Introversion and Extraversion – The Difference Between Us

Hi everyone,

I talk a lot about introversion and extraversion but I’m thinking it’s important to identify the differences between the two. I should also say, that in order to put my point across I sometimes speak in very general terms and refer to the extremes of introverted and extraverted behaviours in order to demonstrate the differences between the two. Those statements are sometimes ‘for demonstration purposes only’. I fully understand and acknowledge that people are not just an introvert or an extravert and that the different elements of our personalities, such as personality type (your balance of energies changes at different times), learned behaviours, life experience, levels of confidence and self esteem, personal tastes and preferences make us all unique individuals. If something I say resonates but you think “I don’t do it to that extent” it might just be that I’m using a more extreme example of a behaviour to put my point across.

A more introverted person is:                            

Energised by their inner world
Thinks and may act
Values a depth of experience
Thinks to speak

A more extraverted person is:

Energised by the outer world
Acts first, thinks later
Values a breadth of experience
Speaks to think

The attitudes of introversion and extraversion are about where you get your energy from. Someone with a preference towards introversion will wake up in the morning, with their energy level intact. You might still be quiet as you’re a more introverted person but you won’t need to see or speak to anyone to build your energy through them. You’ll be happy to be alone if you are. You will have the energy you need for the day, but this will be ‘taken’ from you through your interactions with people during the day. That’s why introverts can sometimes seem to be closed off, they don’t want to give you their energy! By the end of the day an introvert is likely to feel depleted of energy and so will look to be quiet and possibly alone in order to recharge their batteries.

A more extraverted person wakes up in the morning with much less energy and will build it from their interactions with others. That’s why extroverts can seem very friendly and chatty early on, they are building their energy levels for the day. By the end of the day, an extrovert will feel energised and so is more likely to look to socialise or play a team sport of an evening, for instance. They have energy to burn at that point.  That’s not a problem unless, in a relationship, your energy levels are at different places at different times and you get frustrated with each other when your ‘want to play’ and ‘want to rest’ times are at different ends of the day.  The key to that is good communication and stating your needs, which is part of my ‘Strength of Introversion’ presentation and probably the subject of a future blog.

In my last blog, I talked about confident introverts and shy extraverts.  Generally, we make an association that introverts tend to be shy and extraverts tend to be more confident and of course they can be but actually for me, the two things are different. I’m not shy (I think of myself as a confident introvert) but if I’m reluctant to go and introduce myself and talk to a large group of people that’s probably because I’m feeling low on energy or because I know that doing that will take a lot of my energy and I don’t want to give it away. I’m very selfish with my energy sometimes!

You can be an extraverted person who needs interactions with others to help build your energy level but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you feel confident to go up to complete strangers and tell them all about yourself.  That can create difficulties for a more extraverted person if they are in a setting where they don’t know the other people there.  I’m thinking of a training day perhaps, a networking event or a new evening class.  More extraverted people build their energy from interactions with others but if they’re shy they’ll need to use a huge amount of their energy to break the ice and get to know people.  So shy extraverts can find that stuff difficult too, it’s not just those of us that are more introverted.  And if generally you’re perceived to be a more extraverted person, other people will not understand why you find that difficult.

I worked with someone years ago who was going for a job interview and was really nervous about it.  But because she was perceived to be very extravert and confident everyone kept saying “you’ll be fine!” and so wouldn’t give her the space to feel nervous and to talk about that.  They perceived her to be super confident and capable, so thought how on earth could she be nervous or worried?  She’d fly through it!  She felt frustrated that no one was letting her talk about her anxiety about the interview or to express those ‘what if…’ questions that we all have.  Even the most extraverted people can feel worried about things.  They’re not made of wood!  We all have a comfort zone and can feel scared and fearful of being outside it.

So if you see someone who seems very confident, don’t assume they’re an extravert.  They may need time to sit quietly and re-charge their batteries.  Equally if someone seems shy, they might still like to come out for a drink with you later.  It just might take them a little bit longer to feel comfortable in the group.  I find it strange when people feel the need to tell me I’m not an introvert.  Why does it matter?  I think it’s because it contradicts who they think I am, a confident outgoing person.  Which I can be, just not all the time ?

Have a fab weekend.

Best wishes, Karen