The Gifted Extrovert

photo courtesy of Emile Guillemot

I’ve been ignoring you. Those of you who are extroverts. My last post favored introverts. As did this one on Rebelle Society (adapted from the blog post). And I wrote a piece on IntrovertDear that will be out February 1st. ( How I Found a Career That Had Introvert Written All Over It ) You’ll want to read that one. It describes my personal trek “from extrovert wannabe to introvert queen.” Which, you see, is the thing. My bias. I’m a wholehearted, full-throated, undeniable introvert.

Even though it may be that more introverts choose therapy, so those are the people I spend most of my days with, I’ve met enough extroverts in my practice and personal life that I can tell you about them.

(Note: You may not identify as either extrovert or introvert. You might say that it depends on the context. That you’re multifaceted. OK. Then you might be an ambivert. Very rainforest-y of you.)

I love extroverts. I wanted to be one. In many cases (there are always exceptions): You carry the conversation. Get me out of my house. Have fascinating stories to tell.  Introduce me to your friends. Chair the meeting. Run for office. Organize the bake sale. Set up the Go Fund Me campaign. Attend the political protests. You are energetic, dynamic, and witty collaborators.

But it’s not all that simple when extroverts have rainforest minds.

I remember Rosemary. She was a grad student in the music department at our local university. Articulate, generous, and brilliant. Rosemary yearned for friends and mentors. But she was several steps ahead of everyone she met. Even her professors couldn’t keep up. Rosemary loved collaborations. She depended on them. But it was hard to find people who wanted to work with her. She had more experience and knowledge than her peers and ran out of patience when they didn’t measure up to her expectations. She would “pump the brakes” to slow herself down, but it usually wasn’t enough.

I remember when she told me about finally finding a couple of cohorts who agreed to go out for drinks after class. She was looking forward to deeply invigorating analysis, debate, and fun. But it didn’t happen. She said she was so disappointed, but not surprised. Her level of intellect and enthusiasm wasn’t matched. She was hitting her stride at 1am when they were heading home. The constant experience of loneliness was overwhelming.

Another client, Jill, said that her introvert friends enjoyed movies alone or were irritated by interruptions during a film. For her, movie going was a shared experience. Both during the film and after. Noticing the reactions and responses of her friends. Analysis on the way home. The film was an opportunity for human interaction. Jill also loved big musical events for what she described as “mirroring my experience, a tethering” and an essential experience of existence and belonging. She liked to be anonymous where no one asked anything of her. She could dive into the crowd and experience the “organism.” Feeling a part of humanity and being nourished by the large, pulsing energy of the group.

Loneliness is an issue for all rainforest minds. But it’s so much trickier for extroverts.  As you can see, extroverts are energized by groups of people. Humans are your fuel. Also, if you’re an external processor, which many of you are, you need a person to externally process with. It’s not very satisfying to talk out loud to yourself! And if the few people you do find, can’t keep up with you, even when you pump your brakes, you have no reliable source of rejuvenation and nourishment.

What this means, then, is that it’s essential that you understand yourself as someone with a rainforest mind and then use your charm and verbal skills to find your pack. I know you may feel discouraged and hopeless after years of trying. But other gifted extroverts are out there! Here are some suggestions on how to find them. Another source I’ve found recently is The School of Life based in the UK.

So, my dears, whether you’re an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert, we’re all in the rainforest mind clan. So dive in. Get nourished. You belong here.

__________________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Are you an extrovert? Can you give us some examples of what that means to you and how you grapple with loneliness? We also want to hear from the introverts and ambiverts who are here. What are your thoughts, feelings, and questions? And, I realize that you live all over the world. So if my descriptions aren’t accurate for cultural or other reasons, please let me know! And let us know where you live. What are the attitudes toward rainforest-mindedness in your country?

Thanks to the clients who inspired this post. And thank you to you all. Click on this link to read more posts from professionals and parents about giftedness and belonging.

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Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

45 responses to “The Gifted Extrovert”

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  1. MissENTJ Avatar
    MissENTJ

    If you don’t have a person to bounce your ideas off, I highly recommend animals and plants. Some of my best ideas have come from cats and trees. Okay, they came from me, but it’s more fun to say the campus kitties helped out.


    1. pprober Avatar
      pprober

      Yes, to animals and plants!


