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You can’t get on with everyone..

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You can’t get on with everyone … or can you? by Elizabeth Donegan

Spring 2015

Extrovert vs. Introvert

Coming from a performing background, I was surprised…in fact pleasantly surprised… to find how many people within the arts world were not the stereotypical loud and ‘look at me’ extroverted types that performers are quite often stereotyped to be. I, along with many people, maybe even you, jumped to the wrong conclusion as to what an extrovert or introvert actually was.

So what is an Extrovert or Introvert?

The terms Extrovert and Introvert were popularised in the early 20th Century by Carl Jung. There are many definitions and they mostly refer to how you are around other people; do other people give you energy or to put it bluntly….sap your energy? As a brief overview the following sums it up quite nicely:

“The key difference is how the person recharges. Which environment best juices your batteries? Some people charge their batteries by surrounding themselves with other people; those are the extroverts. Being alone in focused solitude is draining for extroverts. Others charge their batteries by finding alone time; those are introverts. Being in a social setting is draining for introverts”. 2013

This isn’t the whole story though. I discovered I fell into the extrovert family. I do find being around other people charge my batteries, but equally, I find they can drain them too. This got me thinking so I did a little digging. When Carl Jung popularised these terms, he didn’t mean for people to be classified as an extrovert or introvert. The terms were the extremes of a scale where most people would fall somewhere between the two.

“There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in a lunatic asylum” – Carl G Jung

This means that people aren’t just an extrovert or introvert, they show stronger extroverted or introverted tendencies. But what about those of us who don’t leanmore towards one way or the other. Could this be you? If so, you would fall, like me, into the ambiverts category.

Ambiverts are the people who tend to enjoy being around other people but after a while they may find it starts to drain them. Looking at the other end of the scale, they enjoy quiet and solitude but for not too long. So ambiverts recharge there ‘batteries’ with a combination of social interaction and alone time.

What does it all mean?

Where do you think you come on scale? You may know or you’ve taken an educated guess. How does it apply to everyday life?

I imagine you are meeting people who range from the more extreme extroverts straight through to the extreme introverts. The people who belt out “Dancing Queen” or “Don’t Stop Believing” at Karaoke after a few drinks, you can probably guess have more extroverted tendencies and those who are quite content listening, and it doesn’t matter how many drinks they’ve had, nothing will get them on that stage, have more introverted tendencies.

It doesn’t mean they are shy.

Are All Shy People Introverts?

It’s a common misconception that occurs quite often. Shyness can be found in anyone, it’s just the behaviour of someone who is shy is similar to that of an introvert. Shyness can originate from a negative emotional event that occurred when they were young, which results in a fear connected to socialising. A shy extrovert for example would be the one longing to get up and sing at karaoke but doesn’t dare too until their friends drag them up on stage after a couple of drinks. It’s not advisable though to do this to someone who has strong introverted tendencies, they will not thank you for it!!

How does it affect my Everyday Life?

When I was young I was told to treat others how I would like to be treated, so if the other person is similar to you, for example you both have extroverted tendencies, great there’s no problem. But what happens if they are not! The story below about two roommates, one an extrovert and the other an introvert summarises this up quite nicely:

“The first few months of living together didn’t work well because we didn’t know how to care for each other. I would try to give her space by always knocking on her door. She got annoyed because I kept knocking and wouldn’t let myself in, and I got annoyed when she barged into my room without warning!”

I’m sure you have friends who differ from you on the scale and over time you learn each other’s ways; or you don’t remain friends. However, what happens when you don’t get a chance to do this or don’t have a choice.

Is there someone at work you don’t seem to get on with? Could it be they sit on a different position to you on the extroverted/introverted scale? Do you and your partner get frustrated with each other for example; one of you wants to go out Friday night and the other doesn’t? Could it be because one of you has more introverted or extroverted tendencies than the other?

If you do find yourself sitting on the opposite end of the scale with a colleague, partner or friend, it does not mean that you can’t co-exist. Many people find themselves in this situation and get on just fine. It’s all about communication and understanding.

Communication and Understanding

Start looking for signs to see if they have move towards extroverted or introverted tendencies. If you find that they don’t really sway towards either end, you might find they are an ambivert.

If you find a colleague hard to talk to, it doesn’t mean they are shy or lacking confidence, they may just have strong introverted tendencies and forcing them to say something will make them feel uncomfortable, especially if you are in group. Respect the fact that they are quite happy to listen and if they want to say something they will, when they are ready.

This also applies when you are out with friends too. Just because someone is just quietly listening, does not mean they are not having a good time. When an introvert does say something, that something would have been thought through and they’ve decided it’s a worthwhile thing to say, so it’s advisable not to interrupt them. An extrovert tends to share thoughts that haven’t been thought through as much, they are happy to bounce around ideas and won’t be so offended if interrupted compared to an introvert. If you constantly hear someone say ‘don’t interrupt me’ or something similar, there is a good reason for it and it’s advisable to listen to them. Introverts also prefer to have time to reflect, try not to demand instant answers from them, where as an extrovert prefers to bounce ideas around and talk things through.

Extroverts are people, people they re-charge their batteries by being around other people, so it’s probable no surprise they need stimulation and can have a tendency to get bored easily. So in comparison to someone who is more introverted, an extrovert can seem to have a shorter attention span, which can be frustrating to some.  Many probably don’t realise that they are taking attention away from other people, they just love to explore and bounce ideas around. So if you are more introverted and you come across people who seem to love the sound of their own voice, they are just doing out loud what you do in your own head so if you can, let them explore and talk things out.

The tables to the right (sourced from 2013) give a great summary of how to care for those who show more introverted or extroverted tendencies:

The Difference that Makes the Difference…..

One of the most important things to remember is everyone is different. If the world was made up of only extroverted individuals, imagine the noise and vice versa. Some people will sway more towards the extroverted end of the scale and others more towards the introverted end of the scale and the rest of us will be somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter where you are on the scale because everyone has their own place, we all balance each other out somewhere (even if it doesn’t feel that way sometimes).

Taking a moment to observe someone and looking out for a few of the notable signs of where they might belong on the scale can make all the difference. Because when you do, you can start to understand their world a bit better, which means you can understand them that little bit better too.

It’s always a good idea to accept others for who they are, but it’s important to accept yourself for who you are too. If you are not the ‘life and soul of the party’, don’t feel you have to be and if are the ‘life and soul of the party’ don’t feel you shouldn’t be.

Have the confidence to be comfortable being you.