Extrovert or Introvert?

26 Feb

Most of my readers will say, “An extrovert is loud and talktive, and an introvert is quiet and reserved,” and they will be right to some extent. However, you may want to understand a little more about each of these aspects of personality type.

First of all, it may interest you to know that both terms come to us from the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator via the work of C.G. Jung, the eminent Swiss psychologist of the early 20th century. Jung called this aspect of personality type a person’s “attitude toward the world.” More practically, the Extrovert-Introvert category tells us where a person’s psychological energy comes from.

Thus an Extrovert gets his or her energy from everything outside himself — things, events, other people. In the office or at home, being with another person usually sparks an Extrovert’s energy to speak up and have a lively interchange. Extroverts like to talk and often talk as a way of processing their thoughts and feelings. When you listen to an Extrovert talking about some project s/he has in mind, do not automatically conclude that the Extrovert will do exactly as s/he has suggested. This is just the Extrovert’s way of running ideas past others. Extroverts like to talk and generally do well at attracting an audience. In the United States, Extroverts make up 75% of the population.

Introverts, on the other hand, get their energy from their own internal world — ideas, feelings, “hunches,” and self-reflection. When one asks an Introvert a question, there is a characteristic pause for reflection before one hears a reply.  Because Introverts get their energy from inside themselves, they are usually more independently minded than Extroverts.  They are commonly thought of as “shy,” but in fact the better term would be to say that they are reflective.

There are all degrees of Extroversion and Introversion. Some individuals highly prefer one attitude over the other. Then again, others have only a slight preference for E or I and can easily be extroverted in one situation and introverted in another.

To illustrate the two preferences using a real-life situation, I share the vignette of an Introvert and an Extrovert being invited to a party. Let’s say they are partners or even married to each other. As their therapist, I suggest that they go in separate cars, because this is the way it plays out. The party may begin at 8 PM. As each arrives he or she greets the hostess and begins to settle in. The Introvert usually finds a small group of one to three other persons and enjoys sharing within this group. An extreme Introvert may find him/herself spending the evening with just one other person.

However, as 10 o’clock approaches, the Introvert finds him/herself being drained of energy. At a pre-arranged signal, the Introvert lets the Extrovert know that s/he is going home and thanks the hostess. Once at home, the Introvert puts his/her feet up and reflects on the events of the day. Soon she finds herself happily relaxing and falling off to sleep.

Meanwhile the Extrovert is continuing to enjoy him/herself and is gathering an ever larger audience, sharing anecdotes from his life and “war stories.” After the Introvert has left, he continues entertaining his audience to his own delight as well. In fact, he finds that his energy is continuing to increase. However, before he knows it, the clock is striking midnight and people are beginning to drift off. Finally he realizes that the party is winding down, thanks the hostess and drives home. However, he is ever ready to talk some more with his partner, whom he is surprised to find sound asleep!

Which portrait fits you better  — the more popular Extrovert who claims 75% of the U.S. population — or the more reflective Introvert, who represents a mere 25% of American citizens?

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