The issue of introversion vs. extroversion is perhaps the most famous of personality divides. This may be because it is the most significant in terms of our behavior, and therefore, it is one of the easiest personality traits to identify. According to Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Never Stops Talking,” nobody is entirely introverted or entirely extroverted; most people fall somewhere in between. In addition, even if somebody leans more toward the extroverted side of the personality spectrum, extroversion is not the only way to describe his personality. Cain says that introversion and extroversion mainly connote different ways of recharging: introverts need time alone to feel healthy and happy, and extroverts need time with other people to feel the same way. These personality types need each other, but in a culture in which extroversion is valued more, introverts often feel misunderstood, defensive, even insulted by others who do not understand their social behavior.
1. Was it an Insult?
As an introverted person, you may feel upset when people tell you to speak up or push you to come to a party, because you have to explain yourself so often. However, insults often have to do with intent, so before you react defensively, determine whether the extrovert actually meant to insult you. Seven common misconceptions about introverts were described in an article by Sophia Dembling, author of “The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World,” cited on “Psychology Today.” The extrovert may think that you need “help” in social situations, or that you feel uncomfortable, when actually, you are just having fun in your own way. Unless this person is truly being aggressive and rude, try not to get defensive.
2. Check Your Misconceptions
Harmful misconceptions about extroverts also exist, as Dembling points out. For example, it is a misconception that extroverts are all talk and no substance; that they are less creative than their introverted counterparts; and, that they are bullies who don’t listen to people. But even though you may know someone who is a rude, unsophisticated extrovert, such personality traits have nothing to do with extroversion itself. Plenty of creative extroverts exist; these extroverts love to hear other people’s stories. Many extroverts have meaningful things to say. So, before you draw a line between yourself and this person, check your assumptions about her.
3. Explain Yourself
The best way to help other people understand what you need is to tell them. People cannot read your mind, and an extroverted person will appreciate it if you are straightforward about what you want. Chances are that this person wants to be your friend, and he feels hurt or concerned that you are not engaging in social activities the way he would choose to engage in them. This is your chance to let him know that you are fun, but your way of having fun is different from his. Tell the extrovert that you enjoy spending time with your friends, but that you also need to energize yourself by spending time alone. Let him know that when you are sitting alone you are not judging other people -- you are just a quiet person. Educating the extrovert about your introverted qualities can help to understand each other and prevent further misunderstandings.
4. Stay True to Your Personality
If the extrovert still does not understand where you are coming from, and continues to push you to be more socially active and talkative, then you are probably not going to be friends. Do not let other people make you feel like you are not cool just because you do not always enjoy big crowds, loud music, or adrenaline-pumping activities. Too often, we get the message from TV shows and popular music that to be interesting and fun, you need to be extroverted, or there is something wrong with you. However, the truth is, there’s nothing wrong with you: you are just an introvert, and trying too hard to be just like your extroverted friends will only make you miserable. So ditch the person who refuses to understand you and find like-minded people who enjoy hanging out in small groups for quiet activities. You will be happy you did.
- Susan Cain: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking
- Sophia Dembling: The Introvert's Corner; Hurtful Misconceptions Across the Introvert-Extrovert Divide
- Sophia Dembling: The Introvert's Corner; Seven Things Extroverts Should Know About Introverts (and Vice Versa)
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