LESSON Introversion vs. Extroversion: What This Means For Character Interaction

Discussion in 'DEVELOPING CHARACTERS' started by Doctor Jax, Mar 2, 2018.

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  1. I've noticed that there's a little bit of misinformation about what it means to be either an introvert or an extrovert, and that can have some implications for character building, so I thought I'd write a small bit about what each of these things mean, what it means to write them, and how best to handle character interaction with other RPers based on each.

    TL;DR (open)
    Introverts are drained by social interaction, but don't have to be shy. Extroverts thrive on social interaction, but don't have to be loud. Ambiverts don't care and no one pays attention to them.


    Introversion

    The ever-popular loner, the silent wolf, the hunter on his own, the kid in that long trench coat wearing Tripp pants - the Introvert.

    Contrary to popular belief, introversion does not mean that someone is quiet, shy, socially awkward, or uncomfortable around others. While these things can be related to introversion, they are not necessary to make a character who is an introvert.

    Introversion simply means that social interaction is mentally draining for a person. This means that extended periods of time with others can cause this character to need to seek some time by themselves and de-stress a little bit. This does not mean they are a loner by nature. A very, very good friend of mine is an introvert, but she is extraordinarily social, with a large group of friends, a huge network of contacts, great social intelligence, and a loud voice. However, after three hours with the same person, she is done. She wants to be back home. She wants to sort of veg out a little and sort of decompress.

    Current psychology proposes that introverts are people who are highly sensitive to stimuli (hence the reason why those on the autistic spectrum tend to be introverted, as their condition is all about the inability to shut off that sensitivity). After basically being 'overloaded', they want to hole up somewhere and process it all.

    What does this mean for your character? You should still treat them as their own person, but remember that part of how they interact is that extended periods of time with others will mentally begin to exhaust them. Set a soft limit of how many people for how much time. Can they handle five? Six? Two? For a few hours, or just thirty minutes? Typically, once an introvert has 'tapped out', they may become irritable or seek to be by themselves. But that doesn't mean they want to be by themselves constantly. Otherwise, you'll have to really get used to writing solo posts! And as always, there can be exceptions. My husband is an introvert, but he can spend almost indefinite amounts of time around me and not feel tired. Usually this is the case with best friends or SO's.

    Extroversion

    Aaaah, the elusive extrovert. A blessed day, when we find one of these.

    In all honesty, extroverted characters do seem far less common, perhaps due to the fact that they're not very popular (ironically). They've been typecast as the head of the cheer squad, the star quarterback, the pinnacle of human evolution, and we all know that's boring.

    In reality, an extrovert is merely someone who thrives on social contact. Can they have large social network? Certainly that can be a part of the mix. But an extrovert can also be shy, content to sit and listen to everyone else for hours at a time, and able to hold a conversation about the things they love for hours more despite their socially awkward nature. Time alone drives them nuts. They have to have some sort of social contact, even if it's just running to the store and saying hello to a cashier before shuffling off with their things. They can be a gloomy or dark or morbid person while still enjoying social contact with close friends, and even needing it to make themselves feel stimulated. They also don't have to have a huge network of people they know, and certain people they may not find stimulating at all (like Uncle David and his civil war recreation black powder rifle collection).

    My friend Olivia is an extrovert, while still being somewhat shy and a bit socially awkward. She still seeks out those social groups, playing with large organizations online, finding people to join, and seeking out more friends to go and eat out with. She's a person who needs that social contact, or else she gets very lonely very quickly.

    The running theory on extroversion is that they are people who aren't stimulated very easily, and therefore they seek out social stimulation because of that lack. They're able to take longer periods with people more often, and they can handle larger groups, though not always.

    What does this mean for character interactions? Your character is going to want to be around people and be stimulated by that social contact constantly. That is not to say that they have to be around a huge group. Sometimes, that constant social stimulation is just one or two people, alternating. Set a limit of time that they want to be alone, and be aware that if they feel left out or like they haven't had contact in a while (especially important for wasteland/apocalypse scenarios) this will negatively affect them mentally.

    Ambiversion

    The hidden majority. The in-denial. The Ambivert.

    It's not really a recognized category because - well - water is wet. And most people, whether they like it or not, fall into this middle range that's sort of fuzzy. They're just... geez, normal. As far as reality goes, most people fit into this category.

    Simply, ambiversion means you are not drained nor invigorated by social contact. You really could not care less. You could go either way. Now, someone can lean one way or the other - perhaps they feel they like to be around people more often than not, but aren't going to die without them. Or they don't really care for people all that much, but being in a room full of people doesn't automatically make them want to step outside for a smoke and a moment alone.

