Can Extroverts Be Beaten at Their Own Game?

Not likely.

Extroverts are very, very good at what they do.  Competitive social interaction is what they have a talent for, what they’re passionate about, and what they put all of their time and energy into.
It is a daydream for many introverts to outmaneuver the Loud people who cause them so much trouble.  However, this isn’t so far off from imagining climbing into a boxing ring with limited experience and beating up a professional.  This is why it generally stays a daydream.  Chances are, if we actually climb into that ring, that we’ll lose.

To succeed in throwing one’s weight around a different strategy is required.

Why didn’t we become experts in social interaction?  In part because we have to devote all our time to be good at it.  As introverts, we chose to focus on other skills and areas of knowledge.

Extroverts are extreme specialists.  There’s one social setting or society that they have mastered through countless hours of practice.  It’s the thing they do.
All an introvert has to do is change the game that’s being played and the extrovert is helpless.

One who is defined by society operates by strict parameters that they expect everyone else to share.  So much so, that they find it discordant and jarring whenever basic assumptions or conventions are violated.  Much of an introvert’s life is spent warding off extrovert knee jerk responses to unconventionality.
These knee jerk responses can also be taken advantage of because they are predictable.

Any given extrovert will try to take your measure according to their narrow concept of how someone should behave.  It is amazingly easy to confound all their attempts to figure out your intentions.  I hardly even have to try since I operate by very different motives and assumptions to begin with.  By playing around a bit with what I choose to reveal or conceal, I can cause confusion.  When someone is confused by me, it can give me a lot of room to maneuver.  The response to confusion is often hostility.  Hostility can be very useful if it causes the extrovert to ‘punish’ you by giving the silent treatment or by avoiding you altogether.
The person in question can’t be too important or long term.  This tactic is best used to outmaneuver or neutralize someone who is temporarily in your life.  It’s a smokescreen useful for keeping someone noisy and nosy off your back until you move on to the next thing.  While they’re busily prevaricating trying to figure out what you’re up to, you do whatever it is you want.

For longer term involvements, it is wiser to play the Iago game.  Extroverts expect people to wear their emotions on their sleeve.  They make all their judgment calls by gauging emotions in others.  It’s another predictable trait that can be exploited.
All my life, I have had to publicly conceal my true feelings and make active display of emotions I do not feel just to survive.  Even when an extrovert greatly angers me, I know how to keep my displeasure under wraps.  It doesn’t occur to most extroverts that someone who is angry would not assertively make their feelings known.  Thus, an introvert has the advantages of secrecy and surprise.  If desired, they can wage a war the that the other side isn’t even aware of.

The wise introvert can reap all the advantages of even the most abrasive extrovert’s social expertise while undercutting or sabotaging them when they inevitably get demanding and pushy.  Just set them up with distractions or difficulties whenever needed.  Stimulus begets reactions.  Extroverts simply tend to respond before they stop to think things through.  Their attention is easily diverted, even minor setbacks cause them lots of stress and eat up lots of their energy.  If you’ve ever seen how an extrovert reacts to not being able to find a single misplaced item, imagine misplacing one of their belongings every time they were rude and aggressive.  If they cannot be civil, simply keep them spinning on a hamster wheel somewhere until they are needed.

life's dirty little secret

If there must be games, the most important thing is to not to play in the extroverted realm.  That is a sure way to lose.
Better strategies are:

-Changing the rules
-Hiding the rules
-Hide intentions
-Hide the conflict itself so the other side takes all the punishment
-Be inconspicuous, don’t attract attention
-If one must engage, always do so in a place that is unfamiliar and disorienting to the extrovert.  Extrovert social mastery only applies to the cultures and environments they know.

Perhaps these tactics sound manipulative or even a little evil?  Not very sportsmanlike?  Never forget that an extrovert will happily crush you and grind you into the floor in an open confrontation.  They are professional fighters.  They constrict, annoy, and oppress even when they’re trying to be nice.  Introverts resort to alternate tactics because they’ve been left with no other choice.  The objective is not retribution so much as it is simple survival.  An introvert is happy if simply left alone.  The extrovert on the other hand grabs for ever more power.  At some point it is necessary to take self-defense measures or else be exterminated.
For an introvert, life can seem like war with everyone else and just making through a day often feels like a battle.  If there must be war, personal autonomy must be preserved by any means necessary.
Fortunately, much conflict can be eliminated simply by living under the surface and doing whatever necessary to avoid attracting attention in the first place.
Avoidance is the best course of action
If that’s not possible, secrecy.
Never forget that if the conflict comes to light, society is on the extrovert’s side.

Zygmunt blogs at Kingdom of Introversion (and elsewhere).

Can Extroverts Be Beaten at Their Own Game? appears here by permission.

[top and middle images via Flickr/Creative Commons]

on 06/27/11 in featured, Society | No Comments | Read More

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