June 6, 2022
The social world categories individuals using the labels of being ‘introvert vs extrovert’. With constant stimulation in the environment the extroverted individual is highly looked upon, takes the center of the stage and stands out in the gatherings. Extroverts are friendly, confident, assertive and sometimes bossy and dominating. In contrast, the introverts choose to observe and listen. They are shy, timid and tend to blend in well with the surroundings. They choose to stay away from crowds and fear public interactions and conflicts. Unlike the extroverts who love to talk the introverts rarely engage in small talk.
According to research extroverts outnumber introverts in the general population. Are introverts devalued in our society? Do introverts achieve success? Does being an introvert mean that you will not be liked by people? Are introverted people not confident? In the age of social media introverts do not like taking selfies or posting pictures of their life on Instagram. Introverts are hypersensitive, nervous and self-conscious especially around strangers. They enjoy their solitude and privacy to the extent that they may get lost in their own thoughts. Introverts thrive on creativity and obtain pleasure from secluded activities such reading, writing or music.
Does being an extrovert lead to emotional dependency while being an introvert lead to emotional withdrawal? Are extroverts impulsive, aggressive and require immediate gratification? Priya, 35 years old was a bold, outspoken, assertive employee of a bank. She was aggressive and enjoyed customer service, along with managing the HR department of the bank. She loved being in gatherings and interacting with people while she sorted their conflicts. She had made great friends in the organization and during break times one would see her surrounded by multiple people laughing and sharing meals. She thrived on connection and attachment. Her work relations affected her mood and her personality at home. A bad day at work ruined her personal mood and family life at home. Priya’s husband and children often reminded her to maintain boundaries that would prevent her from being intensely hurt and rejected by others.
Would one then prefer to be an extrovert or introvert? Society works on broad assumptions and individuals are easily judged and categorized. The youth are also encouraged to seek professions and make career choices based on these distinctions. Introverts are told to avoid activities that involve noise distractions as they are sensitive to noise. Popularized by Carl Jung (1921) the concepts of introversion and extroversion to describe human personality are regarded as permanent rather than malleable. However, many introverts take up leadership roles and are manage teams of large numbers. They choose one- to-one interaction while delegating task and reviews. Ravi, 42 was heading the marketing department of an established firm. While he lacked having many friends and spoke about his childhood experiences of being a shy, back-bencher in school, he was delivering speeches and motivating his team on a regular basis.
Although he reported being slightly nervous before presentations, he successfully conducted client meetings and was validated as the employee of the year. He claimed to have close relations with his team members as he individually spent time during breaks knowing them and their backgrounds. He enjoyed his meditation and relaxation every morning and maintained a calm attitude through the day. Introversion and Extroversion are two ends of the personality dimension.
Many psychological assessments have been designed to understand these dimensions such as Eysenck’s Personality Inventory (EPI), the Big Five Personality Test, The Quiet Questionnaire. Viewing individuals from extreme may not entirely be a fair evaluation of their personality and behavior. Although both individuals have an intense fear of failure, fear of rejection and do not like disapproval, for the introverts these situations can be catastrophic and terrible. Among these variances there are significant differences seen among men and women where women prefer more activities of nature than men. Introverts mostly focus inwards while the extroverts feel and act in relation to external situations.
While this spectrum helps categorize and understand individuals, the human brain is complex and personality and behavior are multi-faceted constructs. On the other hand, the ambiverts show flexibility and are in between both extremes. they are able to exhibit qualities of both introversion and extroversion depending on the mood, context and goals. They adapt to social situations while they also seek their solitude. Adam Grant, the organizational psychologist developed a questionnaire on ‘Are you an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert?”.
Currently we have Outgoing introverts (an introvert who maybe outgoing in certain situations where they need to), Antisocial extroverts (an extrovert who needs time to be alone) and Social introverts (an introvert who can be extroverted when require). One needs to look at individuals on this broad spectrum rather than labeling them as introverts, extroverts or ambiverts. As Victor Frankl stated” Everything can be taken from a person, but one thing: the last of human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. In a post pandemic world, it’s time to re-evaluate our thinking and remove our bias. It’s time to be more accepting and inclusive.
Allow me to nurture, while you walk the path.