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Introverts  and extroverts

You may think you know the differences between introverts and extroverts. Introverts are quiet and reserved, whilst extroverts and louder and more confident, right? The truth is, these stereotypes don’t even nearly begin to cover the full depth of differences between introverts and extroverts. Some of these differences are subtle, and some are more obvious. Understanding the key differences between these two personality types can help you to better understand yourself, your loved ones, your friends and even your work colleagues.

First of all, it’s important to understand that like any personality traits, not all ‘typical’ traits apply to every extrovert or every introvert all of the time. Whilst there are many common traits for each personality type, we are all generally a little bit of a mix of both types, think of it as a continuum with introvert on one end and extrovert on the other; we will all fall somewhere along the continuum – not on either end. This will also depend upon the situation, or how strongly introverted or extroverted each of us is. However, most of us tend to lean more strongly towards either introverted or extroverted (even if just slightly). Ambiverts are people who display a very balanced amount of introversion and extroversion.

Introverts might appear to be quieter and more reserved in social gatherings, but then really come into their own when they’re passionate about something. You might even find an introvert as the leader of a sporting team, for example, and quite happy to shout out instructions and rally their team – whilst at a party, they could be very different. When it comes to personalities, nothing is black or white. 

One of the most crucial things to understand about introverts and extroverts is the way they recharge their batteries after expending energy. For introverts being in social situations or around large groups of people can be very tiring. You’ll often find that an introvert will withdraw and take some alone time after a gathering like this, or after talking to people all day at work. They will generally recharge by doing something that involves being alone and quiet, such as reading a book, taking a long bath, or even pottering around the house and doing some cleaning. The key thing to understand is that if an introvert is withdrawing, they’re not necessarily upset or being anti-social, they’re simply recharging their batteries.

On the other hand, an extrovert is recharged by being around people or an adventurous activity outdoors – often, both! If an extrovert has spent too much time alone (which can be draining for them), you’ll often find them getting their energy back by seeing friends or heading out for some activity.

A subtle but very important difference between introverts and extroverts are also in the way that they handle change and make decisions. Whilst extroverts generally make decisions quickly and confidently, introverts will often need a little more time to reflect and consider their options. Likewise, when it comes to change, extroverts tend to adapt quite quickly without experiencing distress, whereas introverts can take some time to get used to change. If you have an introverted child, for example, it can be important to break the news about change gently and give them plenty of time to get used to the idea before it happens. Understanding this particular difference between introverts and extroverts can save a lot of heartache and distress.

The way that introverts and extroverts open up to people is another key difference in their personalities. If you’re an extrovert, you might find yourself telling your life story to someone you’ve only just met, or entertaining a group of people at a party with a funny story. An introvert, on the other hand, is more likely to be found at the back of the room, engaged in a deeper, one-on-one discussion with someone they connect with in a more meaningful way. Introverts will often need a little time to get to know and trust someone before opening up to them, whereas extroverts are more comfortable sharing things about themselves to almost anyone. Whilst this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it can be very helpful in understanding why someone might appear ‘standoffish’, or why certain people you work with always seem to be the proverbial ‘life of the party’.

This also makes therapy quite a different experience for introverts and extroverts, and a good counsellor or psychologist will usually use a different approach for each, to allow their client to move at their own pace. In addition, group therapy would generally not be overly appealing to an introvert, whereas an extrovert might enjoy this approach. 

At work and at school, this particular difference between introverts and extroverts becomes most apparent. During work meetings or when discussing school projects, extroverts are more likely to share their ideas or lead in discussions. They’re generally more comfortable having their ideas debated in an open forum and working through solutions with the whole group. On the other hand, employers might perceive an introvert as being unwilling or unable to participate in discussions. They might even assume that these people in their teams aren’t interested or passionate about the subject at hand. However this is often a very incorrect assumption. Introverts will tend to wait until asked before sharing ideas, and usually prefer to have them fully fleshed-out in their own minds before opening up to a group. They might also prefer to discuss their ideas in person with one trusted colleague or their boss, rather than in a group setting. Knowing this can be very helpful in a work or study environment and help you to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to be heard and to contribute in a way that makes them comfortable.

This is another key difference between introverts and extroverts, as they have very different styles for communicating and listening. Extroverts tend to – on average – talk more than they listen, whereas introverts are generally the opposite. This does not mean that extroverts care less about what others have to say, but simply means they’re more comfortable expressing themselves verbally. Conversations between two introverts can progress much more slowly and quietly than those between two extroverts. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, understanding the other’s communication style can help you to communicate more effectively.

In our upcoming blog, we will be discussing different communication styles in more detail. Be sure to stay tuned for that, to discover how understanding the different styles can help in your relationships, your social situations and at work.  

We often see introverts who doubt themselves because they feel like they are living in an extrovert world!  Researchers estimate extroverts make up 50 – 74 percent of the population, whereas the other 16 – 50 percent of the population consists of introverts.  A fundamental key to feeling a strong sense of self-worth is to understand who you really are and to fully own that, and to stop trying to be like other people to ‘fit-in’!  In our Personal Empowerment Program we regularly work with Introverts who lack self-confidence and who are riddled with constant self-doubt. This is often because they feel like there is something wrong with them, when in fact they are comparing themselves to the extroverts in their life!  If this sounds like you, contact us to see how we can help you to improve your self-worth!

Michelle van Namen
Author: Michelle van Namen