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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What you say is true. I, too, have been influenced by mainstream pop culture – even though I do not think extroversion is better than (superior to) introversion, I probably sometimes make statements that are not helpful. Well, I am going to be more mindful of this now!
Thank you for the background information about how this focus on extroversion came about. I did not know any of this. It’s very interesting. I’ve had “Quiet” on my reading list for a while but I haven’t gotten round to reading it yet.
Introversion is definitely more valued across Eastern cultures (compared to Western cultures) – but what I’ve noticed is this: in spiritual places, smaller towns and villages it might still be valued BUT in bigger cities in many countries in the East mainstream pop culture has placed a lot of value on extroversion. I don’t think that extroversion is at all preferred – it’s just that mainstream pop culture depicts it as a superior trait. As globalisation has increased, I have noticed that the status of extroversion has gone up in bigger cities in the East.
Thank you again for your insight.
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The emphasis on extroversion implies a perceived superiority where none exists. I imagine that the phenomena is progressing eastwards by way of Hollywood. I remember the Archbishop counseling Will and C/Kate to uphold the sanctity and longevity of marriage, despite certain turgid winds from “the West,” which clearly referred to the US.
I see personality more like a round table: the further you get from the center, the more pronounced certain elements of your personality will be, but that doesn’t make dead center or any other point within the circle more or less valuable than any other. Unfortunately, the current understanding of personality is more like a pyramid, with extroverts on top and everyone else struggling to make the nonexistent grade. Attempts to create a more linear continuum/spectrum (like the one in my post) have still failed to paint an entirely accurate picture, essentially pitting introverts and extroverts against each other (albeit on an equal footing), while simultaneously implying that it must be better to be an ambivert. The Round Table/Robin Model of Personality is the only one that gives equal value to the beautiful complexity of each individual within each type.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Quiet once you read it!
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I am going to read more about The Round Table/Robin Model of Personality – I had never heard of this before. Admittedly, I probably only know of the most common personality tests and models – Myers Briggs, Big 5 etc. Given that my “overall type” did not remain stable on these (although I have gone through some life-changing events and experiences) I am intrigued by the model you mention. Certain aspects of my personality – like the fact that I tend more towards introversion or my openness to experiences have remained a part of me long-term, while other aspects may have become more or less pronounced over time e.g. there have been times, for fairly long time periods, when I have been a strong “feeling” type, while there have been other times when I am predominately a “thinking” type, but a large capacity for both reside within me. I will read up on the model you mention.
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Don’t let me lead you astray! I coined “The Round Table/Robin Model of Personality” to describe circular personality modelis. The only ones I’m aware of that use a pie chart are the Big 5 (which favors extroversion) and the Zodiac (haha). I’d like to see a circular model for the MBTI (or something similar to the MBTI) to show how each personality type has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses based on their position on the chart (an equal slice of the pie, so to speak).
To me, this is similar to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s (sort of Taoist) theory that every virtue has a corresponding vice. For example, loving justice can make you judgmental and being exceptionally conscientious can lead to self-righteousness, resentment, and bitterness, etc. Every personality type and every individual within each personality type has its own pitfalls. There’s no such thing as a “perfect personality” or a “perfect person.” It’s not about changing your personality for a “better” one. It’s about having an accurate view of your personality, so you can embrace your strengths and avoid or manage your weaknesses.
So ultimately, personality isn’t about personality; it’s about character. “The Round Table/Robin Model” brings the cult of personality full circle 😉.
You make some interesting, thought-provoking and valid points.
I’m definitely more introvert than extrovert (although I haven’t taken any personality test recently) – probably 60% introvert and 30% extrovert. I know I have a vibrant and enormous inner world, but I also know that I’m open to new experiences (more than many self-proclaimed extroverts I know) e.g. I’ve traveled the world whereas they have only talked about doing it one day and/or spent most of their free time in pubs (before lockdown).
Like many people who tend more towards introversion on the introversion-extroversion spectrum, I do need some time to myself every now and then. I cannot tell you how many times that has been met with negativity e.g. In the past, when I needed a bit of alone time in a study booth in the office, this was ridiculed – how dare I do that? I was supposed to always be on the busy office floor (in a building with 9000 other people). It did not matter if I got the work done. It’s an extroverts world. The rules (social and otherwise) are made from an extrovert-perspective and interpreted from an extrovert-perspective. Extroversion has been excessively valued by many cultures, societies and organisations to the extent that even people who do not sit on the extreme extroversion end of the introversion-extroversion spectrum have been trained and influenced to regard it as a highly valued trait.
Many extroverts I know are really struggling during this lockdown.
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Thank you for your comment! The fact that the extroverted bias makes life more difficult for introverts than it should be is one of the reasons that I rigorously oppose it.
The truth is, extroversion has never been universally preferred to introversion. Many countries prefer qualities like peace, quiet, reflection, and solitude. Moreover, “extroverted” qualities are neither exclusive to extroverts, nor superior to “introverted” qualities. According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet (2012) and founder of Quiet Revolution, the West became obsessed with extroversion after the Industrial Revolution, when men like Carnegie introduced the cult of personality with marketing classics like How to Win Friends and Influence People. For the first time in history, personality was more important than character. Ironically, this made people less interesting, not more so. Suddenly, it didn’t matter if you were hardworking and honest unless you were also “charming” and “likable.” Besides eradicating individual quirks of nature, these vague and uncertain standards have also led to social anxiety.
So, we essentially have a group of people who’ve arbitrarily decided that they’re superior, and I don’t think this arrogant presumption will be rectified until introverts are prepared to fight fire with fire. Passive resistance clearly isn’t getting through to people. Even introverted influencers say things like, “Introverts are just as _____ as extroverts,” which is hardly helpful to our cause. We need introverts who say things like, “Extroverts are just as _____ as introverts.”