Understanding others

by Haley Atkinson

A large portion of the college experience is the jour­ney of self discovery. Whether we find ourselves in in­tentional and careful pursuits–through the perpetual taking of personality tests and rereading “What Color is Your Parachute”–or if we merely happen into this understanding, we usually come out of school with a greater awareness of what makes us tick.

We all undergo the process of seeing ourselves set apart from the elements that once defined us: our homes, families and childhood friends. A simple, but necessary aspect of this process is recognizing the way in which we are able to recharge, determining where we fall along the extrovert/introvert spectrum. With this too, we need to learn the range and how to best live with those who may fall on the opposite side of the scale.

To begin, I have included some definitions. Accord­ing to the Gifted Kids website, “Most people believe that an extrovert is a person who is friendly and outgoing. While that may be true, that is not the true meaning of extroversion. Basi­cally, an extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people.”

On the other hand, the same website says, “Contrary to what most people think, an introvert is not simply a person who is shy. In fact, being shy has little to do with being an introvert! Basically, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people.”

Logically, the extroverts of the world should live to­gether, while the introverts live on islands unto them­selves. Yet this is neither practical, nor beneficial to ei­ther group. It is also important to note the majority of people land somewhere along the line of “-vertism.”

The process of living well with one another requires appreciation for the unique aspects the other has to of­fer. Extroverts thrive in social situations. They are able to make friends quickly, and do so often through the mastery of small talk and quick connections. Addition­ally, they posses the ability to make quick decisions and work well in groups, and they contribute well to brain­storming sessions. Introverts often prefer dwelling in their minds, considering concepts, processing the in­formation they are constantly accumulating and shar­ing these with those they trust.

According to the Gifted Kids website, introverts com­prise nearly 60 percent of the gifted population (those possessing expectational talents matched with high achievement rates and heightened sensitivity), but only about 30 percent of the general population.

For the introverts:

I spoke with the most extroverted person I know, sophomore Morgan Gilbert. For her, ideal social inter­actions begin with a casual “hey” accompanied with a statement that will either be inflammatory, shock peo­ple into telling her something they otherwise wouldn’t have or incite a laugh. This can be words, gestures, nois­es, physical contact; ideally they will reciprocate her ac­tions, then the witty banter begins. Social engagements beginning in this nature open the relationship for dy­namic fast-paced interactions.

“I look for debate,” Gilbert said. “I seek people with different ideas and opinions. I process verbally, and therefore enjoy engaging conversations with people with varied view points. I am able to refine my argu­ments by bouncing them off someone else.”

Social irritants of the extroverts: misunderstood sar­casm, passive aggression, lack of verbal communica­tion, fear of interrupting the speaker, withholding de­tails, assuming their inability to keep secrets.

The Social Forms according to extroverts: story swap­ping, lively banter, eccentric greetings, verbal vivacious­ness, matched vulnerability, conversational symmetry.

For the extroverts:

An ideal introvert social in­teraction begins with a small group of people. The conversa­tion topics range from a wide variety, everyone listens while someone is talking, oth­ers will chime in as they wish. They do not enjoy talk­ing over one another, and loathe repeating themselves. These conversations flow naturally among individuals who know and respect one another. It can take a good amount of time to reach this point, but once there, these relationships are highly valued.

Social irritants of introverts: being told they are shy, being misunderstood, constant questioning, needing to answer what’s wrong, being told to get out more or meet new people, interruptions, conversational constancy.

The Social Forms according to introverts: listening well, considering what is being said and your response, silences when appropriate, space to collect and sort in the information intake.

With these insights in mind we can better live in com­munity with those around us. While interacting with friends and neighbors consider their social tendencies, do they match your own? In considering their behavior, we can better see what they seek in relationships, and how to better care for those around us. We cannot as­sume everyone operates the same way we do; we must be considerate and aware as we go through our days.

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