The next three days I am exploring the topic of introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between. Today’s thoughts are about the definition of the terms and some real world examples.
When I was growing up, the theory was that there were two types of people: introverts and extroverts. Introverts were people that were shy and didn’t like social interaction and extroverts were people that were outgoing and did like social interaction. So it isn’t surprising that people would think that all Aspergians are introverts since they have such troubles with social cues and situations.
Recently, research has rewritten the definitions of introverts and extroverts. Current theory suggests that Introverts are people who lose energy being around people for large periods of time and recharge with time alone. And Extroverts gain energy being around people and lose energy being alone. So with the new research, what does this mean for Aspergians? Really nothing new, but maybe an easier time not being pegged automatically as introverts.
I think many Aspergians appear to be introverts due to their lack of recognition of social cues and lack of comfort in groups of people. The fact that they may have had BAD experiences in groups of people may have more to do with the discomfort than being introverts.
In my son’s high school class were several Aspergians, some who were extroverts and others who were introverts. One of my son’ s friends loved people. He thrived meeting new people, hugging them, talking to them and the longer he was with his friends, the wider his smile. You couldn’t keep the smile off of your face when you were around him. Then there were other kids who were clearly uncomfortable in a group of people, who would not make eye contact or do more than mumble. But when you talked to them one on one on a topic they enjoyed, they blossomed.
My son and I are actually in the middle of introverts and extroverts, a third kind called in one article, ambiverts. Which I am sure meant ambivalent or in the middle, but kinda sounds like we couldn’t decide on WHAT we really were. Each of us like to interact with people in small to medium size crowds, of people with similar likes to our own. And each of us gets to a point when we have had enough of everyone and we step away.
For example, when my kids were small, we always went to my father in law’s for Christmas. There were many people there and my son would be overwhelmed by the sensory overload. He would go into his grandfather’s bedroom (with permission) and hang out and watch tv and come out ever so often to visit and then return to the safety of the room. He was in control of his conversations and activities. This control made him feel better and we experienced less meltdowns. Not all of the relations understood but the important part was that he got to be at the family gathering on his own terms.
My favorite story about me and human interactions was told by my father. When I was about 3 years old, my mother left me with my father at his job. He managed a dime store on a local main street. Near his office was a white and gold vanity (bench and table with mirror) and he left me there to play while he stepped away to deal with something. Soon, a little old lady stopped him, and demanded he deal with the hooligan in the back of the store and stomped out. From what he could piece together, that old lady had seen me at the vanity playing, and asked me who I was and where was my parent and so forth and so on. I finally turned to the old lady and shouted ‘Go away! I’m busy!’ and returned to my play. My father always ended that story saying ‘He never feared that anyone would kidnap his daughter’ and smiling. I was always embarrassed when he told it. Nowadays, I am proud that I had that spunk even at an early age. But I don’t know if it was the introvert or extrovert in me talking that day…..
Tomorrow’s topic will be introverts and how to be supportive of their way of interacting with the world.