I learned a new phrase recently, ‘extroverted introvert.’ I’d never heard it before but I instantly recognized that it applied to me and even explained some things about myself that had always puzzled me.

I have extrovert qualities but at heart I always felt like an introvert – so I could never figure out where I fit  on the spectrum. I would often be disappointed in myself when I didn’t feel as outgoing and social as I thought I should. I would beat myself up when I craved down time before and after bursts of socializing.

But that’s apparently natural for extroverted introverts. In fact, extroverted introverts are defined by their periods of sociability coupled with essential periods alone to decompress and recharge. This defines me to a tee.

Some people at our marina can sit on the dock and chat for hours. But after a while, I have to excuse myself and spend some time reading or writing. Extended socializing can be exhausting for me and often when I reach my saturation point, I mentally check out. I used to be upset with myself when this happened and I would worry about whether other people saw me as unfriendly. But now I can just relax and enjoy the amount of chit chat that is comfortable for me.

Another characteristic of extroverted introverts is that we crave deeper connections, with real substance. We don’t do well with much small talk. This means we are happier with a few close, meaningful friendships rather than many superficial ones. We feel rejuvenated and fulfilled when we have rich conversations and feel an emotional bond with other people.

I always felt bad that I had so little tolerance for idle chatter, but now I understand that since it gives me so little gratification, I should forgive myself for wanting to avoid it as much as possible.

We extroverted introverts are therefore better in small groups rather than large crowds and we actually prefer one on one conversations. I’ve always thought of myself as basically shy and insecure, though you would not think that to meet me, and in a crowd, I’m a wallflower. I tend to listen and observe more than talk. I hang out near the food or near the person I came in with and I’m wary about approaching people and starting a conversation. I’m often the one who offers to help the hostess set up or clean up to get away from the group setting.

But once someone is introduced to me, I open up and blossom and can form friendships with people very quickly. Also, if I sense a connection with someone, I have no problem asking a person I’ve just met for their contact information and inviting them to meet for coffee. I’ve come to realize that this is not the norm and that many people are reluctant to ask a stranger to hang out. That surprised me because I’m usually not that confident. But I think that my desire for deeper connections with others supersedes my shyness and anxiety.

The flip side of extroverted introverts’ need to connect is the fact that we are naturally empathetic and make us great listeners, a great shoulder to cry on and someone our true friends come to for comfort and advice. I pride myself in being that ‘sounding board’ to many friends and to both my children. I’m told that I am truly non-judgmental and therefore make people feel comfortable opening up to me. I’m thrilled about this because it’s something I’ve always striven to be.

My grandmother was fiercely judgmental and my mother always stressed to me how important it is NOT to be that way. My Mom turned out to be very judgmental too, though much more subtly. But somehow I achieved my goal of accepting people as they are and acknowledging that other people have different standards and values than me and that neither of us are inherently better than the other.

One of my best friends complimented me by telling me that I am one of the least negative and least judgmental people she knows and how much she appreciates that about me.

I don’t think that anything will change now that I know I’m an extroverted introvert. But it’s comforting to know that while I don’t neatly fit into the larger division of humanity between extroverts and introverts, there is a subset that fits me pretty well.

There are lots of other people who straddle personality modalities like I do. So I realize that I will never be the life of the party, but I am the person my friends will confide in after the party. And that’s fine with me.

Categories: Friendship, Relationships

Tags: , , ,

24 replies

  1. Yeah, straddling that line, like the swing of a pendulum. That’s why I’m The Chatty Introvert: I’m good at work just being exuberant and enthusiastic, glad to help and be of service to others, but then I just wipe out fast and I’ve got no more left in me and must recharge alone.

    Sucks because it makes it hard to make friends when you’re like “boy, this is an interesting person to talk to, but I can’t keep it up forever!” and then I mess things up by drifting away because it wears me out to be so friendly so long.

    It’s a hard line to walk most of the time, especially in such an over-saturated world that we live in. too much noise and communication hurts after a while.


  2. Holy crap, you just described ME! I could never figure out which group I fit into because neither seemed right but now I too have an answer. OMG tyvm for this!


  3. Sounds a bit familiar to me too Ellin.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I never knew there was this category, but it describes me to a tee. Thank you for enlightening me.
    When I tell people that I’m an introvert they don’t believe me, so I explain that I’ve learned how to be extroverted at times, but then I need to regroup alone.


    • Sande – you fit the definition of a true extroverted introvert, as do I. We can be outgoing and friendly but need our alone time to recharge and regroup. I’ve always been disappointed in myself because I’m not good at small talk with strangers. But now I know that’s part of who I am and that I relate well in other ways that more than counterbalance my chit chat deficiency!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My greatest nightmare: having to make small talk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lois, same here. Have always envied (??) those who can.

      However, sit me with someone who has common interest: Baseball, old movies, etc — and You’ll need gaffer’s tape to shut me up. I also think Ellin’s piece is applicable to many folks who have the “split Personality” — outgoing public person, introverted private person. It’s so very common. Marilyn frequently teases me about this. However, “Small Talk” is insufferable in any mode.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t realize how many people shared my dread of large parties where small talk is required. Once I’m with one person and I have a chance to have a real conversation, I’m okay, but talking about nothing is really hard!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. this describes me perfectly, thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beth, me three.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t it nice to know that there is a category that a psychologist somewhere created that fits you perfectly? It’s also nice to know how many other people are just like you. I always felt that there was some deficiency in me that prevented me from being good in large groups or chit chatting with strangers. I assumed everyone else could do these things easily. Now I can just accept my nature and go with it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have gone through exactly the same process. as a side note, I’ve adopted the ‘Irish goodbye.’ this is when attending an event, you show up, make your rounds, have a nibble or a nip, and when you are ready, just quietly slip out the door without making a big goodbye of it. they will be happy you came, and no drama about you leaving. it works for me -)


  7. I think I am a bit like that too. I am more of an introvert. Put me in a crowd and I’ll find someone I know and hang out with them or offer to do the washing up but with a group who I know well I talk as much as the next person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think what upset me about myself was the level of discomfort I feel in large groups or in situations where small talk is required. That’s especially true today when no one dares bring up politics except around close and like minded friends. Other people seem to be relaxed and thriving at a party while I’m hanging back and wishing I were at home.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Sounds like me too. It’s why we are so unsocial so much of the time. Casual conversation is fine while you are standing on a grocery line, but it doesn’t make much of a friendship.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve always needed close friends more than social acquaintances, though casual friend who share a common interest are fine. Like people I’ve met at a tennis club, or boaters at our marina. At least there you have a topic of mutual interest that you can talk about endlessly.


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