I've read several articles lately that seem to be painting a "how to" guide for interacting with and understanding introverts. And while I'm all about understanding what makes my husband (an introvert) tick, I'm beginning to get a little peeved with the general implication that extroverts are people who pursue shallow, inconsequential human interaction while introverts are busy pondering the deep mysteries of the universe. Therefore, I have decided to come to the defense of extroverts everywhere. And while I'm fairly certain many introverts won't actually care about my perspective, this sates one of the deepest needs found in extroverts everywhere: to understand and to be understood by others.
It's true. When I am out in public and standing next to someone I don't know, I might just strike up a conversation with him or her. Not every time. And not everywhere. But sometimes I will come across someone with whom I appear to have something in common. Maybe she has a petulant toddler or a gaggle of kids. Maybe she looks nice. Maybe we are both waiting in line and annoyed with the same delays. But because I don't know this person well, any comment I make is going to relate to that superficial something we have in common. I am not demanding a lengthy conversation. In fact, if that person's body language is telling me they would rather not talk to someone, I leave them alone. But if they seem to be the friendly I-will-make-eye-contact-with-you sort of person, I may simply invite them to share my space for a few moments through conversation; to connect.
Extroverts thrive on social energy. This doesn't have to be with people they don't know. Believe it or not, there are shy extroverts in the world! But we are more interested in the people around us than the things around us. And there is much to be said for people like us. Without extroverts, there would be no social glue to hold things together. We are important to the normal functioning of society - that's why there are more of us than there are of them (introverts). If my husband has to go to a social gathering, he wants me there. And not just because I am his arm candy, either. It's because that much human interaction with people he doesn't know very well isn't all that enjoyable to him. He's happy with one or two good conversations, but in order to get to those conversations, there are another 10 that have to happen that don't lead anywhere. As a non-shy extrovert, I don't mind taking care of that part. Do I love it? Nope. Do I thrive on them? Uh-uh. But I don't mind doing it in order to get to those "one or two" conversations that will truly be enjoyable for both of us.
Despite being an extrovert, I find that the older I get the less I want to have superficial, meaningless conversation with anyone. That office Christmas party with my husband's co-workers? I tolerate it because I love him, and because we get to dress up and have a nice dinner without the kids. I don't hate it, but it doesn't energize me or meet my social needs, either. However, that 2-minute conversation that I had with the lady in the check out line? It was nice. We commiserated over the fact that our kids are a handful at the grocery store. We got momentary validation from the fact that someone else understands. We didn't walk away with a lasting friendship. Neither of us were looking for that. But in a small, minor way, we connected.
That's not meaningless.