Introverts and Extraverts in detail

The first part of this post will relate introverts and extraverts to their behaviour at parties, followed by their behaviour regarding food and drink.

Extraverts are people who consider that ‘true reality’ resides in things that are outside the individual: in other people, or objects. Introverts, by contrast, believe that the real world is the one inside the individuals head. For extraverts, for example, the outer world is more interesting, more stimulating and more important. They will delight in human contact, whether at work or in their social life and they will be more energised in company. They are real party animals! Introverts, by contrast, find their inner world the more interesting and stimulating. They therefore tend to act rather slowly to external stimuli and to take less notice of them: they live and work more on their own and socialise less. Party animals they are not: to a true introvert, a party is a less than enthralling, outer event, that needs to be taken in and understood from an inward perspective before it has much meaning, let alone excitement. You can spot them even at coffee breaks, in situations where two or three colleagues are talking together, and are gradually joined by others as time goes on. The true introverts will be the people who break off from the group to ‘get back to work’, when the group size reaches anything from six to twelve and the presence of so many other people becomes rather overwhelming.

The best number for a dinner party is two – myself and a damn good waiter.

-attributed to Numar Gulbenkian (Introvert)

If you’re still unsure whether you’re an introvert or an extravert, probably the best way to find out is to observe your behaviour at parties: good parties, where you can enjoy yourself. If, despite the fact that you are having a good time, you begin to find that, let’s say 11pm, that the presence of all these people is beginning to wear your down and that you would really like to have a break, and be on your own so as to recharge, you are probably a natural introvert. If, on the other hand, you find that just being at the party is actually charging you up and that leaving it to be on your own is becoming less and less of a good idea, you may well be a natural extravert.

I regard a quiet evening as one where I only ask eight or nine friends around.

-attributed to Otto Kroeger (Extravert)

If you want to know whether another person is an extravert or introvert, much the same rule applies. Talk to them at a party, and observe what they talk about. Extraverts, who are generally more confident in their social selves, are more likely to tell you, easily and early, about themselves – sometimes with detail, or in an intimate manner, that can be overwhelming or embarrassing to the introverted listener.

Hi! My name’s Al. I have a real problem with wind at shows like this. Don’t you? No? Well, that’s just me! I guess it’s because I love eating this finger food. When I was a little kid….

Introverts, by contrast, are much more guarded about telling others about their – all important – inner world. They may, in any case, be less at ease and less skillful in conversation with strangers. As a result, in situations where they can’t escape talking, they are likely to rather talk about everything except themselves. So, if you have talked to someone at a party for 10-15 minutes and realise you still don’t really know anything about them, you are probably talking to an introvert.

Oh, hi. My name’s Albert. Do you really like finger food? There are about fifteen kinds here. They all include bread products, but same have vegetables too. Which do you prefer? Just any vegetable?

When it comes to food and drink, whether in relation to their preparation or consumption, a person’s preference for extraversion or introversion dictates when, where, with whom, and with how many they like doing these activities. This means that, when cooking, dining in, dining out or partying, extraverts like to do all those things with more people, in the presence of more action and noise, and in a more public setting than do introverts. The actor Michael Caine (ESFP?), is, by his account, an extravagant extravert. He is also a considerable lover of good food. As a result, when he became wealthy, one of his first investments was to buy a restuarant. This is how he describes setting up the business, in his 1992 biography (2, pp348-9):

At first sight the restaurant was very unpromising…to counteract its great size, the room had been divided into five sections with phony walls, in order to make it seem like five cosy little restaurants – a disaster. We went ahead…tore down the partitions and opened it all up so there were no corners, and everybody could see everybody else at all times. A restaurant, especially a big one, should be a spectacle where you are the show when you come in and the audience when you sit down, so you must be able to see everything.

No cosy subdivisions, not even corners to hide in , and everyone can see you when you come in! An introvert’s nightmare!

A restaurant for introverts, it need hardly be said, would be the diametrical opposite. A cosy, quiet and private establishment. One of the most famous descriptions of such a place is at the end of Jerome K. Jeromes’s (INFP?) Three Men in a Boat. The author and two friends have just spent a fortnight holiday alone, camping out and doing their own cooking. By the end of their holiday they are dreaming about the meal they would like to have when they get back to London (1, pp 188-9):

A capital little out-of-the-way neighbourhood…I must confess to enjoying that supper…we pegged and quaffed away in silence for a while, until the time came when, instead of sitting bolt upright, and grasping the knife and fork firmly, we leant back in our chairs and worked slowly and carelessly…and felt good and thoughtful and forgiving.