  2. Jesiebel Avatar
    Jesiebel

    This is extremely painful. I say it is like a mean joke. We are wired in a way that social connection is precisely the fuel to survive this intense brain yet it is precisely our wiring what isolate us. Almost every one I know dislikes me or tolerates me. Even those who love me, do so with limits because the mere amount of verbal expressions disconforts them. To that, we add the intensity or enthusianm of the delivery and no one can really cherish me unless i’m way less myself. Even learning, wich is my happy place, everyone is annoyed by my questions. There is no space or place to be myself unless I’m alone and loneliness is the deepest sorrow i experience daily.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Sending you big hugs, jesiebel. Keep reading. You will see you are not alone. And don’t give up on finding other RFMs who are extroverts who will understand your particular style and needs. They can be hard to find but they are out there. <3


    2. renovatio06 Avatar
      renovatio06

      I find myself in that same place more often than not, Jesiebel, been living almost completely isolated for the past 15 something years and for all the reasons you name and the conundrum we find ourselves confronted with.

      As for myself, I will try to find my way back into music once again, since the qualities we bring into the world were always better appreciated there. I hope you can find your ideal “habitat” as well (as most, if not all rainforest creatures do…🤗)


      1. Artie Avatar
        Artie

        It appears many can relate to what Jesiebel wrote. To me, it has gotten to the point where I refrain from saying or writing something because my past experiences are warning me against doing exactly that. Weird looks, awkward silence, ignored, the face “I do not understand what you’re saying” or “I do understand and you’re right but I won’t listen to you anymore”… I can’t even process the possibility of me being on a different wavelength than most yet, but I definitely can’t relate to human beings either.

        Oh and don’t worry, renovatio06, I’m just pouring my heart out here for some reason unbeknown to me. Maybe my mind is saying “you can do it here”. I hope my intuition is right.

        Congratulations, by the way. I wish you happiness and success. Looking forward to hearing your music someday.


    3. Artie Avatar
      Artie

      Big hugs to you, Jesiebel. You’re not alone, but it appears the distribution of RFM is a bit unfair. Good thing we have internet and places like this blog. Although there’s something making me doubt of being a RFM, it seems I’m part of your beautiful tribe, so there’s someone who can relate to you in a place as unbelievable as Venezuela. There are others as well, all connected through Paula’s blog and work.


  3. Genealogy Jen Avatar
    Genealogy Jen

    Love this! I’m an extrovert with capital E. I’m also an external processor. I can be a lot to handle at times for my introverted friends.

    It can take some time for certain people to get me. Some gifted people don’t recognize me as a peer initially. It’s good that I’m charming though. I usually win them over. 😉

    I thought that I was an ambivert until I read one of the books you recommended about empaths. I’m an extroverted empath. I need the social interaction to be rejuvenated as an extrovert, but have to really monitor who I include in my social environment . Emotional vampires like to suck my energy dry.

    My husband’s even more extroverted than I am. 3 of our 4 boys are introverted. It’s tricky at times for us to grasp the way they think. My husband and I are all, “Why wouldn’t you want to be the center of attention in a room full of strangers?” And they’re like, “Why do you talk to people so much? Why can’t we just go home? ”
    Thanks Paula!
    PS I agree that that more needs to be written about gifted extroverts. I think a lot of researchers and writers are introverted by the nature of the work they do though, and our paths don’t cross often.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m glad this was helpful, Jen. I have a few extroverts in my practice now and have seen their struggles. What a fascinating family combination you have! Good to have you here.


  4. Paula Prober on: The Gifted Extrovert | Your Rainforest Mind | Late.Shift

    […] Source: The Gifted Extrovert | Your Rainforest Mind […]


  5. renovatio06 Avatar
    renovatio06

    This resonated with me in almost all ways alluded to in your article. Learned the term “ambivert” – and I think that’s me to a T. The degree of isolation has become intolerable although I do enjoy quiet/alone time. Every now and then – and that seems to be just the right doesage – I like to connect with people whom I can resonate with, be it for movies, books, music or whatever.

    Over the years, I seem to have found that it is (much) harder for me to enjoy “quality time” with other humans. Since time is the only one thing we don’t possess in excess, I seem to have become a lot more scrutinizing in whom I spend that precious non-alone time with.

    I’m glad I somehow found your blog/writing. If nowhere else, at least here I seem to find “my tribe”. Thanks so much!


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Good to have you here, renovatio06. Keep reading. There’s more!!


      1. renovatio06 Avatar
        renovatio06

        Will do, have subscribed upon first read.


  6.  Avatar
    Anonymous

    Just had this discussion / arguement with my husband about our 12 year old. He can do really advanced work, but only with a tutor. My husband point was maybe he wasnt ready after all. My point was that he isnt a solo learner and he needs someone to TALK to about it. It energizes him. Internal processing just isnt a love of his.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      That makes a lot of sense. Extroverts need that!