    I fall in this middle category, leaning towards 'extrovert'. I love talking to people, and I can talk to people for a while. But being at my house for a week with just my husband, or even just me, doesn't make me go crazy hoping to find someone to talk to. I can really go either way, though I do have my limits - usually, once I hit a group of 14 or more people, I'm outie, y'all. I can't deal. But my limits are nowhere near as defined as someone who is an introvert or an extrovert.

    What does this mean for character interaction? Simply that you don't really have many limits on their social limitations, as far as what they're willing to do, or how long they want to spend in someone's company. Go nuts! (Of course, all people have their limits. Even the most even-tempered person is going to get grumpy waiting in a line for three hours because the computers at the flight desk crashed and now their flight is almost four or five hours off schedule and they've walked all over Rome since 6 AM with two luggages. Not that I've been in that situation.)

    Which groups do your characters fall into? Are they introverts, extroverts, or ambiverts?
     
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  2. I rarely make use of well subscribed labels for behavioral tendencies, mostly to avoid definition squabbles. And low and behold, I was surprised to read the following in your post.

    I don't suspect your friend qualifies for what most people consider the word introvert to mean. She's certainly not what I would have labeled an introvert, which is someone who doesn't maintain a large group of friends. It's possible I've been using the word incorrectly - for the sake of argument let's assume that I have. Then the term I'm looking for would cover folks who have small circles of friends and who are socially reserved. Because honestly, someone who drains after a prolonged time of social interaction is something I'm not sure I need a word for. In my experience, it isn't very applicable.
     
  3. Which is fine! Definitions between people can differ, but I thought this would widen that perception of how to write someone who may be an 'introvert'. I'm going by largely psych definitions, and like I said, small social circles with reserved personality can certainly be tied to introversion, but it need not be the end-all, be-all of what an introvert might be. Knowing the roots of introversion can help people better understand their character and write their interaction, and the root of introversion is finding social stimuli draining/overwhelming after a certain point in time.
     
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  4. It certainly would widen it. And for folks who would benefit from that, your lesson will undoubtably be useful. Personally speaking, I try and aim for tighter definitions/descriptions rather than loose ones. That way when I describe someone as an introvert/extrovert it paints a clear picture. Otherwise it's more work for me to get my concepts across.
     
  5. I think the problem with painting a more "tight" definition or description regarding introversion/extroversion/ambiversion is that no two introverts, extroverts, or ambiverts are the same, which is why I think Jax was aiming for more a broad scope of understanding. For instance, I'm an introvert, but I don't consider myself socially reserved. In fact, I have many people who paint me as friendly and outgoing- something I'm honestly surprised by at times. So, really, it all just boils down to the basics and what you want to change and make unique about your characters in order to shed light on your introvert (or otherwise) in a positive manner. ^_^
     
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  6. But I need them to have common ground or else the description isn't very helpful. If I describe someone as orderly it should (and usually does) conjure some general impressions about them. Yes there's variation in the adjective orderly, but untidy and messy wouldn't/shouldn't be in that span of variation. If antonyms of my concept are covered by the word I'm using, then imo, I'm using the wrong word.
     
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  7. Ah so if I understood this correctly @Bone2pick You have an issue with semantics regarding Introvert/Extrovert words. However, I firmly believe that what @Doctor Jax said is a correct psychological definition of each of these personalities. The correlation between shy people and introversion is expected and often mistaken that those with few friends are introverts.

    In regards to using the words as a definition for someone with a small circle of friends I have no doubt that 7/10 people will share your understanding/definition, however, there will always be those 3/10 that will tell you (or maybe they won't) that you are not exactly using it correctly. If you wish to describe how outgoing a person is then perhaps that is a good word to start with. Shy and Outgoing are the school examples of someone with few or someone with lots of friends.

    In the end, I believe that the purpose of this lesson is to bring to light the common misconception about the words Introverts and Extroverts and to explain what they actually mean rather than what people think they mean.
     
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  8. I'm happy to concede that a psych textbook would define introvert precisely as the OP did. The trouble is, over the course of my lifetime of experience and writing, I've never needed a word for a socially adept person, with numerous friends, who gets drained after a few hours of social interaction. Btw, I suspect fewer than three out of ten people are familiar with that part of its definition.

    But I would like a word for personality types who generally have a tiny circle of friends and who are socially reserved. That's a commonly observed behavioral pattern. Before I used introvert, I guess I'll look for something else.
     
