As an outgoing introvert, I need plenty of alone time to recharge despite having a very active social life. It took me a while to understand and appreciate this, but now I take better care of myself and have richer relationships. Here’s what I want the people in my life to know. Can you relate?
What You Should Know About Me as an Outgoing Introvert
1. I might not really be listening.
If I bump into you in public and we get hooked into catching up, don’t be surprised if I suddenly and awkwardly shut down. Even though I enjoy social situations, I tend to feel trapped in highly visible spaces, especially if the other person is oblivious to their surroundings and wholly focused on the social interaction.
Being an introvert means it’s challenging to give you my full attention, because I’m always noticing so many little things. Especially in public places, I’m aware of everything around me: cute dogs, weird smells, shady characters, and the fact that — in NYC, where I live — we may be breaking an unspoken law by being in the way. So don’t take it the wrong way if I seem distracted or squirmish.
2. In my mind, all plans are tentative.
Listen, I love a good plan, and I don’t want to disappoint you, but I can’t predict whether or not I’ll have the energy or bandwidth to show up to something we planned a week ago.
A particularly overstimulating day, a night of bad sleep, or lack of “me time,” and I’m drawing from an empty well. Knowing this, I tend to make fewer plans and place my focus on taking care of myself so I can show up for others. I sincerely look forward to the plans I do make, so if I have to cancel, know that I respect your time but it’s for the best. It may seem rude, but trust me, if I’m tired and grumpy, you probably don’t actually want to hang out with me.
3. Spontaneity, yes. Surprises, no.
Surprises are essentially plans I didn’t make, or alterations to my plans that may exceed my energy budget. As an introvert, I try to avoid surprises, and I might ask a lot of questions before agreeing to a last-minute outing.
Scenario: The girls all want to take Trish out on Friday because she’s going through a breakup. The “outgoing” in me is all for it, but this could either be a couple hours at a quiet restaurant, or a late night at a noisy, crowded bar downtown. I need to know what I’m getting myself into.
I get that life should have a healthy dose of spontaneity to feel natural. But spontaneity is an internal surprise! I like to schedule planned spontaneity with friends, like: “Let’s meet up and see how we both feel — we could chill here, or go out.” Because I have a limit for how much external stimulus I can comfortably handle, I’m constantly checking in with myself about my willingness to participate.
4. I enjoy talking to strangers — with certain caveats.
I sincerely enjoy small talk under the pretense that it’s useful, meaningful, contextual, and finite. For instance, I’ll regularly chat up the cashier at Trader Joe’s because it makes us both comfortable (useful), it let’s him know I value his effort (meaningful), it creates a memory to go with a familiar face (contextual), and I know bagging groceries will last no longer than 10 minutes (finite).
What I wouldn’t enjoy is going to a bar with my single friend and having a useless, meaningless, random, conversation of no discernable length with a stranger while she gets her flirt on with his buddy. But, introvert or not, who would enjoy that?
5. Even-numbered groups, please.
Socializing in a pair is like an emotional/intellectual game of ping-pong: Listening and speaking toggle back and forth until an intimate relationship is established, building rapport, understanding, and emotional resonance.
Add a third wheel to the group, and the dynamic changes. Interruptions and hairpin turns in the discussion could be exciting, but could also increase social anxiety. It becomes a challenge to create that same level of intimacy with each person. Depending on the mix of people, the conversation can remain very surface-level, which my outgoing trait can navigate well, but with my introverted nature, I may be left feeling bored or drained.
Now, make it a group of four or six, and two pairs tend to break off in discussion, which establishes social homeostasis again.
6. At work, I’m a sheep in extrovert’s clothing.
As a yoga teacher, I’m comfortable dealing with a large group of people, mainly because I’m in work mode — I am in control of the room and can easily generate a sense of confidence and purpose. The creative, improvisational nature of my work puts me in a zone and relieves any social anxiety I might normally incur from interacting with upwards of 20 people.
