Introverts: we know you don’t mean to attack us. But you’ve been writing a lot lately about your stereotypes. It’s only fair that you hear the other side.
First, let’s clarify the difference between Extraversion and Introversion.
The terms are used in the Myers-Briggs® instrument to describe energy source. There are 2 ways of getting and using energy: Extraversion (E) and Introversion (I). People who prefer Extraversion focus on the outside world to get energy through interacting with people and/or doing things. People who prefer Introversion focus on the inner world to get energy through reflecting on information, ideas, experiences, and/or concepts.
Carl Jung, who originally coined the terms Extraversion and Introversion, regarded them as “mutually complementary” attitudes necessary for psychological adaptation. We all must “Extravert” in order to interact with people and the physical world. By virtue of their interaction with the external world, people who prefer Extraversion tend to be aware of and in tune with a broad scope of external information. In contrast, Introversion, by definition, cannot be shared directly; rather, it is fueled by contemplation.
Sometimes I’m Introverted, and sometimes I’m Extraverted
In fact, all of us fall somewhere on the spectrum between E and I – and all of us use both in our everyday lives. All of us also have a preference for either E or I. Note that no instrument can explain all human complexity. The purpose of the MBTI® is to identify which of the 2 categories (E and I, in this case) is preferred, and to facilitate a discussion between the interpreter and respondent.
Which is better?
Neither. We all have our strengths and limitations. Western culture tends to take a more Extraverted orientation to life, resulting in what some consider a negative bias toward Introversion. This has been changing in recent years due to the publication of such books as Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”, as well as growing interest in mindfulness and meditation (2 forms of “Introverted” activity).
Introverts: you may be surprised to learn that life is just as difficult for us as it is for you. We know that just as much as you confuse and annoy us, we confuse and annoy you. But before you judge us, hear us out.
8 Extraverted Misconceptions and Praises
- “Shut up and listen!” We don’t mean to interrupt or to be inconsiderate. We know you aren’t mind- readers, and thus we externally articulate our thoughts (and appreciate when you do too). Our enthusiasm, however, may get the better of us, causing us to talk over you. Similarly, some of us are uncomfortable with silence and fill it with random, perhaps unnecessary subjects. This is usually a misguided attempt to prevent awkwardness.
- “Mind your own business!” If we come across as nosy, we’re most likely just trying to connect with you. We get a spike in energy from being around others–but that can come in many different forms – including observing instead of talking. Many of us have learned over the years that our intensity and enthusiasm can wear on others after too long. Thus, you may see us floating from group to group. It’s not necessarily because we’re “flighty”, but because we don’t want to burn any one person’s tolerance.
- “Can’t you just relax by yourself?” Just as too much external stimuli drain you, too much inside or alone time drains us. We may prefer being with others- not because we’re more sociable per se, but because we are more sensitive to the rewards obtained from socializing. In short, our brains are wired differently.
- “You’re happier than we are.” It may be hard to fathom an Extravert being depressed. However, as confident as we may seem, we get the blues too. We may show our happiness (or displeasure) more than you. Different things probably make us happy. But this is a far cry from actually being happy.
- “You’re SO shallow!” We’re just as intellectually curious as you. We tend to process our curiosity differently than you and therefore may reveal more than you do. We also have lots going on beneath the surface.
- “You’re talking my ear off!” Anybody can monopolize a conversation. Having great social skills is also about encouraging others to participate in a conversation and actively listening to what they have to say. Let’s face it: some of us (and some of you) are boring, rude, or self-centered.
- “You just want to convert us.” Hey Introverts: if we’re talking to you, it’s because a.) We like you, b.) We want to get to know you, or c.) We don’t want you to be left out of the conversation. We may inadvertently share too much with (or even about) you. But that’s probably because we’re in awe of you.
And finally, perhaps the biggest misconception of all:
8. You’re EITHER an Extravert OR an Introvert. Rarely does anyone fall completely on one end or the other. All of us use both Extraversion AND Introversion in various aspects of our lives. However, we all have a preference for one or the other.
Whether you identify as an Extravert, Introvert, or “Ambivert”, don’t let a personality test define you. Figuring out what works best for you is more helpful than any “test.”