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  9. I would say there's nothing necessarily wrong with using the term. Just that there's variation within that, and that it doesn't have to be limited to just that definition, either. I also wanted to highlight that personality types don't always match up, as well, and that an introvert is not necessarily quiet or shy. However, I'll admit the colloquial use for someone with a small social circle and socially reserved is pretty adequate for introvert.

    I just didn't want people thinking that quiet or reserved = introvert all of the time, was more my goal. Diversity in writing, and all.
     
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  10. Bless your soul my Doctor Friend.
     
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  11. Funny enough, I have an example of this too, but via a much less personal way. Vinny, a twitch streamer a part of the 'Vinesauce' group, states the same exact thing.

    He very explicitly states he feels introverted, but that he also really enjoys interacting with people. He just gets tired out a lot with it. I think he said streams are less tiring for him because more than half the time he's just streaming a game that he wants to do.

    He spoke about this a bit during his Turok 2 Seeds of Evil stream.
     
    #11 Snowfall, Mar 4, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2018
  12. The reason why most people are in ambivert is that introversion and extroversion is kind of a spectrum. A slider so to say, on an X Y diagram. Then I heard the Eysenck Personality Types has been argued for its accuracy (Sanguine, melancholic, and so on) just like all those Jung and Myers personality test (INTP, ESTJ, and so on) also no longer considered accurate.

    We try too hard to group humans behavior and lump them together, and I think this could be something interesting in a story. Like a loner-like person that their friends give them space because they thought the loner is introvert. But lo and behold, they actually extrovert.
     
  13. I am an introvert who has no problem making friends, but I have a very small social circle by choice because I hate bullshit and small talk. I also dress in all black, (I'm missing the trench dern) and I cancel plans all the time. However I go to goth clubs by myself and dance with people. I have meaningful conversations with strangers on the bus/train. I have zero problems with striking up conversations with strangers and I'm not awkward or shy. In fact, I can be downright aggressive if I feel the need. I am loud even when I am quiet.

    My roommate is an extrovert who is scared to go anywhere new by themselves. They carry around anxiety medication in their pocket and take it with some regularity when surrounded by a lot of people they don't know. They are shy to the point of using their skills as an actor to 'hide in plain sight' because they feel that if everyone is looking at them already, they're going to give them a reason to stare. Where I stride through a room uncaring, my roommate sneaks, hoping not to be noticed.

    I feel like as writers of any type, it's our job to find the right words that describe what it is we are trying to say. Yes, language is constantly evolving to mean what we want it to mean, but I feel like changing words that do not apply to you specifically is taking it away from people that do identify with it. So to be very frank, I reject your idea that 'introvert' and 'extrovert' are strict characteristic indicators that allow you to be lazy with your words.

    Nearly everything in life is a scale, not black and white; and art of all kinds, is where we express that. This is a website focusing on words, how we use them defines which part of the scale we are indicating. A single word does not accurately represent where on that scale you or your character is standing.

    /End Rant >.>
     
  14. Who exactly are you addressing and what on earth do you mean by "lazy with your words"?
     
    #14 Bone2pick, Apr 16, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
  15. I was disagreeing with you, but thinking of many writers when I posted this, Bone. As for what I mean about lazy writing, I was, in this instance, referring to people using words incorrectly to call on stereotypes and cliches. Often times causing people who identify with that word to be alienated.

    For example. Somebody using the 'gay' as a description rather than a sexuality.

    "That' so gay." vs "Mario is gay, he has a boyfriend."
     
  16. The 'gay' comparison isn't justified. It's inarguable that many cultures have awful historical track records of acceptance against non-heterosexual preferences. Which reasonably accounts for why those who identify with that label, have and often continue to feel, alienated. Furthermore, in your example of "misuse," the word gay is clearly being inserted for derogatory purposes. Which per definition of the word derogatory, is disrespectful. But none of this applies to the terms we're discussing.

    Introvert and extrovert colloquial definitions are merely shorthand for commonly observed social/behavioral tendencies, of which it's perfectly fair to have words for. If you google introvert you get the following definition:
    noun
    1. a shy, reticent person.
    If you want to argue the above definition should be put out to pasture, I think you'll have your work cut out for you, but I'm open to hearing it. Similarly, the first paragraph in the Extraversion and Introversion Wikipedia page states the following:

    "Extraversion tends to be manifested in outgoing, talkative, energetic behavior, whereas introversion is manifested in more reserved and solitary behavior."

    The above is perfectly in line with Google's, and most people's commonly held, definitions. Taking all that into consideration, I'm reluctant to concede that I'm "using words incorrectly" in regards to introvert & extrovert.
     
    #16 Bone2pick, Apr 17, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018