Friday, May 22, 2015

Sources of Conflict: Introverts vs Extroverts

This part of an intended series on personality conflicts and how they manifest in characters.

Let's kick off the series with what's easy and obvious: Introverts and Extroverts.

Introverts are typically thought of as the people who say little or nothing, and extroverts talk all the time. They are so much more than that. Some introverts can be quite talkative and some extroverts rather quiet. Judge them more on how they relax.

Introverts need time to collect themselves before and after dealing with other people, especially strangers. They think before they speak, and you can be pretty sure if they are contributing their idea to a discussion, they've thought it over a few times before opening their mouths.

Extroverts seem to pull their energy from other people, meaning after the party, they are rounding up people to hit the bars with them. When they speak, their ideas are often not fully formed, so never assume the first thing they say is what they have concluded. Sometimes you can just ignore the first few sentences and focus on the end.

In friendships and love, we are often drawn to the opposite of ourselves here. Introverts wish they had the easy social graces of extroverts, and extroverts like speaking for others and drawing shyer people out. They also appreciate being allowed to talk without being interrupted. But by the same token, introverts can be drawn to other introverts because they make so little demands on them to speak, and likewise extroverts don't want most of their conversations to be one-sided.

Here are few examples of where they can be frustrated or downright hostile with each other:


  • Resent being ignored or steamrollered by those who speak first, especially when they dominate discussions with half-baked ideas.
  • Resent their initial contributions being dismissed as a "working idea" rather than one that has been considered from several angles.
  • Dislike being talked at when they have not adjusted to their new surroundings or a change of pace.
  • Hate being interrupted, prefer brainstorming sessions to have an orderly rotation of speakers.
  • Hate being made to give their opinion or idea before they've had a chance to think it over.
  • Dislike the implication they are angry or upset merely because they are not talking.
  • Dislike the assumption they are upset or excited because they are talking.
  • Need personal space.
  • Need time to adjust and also to decompress.
  • May have trouble enjoying a vacation if it is in a strange place. The second time around is better.
  • Come across as cold because so much of their communication is written, and verbal communication has more modest tone and body language.
  • Resent people who stare at them like they are idiots while they talk.
  • Often need to develop their ideas out loud, drawing on the contributions and body language of those around them.
  • Decompress by interacting with others.
  • Often interrupt with an idea or response that can't be contained until their turn to talk, but don't do it out of malice.
  • Hate being made to hold in their reactions.
  • Hate their ideas being dismissed as undeveloped.
  • Prefer to seek out people to communicate- no email for them, thank you very much.
  • Worry when their companions do not speak for long periods of time.
  • Hate their passion being dismissed as just another thing they are loud about.
  • Want to go new places, get restless with routines.
So you can make your characters pick on each other or give in to each other over many of these issues. There are many other factors which go into these differences. For instance, a structured introvert is going to conflict more with a flexible extrovert, but a flexible introvert may find some common ground with a structured extrovert. Always remember we (and our characters) are sums, not just parts. It's like colors: red is hot and green is cool, but add yellow to each and the former becomes cooler and the latter warmer.

I'll close with a true story of Introvert/Extrovert conflict:

A lovely, tiny, bubbly extrovert lady was married to a tall, serene, introverted man. They both had similar jobs and ranks, working in military medical administration, and when the wife needed jaw surgery, she had to stay home from work for over two weeks.

When her husband came home every day, he needed to decompress and have some time to recover from dealing with people and phone calls all day long. The wife had been trapped at home alone for hours- she couldn't drive because she was still on narcotics so she could sleep- with no one to talk to and was antsy and needed talk talk talk. For the first couple days, the husband was nearly attacked by his wife as he came in the door, until he got an idea.

Because her jaw was wired shut, he started offering to share a smoothie or milkshake so they could talk over their day while having a snack. He would grind up her pain meds and dump some in her drink. Then he listened patiently to her for 10-15 minutes before she would start to feel tired and apologize and say she needed to lie down for a bit. He would pat her on her shoulder and say, "That's alright sweetie, we can talk later." And they would, after he was recovered from his day and ready.

And yes, they are still married.

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