The Role of Reading for Introverts and Extroverts

To extroverts an activity such as sitting alone for extended periods reading books seems like torture.

Certainly, plenty of extroverts read books, but it’s mainly filler for odd moments when there’s no one to talk to and usually titles from the bestseller list with potential as conversation material.  Someone who likes to continuously talk reads the books that are being talked about.

An introvert generally pursues reading far more aggressively than the extrovert, sitting down for hours at a time, and will do so for the sheer pleasure of it.  Certainly enjoyment is drawn from purely entertaining works of fiction, but what extroverts have difficulty understanding is the preponderance of less-accessible literature and non-ficition.

For one who is Subtle, gaining something from each book is the primary concern.  The acquisition of knowledge IS entertainment.

Non-fiction is a pure stream of information that can be absorbed without distraction.
In fiction, an introvert is looking for a distinct style, compelling characters, powerful underlying theme or philosophical message.  Whether the author is famous is of little concern.  Indeed, if a work is famous highly entertaining fluff, it is of little interest.

Extroverts see an introvert staying at home on a Friday night with a book and they feel bewilderment and pity at such a lifestyle of self-deprivation.
What they fail to understand is that the introvert through books taps directly into the collective human experience. A shelf of books is its own social scene, full of stories and information from the most creative and knowledgable people.  The introvert lives in any place or time(imagined or real) and discovers any skill or discipline that has ever been put into writing.
All of the awkward initial chatter is eliminated:  One can do away with learning the most basic personal information, probing for common interests, and avoidance of stepping on toes involved in first meeting someone.

In a typical social scene, one is limited to the individuals who are there at that moment.
Meanwhile, an introvert has access to people in places across the world and throughout all of history.

In addition to ‘breaking the ice’ the socialite has to figure who in his tiny pool of potential associates has the most to contribute before any progress can be made towards knowledge.
An introvert can just read about whatever topic they want.  It is far easier to open books than it is to open people.

In short, written information in books or on the internet is the end product of all the conversations.  It is the concentrate distilled from the minds and tongues of countless experts.
An introvert gets the information at the end of the process in its purest form.
An extrovert who must always talk stays perpetually at the beginning of the process yielding more hot air than substance.

An introvert by habitually partaking of a concentrated form of knowledge cannot be bothered to engage in interaction that isn’t immediately relevant to a subject of interest.
In writing, one eliminates components that do nothing for the overall purpose.  Continuing to act by this same principle an introvert separates the superfluous from the relevant.
An introvert does not require nearly as much face to face interaction as an extrovert because much of what one gains from conversation, they gain through the written word.

Not only does reading satisfy some of the needs of social interaction, it has the potential to go far beyond what can be imparted in person.
This is best illustrated by the lesson one learns by going to a book signing by a favorite author:

One thinks “I can’t wait to meet this person” but authors are usually quite ordinary in appearance and sometimes quite shy or even awkward in public.

Then there is a dilemma:  one has already read many pages in which this person bared their soul or shared a lifetime of knowledge.  They’re now standing in front of you.  Now what?  One suddenly realizes that all the important things have already said beyond the constraints of time and space.

One goes up to this person with whom they shared a journey and says “My name is ______ and I loved your book.”

In this instant one becomes aware that social interaction has some serious shortcomings.  The improvisational nature of speaking in person limits us.  One can’t stop and think about the most memorable way to express oneself with every sentence, nor can one excise sentences that distract or fail to contribute to what is most important.  In that instant, one fully appreciates the eloquence and depth can be expressed through the written word.  One understands that the author has already shared their innermost self in a way that conversation does not allow, that one would have to know them in person for years to get to the point that has already been reached as a complete stranger.

Zygmunt blogs on matters of introversion at Kingdom of Introversion.

The Role of Reading for Introverts and Extroverts appears here by permission.

related:  I am made of books (and trillions of microorganisms)

related: Useless Readers

related:  One Who Is Subtle

[image:  xkcd]

on 01/10/11 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | No Comments | Read More

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