Stevie Martin is a 29-year-old writer, comedian and introvert. Her sister, Gina Martin is a 26-year-old extrovert who works in advertising. They both live in London but were born in Liverpool. For National Sibling Day, the Martins are comparing social skills.
Gina: Being an extrovert feels a bit like being a tiny bit tipsy most of the time. When I'm cheery and things are going well, I feel confident talking to most people and being in most situations, which I know is a real blessing. I get my energy from other people. If I'm meant to be going out and I'm not feeling it, I know that when I get there I'll get into it because other people are there. I reflect their emotions. I'm basically just a dog.
Stevie: I want to be a dog. As an introvert, I feel like if I was a dog, I’d be the problem dog and everyone would be like 'Jesus what’s wrong with that dog? Your dog is shit'. Because I can be quite loud when I'm excited/drunk and I like performing on stage, I presumed I was an extrovert, but quite rubbish. Then when I read that introverts feel drained by social interaction it was such a relief. I love hanging out with people, but I need time on my own to recharge or I get really down and anxious. Festivals are my worst nightmare because you’re stuck with people for four whole days. No escape. I’m hot and sweaty just thinking about it.
Gina: Is being an introvert hard? Do you feel like you have to force yourself to say or do more?
Stevie: Oh my god yes. When you say that parties will turn out alright because other people are there, it’s the opposite for me. When I'm on form, or fully charged, I can be a right laugh, but if I’m not feeling it, a party is hard work. You feel exhausted, and people start asking if you're okay because 'You’re quiet'. Then you go to the bathroom loads to be on your own and it looks like you've got either stomach or drug issues. Extroversion sounds excellent – but there must be downsides? Please tell me there are downsides so I feel better?
Gina: YES. There's a constant expectation from everyone else that I'm the funny, smiley, loud one all the time. Don't get me wrong, I've put that on myself, but if I'm having a shit day it's impossible for me to just fade into the background and get through it quietly without being constantly asked 'What's wrong?' by multiple people as well. Most people think that being an extrovert means you're incredibly confident. I don't assume most people will like me, and I don't think everything I have to say is valid (actually – quite the opposite!), it's just that I feel comfortable starting a conversation.
Stevie: I remember you saying a lot that people think you're drunk or high, when actually you're just having a nice time. What a sad indictment of the human race.
Gina: Yeah, I've never been a drug taker and people who don't know me really well, constantly assume that. I'm 26 and people still play the 'let's see if you can not talk for like, five minutes' game, which really gets on my tits. Also, as an extrovert I just don't get taken as seriously in some work situations as introverts do. I'm loud and playful and even if I'm killing it at my job, I often feel like silent brooding types get more respect. I also have always felt a bit like the odd one out.
Stevie: Yes, you get the 'God there's always one' thing a lot, and while I hear you about introverts getting respect, I was constantly mistaken for rude until I started forcing myself to act a bit. When I'm nervous, I can't really chat to people and it feels like all the words that come out of my mouth are really deliberate and slow and stupid. Like I'm this big lumbering person who nobody wants to get stuck with.
Gina: I'm pretty sure that you don't think I get nervous at parties because I'm an extrovert.
Stevie: That is correct, yes. Sometimes I try not to stare at you open-mouthed in social situations.
Gina: I don't feel calm and cool at parties all the time! In high-pressured environments, I think I feel incredibly nervous, like most people would feel, but I'm good at hiding it. I think that's a lot of what being an extrovert is about – acting confident makes you feel confident.
Stevie: Ahhhh yes I find that acting confident really works for me too, I do that a lot! Unfortunately it tires me out more than you and stops working quite quickly. It’s weird how we were brought up in exactly the same environments but me, Mum and Dad are all introverted and you’re an extrovert. It’s like Mum ate a dodgy pineapple during the pregnancy or something. I’m not a scientist, I don't know how it works.
Gina: Yeah it’s almost like it was innately in me – I have no idea how or why. Pineapple aside. I find it really interesting that when you’re upset you’re very vocal and expressive and loud, and when I’m sad I go very quiet and don’t want to speak. We go into our polar opposites.
Stevie: This has blown my mind. Why is that?? Yes, the Christmas when you were ill was the quietest Christmas our house had ever known. And when I am sad I yell the house down. It’s such a signifier of something being wrong, to act the total opposite.
Gina: Let's tell each other one aspect of our introverted/extroverted personalities we would trade with the other. I'll start: I love that you only let people you really like into your circle. I feel like I bring a lot more shit on myself because I will talk to anyone, and I often think I would like your icy blue-eyed nonchalant-ness, instead of the deranged puppy vibe I have going on.
Stevie: Yes but there's a positive to that – you exude fun, and make it look so effortless. You can make the shittest night out, the best night out, and I genuinely think that if nobody turned up to my birthday but you, I’d still have an excellent time.