Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Body on the Grass

My past few blogs have been about personality and sociability, and I'd like to have one more kick at the cat before I move on to other fascinating topics — like what I had for breakfast this morning or how my corns are getting along with my cowboy boots.

First, let me say that sometimes I may over-emphasize something in an attempt to make a point, and I may have done so in the last two posts. While it is true that I am more reticent than verbose, it is also true that I'm not exactly a wilting wallflower. I can actually speak, sometimes intelligently; I did make a living at teaching for three decades, so I must be somewhat competent and confident in certain group situations. Mainly, however, I simply don't have the patience to happily endure situations such as the social function that I mentioned two posts ago, and life is too short to pretend.

Having got that clarification out of the way, I'd like to recount a recent episode that demonstrates how differently Cuppa and I tend to react to life's situations.

On Friday, Cuppa and I decided to walk downtown to the local bookstore that was celebrating its first anniversary. When it's non-cycling season we try to promenade on most days: certainly when it's not raining or we're not too busy doing errands and chores. Friday was a nice day without a lot of competing activities, so we walked.

Not too far along, just past our own subdivision as a matter of fact, I was rather startled to spy a body prone on the grass next to the sidewalk. In short order I determined that he was alive and resting from the laying of sod which the rest of the crew was still busy laying. My mind was already moving on to thinking that this might make an opening for Law and Order or some such program.

Just as I was beginning to ponder the possibilities, Cuppa interrupted my reverie with a semi-scream: "There's a body on the grass." Of course, she began to sort it out in the same way that I had, only verbally. You see, being an introvert (I don't like that somewhat pejorative term, but I'll use it), I had processed it all internally. I might have gotten to the point of actually mentioning the body, but Cuppa's shriek altered the process, so we'll never know. The point is that she, being much more of an extrovert, immediately began to verbalize what she was seeing and processing.

I think introversion and extroversion are determined by how our brains function. Supposed introverts probably process their thoughts internally quite a bit prior to verbalizing them; some extroverts actually process more as they speak. I'm sure there's a long continuum between deep introversion and total extroversion, but I think the general differences exist. The point here is that some people process their thoughts longer than others. For them it's instinctive to process internally; others vocalize much more readily.

Back to the narrative: we continued our stroll to the bookstore, entered and browsed. We sat for a while over coffee and first anniversary cake. It's a small place, so there was some conversation between us and the owners and the occasional other customer. However, come time to settle accounts and depart, the owner asked me if I was always so quiet.

That took me slightly aback because it's not as though I hadn't said anything; in point of fact, I thought I had carried my fair share of the talk. But I guess that everything's relative, and, apparently, I hadn't been particularly verbose compared to others.

You see, when your tendency is to process things quite a bit before you speak, you end up not saying as much as others. I actually noticed the body before Cuppa, but she verbalized it immediately and certainly beat me to it. Because she did [verbalize], there was some good humoured exchange between her/us and both the [resting] body and his comrades. It usually works like that: the introvert tends not to participate a lot in group conversations, for the extroverts are simply quicker to speak and jump in while the introvert is still cogitating. Consequently, he tends to sit back and just listen rather than try to force his way into the conversation. Actually, he's probably often quite happy to listen to what others are saying.

I'm not going to try to bring these ruminations to any grand conclusion, but I thought that the last two posts more or less begged for a little more reflection.


Turtle Guy said...

I LOVE Law and Order!! I had a similar experience once. I drove the few short blocks to London Drugs one night after dark. On the return trip I found a guy pretty much passed out on a corner lawn. I checked to make sure he was in fact breathing... he looked at me in a glaze and moaned... appeared VERY DRUNK! I didn't have my phone with me, but called the police when I got home. Apparently I was caller three. They were on their way.

Oh... and as for

"I'd like to have one more kick at the cat"

Would you not be kicking yourself in the... nevermind!

Cathy said...

Oh, This is good, this is good. But honestly AC - aren't there times when 'introvert you' after HOURS of letting the extroverts have their way - don't you just occasionaly walk away thinking - I wish I'd had an opportunity to make this or that (brilliant, of course) point? I musn't project too, much - as a teacher you probably find your voice on the BIG issues and wade on in.

PBS said...

That's an excellent example of the difference. I'm an introvert and people are always saying to me, "You're so quiet." like they're accusing me of being sneaky or something! I talk when I have something processed and well-thought out to say, I don't like talking just to talk. But sometimes it's hard to get a word in edgewise ;)

I_Wonder said...

Julie and I took the Myers-Briggs Personality Type inventory about a year ago. It was great fun and sparked some interesting conversation. It's just a guess but I'll venture that you find group situations tiring and want to rest afterwards. Personaltiy types are interesting -- neither right nor wrong, good nor bad -- just interesting.

methatiam said...

I am the same way. I ‘rehearse” what I am about to say in my head right before I say it. I speak slowly and rarely, preferring not to have to compete for the next sentence. The hardest trick I had to learn being married to an extrovert was NOT answering when she asked a rhetorical question, and then determining when she DID want an answer. I’m still struggling with that one.

Gina said...

Do you think there is possibly a male/female factor also with the verbal processing vs. internal processing?

Anonymous said...

I am an extrovert, married to an introvert. Your ruminations are right on. My problem is that as I'm talking I often begin to realize that I give away far too much information and that people aren't always interested in the workings of my brain. It gets me into trouble too often!

Heather said...

The same can be said of my hubby and I. When we did the Meyers Briggs thing, we came out exactly opposite in every regard. Which explains alot. Interestingly enough, though, though he's the introvert, he has an easier time than me when it comes to engaging people in one-on-one conversations. He could make friends with a waittress or gas jockey any time, whereas I'd be more comfortable speaking in a large group.

Pam said...

I, myself, am an introvert but do well as long as there aren't more than 2 extroverts in the room!

Anonymous said...

According to Meyers-Briggs, I am INTJ. I think for a long time before saying something. A lot of times, I find many things not particularly worthy of discussion so I listen. In a light social situation, I am about as boring as it gets ~ but am quite good at a roundtable discussion or a discussion with purpose. Your post really defines the process perfectly. :)

Oh...and "Law and Order" gets a lot of attention in this house! LOL

Peace to you,

~Chani (Thailand Gal)

Coll said...

With us.. my hubby is more of the extravert and I tend to be more of the introvert. In many ways and times.. I think our differences end up complimenting us as a couple.

Wash Lady said...

Back in another life - I taught 4 classes on the Myers Brigg personality orders. That stuff just is fascinating!

Have you done the sorter yet?

oshee said...

While I like to think my husband and I are pretty equal in the introvert/extrovert scales...there are differences in the way we think through things while talking over serious relationship things. Emotional things, I do well talking out my thoughts. I get a lot figured out that way. My husband on the other hand need time "to process" before responding. It has created some need for learning and compromise over the past 12 years, but we are still together so we must be managing ok.

Great post. Interesting way to look at it.

Debra said...

Anvilcloud--I tend to be like you and have experienced lots of people accusing me of being quiet (though in these later years, I've loosened up a bit). But still, there's the fact that it's nearly always best to think before we speak, in fact, the Bible says to be slow to speak and swift to hear. Good advice which has saved me, like, a million times from making a fool out of myself! :) Enjoyed your story.... Blessings, Debra