Extroverts vs introverts

Our lives are shaped as much by our personalities as they are by our genders, ethnic origin and other demographic factors. Introversion and extroversion are the north and the south of temperaments. According to studies, one third to a half of all people are introverts, which is pretty amazing considering how few people would admit to being one. There’s a pretty good chance that you’re either married to or a parent of or a sibling of an introvert.

An extroversion bias

Yet the world seems overcome by its preference for extroversion. We are told that – to be great, we must be outspoken. And that – to be happy, we must be sociable. Extroverts are perceived as positive and energetic. Introverts, in contrast, are often berated for ‘being in their heads too much’ and perceived as slow, dimwitted or boring. Introversion at times is even considered a problem in need of fixing. Parents constantly apologize for their child’s shyness. Why? When was the last time you saw a report card which praised a child for her thoughtful demeanor? Why are we always trying to pull people out of their shells? Let’s face it. Our schools and workplaces are designed for extroverts. Why is everyone being subjected to the oppression of the extrovert ideal? Why can’t we let people be who they are?

The difference between extroverts and introverts

How is an extrovert different from an introvert? According to Susan Cain, author of ‘The power of introverts’ ( target=”_blank”>TED video), the difference lies in the need for external stimulus. Extroverts actively seek stimulus, while introverts do not enjoy over-stimulation. This difference reflects in how they go about work and social interactions. Extroverts typically seek to dominate, are good at multitasking and require constant social interaction. They tend to think out loud and prefer to talk than listen. Extroverts are energized by socializing. Introverts in contrast tend to be slow and deliberate. They usually have great powers of concentration and prefer to work on one task at a time. Although they might enjoy social interactions, they tend to wish that they were at home reading a book. They prefer to hang out with a small group of close friends, prefer to listen than speak. They typically avoid conflicts, but enjoy deep discussions with with trusted friends. Introverts are energized when they are alone or in small groups.

Introversion not the same as shyness

Contrary to perception, introversion is not the same as shyness. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval while introversion is the aversion to over-stimulation. The two get easily mixed up because they  often overlap. Often, shy people tend to turn inwards and away from the world and become introverted. And at times, introverted people tend to become shy, because they are worried that the world may view their self-reflection unfavorably. There are shy extroverts who may be afraid to speak up in meetings, and there are calm introverts who prefer to maintain silence in an overstimulated environment. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert. We humans are complex hybrids and tend to lie at different points on the spectrum. All we have to do is to look around to find an amazing and mind boggling array of human temperaments around us.

In praise of introverts

We all love extroverts. They are the souls of parties. They entertain us and laugh at our jokes. But let’s not forget the introvert in the din. There is something to be said for introversion –  a way that values introspection over quick judgement and calmness over frenzied speculation. One of the world’s most famous extroverts was Steve Jobs, a man who loved the stage and the adulation it brought to him. Let’s not forget that Jobs did not invent the Apple computer. It was Steve Wozniak, an introvert who toiled all by himself in a cubicle at Hewlett Packard, working outside office hours to make it happen. It was the extrovert Steve who came up and said, “Hey, this looks cool. Let’s go sell it.” The two combined to change our world in ways they never anticipated when they started out.

The world needs both, for they are its yin and yang. And harmony requires balance. So here’s to the introverts, the square pegs in the round holes of today’s society. May (y)our tribe prosper.

12 Replies to “Extroverts vs introverts”

  1. Very nicely put. i am an introvert and prefer to be that way.Outspokenness most of the times gets one into trouble.

  2. Very nicely put. i am an introvert and prefer to be that way.Outspokenness most of the times gets one into trouble.

  3. On this lighter topic… Thanks! My son (14) fits the introvert mold very well, and I the parent fit the role of pushing him to the other side ! I let him read it – and he said to me smiling “there are some good pointers for you there!”.
    I keep telling him that I know it does not come easy, but unfortunately the world is very setup to make extroverts succeed and he will have to compete in that world. You have to be able to self advocate and socialize when needed. Skills to learn (not necessarily enjoy).

  4. On this lighter topic… Thanks! My son (14) fits the introvert mold very well, and I the parent fit the role of pushing him to the other side ! I let him read it – and he said to me smiling “there are some good pointers for you there!”.
    I keep telling him that I know it does not come easy, but unfortunately the world is very setup to make extroverts succeed and he will have to compete in that world. You have to be able to self advocate and socialize when needed. Skills to learn (not necessarily enjoy).

  5. You’re welcome 🙂 My older daughter fits the introvert mold as well. It makes sense what you say. That you have to be worldly wise and navigate your way through and around it at times. And that you don’t get to do things you enjoy all the time. But it’s also worth considering one’s nature honestly before picking a line of work. Also it’s possible that with experience and exposure, we move along the spectrum (in either direction) over time. And when that happens, it’s best if it happens naturally and at its own pace. The cliched ‘be yourself’ advice is a valuable one too.

  6. You’re welcome 🙂 My older daughter fits the introvert mold as well. It makes sense what you say. That you have to be worldly wise and navigate your way through and around it at times. And that you don’t get to do things you enjoy all the time. But it’s also worth considering one’s nature honestly before picking a line of work. Also it’s possible that with experience and exposure, we move along the spectrum (in either direction) over time. And when that happens, it’s best if it happens naturally and at its own pace. The cliched ‘be yourself’ advice is a valuable one too.

  7. Nice article, very well brings out the true nature of introverts and extroverts. My question:

    Excluding those accidental, arranged and planned marriages where they don’t generally get to know each other very well before marriage – would an extrovert willingly agree to marry an introvert and vice-versa, knowingly with full knowledge of the other person and be Happy?

  8. Nice article, very well brings out the true nature of introverts and extroverts. My question:

    Excluding those accidental, arranged and planned marriages where they don’t generally get to know each other very well before marriage – would an extrovert willingly agree to marry an introvert and vice-versa, knowingly with full knowledge of the other person and be Happy?

  9. I honestly wouldn’t be able to generalize on how this works in a marriage situation. There are some famous examples of extro & intro verts having happy marriages (like Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward). Guess there are other factors (like mutual interests and value systems) that also come in beyond persona types?

  10. I honestly wouldn’t be able to generalize on how this works in a marriage situation. There are some famous examples of extro & intro verts having happy marriages (like Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward). Guess there are other factors (like mutual interests and value systems) that also come in beyond persona types?

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