Woods: Was Robin Williams an introvert?



Robin Williams is the subject of a new documentary being presented by HBO called “Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind.” Here he stars in “Patch Adams.” (Handout/TNS)

The easy answer is no. Robin Williams was a manic comedian and refined actor who seemed to be a human-energy factory.

The more complicated answer is that yes, a part of Williams was an introvert, as he explained in an interview a few years back. He said he did have an introverted side, and he defined himself as being “quiet and absorbent” during down time. This helped him take things in, think, and then give it back to the audience in the form of his comedy.

As most of us know, there were many sides to Williams, which won’t be covered here. This is just an example to introduce the concepts of introversion and extroversion.

To define these terms, I turned to the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Introversion can be defined in a variety of ways, in general, introverts prefer quiet and spending more downtime to recharge. Extroverts can recharge by spending time with others and tend to thrive on sights and sounds.

To be fair, most of us have some amount of introversion and some amount of extroversion. Really, most of us fall somewhere along an introvert-extrovert spectrum.

If you are an introvert, have you ever been mistaken by classmates, teachers, or workmates as someone who is shy? Being shy is different from being introverted. Again, there is usually some overlap. For example if students don’t participate in group discussion, they could be shy, introverted, or a little of both. The shyness would include the person feeling self-conscious and perhaps stressed about being asked to talk in a larger group; the introversion would be the person feeling comfortable just listening and learning by taking everything in.

So, professors and work managers take heed ​— avoid presumptions of why some people are quieter than others.

Check out a selfie-video by Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Claire in Jurassic Park films. She said, “I’m an introvert, and what I do is when I go to parties — I arrive as late as possible and leave as early as possible even though I do have a great time.”

If you’ve ever seen Howard being interviewed on talk shows, though, she tells great stories and is engaging. Naturally, one may get confused and label her as an extrovert. In other words, introverts can, at times, be a “site-specific extrovert,” yet spend most of their time not being around a lot of people.

For another look at a wacky comedians, whom you might not think you could catch being quiet and reserved, Jim Carrey’s short, “I Needed Colors.” We get an amazing glimpse of how much Carrey loves to paint by himself for long periods of time. Perhaps this is his recharge time.

So, know this: Unless we really know a person, most of us will equate shyness with being introverted, and being outgoing with being extroverted. It’s common.

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