  7. Bernadette Madonna McVicker Avatar
    Bernadette Madonna McVicker

    Extroverts might want to find a Social Introvert to hang out with! I’m definitely an introvert (INFJ), but I do enjoy *occasional* social time, mostly one on one with a good friend. Once I’m really comfortable with someone, I can seem somewhat extroverted in my behavior. Then I have to withdraw for several days to recharge.

    Paula, I’m new to your blog – thanks to your Introvert Dear article – and look forward to reading and learning more. Thank you!


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      So glad you found me, Bernadette. Thanks for coming here and commenting. Enjoy!


    2. Gabriela Montoya-eyerman Avatar
      Gabriela Montoya-eyerman

      Bernadette, I was going to say the same thing. INFJ’s actually like some social interaction because of our extroverted Feeling. I have even been called “gregarious” by a coworker. Inwardly I laughed but knew they must have interacted with me in a place where I felt I could contribute. I still need that recharge time but still do have that need for occasional people time. I find for myself to enjoy it, there must be a connection to my love for something or even just the people that I know at the event.


      1. Bernadette Madonna McVicker Avatar
        Bernadette Madonna McVicker

        Gabriela, the “gregarious” comment made me laugh, but I get it completely. And, yes, people time must be with someone I really click with, or an event I really want to attend, usually something involving music or art. It’s nice to see another INFJ here. 🙂


        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          I’m an INFJ. I think you’ll find many of them here, Bernadette!


  8. bethplanetbethcom Avatar
    bethplanetbethcom

    Oh Paula, yes, what a timely and awesome article! It’s helping me understand my seemingly contradictory self, because although I consider my core self an Introvert, I still have a strong need to also share my enthusiasm and curiosity with others. I’d like to share a relevant experience with you. Last summer I volunteered at the main branch of my city’s public library, in the Humanities Section. (I just had to insert a descriptive sentence here — it was our city’s first museum, and its fascinating and endless collections, not to mention its glorious architecture, thrill me every time I step through its doors!) Our local newspaper had donated 2 huge boxes of wonderful photographs from the mid 1980s, and so as a volunteer I was tasked with helping organize these photos, describe them, and enter data into a big database. I worked alone in a large room, where a few other longtime volunteers worked on other projects. One fellow sat near me, and I enjoyed chatting with him (more superficially most of the time).

    Processing the photos, musing about the nature of information, from how programmers developed the particular software I used, to which words I would choose to describe the photo, to how they were classified by librarian professionals .. well it electrified me! I so wanted to have a processing partner with whom to share my wonderment and intense curiosity! But, beyond a few interesting but brief conversations with the fellow I mentioned above, it was not to be. My supervisor, though she was probably off the scale intelligent, seemed … annoyed, or something, with my energy level. I chalked it up to job stress.

    I’ve been on a quest for over a year now, to help me determine the next best step career-wise, which is why I’ve done some volunteering. My experience at the library taught me that I am energized not only by internal absorbing and processing but also by conveying my excitement and enthusiasm!! It’s funny, as I said I consider myself an Introvert but now having spent some time with the library staff, I guess I’m a bit Extroverted, too!


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You may at least be an external processor, Beth, or an ambivert, or an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert!! Oh, the possibilities! Thanks for sharing.


  9. Elizabeth Avatar
    Elizabeth

    It’s good to see the gifted extrovert addressed. For almost a decade, it’s been popular to celebrate the introvert while also explicitly impugning the extrovert. I’ve spent my life as a highly verbal external processor who was often dismissed as a smartypants know-it-all as a child when I was really just trying to put all of the pieces together. As an adult, it’s been a long journey to learning how to reach my professional potential while also not exhausting coworkers and annoying supervisors.

    I recently started a new job and discovered a kindred spirit, a brilliant professional (with textbook gifted intensities) with 35 years of experience in the field. Shortly after I started, he was working through some strategy for a shared project and after several minutes of talking, he apologized for “pontificating.” I smiled and said “you’re not pontificating, you’re processing and we’re making good progress.” It was literally the first time in this man’s professional life that any one recognized it for what it was. What a shame. I mean I get it, but it’s a shame.

    I’m lucky to have strong ambivalent tendencies when it comes to socializing and recharging. That helps with the loneliness a great deal. But my dearest friend is an extreme gifted extrovert, and I watch her struggle mightily with loneliness and isolation. Thank you for giving us some attention.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for sharing your example, Elizabeth. There definitely needs to be more written about gifted external processors, in particular, because your experience of being labeled a know-it-all is so painful and so common.


