Many years ago, when I was living in our nation’s cesspool, I mean capitol, I had the occasion to retake the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This personality test, based on ideas by famous Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, shows you what your tendencies and preferences are in 16 different areas. One of the main categories is whether you are internally focused or externally focused, or introverted or extroverted.
I told the person grading the test they did it wrong, because my results were always the same, and I was right. I’m pretty much in the middle, but on the introverted sign. Working as a volunteer at SXSW EDU the last four days, I’ve been reminded that I need alot of down time to recharge from interacting with other people, whereas for extroverted people, they are energized by being with other people. So I thought it an interesting topic worth exploring a bit.
Meeting People Is Cool but Exhausting for Introverts
Today after finishing volunteering the Policy room in the Sessions part of SXSW EDU, I picked up my “perk” – the badge volunteers receive to get into the conferences and festivals. It turns out that at South by you really do need your badges.
I then for stood in the line for volunteers to pick up their swag bag. While in the line, a man from Japan introduced me and started to tell me about a single-sided hearing aid he was developing to use with glasses. But then I recognized and introduced myself to one of the founders of the alternative weekly paper, the Austin Chronicle and also South by Southwest, Nick Barbaro.
Nick was gregarious and approachable, and we had a nice short chat. He even invited me to the Chron’s volleyball game later this afternoon, but unfortunately I had to decline because I badly needed to get a haircut and get some sleep. He was hanging out watching the swag bag line, something he said he hadn’t noticed was an issue before. Anyway, I was glad I took the extra time to talk to arguably one of the most important people at the entire festival, without whom none of us would even be there!
Writers and Bicycling: Not Really Solitary Activities
One of the myths and ironies about writing is that, like bicycling, there is just one person doing it. In one sense, there is just you. But bike mechanics, fellow riders, transportation planners, charity ride staff, bike advocacy groups, the various suppliers of clothes, gear, etc. are behind the scenes. Likewise, members of writing groups, mentors, editors, publishers, bloggers, web designers, and the like all are involved in books, blogs or other writing platforms. Other people have inspired and supported me, and this blog is one way I try to contribute a little something back. It’s also healthy to get out and interact with other people, because just staying at one’s laptop is a good way to write something that may or may not be seen, but it guarantees you’ll be pretty lonely as a writer.
This is one reason why I’m attending SXSW, and why many people do: to meet new folks, to learn from them, maybe find new collaborations (in my case, a job), and otherwise see what comes of the synergy of interaacting. But if it’s exhausting to you like me, you’ll need to plan time to come home and not answer the phone, texts or emails, and just de-stress. This isn’t to say that one way of being is better than the other.
Finding Balance is the Key, but I Keep Losing My Keys
Humans are social animals, and without socialization, people can find themselves less happy and less healthy. So even if it is tiresome, I try to tap into the energy that shared conversations lead to. I’ll take a nap, have quiet time, do yoga, read, blog, etc., but may always struggle to find the balance of alone time and being around other people. A few people are legitimately better-suited to be hermits, and there is value to that.
But in today’s fast-paced world, it helps if you are able to create, think or contribute to solving a problem. If like me, you need to go home and recover, and then go back out and do it all again the next day, that may require some stepping out of your comfort zone to try talking and also listening. Of course if you’re too extroverted, you may need to talk less and to listen more. Some days I’m really good at this and do gain some energy.
Although being in huge crowds and talking to hundreds of people while scanning their badges does wear me out, the extroverted part of me does enjoy it. There are many innovative, smart, creative and amazing people that come from all over to be part of this huge event. We’ll see where it goes. In the end, you have to figure out where you fall on the Intro-Extro-verted spectrum, and adjust accordingly with either more or less down time.
Which vert are you most of the time?
What are your thoughts on the subject?
What’s a vert, anyway?
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