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Nancy Okerlund
Volume 1, Issue 5, 9/13/07

Extroverting at the Fair

A couple weeks ago I spent six hours in front of a roasted corn stand at the Minnesota State Fair. I was a recycling volunteer. My job was to encourage the corn eaters to put their cobs in the compost bin rather than the garbage.

This stand sells an average of 10,000 ears of corn every day during the fair - I'd signed myself up for a day of "extroverting".

For introverts, extroverting is about energy. I think of the word as a way to describe introverts doing things that are more natural to extroverts. It can include lots of different activities - standing for hours in the middle of a stream of people on their way to buy corn on the cob certainly qualifies, and especially if you're trying to talk to them!

Energy is a key issue for introverts. We get ours from inside, from the world of our ideas, feelings, impressions. And we need a low stimulation environment - some form of "peace and quiet" - to get recharged. We live in a world that's populated mainly by extroverts (75%), who get energized by the outside world - activities, people, places, things. For an extrovert, standing in a crowd talking to people about their corn cobs is a way to get energy. For an introvert, it's spending energy.

The world tends to operate extrovert-style and we don't talk much about being introverts or extroverts. So you may never have even heard, much less considered, this word, "extroverting".

It's not that introverts don't have the "equipment" for extroverting - our bodies are just less naturally inclined. Some extroverting is unavoidable in today's world - a long airplane trip, for instance. Some of us work in environments that require almost continuous extroverting.

And having good extroverting skills is part of what I consider being a "conscious introvert" - it gives us more choice, more freedom of movement in the world.

But we can't afford to be energy spenders in the same way extroverts can. Extroverts naturally get energy from interacting with people, places, things - it's easier to stay replenished just by being in the world.

Research on introverts and extroverts is demonstrating that it takes more time for introverts to restore our energy and it flows out faster than for extroverts. And we can't get replenished in the middle of the state fair!

So introverts do better when we keep track of our energy - and do energy conservation! It's been years since I spent a day at the state fair. Before I knew about "introvert energy conservation", I'd go every year and loved being there, even though it was over-stimulating. But the next day (or maybe two!) I'd feel like I'd been run over by a truck, so I finally stopped going.

This year I knew I wanted to go as soon as I got the invitation to be a compost volunteer. It was a chance to do something I feel strongly about. A chance to support the work of one of my good friends - and a chance to spend the day with another of my good friends. Very worth it.

I could easily have overdone it: when I went off duty, even though my energy was gone I was tempted to take a side trip into the Butterfly House :-). But I went home instead, to take care of my tired introvert self, very happy that I'd gone and very happy to be home.

End of food for thought - on to practical ideas:

Two Practical Ideas for Introverts

  1. If your life currently requires a lot of extroverting and you don't get enough "down-time", choose one day to deliberately do things differently and find some ways to pamper your introvert self.
  2. Practice "introvert energy conservation" with an upcoming extroverting event: plan to have down-time both before and after it - and do it!

A Practical Idea for Extroverts

Show off your sophisticated understanding of introverts (I'm not kidding!) by explaining to an introvert in your life that you're aware of the difference between introvert and extrovert energy and ask how they like to get down time.

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