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If you’ve been on social media lately, chances are you’ve noticed more and more mention of the topic of introverts and extroverts.
Why all of this increased focus on personality types (and especially about the topic of introversion)? Well, my guess is that some of this interest might have started, at least in part, when Susan Cain published her bestselling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.
This book was a big deal for a lot of introverts because it helped us to understand ourselves better and to realize that we’re not actually crazy and that it’s ok to be a quieter, more reserved person in a culture that usually tends to value being gregarious and outgoing. (And, yes, I definitely fall into the introvert category myself!)
What’s the Difference Between Introverts and Extroverts?
First of all, there are a lot of stereotypes about both introverts and extroverts, so the ideas that we associate with those terms might not actually fit the real definition of those two personality types. In general, introverts tend to have a more negative stereotype since being extroverted has become the ideal personality for much of modern North American culture. Stereotypes exist for extroverts, too, though.
It would be impossible to cover the difference between these two personality types in one blog post, but I’ll try to summarize a few of the basic differences. For an in-depth description of the ways that extroverts and introverts relate to the world in different ways, I would definitely recommend reading Quiet. I think that book is a great read for both introverts and extroverts because even though the book is focused on introverts, even those who are extroverts most likely have several friends and family members who are introverts.
I really liked this quote from the book based on Carl Jung’s research as a good summary of the differences between the two types:
“Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.” ~ Pg. 10
There’s no one-size-fits-all definition for introverts or extroverts, and everybody falls at the different point along the introvert-extrovert scale, but, in general, these are a few of the characteristics that tend to be the most common for each type:
Introverts Usually Tend To . . .
- Feel tired after a busy day or after socializing (even if they really enjoyed those activities)
- Need quiet downtime in order to recharge their energy
- Prefer socializing one-on-one or in smaller groups
- Prefer less stimulation and are more easily overwhelmed by crowds and chaotic environments
- Think before speaking and often feel more comfortable expressing themselves through writing rather than speaking
- Observe first before jumping into action – “look before you leap”
- Prefer to focus on one thing at a time rather than multitasking
Extroverts Usually Tend To . . .
- Feel drained if they have too little social contact or too empty of a schedule
- Need to spend time with other people to recharge their energy
- Enjoy being in large groups of people – “The more the merrier”
- Enjoy a higher level of stimulation and feel energized by it
- Think out loud and work things through as they are speaking
- Are more likely to jump right into the action
- Are more likely to be involved in several different things at once and multitask
How Does Knowing Which Personality Type You Are Affect Your Health?
So, why does knowing whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert matter for your health? It matters because the more you are aware of the unique preferences and needs that go along with your personality type, the more you are able to meet those needs and support your health. Here are three ways that knowing your personality type can have an effect on your overall health.
1) You Can Understand Yourself Better
Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, if you have a better understanding of your unique personality traits you can learn to embrace the strengths that come along with your introversion or extroversion as well as find ways to manage the challenges that come along with your personality type.
2) You Can Meet Your Unique Needs for Socializing and Downtime
Knowing whether you are an introvert of an extrovert will allow you to support your health by helping you to find the best levels of social activity and stimulation for you.
If you’re an introvert, this might mean making sure you don’t over-schedule yourself with too many activities in the same day or the same week. It might mean allowing yourself to have a quiet night at home without feeling guilty about it or scheduling small breaks during the day when you can “recharge your batteries” if your energy is getting low.
If you’re an extrovert, it might mean making sure you schedule enough social events into your calendar so that you can go out of the house and be around people to recharge your energy. It might mean keeping busy and involved in enough activities so that you don’t start to feel bored and “stuck” with the same routine all the time.
3) You Can Improve Your Relationships with Others
If you are aware of the differences between introverts and extroverts, you can better understand your family members and friends and accept the things about them that are different from yourself.
If you’re an extrovert, you can improve your relationship with the introverts in your life by accepting their need for downtime and realizing that they will reach their optimal level of socialization and stimulation much earlier than you will. And if you’re an introvert, you can improve your relationship with extroverts by understanding that they will probably want to stay at a party much longer than you will and that having too many quiet evenings at home in a row will make them go stir crazy.
And rather than being upset or annoyed by the differences between you, you can work toward accepting those differences in each other and gain a better appreciation for the strengths that go along with those differences in personality. And since having strained or peaceful relationships with others can have an impact on your health, having a better understanding of the people in your life can ultimately effect your health for the better, too.
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The information in this post is not to be taken as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.