A true introverts description. Jerome has just spent two weeks with just two close friends. At the end of a holiday like that, and extravert would be absolutely longing for more company, life, action, crowds and noise. Not Jerome and his friends – each others’ company is enough. And the restaurant of their dreams is small and “out of the way”. They don’t want many people to know about it. They don’t even need to talk about it to each other until they are at the end of their meal. They don’t need to look at the other customers (if any) and when they finally do look out of the window, it is in order to feel snug and secure in their hidden haven: hell to an extravert like Michael Caine.

If then, you are sharing food with other people, you always have to remember that extraverts and introverts have different needs, including before the socialisation, when they are actually doing the cooking. Introvert cooks, for example, absolutely must be shut away from the rest of the company when they are cooking. Otherwise they will become distracted, stressed and quite unbearable. Extravert cooks, by contrast, simply can’t bear to be shut away in a kitchen when everyone else is having drinks and fun: either they will keep coming out of the kitchen to join in, with the result that the food is late, burnt, or both, or the guests find that they are inveigled into the kitchen (often by use of edible bribes) to ‘keep the cook company’. Michael Caine, once again, described his own needs as a cook very nicely (2, p 446):

The house was everything I wanted it to be, the layout was very California ie. open plan. I always hated the way a lot of big houses are divided into a warren of rooms, the majority of which are never used, like the dining room, a formal drawing room, what the Americans call a family room – that’s the one with the television in it – a bar-room and a breakfast room. All these are in one enormous room in my house, including a kitchen for the family…I had found in other houses that when I cooked for guests I was always stuck away in the kitchen and cut off, so I put our kitchen in the living room and built a bar in it so everything was in the same place.

Organising a party

Let us suppose that you are organising a party. Both strong extraverts and strong introverts are coming. How can you arrange the evening so that everyone can have a good time? You will have to cater for two different and competing sets of needs.

Extraverts will need an environment with lots of light, so that they can see each other, and prefer lots of bustle, action and change. Physical closeness is not a problem for them – typically they will like to be within touching distance of each other during all activities – so you can jam quite a few into each room.  A high background noise level will be stimulating, and extraverts generally don’t mind shouting over music. Open spaces should be available, though, for large groups and games: communal games, especially team games, with lots of prizes, presentations and applause.

Your introverts will require good, although not bright light (too little light raises the possibility of accidental contacts), with room to move, and as many divisions of the available space as possible. A low background noise is essential, as introverts may feel embarrassed when they have to make a lot of noise themselves. If they must play games, introverts often prefer individual competition, and no presentations should be made.

To begin right at the beginning, you should use the technique of a staggered start: invite introverts some time before the extraverts. Introverts, because they may often feel a sense of dread about parties, will tend to arrive later than extraverts. Don’t let them! If you can get them there first, and get a couple of drinks into them before the extraverts arrive, they will at least begin the evening warmed up and relatively ready for action. You might also consider the two entrance ploy.  Have one door brightly lit, and leading directly into the action, welcomes and applause, for the extraverts, and another modestly lit and leading into a quite area of the house (or, better, garden), where drinks are available and the incoming extravert can get up a little confidence before approaching the action.

Start with the introverts at, say, 7pm. Make them take their dishes to the kitchen and put them in charge of food preparation (this has the advantage of giving them their own territory, when the extraverts start arriving around 7.30pm). Note that introverts will, on the whole, tend to take the food preparation a lot more seriously: extraverts are likely to bring dishes (thrown together at the last minute), throw them on a table on arrival and forget all about them. For extraverts, the socialisation is the whole point of the party, for introverts, relatively speaking, everything except the compulsory socialising will have importance: they will take more pride in the food they bring and pay more attention to the quality of other people’s dishes. Nine times out of ten, when your food at a party comes in for criticism, the critic will be an introvert: try to see it just as a sign of interest.

When it comes to serving, remember to distribute food to both introverted and extraverted areas. Extraverts will enjoy being served and eating all at once, at a round table, where they have to queue for utensils and then, in a cosy circle, for food. They won’t hurry and they will enjoy the process; traffic jams will develop, but are not a problem. Introverts will prefer to take their time, with food quietly put out and discreetly advertised over a time so that they can pick an uncrowded moment to take some food and then slip away with it. More, and varied, dishes will also provide introverts with talking points.

The main body of the party, as it were, will now take place. The introverts should, by now, be nicely settled into individual conversations. Allow the extraverts to partake in group events. The introverts will begin to leave earlier, let them feel comfortable to slip away unseen, and continue partying with the extraverts.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s