Extroversion and Introversion
Extroversion and introversion are very popular terms and are widely used in personality tests. People often regard themselves as being either an extrovert or an introvert. Below I have outlined what each type is as well as their strengths.
What is an extrovert?
Extroverts are interested in the external world. Their focus is on people and objects. They enjoy being with others and like group activities. As such, they like to be noticed. Extroverts find it difficult being alone and feel lonely if they are not with other people. Possessions and success are valued by an extrovert.
It is estimated that extroverts outrank introverts 3 to 1.
Research carried out by Twenge (2001) found that extroversion appeared to have become more prevalent in the US over the years. This may not mean that there are more extroverts out there – rather it could be that extroversion has become a more acceptable personality trait than it was decades ago.
What are the strengths of an extrovert?
Extroverts like to focus on concrete reality and as such are practical and have common sense. They make decisions easily and quickly take action. Extroverts are sociable, enthusiastic and eager to try new things. They can live in the present, without worrying about the future. Their desire for success means they relish achievements.
What is an introvert?
Introverts are concerned with their own thoughts and feelings. They are quieter than extroverts and prefer to be removed from the social world. As such they are happy being alone. Introverts do socialise but it will be with a few close friends rather than large groups of people. They will probably feel lonelier in a crowd than on their own. Introverts prefer to plan and analyse things and are careful in their decision making.
What are the strengths of an introvert?
Introverts are capable of introspection and self-knowledge. They value their own standards and principles and as such are independent minded. Other people are not needed for their entertainment or stimulation. Introverts are interested in what is going on underneath rather than being concerned with trivial matters. An introvert will be imaginative and intuitive.
Assumptions made about introverts
There is often a tendency to see introversion as a problem that needs to be corrected. This is not the case. Introversion is not about being shy, depressed or lacking confidence. It is not about having bad social skills either. They just do not need the external world as much as an extrovert for their happiness. Introverts are happy as they are and do not need to be taken out of themselves. Introverts may not give much away about themselves. It is therefore important to not make assumptions about what is going on for them or what they really want.
Remember, we are all unique and have our own set of characteristics. It is unlikely that a person is totally extrovert or totally introvert. In fact most people are probably ambiverts – sometimes concerned with their environment, sometimes with themselves. This idea is important as it can help you see that you are not all or nothing. It is also an idea to reflect on when you hear someone refer to themselves or another as extrovert or introvert.
Twenge, J. M. (2001) Birth cohort changes in extroversion: a cross-temporal meta-analysis, 1966-1993. Personality and Individual Differences, 30, 735-748
Copyright Julia Barnard 2007
Julia Barnard is a professional counselor living in Adelaide, Australia. She provides an online counselling service through her website http://www.makethechange.com.au . Julia also writes articles for the website aimed at enhancing well-being and promoting good mental health.