Introvert or Extrovert?

How Can I Spot an Extrovert/Introvert?

Perhaps the easiest spectrum of personality type to spot in a person is the extrovert/introvert dichotomy. When you hear either word, you probably already have an idea in your head about what it means and where you and your closest friends fall on the spectrum.

Extroversion and Introversion distinguishes between two methods of “energizing” a person. Simply said, Extroverts are re-charged by being around other people, and Introverts are recharged by being alone.

This is not to say that Introverts are necessarily shy or quiet; neither is it to say that extroverts are necessarily outgoing or talkative. Although, many times, these bits are glaringly true.

Allow me to illustrate with a totally real interaction between me (an Introvert, duh) and one of my best friends, Liz (an Extrovert)

Liz: Ugh! This week has been so stressful! I’ve been so busy and have just been so worried about things.

Me: Yeah, me too! This week was so rough!

Liz: I just want to go out, and dance, and hang out with my friends; just…

Me: Oh, really? God, I’m so tired, I don’t think I could do that, I just want to sit at home and…

Literally, at the same time, we both said: …relax!

Extroverts I know do some great thinking; I know this, because they do it all it out loud. In my opinion, a party really can’t get started until the Extroverts have arrived. Most Extroverts would rather hang out with anybody than nobody – even people they don’t particularly like! My friends and I could be talking about how much we can’t stand a particular person, and a couple minutes later, the Extrovert of the group has invited the person over for drinks! Of course, as a bona fide, 100% Angus beef Introvert, I can only understand the mental mechanics of an Extrovert on a theoretical level.

The INTP’s Thoroughly Devastating Analysis

It doesn’t take scientific research to understand that Introverts are the favorite students in the public school system. The structure of our traditional school system facilitates the ideas and accomplishments of introverts, while suppressing extroverts’ natural inclinations to think aloud and bounce ideas off of others. Fellow Introverts will remember how easy it was for us to just quiet down when the teacher asked, and how frustrating it was to watch your outgoing friends get another detention.  I flourished during independent work or reading time – ah, the sweet silence! As an intelligent and insightful student, I could be heard easily by raising my hand or writing an excellent paper. In school, I positively sang!

Yet, Extroverts are favored and privileged in the business world, dominating upper-management and executive positions. No need to wait to be called on in the business world, where the most important medium of communication is raw, unrestricted networking. Meetings are the perfect place for an intelligent extrovert to be heard. The fight for a speaking platform is brutal for someone like me; it’s King of the Mountain.

I experienced this phenomenon the hard way when I transitioned from full-time college student to full-time volunteer at City Year almost two years ago. This switch from the easy classroom favorite to the schmuck left behind was confusing and challenging for me. The proverbial tables had turned and I had to learn all new rules in order to be noticed. You can raise your hand in a meeting, but that action does little to stop others from taking the floor at will.

However, these disadvantages don’t have to cripple you! Be aware of your needs and don’t be afraid to let people know when you need the space to speak. Write everything down. Take one-on-one meetings with the key players in your workplace. Instead of starting your sentences with “Um,” start with “Listen.” Learn how to write a kick-ass e-mail.

A favorite blog of mine is Psychology Today’s Introvert’s Corner; Introverts and Extroverts alike will benefit from learning more about working with each other.

Introverted personalities do have their natural upsides. As an Introvert, you are much more likely to “think before you speak,” which is an invisible, yet invaluable gift. Your thoughts are more carefully constructed and considered before you barf them all over the table before you share them. People are more likely to perceive you as a trusted listener (maybe you that’s true, but maybe you are just collecting all the information you can to come up with a better plan – just kidding!). And, of course, you are not a slave to others! If you find yourself alone for a few hours, you’re good! You’re cruisin’. You can enjoy that time to yourself or squeeze in some much-needed quiet work time. In fact, as I type this now, I’m enjoying my first solitary hour all day – look how productive that was!

What are your experiences as an Extrovert or Introvert? Let me know in the comments!

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7 thoughts on “Introvert or Extrovert?

  1. As an Extrovert I’m always ready to share my opinions on the problem at hand or to listen to the first words that are spoken after I share a scenario. I don’t often stop to let the Introverts process what’s happening (at great cost to a problem-solving process.) Recently I’ve been making attempts to advocate for the people in the room who aren’t sharing and while I feel like I’m ‘doing the right thing’ I never know if this is helpful or if it’s just patronizing. What are your thoughts?

    • That’s a good question, Roms. I think it can go both ways. I think it’s important for facilitators of meetings to notice when their introverts need space, and use that moment to ask for their thoughts. There’s a right and wrong way to do anything.

      • This is really interesting Krista….but I can’t help but wonder where I fall. I’ve been reading your blog and each time I get a little bit more confused. I love to be by myself and sometimes get angry if someone wants to interrupt my “alone time,” but I never have a problem speaking my mind. What are your thoughts?

  2. Ange! I think you are an Extrovert. Everyone needs some alone time once in a while but it’s easy to see how energized you get by interacting with people. When a new person walks into the room, you’re all “HI! HI!! Let’s play a GAME!” You’re a natural hostess and entertainer. You can chat about anything that’s on your mind and you like knowing what other people are thinking and feeling. You connect people – you’re never afraid to mix social circles! Maybe this is just because I am AWESOME to hang out with, but I don’t think you’ve ever turned down an invitation to hang out 🙂

  3. Hmm…. I’m not sure….Jeff and I were actually talking about his yesterday and we both feel that I am more introverted but I seem to have some extroverted traits. I think that I never say no to you because I don’t get to see you as much as I would like and will always jump at the chance to hang out with one of my beloveds. Mostly though, I prefer to be home alone and have been known to no more than yes to social interactions. I guess I am just a half breed. Ha!!

  4. Back in high school, as I refer to ask “The Dark Ages,” I was trying to pass as an extrovert without even realizing it. My second year, every problem I had was much worse and I had to start individual tutoring. After losing touch with all my acquaintances, I realized only then that I had been trying to pass for something I wasn’t. My problems decreased greatly and I was happier. Six years later, I’m down to one old friend (plus another, but he’s away in the navy), but am seriously considering dropping him. His brain shuts down every time I try to explain to him that we are too different for his ‘advice’ (unwanted advice, I should mention) to be of any use to me. We’ve been friends forever, but I’m getting tired of his unwillingness to even ATTEMPT at trying to understand. Should I just let this friendship die naturally, or should I just kill it and get it over with? I prefer to avoid drama at all costs, and ending the friendship (“killing it”) has a high potential for creating drama. At this point, I’m no longer sure if I’m willing to work out our differences.

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