The Introverts vs. the Extroverts

Parenting, if it’s taught me anything, has taught me that these little people come into the world with their own personalities. You do not shape these personalities to meet your own needs, as much as you simply deal with them. Sure, you can teach them right from wrong and all that jazz, but their general dispositions seem to be inborn.

Recently, I’ve discovered I’m an introvert. Actually, I have always been an introvert. But it wasn’t until recently that I had a name for it. This means, basically, that I am not so great at small talk and hanging out in big groups, and that I get my energy from ideas and being alone, rather than activities.

Extroverts, on the other hand, get energy from being out and about doing stuff and talking with people. They speak without worrying about what they’re going to say too much.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I know, in my new somewhat public Author role, that sometimes I will be called upon to be more extroverted. I already have been. I can be, but I need to get in the right frame of mind. Luckily, I spent some time at the National Comedy Theatre taking team improv comedy classes, which basically force you to almost reroute your brain routes so you spit out whatever’s on your mind instead of thinking it over too much (thanks, guys!) It’s a different way of thinking and acting for me.

In our family, I’ve noticed these personality differences. My husband is more of an extrovert. Eldest one can go either way, at times focusing on the social and other times doing her own thing. And the son is an introvert. Little Girl is an extrovert (though she is quiet in new situations, once she warms up she never stops talking). She has to go go go!

I was struck by these differences on Saturday. We dropped our oldest one off with her friends and took the other kids to the park by the Waikiki Aquarium. After humid heat, crowds, a picnic, the aquarium, storytime at the aquarium, and several dozen kid-oriented activities later, the son and I had had a great time, but were pooped.

But Little Girl, she hadn’t had enough. The more stuff we do with her, the more she wants to do. It’s like she sucks in the energy she gets from activities and needs even more. “What’s next? Let’s go someplace else!” So we stopped by Leonard’s for malasadas, and then went to the Humane Society to pet some cats (they have cat rooms there where you may hang out with kitties for awhile).

She never wants her activities to end. Only passing out in the car will stop her, if she had her way. (Car naps are pretty much the only way she gets a nap these days). My husband is much the same way. He can go to Sandy’s for body surfing, take the kids out on some adventure, come home, make dinner, take the kids to the pool, and then need to go running, too.

Luckily, understanding these differences has helped. I know my son and I need to have a fair amount of decompression time, alone. I know my youngest daughter needs to have far (far) more activities and social time than I require. I know my eldest can go either way, depending on her mood. I know my husband likes to be out and about more. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy activities, too, but I get tired quicker. And so my husband and I can facilitate these preferences for our kids, and for each other. It’s probably actually a good thing we have these different personalities, because it forces us to find a bit of balance. And of course, child care tends to trump either of the adults’ individual preferences. If I’m tired and my kid wants to go to the pool because she’s bouncing off the walls, I’m sucking it up and going to the pool.

The odd thing is, it says in this article “Are You One?” about introverts, that introverts generally freeze in emergencies, so if you’re “in between” that’s how you can tell what you are. I generally do NOT freeze in emergencies, in fact I’m generally the one taking action first. So does that mean I’m only a fake introvert? I don’t know. I think that this trait has more to do with being a parent than with any introverted tendencies; protection of young takes precedence.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

2 thoughts on “The Introverts vs. the Extroverts

  1. Ever since reading the book “The Introvert Advantage” I have change my perception about myself. I used to feel guilty and maladjusted because of my introvert nature as we live in a world that praises extroverts. Isn’t it always magical to learn more about who you are? That book has probably been one of the most influential in my life (and helped a lot my relationships with the extrovert members of my family).
    By the way, I never freeze in emergencies either and I usually perform quite well under pressure.

  2. Great post! You have encapsolated everything I’ve been reading and studying lately. I too an an introvert. I love it and am proud of it. And as you describe you can be an extrovert when your job calls for it (same with me), it’s quite difficult. I feel that sucks the energy right out of me. My daughter sounds just like yours — she’s always asking “What’s next?” It will be an interesting challenge to see how to balance her extroversion with my introversion. And I do NOT freeze in emergencies either.

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