It’s an Introvert World
I know what you’re thinking – “How is that possible?! Most classic studies suggest that approximately 75% of the American population are extroverts.” But, upwards of 50% of the population is now considered introverted. In my undergrad Personality of Psychology class, we had to take the Myers-Briggs. Out of about 25 of us, there was one extrovert in the class. One.
Even being out and about is different. As an extrovert, I make lots of eye contact, I smile at everybody, and I will probably try talk to you if we’re both checking out the Haagen-Dasz selection at Giant or you’re on the bike next to me at Valhalla. But nine times out of ten, none of these gestures are reciprocated. More often I see people on their phones, or with their earbuds in, less inclined to have real interactions with others. What used to provide me with small pings of much-needed energy now leaves me with few opportunities for the interactions I need as an extrovert… and then I feel restless.*
So, be advised, fellow extroverts – I think we’re about to be living in an introvert world.
Which is totally cool with me. But what exactly would that mean?
As you scroll through social media like Tumblr or Pinterest, you’ll probably see a ton of introvert articles, comics, memes, and other posts explaining introversion. Us extroverts seem to get A LOT of education on how to treat our introvert friends. But do they understand how we operate and what we need? Just as introverts are stereotyped as shy or antisocial, extroverts face some pretty harsh judgements, too.
Debunking the Extrovert Myths
Myth 1: Extroverts can’t ever be alone. They are so needy!
This explains it perfectly: Introvert + People = energy loss, Extrovert + People = energy gain
Extroverts are stimulated by their environments. The more activity going on around us, the more in our element we become. But don’t be mistaken – just like any other human being, alone time is necessary for the extrovert, too. Because we gather almost all of our data from the environment, our brains can get overwhelmed with too much input. That being said, extroverts love to be around people and the hustle-and-bustle, but we do have our limits. It’s not necessarily that we can’t be left alone, it’s just how it makes us feel: de-energized. We also need alone time less often than introverts. Most extroverts tend to go about the ‘alone time’ completely different than an introvert would – I, for example, will sit at Barnes & Noble by myself in the corner, with headphones, on a weekend when there’s about half of Berks County’s businesspeople drinking Starbucks, having meetings next to me. That’s alone time for most extroverts – by ourselves, yet in the vicinity of others.
Myth 2: Extroverts are so bossy!
What can I say – we love to take charge. But sometimes our natural leadership skills can come off as excessive. Extroverts can be intimidating – combine the friendliness, spontaneity, and powerful personality with giving others direction and you have a recipe for overwhelming introverts (and sometimes other extroverts!).
When people get used to extroverts being friendly, outgoing, and always wanting to be around people, any disruption in that routine is going to raise questions. This is a common one extroverts get from introverts. But just like anything else, we are still people, and sometimes people get sad. Extroverts, of course, will need to be soothed differently than an introvert – let us talk and take us out! – but we are still sad nonetheless. Oftentimes, because the introvert views the extrovert as socially savvy, we appear confident (maybe even cocky) at all times. I assure you, any extrovert you ask will tell you they have moments of shyness, self-doubt, and feelings of inferiority. And that can include feeling sad.
Myth 4: Oh, you’re an extrovert? You must be shallow and unintelligent. Are you even capable of introspection?
Even though extroverts are stereotyped as not being deep thinkers, this isn’t the case. Since we thrive off being around people, talking your ear off about our dilemma(s) gets us to our solution. Reflecting in quiet isolation just isn’t our thing. So we talk as we think and we get to our solution. The processing is drastically different than what you would experience as an introvert, but we are still processing. Different route, same destination!
Plus, let’s face it – how weird would it be if I came up to you and started talking deep, existential crises? Extroverts love conversations and we do like a stimulating conversation, it’s just not always appropriate. Most often, people do seem to prefer talking about the Phillies or the weather. And you can bet an extrovert won’t turn down interaction, even if it isn’t deep. Our emotional health depends on stimulation by our environments – we are in no position to decline your offer of conversation. But if you think we are shallow, please challenge us – it would be a welcomed change from our usual interactions.
Myth 5: Extroverts are not good listeners – they only care about themselves.
Because most extroverts are conversationalists, it’s easy to see how an introvert would feel that we monopolize conversations or take awhile to tune in. However, extroverts just tend to take a different approach to interactions. It’s usually fairly easy for an extrovert to make someone feel comfortable conversing with them. And yeah, as people, we usually talk about ourselves to some extent during initial contact with someone new which is probably why we get the self-absorbed reputation since we talk so much 😉
Extroverts LOVE to interact with you and can really tune-in to what you’re saying. Since we draw our energy from you, of course we’re into what you’re talking about and doing! By nature, we really really really want to get to know you. Expect lots of clarifying questions – sometimes extroverts can sound like therapists – “So what you’re saying is…” We are genuinely interested in being around you – we need you to keep our energy up, after all!
Makes sense. Now what?
Most of the myth debunkers integrated some suggestions for you, but I found some snazzy little graphics on Pinterest to keep it simple:
Another suggestion – To care for your extroverted other, keep in mind they’ll need face time. Texting, writing, calling, that will suffice for awhile, but extroverts need to see you in person – this is how we make connections and read your body language (which is a big deal to extroverts). We need to sort out things verbally and have your judgement-free attention while we do it – sometimes silly things come out of our mouths, but thoughts lead to other thoughts and eventually we get a conclusion.
There’s a lot less of us than it seems. There’s tons of people who probably fall into the mid-range of the spectrum – “I like people in medium-sized doses.” It’s also important to keep in mind that the extroversion/introversion scale is just one way to measure personalities. There are TONS of other factors that make up each one of our personalities, so what might work for one extrovert/introvert/in-the-middle isn’t going to work with us all.
The frustration that introverts feel with extroverts (and vice versa) lies in misunderstanding – The extrovert doesn’t feel the introvert gets them, and the introvert doesn’t feel the extrovert gets them. To have a healthy relationship with the opposite personality type, both parties will have to change how they communicate and learn to respect and be sensitive to each other’s differences. I know – this is Relationship 101. But it’s so important!
*Oh, and by the way – As I searched “extrovert” to find that stat up there, the searches suggested to me the following: “Extroverts are annoying” “Why are extroverts so friggin needy” “Extroverts are yappy dogs with shallow brains.” *eye roll and slow exhale* Not only are those fleeting statements, but they’re pretty hurtful.