Wednesday 23 September 2009

Introverts and Extraverts

Renowned psychologist Dorothy Rowe divides the human population in to two categories; introverts and extraverts. What defines these two categories is our response to stress and how we recharge our batteries. Extraverts look outwards. They need to be around others to re-energise and in a stressful situation they will chat, giggle and need to express their nerves vocally and volubly. Introverts, on the other hand, look inwards. To restore their balance they need to be alone and when under pressure they become quiet, often sitting apart in a corner where they pray they will not be disturbed. Nowhere are these archetypes more visible than in the dressing room of a burlesque show.

As you might imagine, such places are often small, cramped and full of semi-naked women, stockings and glitter. The extraverts chatter away, the odd shriek piercing the tension, while the introverts skulk in front of mirrors and in corners trying to shut out the bustle and the noise. You might have guessed from this description that I am an introvert. When I arrive at a gig, the first thing I want to do is get all my technical checks done, hand over my music, and discuss my cue, set-up and pick-up. Then I want to find a corner of the dressing room, or a patch of mirror space and begin the ritual of putting on my make-up. I will listen to my music on my ipod, running through my act in my head and telling myself that all will be well and that I can do this. As my time on stage approaches, I get quieter, less communicative, more focussed on the task in hand.

But I worry.

I worry that everyone around me thinks I’m stuck-up, or unfriendly. I worry that the extraverts, who are all happily chattering away and making friends, think ill of me. I worry that I’m missing the opportunity to get to know people better. And I worry that I inadvertently snap or appear sullen when an oblivious extravert interrupts my solitude with their innocent high spirits.

That’s a lot of things to worry about when you’ve got a job to do. But I know that if I didn’t focus inwards, I’d fall apart.

So I began to look around me and I started noticing I wasn’t the only one hiding in toilets and corners. Then I mentioned it at a couple of shows and found colleagues who are also introverts, and who prefer to quietly prepare for their time onstage and not participate in the high-spirited buzz around them. And finally, I expressed the fear that I came across as moody and unfriendly, and was told that the opposite was true; warm, friendly and professional were the words used, which pleased me enormously, and set my mind at rest.

They say you will find all sorts of women in the dressing room of a burlesque show; the tall, the petite, the slender, the curvy, the blondes, brunettes and redheads. They all take their clothes off and bring a little magic to the stage but the rituals that get them there usually fall into two categories. Next time you watch a show, perhaps you will wonder who sat drinking white wine and laughing, and who hid in the toilet with an ipod and their make-up case.

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