You may have noticed the media focusing on introverts as of late, from The New York Times’ bestselling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking to silly, laughable online memes such as Introvert Cat and Socially Awkward Penguin.
When I see this introvert hype, I find myself asking, “What about the extroverts?” What about my talkative tribe of people? As extroverts, we have to overcome social barriers and stigmas too. But, instead of sitting at home alone creating Internet memes and writing books about ourselves, we are busy living loudly in the limelight, attempting to solve our own social dilemmas with a crowd of strangers.
Naturally, people respect introverts because of their stereotypical silent vulnerability, sweet demeanor and all-around ability to listen. Most of them are pleasantly polite. Extroverts, on the other hand, are plagued by conventional characteristics such as narcissism, loudness, and shallowness.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines extroverts as, “one whose personality is characterized by extroversion; broadly: a gregarious and unreserved person.” Good, ol’ Merriam-Webster sure knows how to make an extrovert feel good.
Urban Dictionary, however, defines us talkative folks harshly as, “A**h***s who do[n’t] know when to shut their g**d*** mouth. Sadly they make up most of the population on Earth. I’m glad I’m not a rambling idiotic extrovert.”
If you continue reading the carefully curated definitions on Urban Dictionary, you’ll be surprised to find how offensive and off-color they are. As I read them, I started giggling aloud, and then felt ashamed and wanted to cry. Point proven: the extrovert stereotype is harsh.
As a naturally charismatic person, I know firsthand that extroversion comes with many frustrations. People expect me to be “on” all the time. When I’m quiet and pensive, friends are worried I’m sad. The moment I stop talking and have a serious expression, I’m asked what is wrong.
Other struggles include the following: What I like to label as a thoughtful stream of consciousness, my family says is “verbal diarrhea.” On snow days, I find myself pacing the apartment in a depressive funk, needing some sort of activity. Every day I sing songs as if life is a musical, much to my partner’s chagrin.
As an extrovert, I’m the public relations person for my friends and family. I do all the talking and coordinating. I small-talk with the wait staff at restaurants, dressing-room attendants at shops and inn owners on vacation. Sometimes I accidentally tell people too much about my life, like the one time I managed to tell our J.Crew check-out clerk all about my partner and I—what we do, where we live, how long we’ve been together—all in a quick five minutes. Another time at Starbucks, I told the kind gentleman barista my entire weekend plans.
Oversharing with strangers is a problem. Sometimes this leads to making new “friends” and having someone ask for your number. Kindness and chatter can easily be interpreted as flirting. (Whoops!) Even at the age of 27, I still have to remind myself of “stranger danger,” because charisma can attract some real weirdos.
Putting your foot in your mouth is all part of the fun of being an extrovert. Still, after all these years, my face reddens when something strange or vulgar accidentally pops out of my mouth. And it gets worse after a drink or two. Open the floodgates! I don’t even know what to expect anymore.
On a recent morning, as I was lying in bed, I felt a sense of dread remembering the previous evening’s party. ‘Did I really tell them all that last night?’ I thought. I replayed the night in my head, hoping I didn’t say too much. Turns out I did.
Extroversion becomes even more dangerous in the work place—especially for young women. Supervisors have told me I come off as aggressive. And, one time after speaking frankly to my boss, I was told I was “too direct.”
I’ve been labeled as “intense” more times than I can note. It’s hard not to be intense when I’m so zealous. Life is filled with so much, and I want to experience it all.
Growing up, my mom always said, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease, Marissa,” encouraging me to raise my hand and share my thoughts in school. As an incredibly shy child, my mom’s words taught me that extroversion was a path I should take to accomplish my goals. Later in life, she used this phrase when encouraging me to follow-up on job leads. Her words always rang true.
My junior year of high school, I wrote my college essay about how journalism school will teach me how to transform my chatter into a strong narrative voice. The essay helped to get me into college with early acceptance. Even though I find myself editing my written words daily as a journalist, editing myself verbally will be a work in progress for the rest of my life.
While the verbal floodgates are always open, I hope in the meantime I’m entertaining the people around me. Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.