Battle of the Temperaments
An ode to the introvert/extrovert friendship.
By Elisa Jakymin (introvert) and Gemma Najem (extrovert)
Introverts or extroverts; which category runs the world? Introverts and extroverts are the yin and yang of society, serving to complement rather than compete with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This introvert-extrovert friendship details how the two temperaments can work in tandem to rule the world together! In the words of Sophia Dembling, “extroverts sparkle, introverts glow. Extroverts are fireworks, introverts are a fire in the hearth.”
Imagine a packed train with pumping music playing through the speakers. You’re waiting to get off at the next stop because even though you describe yourself as a ‘people person’ you still enjoy some down time. Sure the occasional dance party breaks out and you have a good shake. You catch up with friends along the ride and get a kick out of the experience.
But there’s one problem – this train doesn’t stop. It’s destined to keep going, and going until you slowly lose your mind.
Welcome to a world without introverts.
Hi, my name is Gemma and I’m an extrovert. My education on introversion first began in high school, when I was introduced to a tutor by the name of Elisa Jakymin. Through her gentle patience, I learned about the ‘other side’ which opened my eyes to another way of looking at the world. This education has carried through to many life experiences, including marriage!
Growing up as an introvert in a (seemingly) extroverted world is a challenge at the best of times. There are plenty of misconceptions around introverts, among them that they are anti-social, lacking social skills and extremely shy. So it’s not a label you particularly feel proud of. Clearly there has got to be something wrong with you if you would prefer to read a book or watch a movie than go to a party at the end of a long week. Labels such as introverts, bookworms, nerds and cat ladies seem to go hand in hand (even though I will admit to falling into the latter category).
I have always had a very rich imagination. There’s a saying attributed to Socrates which claims that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” a credo by which I very much live my life. I daydream about an experience before it occurs, reflect on it after it has passed, and even ponder different scenarios when I am in the moment itself. I live life in my head, a trait which has served me well when it has come to academia, and probably not so well when it has come to connecting with others. Since there is so much going on in my mind at any one given time, it doesn’t take too much in the form of sights, sounds or smells to send me into stimulation overload (and an energy crash).
While the concept of categorising people may be flawed, I believe it can help us understand (and therefore love) each other better.
The difference between introverts and extroverts essentially lies in where they derive the most energy. Introverts feel rejuvenated after spending time alone and extroverts get a kick out of spending time with others. This doesn’t mean the inverse can never be true, but it’s a good guiding principal for understanding the different temperaments.
However, in a world dominated by extroverts it can be difficult for an introvert to find those who are loving, patient and understanding. After all, it’s easy for an extrovert to feel rejected and limited when the other person wants alone time, when they don’t want to go out and socialise, and when they don’t want to step outside their comfort zone.
Bless the extroverts out there who take introverts under their wings and make them feel wholeheartedly understood and accepted. For me, that person was Gemma Khaicy (now Najem; and can I just add, happily married to an introvert!). It is through Gemma that I have been able to position what I saw as my flaws as my strengths; and to identify what I thought were my weaknesses and see them as differences instead. Upon reflection, it’s kind of ironic that I needed an extrovert to appreciate my inner introvert.
One of my favourite memories with Gemma is when we went to a Taylor Swift concert once after a day of university classes. Upon arriving at the venue, Gemma had scoped out the bouncer and asked if he could get Taylor to sign a couple of photos which we had printed. He told us to wait there. A few minutes later, he returned with some shiny, professional photos of Taylor which he handed to us to give to Taylor ourselves, backstage.
All of these years later, and what I remember even more vividly than meeting the pop star was my sense of surprise that you could just ask for what you wanted and have it granted to you like that. The thought honestly would never have even entered my mind at the time. To me, Gemma personified what it meant to be the kind of “fearless” that Taylor sang about in her songs.
Introverts have a lot to offer – they are some of the best listeners I’ve ever met. Not only do they listen to you, they often remember what you’ve told them and truly take in your words. Discussions often include thought provoking questions and a chance for reflection.
They have taught me the importance of self-care. An introvert simply cannot function without solitude – even if they have to gain that time by missing social occasions. They know it’s the only way to stay sane. While this can be incredibly difficult to understand (and frustrating) as an extrovert, I can appreciate this self-awareness, and I could practice implementing my own measures for self-care.
While I have marvelled at Gemma’s conversational ability, she has been impressed at my ability to listen, concentrate and impose self-discipline. I am used to shutting out the world to focus on the task at hand so hours can go by without me batting an eyelid. And in a conversation, I am happy – and would actually prefer - to take the backseat role of listener. Before meeting Gemma, I didn’t realise that these were unique traits.
Some of my closest friends today are extroverts; many of which have been introduced to me by Gemma – one of the best things about being friends with one!
Our university friendship group is an eclectic mix of introverted and extroverted characters – the perfect blend of outgoing and reflective types, conversationalists and listeners, and entertainers and fans. I’ve come to appreciate what a boring world we would live in if we only had introverts or extroverts – variety is the spice of life, after all.
All these years of friendship with Elisa have helped me understand others in my life who fit the introvert profile. An introvert can feel like they’re always letting down the extrovert by not being there for them – but it’s about showing up where it matters most. Although it’s difficult for me to understand my husband’s need for solitude, it makes him feel even more loved when I give him that time to recharge because he knows it doesn’t come naturally to me. Of course, he knows his duty as a husband and father means he can’t always take that time to himself and the ‘recharge’ will have to be delayed.
Just as I have taught Gemma to look at the world through another perspective, she has helped me to get out of my mind, to live wholeheartedly in the moment and to break out of my comfort zone – whether it’s been at a Taylor Swift concert, short break interstate or having a spontaneous dance party. She has the ability to strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere and has an interest and curiosity in getting to know others that I find compelling. Our conversations flow so easily and extend from the superficial to profound at a moment’s notice. When I’m seeking inspiration in a social setting, I often find myself asking ‘WWGD?’ – what would Gemma do?
It’s about sacrifice on both ends, because let’s face it…an introvert can get too stuck in their bubble and an extrovert can forget how to find peace with themselves. We need each other, and the world is a better place for it.
-Elisa & Gemma