When class is over, I am open to questions and small talk. I appear magnanimous and a bit like a social butterfly. After teaching two classes though, you’d better believe I need a chunk of quiet time to curl up and reclaim my sense of self.
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7. I really want to like brunch, but the crowds…
Brunch is popular (at least in pre-pandemic times), which makes it highly public. Even though I’ll likely never again see the obnoxious couple sitting nearby who are drunk off mimosas, I still don’t want them hearing my conversation. I’m a private person like that.
As an introvert, I love opening up to the right people, and it feels inhibiting to know that my words are falling on unintended ears. I’ll go with you to a restaurant, and I’ll have fun, I just won’t share too candidly.
I’ve had many great brunch experiences, but wouldn’t it be better if we had stayed home, put on a podcast, and cooked up some omelettes without having to deal with the crowds?
8. Phone calls are better.
A lot of introverts despise phone calls and prefer texting, which I totally get. I’m happy to text because it allows me to think about what I want to say before I say it, and I am much better with the written word than the spoken word in some situations.
But as a person with a rich internal world, I value high-quality interactions. And, without a voice, I miss out on valuable information — tone, rhythm, pacing, pitch, and even awkward pauses. Plus, hearing a person’s voice accesses a neural network of information related to that person.
Face-to-face is the highest quality interaction, so phone calls come in second place for me when I’m craving that deeper connection — especially now that face-to-face isn’t really possible under social distancing. There’s nothing like a long talk with a good friend.
9. I’m up for anything, but only in theory.
Karaoke? Sure! I like the idea of singing and laughing together. Have I ever had fun at karaoke? No, not really.
Part of my outgoing nature is that I sincerely want to participate, so please don’t take me for a flake. But when I’m alone and I’ve had time to think about whether or not I will actually enjoy the outing, my gut instinct kicks in, and I often back out when it’s time to confirm plans.
I’ve felt bad — even ashamed about this side of me — but my closest friends get it. To avoid getting roped into an outing that may end up being louder and more obnoxious than I’m prepared for, it’s best for me to say, “I’ll think about it.”
10. I prefer quiet(er) guys.
I just can’t with the charismatic boyfriend who wants to go out to concerts and dive bars. If he’s an extrovert — or at best, more outgoing of an introvert than I am — he just might tip me over my social edge.
It’s tempting to emphasize certain traits to please your significant other, but having spent so long not realizing I was an introvert and burning myself out, I have made a conscious decision to nurture my introversion over my outgoing nature.
I tend to thrive in a relationship with a guy who prefers to read a book or watch Netflix, someone who will reel me back in for a quiet evening at home.
11. I have a hard time keeping friendships.
Being outgoing is truly exhausting for an introvert. Sometimes, I just need to isolate for a while to find myself again. As a result of that deep-seeded desire, I’ve ended up making promises I can’t keep. And I’m generally reluctant to make plans because I want to avoid disappointing anyone, including myself.
I’ve made friends whose qualities and company I genuinely enjoy, but simply can’t participate in the activities that could bring us closer, and so the friendships faded.
One of my childhood besties is a true extrovert, but I don’t see her much because the things we gravitate toward are opposite in nature. Phone calls and dinner are our best catch-ups. The more honest I can be about my temperament, the deeper I can connect with people.
12. I dip from parties. A lot.
I can handle a party every once in a while. What I can’t handle is realizing I’m tired, finally making the decision to leave, and then having to circle the room saying goodbye for another 30 minutes. As an outgoing human, it’s natural for me to turn on my social charms and get wrapped into tangential discussions as I try to acknowledge each person on the way out the door.
The introvert in me is screaming “low battery!” So, if it’s possible to slip out, that’s my preference. Otherwise, I’ve learned to initiate my efforts to leave a party 20-30 minutes before I want to leave.
Are you an outgoing introvert? What do you want people to know about you? Let me know in the comments below.