the beginning and ending of the book), where does he go for a good time? Out to dinner in a quiet restaurant with his best friend (introvert), out to a conservative bar with his three closest friends (ambivert), or to a boisterous party with 400 of his closest buds (extrovert)? These things matter, so take the time to figure it out. 

Keep in mind that not all introverts are shy. They can be just as talkative and open as extroverts. Introverts are usually better listeners, so they make better cops, salesmen, and attorneys than extroverts. Not all the time, mind you, but as a grouping. Extroverts make awesome entertainers, self-help speakers, and bureaucrats. If you can think of other occupations more suited to one personality type, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear other ideas about this.

-Sonja

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2 thoughts on “Introvert? Extrovert? Does it Matter?

  1. In honesty, the term ‘ambivert’ doesn’t do much for me. Based on the test questions and the discussion, it seems to me like it was made up because someone didn’t like that people who fit the definition of extrovert or introvert didn’t fit the stereotype of the term. She herself said it at the beginning: an introvert is someone who loses energy when around people and recharges energy through more solitary pursuits; an extrovert is someone who recharges energy from being around people. And while many introverts are shy and many extroverts are boisterous, it’s not always the case. The true definition lies in whether a person gains or loses energy through social interactions.

    I’m an introvert. One weekend spent watching my six younger siblings leaves me ready to stay in my ‘cave’ (what my husband and I call it when I spend all day at my computer) for the rest of the week. One hour with my friend who fits the description of the mega-extrovert in her blog (never stops talking, doesn’t listen), and I’m sequestering myself in my room for the next two days.

    As both the other blog and you point out, sometimes introverts can hang out with one or two close friends without being worn out. Does that make them not an introvert but an ambivert? I don’t think that’s the case. I think that’s a normal part of the process. Being around that one friend of mine exhausts me FAST, but being around my husband doesn’t. I think that introverts have a ‘circle of self,’ so to speak, and if someone enters that circle, then hanging out with them becomes about the same as being alone. As for playing online with friends, I wouldn’t quite classify it that way. It’s often more like just an extension of the game. And if the online friends start making it less about the game itself and more about drama (“I totally hit you! This game is broken!”), it becomes just as wearying as socializing in person.

    I would be willing to bet that it’s similar for extroverts – you’ve heard of those instances where the spouse wants to spend some time alone together, but the extrovert wants to go out and party with tons of friends. The social interaction with just the spouse isn’t enough to satisfy the need for socialization. The spouse has entered the ‘circle of self’ and no longer counts toward the extrovert’s social needs.

    That’s just my theory/two cents.

  2. I tend to agree with you, aggeloi. I especially like your ‘circle of self’ idea–I’m exactly the same way. I can spend all day with my husband (who’s also an introvert) and that doesn’t wear me out. Of course, we can spend all day in the same room reading books by ourselves and still consider that to be “together” time…

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