There’s nothing wrong with being an extrovert. They’re all human, more or less—even the ones who’ve tried to steal our COVID-19 thunder by claiming that there’s something not quite right about people who can cope with crises without falling apart. One naysayer even suggested that our remarkable resilience in the face of hardship was a sign of trauma. Frankly, the world would be a better place if extroverts gave credit where credit was due instead of trying to make everything about themselves. Haters aside, here are five traits they could learn from us instead of mucking about:
Simply put, extroverts are (re)energized by other people’s company, while introverts are (re)energized by their own. This concept is at the core of the introverted-extroverted continuum, with most of us falling between the antisocial extremes/stereotypes at either end of the spectrum (yes, extroverts can be antisocial). No one is all one thing or the other. This makes the introverted-extroverted dichotomy both tenuous and unhelpful to modern studies of personality.
For example, the last time I took the free assessment on 16Personalities (my favorite MBTI website!), I was 67 percent introverted and 33 percent extroverted. However, many people have been surprised to discover that I’m introverted because INFJs are considered the extroverted-introverts of the MBTI, despite having many characteristics traditionally associated with introversion.
Thus, with little to no outward distinction between “introverts” and “extroverts,” it’s ludicrous to keep insisting that the former are socially handicapped. The only way we’re socially handicapped is by people’s prejudices.
Introverts are more finely tuned than extroverts. This means that we need the calming influence of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine to counterbalance the overstimulating effects of the neurotransmitter dopamine. You can read more about these “pleasure chemicals” on the Quiet Revolution.
For this reason, people often describe introverts as “too” sensitive, when it would be just as simplistic to describe extroverts as insensitive. It’s easy to “shake it off” and “see the sunny side” if you aren’t deeply bothered by, or even aware of, the negativity that introverts are attuned to.
Ignorance may be bliss, as the saying goes, but that doesn’t make it praiseworthy. We need to challenge our assumptions that introverts are the only ones who have something to learn from the study of personality.
As peculiar as it may seem to some of us, there are actually people who avoid being alone. In my better moments, I can appreciate the irony of being accused of insecurity or antisocial behavior by people who dislike their own company. I mean, if they can’t stand themselves, why should I?
Facetiousness aside, there’s nothing wrong with preferring other people’s company to your own, as long as you spend enough time alone to be good company. COVID-19 is the perfect time for extroverts to explore some of our social strengths—such as the ability to listen, to empathize, and to cooperate for the good of everyone.
4. Interestingness (yes, this is a word)
As COVID-19 has shown, extroverts tend to rely on busyness to give their lives value and to unravel when they’re thrown back on their own resources. This explains their aversion to silence and solitude, their craving for social intervention, and their desire for distraction. It also makes it hard for them to see the value in working from home or engaging in “boring” pandemic pursuits like baking/cooking, crafting, cleaning, reading, writing, gardening, and watching movies.
Perhaps it’s not the pursuits that are “boring.” For all extroverts’ harping on how fun they are, their behavior implies that they’re only as interesting as their activities. This suggests that they turn their energy outward to fill the void created by a lack of mental and emotional depth. It makes sense that people who don’t practice solitude would struggle with individuality and that people who don’t practice silence would struggle to find anything substantial to say. I’d argue that extroverts need “quiet time” to give them complexity in the same way that introverts need social interaction to keep them grounded.
Being quiet doesn’t make someone a follower any more than being loud makes them a leader. Yet, introverts are rarely perceived as potential influencers. Why? Perhaps it’s because the popular view of leadership requires conformity, not the individuality that people are always banging on about.
Think about it. Politicians are elected by a majority or popular vote. In the private sphere, people become popular—not by being unique, as some people suppose—but by adopting a predetermined set of “cool” qualities, a process that often requires them to shed good or neutral traits for the sake of being envied or admired. Despite the lip service that people pay to individuality, truly avant-garde or original people are almost always bullied by the “common herd.”
Introverts, on the other hand, tend to be loners. Loners are individualists, the inverse of leaders. We are to leadership what antiheroes are to heroism: nonconformists capable of forging our own paths instead of succumbing to peer pressure or the “mob.”
Introversion isn’t “cool.” It’s hot as hell.
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