introversion and presumption

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Let me start with a disclaimer. I like Jonathon Delacour -- at least, I like the persona he displays to us through his weblog. But he had to know that I'd be compelled to respond to his recent post "The Unbearable Lightness of Babble." I hope that he also knows that what I'm responding to here is the ideas, not the person...and that I find this kind of debate quite enjoyable. I'm writing this while laughing, not cursing or muttering. That being said...

I suspect that my husband will weigh in on Jonathon's comments, if only to reassure him that the past ten years have not felt to him like an extended session of fingernail-pulling. But there are a number of things that Jonathon says that I want to respond to myself.

For example:

One only needs to spend ten minutes or so with most people in order to predict, with a high degree of accuracy, their position on any issue. The introvert�s pain at being trapped in a conversation with extroverts is caused partly by boredom�we�ve already formulated all the arguments in our heads.

That statement strikes me as breathtakingly presumptuous. Jonathon do you really believe that "most people" are that completely predictable, straightforward, without potential for change or creative thought? That within your own mind, you can hold all possible arguments, all points of view, all versions of the truth? That there is nothing that you can hear from other people that could change your mind, shift your perspective, force you to challenge your own assumptions?

In fact, doesn't that fly in the face of your later statement: "But then I�m not attracted to the traditional link + quote + comment weblog, which I instinctively believe is more likely to belong to an extrovert than an introvert." Why would introverts need to spend time writing about an issue in detail, when they can assume that right-thinking people will already have figured everything out on their own? Give them a couple of links, let them think quietly to themselves, and they'll all reach the same conclusion, no?

Jonathon also says:

I suspect it�s this ability to hold simultaneously contradictory viewpoints that makes the internal triangulation possible, though the end result�a state of almost permanent ambivalence�is frustrating for those who see issues from one perspective or another.

That, to me, has little to do with introversion or extroversion. (I'm reminded of a favorite F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.") I may be an extrovert, but that doesn't make me single-minded on any given issue. In fact, my desire to discuss an issue with others is a conscious attempt to add perspectives to the ones already in my mind. And I've met more than my share of introverts who seemed incapable of seeing more than one side to an issue.

If we go back to the much-maligned MBTI typing, what I think Jonathon is describing here is not the difference between extroverts and introverts, but rather the difference between those characterized as "sensing" ("S") and those characterized as "intuiting" ("N"). I'm as far off the scale on "N" as I am on "E"...and I suspect that many of the bloggers that I (and Jonathon) read and respect are heavy on that side, as well.

Jonathon then asks me a specific question:

does Liz make ten times as many calls as her husband? Does he, as I do, have his phone switched off most of the time? Does he, as I do, delete all messages before listening to them? (I guess not�if I were married, with children, I think I�d listen to my messages.)

We have one mobile phone, which we share. I take it to work, he uses it when I'm home with the kids and he's out and about. We seldom even come close to using our low-end 200 minutes/month plan. Very few people know the number--my best friend, my mother, the regular babysitter. Its primary use is for Gerald to find me on campus, since I don't tend to be in one place for a long time--"Do you know where the boys' homework is?" "Can you pick up some Indian food for dinner on your way home?" "Call your mom, she needs to talk to you about weekend plans." "I got the grant! I got the grant!" That's about it.

Finally, Jonathon ends with a comment about intuition in relationships, mentioning his "conception of the ideal relationship (between introverts who can intuitively share their thoughts and feelings)." And Dorothea responded immediately, saying:

Yeah, sure, I can finish David�s sentences with some regularity and rather better than random correctness. That is not a function of �intuition� or anything related to introversion. It�s simply a function of twelve years of interaction and shared context. A pair of twelve-years-involved extroverts doubtless finishes each other�s sentences as well as David and I do."

Don't need to add much to that. (But hey, I'm an extrovert, remember? I'm compelled to add a bit more.) I agree completely. What Jonathon describes--the idea/l of shared thoughts and feelings--isn't a function of introversion or extroversion, it's a function of intimacy. And intimacy is not the sole domain of introverts. Yes, Gerald and I can often finish each other's sentences. (Elouise and I often can, as well.) But there's a danger in believing that we always know what the other is thinking. That's the presumption thing again. Gerald loves me. He knows me. He often knows what I'm thinking...sometimes before I know it. But if we ever reach a point where I've lost the capacity to surprise him...or him me...well, I'll be very, very sad.

On that note, I'll end with Kahlil Gibran's On Marriage, in which he says

But, let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone. Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near togetherness:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

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"introversion and presumption":http://www.it.rit.edu/~ell/mamamusings/archives/000401.html -- this was a blog conversation that pretty much all happened while I was out at Ozette, Read More

3 Comments

Is there a particularly good MBTI test online anywhere? this one pegs me at INFP.

While some of the questions are a bit redundant, I found this site to give pretty good MB indicators.

pls i want to know if there is a relationship between creativity and intelligence with extrovert andintrovert.thanks

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This page contains a single entry published on March 26, 2003 8:36 AM.

twenty (?!?) years later was the previous entry in this blog.

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