I was at a workshop recently, and the topic of introverts and extroverts emerged. I commented about my own introverted nature, and was met by surprise. Apparently I didn’t fit the image of an introvert that my new friends had in their minds.

Plenty of people in the United States are introverts. The figures vary, but currently it’s generally accepted that about half of the US population are introverted.

The term introvert was first introduced by Carl Jung. And interestingly, the notion of introversion and extroversion is not a matter of being completely one or the other. Personality types, like introversion and extroversion, are on a continuum, and all people have a mixture of both in their personalities.

In this article,  I use the term “introvert” to describe someone who interacts with the world mostly in an introverted fashion, rather  than an extroverted one, and vice versa for extroverts.

The definition of what extroversion and introversion mean is based upon on how an individual sees and reacts to events, objects, or people. Introverts spend a great deal of time monitoring how things impact their inner world. An outside event (or person or object) is described and examined in regards to how it affects them and their history, thoughts, emotions, and feelings. For example, if an introvert is watching kids play, they may be reminded of themselves when  they were little, imagining how care free they felt. An extrovert might comment on how crazy kids dress these days.

In a similar way, introverts gain energy by focusing inward. After spending time around a group of people, introverts feel tired and depleted. It takes effort for them to socialize, and in order to feel more energized they may pull away from the outside world and spend time by themselves. Extroverts find spending time with groups of people or activities to be energizing, and solitude is taxing.

Many people, both extroverts and introverts, carry misconceptions about what it means to be an introvert. Here are four commonly held beliefs that are not accurate.

  1. Introverts are quiet. Some are, and some aren’t. When an introvert is speaking about something, it often has to do with how it relates to themselves. In the scenario about watching children at play, an introvert might comment out loud and to another person about how their own childhood was carefree.  On the same note, an extrovert may simply think to himself about the strange attire the kids at the park are wearing, and not say anything to the person they are with.
  2. Introverts are shy. Shyness is not about being an introvert or an extrovert. It’s about anxiety. Both introverts and extroverts have the ability to be shy in different circumstances.
  3. Introverts are loners. Introverts enjoy friendships just as much as anyone. But unlike extroverts, who tend to have a wide variety of casual friends, introverts generally have fewer friends, but those friends are quite close.
  4. Introverts have poor social skills. Some introverts have a distaste for small talk; others are fine engaging in it for a bit, but then tend to become introspective.

For the most part, personality traits like introversion and extroversion are stable over a person’s lifetime. People are able to adapt to their environment, and introverts can succeed at many different professions as long as they attend to their needs for replenishing their inner energy.

Understanding where your personality lies on the introvert/extrovert spectrum can be helpful in identifying ways to manage stress and improve relationships. It can also be a fascinating study of how you interact with the world.



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