Extrovert-Introvert Fog

Many coastal geographies experience interesting patterns of fog formation when hot and cold currents mix. There are more complicated ways fog forms, but essentially it is a consequence of a collision between two distinct local weather patterns.

It recently struck me that many extrovert-introvert interactions have a similar characteristic. Extroverts gain energy from social interactions. Introverts gain energy from private, secluded thinking. When the two kinds of personalities have been “charging” for a while, they are not just energized, they are also in the grips of serious momentum.

The extrovert’s momentum manifests as wanting to continue social interactions, past the “social charging” event. 

The introvert’s momentum manifests as wanting to continue to think, past the “solitude charging” event.

When the two collide in this stage, the resulting energized communication confusion is really frustrating to experience and hilarious to watch. I call it the extrovert-introvert fog.

The introvert tries to take whatever the extrovert says as more thinking raw material, but the extrovert isn’t interested in that. He or she is interested in continuing to talk, it doesn’t matter about what.

So the extrovert keeps trying to restart the conversation, skipping from topic to topic in an effort to feed the existing momentum. The introvert keeps trying to think about what was said 5 minutes ago and getting the extrovert to shut up while they process.

The interaction usually ends in disengagement with one walking away in frustration, usually the introvert. Otherwise the introvert says something like, “god, will you shut up, and let me think for a moment!” Or the extrovert says something like, “will you pay attention for a moment, you keep tuning out!?”

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  1. I guess most of the Es and Is would relate to this and agree largely. Perhaps we could train ourselves to realize that the charging process to regain energy is done and balance it out with some opposite behavior (connecting with external/others for the introvert, reflecting and being with self for the extrovert)?

  2. Jessica Margolin says

    Love this analogy!

    This makes sense if you’re talking about Te (extraverted thinking) and Ti (introverted thinking), but Te are Fi (introverted feelers) and Ti’s are Fe (extroverted feelers). So long as the conversation is clinical, yes the “introverts” dive inward to think. But if there is an emotional tension, those same people who say “shut up while I think!” will want to feel emotions with the Te, who will now feel invaded, and probably be accused of being uncool, too “dry”… etc.

    So there really is an opportunity for compassion here; the extroverted thinker can ponder the extroverted feeler’s emotions. Similarly, the introverted feeler can have plenty of “space” whenever the introverted feeler is experiencing something emotionally intense, before they settle on how they feel about it.

    I haven’t really gotten into introverted/extroverted intuition, but that influences the scope of curiosity -Ne (extroverted intuition) is the characteristic of “all over the place” … Ni (introverted intuition) are the deep-divers.

    And then there’s sensing, but that doesn’t impact much here.

  3. I’m not sure about this at all. I consider myself to be an introvert, but there are frequent moments (after bouts of thinking and theorizing) when I want to discuss that theory with someone. I need long hours of discussion to cover every aspect of the theory that I’ve thought about. And create lots of new raw material for thinking.

    What may be the case, is I might not be immediately empathetic to what the other person is saying (at that moment), except for them being a sounding board. I would need isolated thinking to process what the other person said and incorporate it into the theory. That could be frustrating to the extrovert.

  4. Alex the Too Old says

    Wow, this is me and my wife to a tee (I’m the introvert). The way we often express the conversational disconnect to each other is that, to me, she keeps digressing and bringing in irrelevancies, and to her, I’m too rigid and get hung up on details (as I tend to frame things in such a way that the big picture is already obvious and it’s the details that are worthy of discussion).