How to handle an extrovert: A perennial question

July 25th, 2010

So a few years ago the Atlantic Monthly ran a brilliant article entitled Caring for Your Introvert. I was thinking about this last Saturday as a good friend and a casual acquaintance and I strolled around the grounds at Tanglewood, where we had gone to hear a performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony (lovely!). The good friend is, like me, on the introverted side of things; the casual acquaintance, I quickly discovered, is on the opposite end of the spectrum, and kept up a running commentary on our surroundings, the musicians (many of whom he knew well), and other incidentals. It was interesting, but I couldn’t at first figure out how to respond. When I tried to contribute in my plodding linear way, I found that the acquaintance had already gamboled off to a different topic; thus these efforts quickly became exhausting. However, I also didn’t want to remain silent and feel like a hostage (and a boring one at that).  Ultimately I settled on a non-committal positive vocalization every so often, and that seemed to work.

So, for all you extroverts out there: Is this the optimal response? Or do you want more interaction? (Note that if you want more interaction you’ll have to give other people a chance to speak as well, and maybe even, like, listen to them – so be sure to count these costs before you respond.)


One Response to “How to handle an extrovert: A perennial question”

  1. dave on July 26, 2010 4:40 pm

    you can’t automatically equate extrovert with loquacious any more than you can automatically equate introvert with shy.

    I am an extrovert. I enjoy talking to people. I dislike talking at people. With no (or little) interaction, I’ll frequently stop talking until we can all find a mutually entertaining topic.

    It sounds as though your acquaintance is one of those that talks to fill a void, or simply to hear their own voice.

    I guess your response is appropriate either way. They’ll either be more like me, and stop talking as well, or be more like your acquaintance, and not even notice your mental absence.

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