know how it feels when we have reached our threshold for extrovert-style fun. Our brains feel full, or tired like a muscle. We might find ourselves struggling to string sentences together. We get testy.
Do extroverts experience anything similar? How do they feel when they’ve been tucked into an introverted space too long? Maybe they’re stuck at their desk on a deadline, or holed up in the house with a cold, or just taking a break from extrovert fun that somehow lasts a day or two too long.
I asked my Board of Extroverts about this and learned some good stuff.
For example, Gwen said that when she’s stuck at her desk for too long, “…it's a sense of feeling blue and unhappy. I feel like my ideas are stale and I'm not bringing my best work to the project. When I start to feel unhappy, I know it's time to get out with people and recharge. I'll usually come back to the project with renewed enthusiasm and new ideas.”
Did you catch that first sentence? She feels “blue and unhappy.” Innnteresting. This sheds light on extroverts’ concern for introverts who have been enjoying solitude—they project on us the blues they experience when they’ve been alone too much. Which means, of course, that what feels like pestering to us comes from a place of genuine concern. They feel blue when they’re alone too much, therefore they worry that you do, too.
(And don’t tell me that introverts don’t do our own projecting—just because we feel shallow when we chitchat, many introverts accuse extroverts of being shallow. Whereas they might be ocean-deep, and enjoy chitchat. Different strokes…)
Lawrence says he gets “cabin fever.” Because he’s retired and misses the daily interaction with coworkers, he substitute teaches on occasion, to get that itch scratched. And Chris says, “I feel like I’m missing something, like a party. Or I feel like I'm waiting for something interesting to happen.”
Candy says that when she’s wrapped up in a task, she’s perfectly happy alone at her desk. “As long as my mind is busy I'm good to go, even if I'm not around a lot of people. I write most of my books at my mountain place in the winter. It's just me and my husband, usually snowed in. Again, I'm OK with that as I've got a project and my mind is busy.”
Scott, too, says he’s fine being an introvert for as long as necessary when it’s necessary. “I can be in that introverted space as long as it takes to get the task done, goal reached, git er done, etc. I know it’s all a temporary situation and will pass. It’s part of life. The party will wait or I’ll catch the next one.”
But Candy adds that when she’s not busy and she’s been shut in too long, “It’s almost like I’m going stir crazy--I just need to get out and do something -- anything. I'm antsy. I can't sit down. I pace. I have problems focusing. It's almost like you're starving and you have no food in the house. Physical activity helps a bit, but after the endorphin high wears off, the restlessness returns. So I usually just go out and do something, or call some friends and ask them over. Then it's all better, and I can focus again.”
I love the line about starving and having no food in the house. Sounds like the opposite of my head-stuffed-with-words feeling.
Andrea also gets antsy. “I find myself unsure what to do with my mind and body. Maybe that sounds weird; but it really feels as if I am living in a body that doesn't know where or what it's supposed to be. I'll pace around the house, not sure if I should turn on the TV or order in some delivery or wash the dishes or play some Wii or get started on my next writing project or organize the closet or have a nice hot bath. I lose the ability to define what I want to be doing or thinking. It's really unsettling.
“Luckily, the cure for this is very, very easy: I take my computer or iPad or a book to a bar or a coffee shop and work/read/exist there. Often, talking to a bartender or barista just long enough to order a snack or a drink can pull me out of the introvert-indecision mode. ‘Ah yes, what I want to do is work on this story,’ or ‘Of course! I should start planning out what we're going to have for dinner this week!’ are things that can set me straight after just a few words with someone else, working or relaxing in a space where I can listen to other people and get out of my own head.
“As a freelancer who works from home ... I do my best work as a writer when I'm not at home in my office. If I absolutely have to buckle down and pound something out quickly, being in a quiet, solo space is fine. But if I want to be funny or thoughtful or ruminative? I need to write in a place that's filled with sound and fury, to kind of mentally bounce my ideas off the people around me, even if I never actually talk to them about what I'm writing. If I'm working hard, I'm probably at a bar or a coffee shop.”
You know, it’s funny—I work very well in public spaces, too. I think being forced to focus on my computer in order to maintain my protective introvert bubble helps me pound work out. But unlike Andrea, who finds the cure easy, I have a hard time getting myself to actually leave the house. But I’m going to think about what Andrea said and try tapping into my inner extrovert (is that an oxymoron?) and get out sometimes.
Notice that Andrea, Candy, and Gwen all say that they lose focus and motivation when they have been in an introverted space too long. Many introverts believe that getting out and about as much as they do means that extroverts are not as productive or creative or deep as introverts. But what these extroverts say suggests that they need interaction and activity in order to be productive and creative, that it actually nourishes their creativity in the way solitude and quiet nourishes ours.
Cranky introverts often complain that extroverts are “needy.” And maybe they are. But so are we. We need solitude, they need interaction. One need is no better or worse than the other. So let’s all hold hands and sing kumbaya, OK?
(By the way, you probably noticed that many members of the board are writers. It just happened that way—writers know writers. I’m happy to add others, just message me on my FB page.)
Have you read my book yet? It's called The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World. Check it out. And please join me on Facebook. And maybe my new Tumblr, The Quiet Traveler.
Photo by sunshinecity via Flickr (Creative Commons).