What’s the difference between Introversion and Extroversion? Is it possible to change from one to the other? These are two questions that regularly come up in my Personality Dimensions workshops.
Extroversion and Introversion are two terms first coined by Carl Jung and are part of the foundation for personality theories. In my Personality Dimensions workshop, participants use a self-discovery tool to help them identify their preferred (dominant) Temperament Style, Temperament Blend (we are all plaid) and where they fall on the Introversion – Extroversion Spectrum. Identifying where you fall on the spectrum is an important aspect of the assessment because it can really affect how a person will project their Temperament Style and Temperament Blend. Three key differences between Extroverts and Introverts include where their focus is; how they choose to re energize; and their style of communication. There are others but these three are key.
Where is your focus?
An Extrovert’s focus is on the outside world. Their focus is upon other people, events, and situations happening outside of themselves. On the other hand, an Introvert’s focus originates from within, on their own feelings and thoughts about something.
How do you re-energize?
After a busy day of work, an Extrovert will more likely choose to re-energize by doing something that involves being around others. So on Friday night after a busy week, they’re more likely to be heading out to a busy restaurant that’s buzzing with energy and full of opportunities for social interaction. Contrast that with an Introvert who is more likely to choose some kind of solitary activity that provides them with peace and quiet to recharge their batteries. So on that same Friday night, they’re more likely to choose soaking in a warm bath followed by watching their favorite show on Netflix.
How do you communicate?
A third way the two differ is in communication styles. An Extrovert is quick to jump into a conversation and offer their opinion. They love the attention of being heard and are more likely to open up quickly to just about anyone. So at a staff meeting, they will be the first ones to speak up. Whereas an Introvert will take their time before speaking up. It’s not because they are shy or disinterested but because they need to process information and think about how they feel about something before sharing their opinion. So at the same staff meeting, they are more likely to appear reflective.
Each can be easily misunderstood and each can choose to make subtle differences in how they communicate to accommodate the other. So for example, at the office meeting the Extrovert can pause for a second and reflect giving the Introverts a chance to catch up. They could take the bold step and ask the Introverts in the room, “What do you think?” And for Introverts, on Friday night after that busy day of work, they could compromise by agreeing to venture out with their Extrovert companion to that busy restaurant but request a quiet table and take the lead initiating deep conversation over dinner.
In my experience as a Personality Dimensions Facilitator, very few people (if truly any) are at absolute ends of the spectrum. Most people fall somewhere in between with Extroverts becoming more reserved as they move closer to the middle and Introverts becoming more outgoing as they move closer to the middle. Ambiversion is where the two meet. Ambiverts are truly adaptable. They most likely have a preference for either Extroversion or Introversion but overtime they have adapted and come to the realization that there are many rewards to embracing the other side. Here’s a quick Ambiversion Assessment.
Here’s where my own story comes in. My preference is for Introversion and when I first completed an Introversion – Extroversion assessment many years ago, I assessed as a Reserved Introvert. My focus is definitely first on my own feelings and thoughts about something. I choose to re-energize usually by spending quiet time alone like taking a walk in the forest or along the beach and listening to the sounds of the forest or tide rolling in. And at the office meeting, I usually reflect first before responding so I don’t say something I’m embarrassed about later. All that said, I’ve made some big decisions over the last few years to adapt my ways so I can benefit from all the opportunities out there. I’ve come to realize that focusing all my attention within myself can get me into trouble by over analyzing things and falling into a trap of distorted thinking. I’m working on being more open minded, non-judgmental and shifting my focus to noticing what’s going on around me too instead of just within me and enjoying the increased awareness of others that goes along with that. I’m choosing to balance my solitary activities with more social activities like hanging out with the members of my softball team more regularly after a game and calling up a close friend to join me on that walk or bike ride instead of just going alone. And I’m trying to be more comfortable with speaking up earlier at meetings to share my ideas and opinions instead of waiting to be prompted.
Anyone can change. It starts with a conscious decision to know what changes you want to make, why you want to make them, how you’re going to go about making the changes, readiness to initiate change and then perseverance, patience and commitment to stick with it. You can do it.
I think Susan Cain sums it up for me best at the end of her TED talk: The Power of Introverts when she encourages us all to embrace speaking up but maybe we try for softly instead of loudly or not all.