    2. River Aaland Avatar
      River Aaland

      I feel much of this too! Thanks for sharing.


  10. dayonevision Avatar
    dayonevision

    I am returning to my own blog…LOVE your posts!


  11. dayonevision Avatar
    dayonevision

    Ha! I’ve done ALL of these!
    “You carry the conversation. Get me out of my house. Have fascinating stories to tell. Introduce me to your friends. Chair the meeting. Run for office. Organize the bake sale. Set up the Go Fund Me campaign. Attend the political protests. You are energetic, dynamic, and witty collaborators.”


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      And we introverts are grateful!


  12. Lezlee Avatar
    Lezlee

    I’ve long defined myself as an introverted extrovert. And while I find my alone time painting and writing to be very fulfilling, the time I spend with others is often very surface level and disappointing. Or worse yet, I leave happy and then agonize later on hypothesised misunderstandings.
    I’ve joined many Facebook groups since having children -because their needs as gifted individuals have widened that gap… but internet interactions are far from fulfilling.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I think the internet groups fulfill a need for sure but it’s hard to not have the face-to-face exchange of depth and complexity.


  13.  Avatar
    Anonymous

    I know I Rosemary just like yours – also a music major. (Rosemary T, from Canada?) She still has not slowed down one bit. Her emails to me are always written at 1am-2am in the morning. I know not to call before 9.
    I’m a severe introvert, homeschooling a CRAZY extrovert. It’s so exhausting to keep up with him.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Introvert parent and extrovert child…a big challenge. Hugs to you. Remember self-care!


  14. Nimue Brown Avatar
    Nimue Brown

    we put subtitles on in films so we can have all the witty quips and analysing as we go and still follow the dialogue…


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Great idea, Nimue!


  15. River Aaland Avatar
    River Aaland

    Oh hey! Trying to find people who will “go deep” but are still somewhat social is needle-in-a-haystack frustrating. I always wanted to be an introvert—in my family the introverts were the smart interesting ones and I was the awkward garrulous chatty one (at least, that’s how I felt). Introverts always seemed more “cool” to me: solitary, interesting, mysterious loners who didn’t seem to need people the way I did.
    I’ve ended up being the friend to a lot of introverts whom I love, but it can be hard to find people to venture out into the world with, especially in a group. Thanks for sharing this piece and reminding me I still count as a RFM, even if I’m not “cool and mysterious!”


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      But you ARE cool and mysterious, too, River! And most definitely RFM!


  16. Mary Avatar
    Mary

    My 12-year-old is highly gifted, particularly in the social realm. She gets very lonely and could benefit from a group for tweens/ teens….even online. Do you have any recommendations?


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I don’t know of any but you might go online to some of the parent groups on Facebook. Parenting Gifted Children. Hoagies Gifted Discussion Group. Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. You could also check with the people at http://www.sengifted.org.


    2. Genealogy Jen Avatar
      Genealogy Jen

      If she is passionate about a specific topic, there are groups for that. Also, let her know she doesn’t have to have one person or group for everything. The friend buffet to pick and choose based on what you need can be great.


  17. Deb Avatar
    Deb

    What an amazing, timely post! My friend Deb shared it with me, and it just hit home immediately. As an ambivert, I deal with this all the time. After my very extraverted job (sales/customer service), I need the quiet of small groups. But I want those groups to be engaged, intelligent, and enthusiastic. My wife and I were talking last night about how I have spent almost all of my life “putting on the brakes” to avoid upsetting people who couldn’t keep up. I’m going to have to unpack this a little more. Followed, and I’ll find you on FB. Like the way you think, lady! 😀


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Welcome, Deb. Interesting that you say you need the quiet “of small groups.” Hm…that still sounds extroverted to me! (introvert that I am…I go for the quiet of solitude) Thanks to your friend for bringing you here.


  18. Laura Acosta Avatar
    Laura Acosta

    Thank you. I think it’s getting clearer to me that I’m an ambivert. I tend to fit a little in so many places and not so much in any that I get quite lost and feel I’m just an imposter. Any step to more clarity is a great step to stop thinking of myself as probably just weird (although I still have a long way to go before dropping the “weird” label).


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You could also think of “weird” as a good thing. Unusual. Unique. Wonderfully weird. Thanks, Laura.


      1. Laura Acosta Avatar
        Laura Acosta

        I need to try that.


  19. maggiebrown2015 Avatar
    maggiebrown2015

    Humans are your fuel….yup. Connection is my fuel. Usually.

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