Introvert, Extrovert and Why It Matters

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? 

You’ve probably wondered this about yourself. It’s likely you’ve been asked this question. Maybe you’ve even picked up on the trend that introverts are now “cool,” from bestselling books like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.

It’s easy to put ourselves and others in stereotypical categories — an introvert is the shy person who sits in a corner at parties, and the extrovert is the loud person telling the stories to a group of people at parties.

But just like any stereotype, there’s some fact, and a lot of fiction to what determines an introverted or extroverted personality.

And — interestingly — it’s actually useful to determine if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. But first, let’s look beneath the stereotypes to better understand each personality type.

Introverts and Extroverts

As reported in VeryWellMind, introversion and extraversion were first discussed by Jung in his theory of personality types:

“Extraverts (often spelled extroverts) are ‘outward-turning’ and tend to be action-oriented, enjoy more frequent social interaction, and feel energized after spending time with other people. Introverts are ‘inward-turning’ and tend to be thought-oriented, enjoy deep and meaningful social interactions, and feel recharged after spending time alone. We all exhibit extraversion and introversion to some degree, but most of us tend to have an overall preference for one or the other.”

Which One Are You?

It’s rare for someone to be 100% introvert or 100% extrovert. 

In my case, I exhibit traits of each, based on the definitions above.

However, most people tend to be more of one than the other. So how do you figure out which one you are?

Some of you may have taken a personality test, such as the well-known Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment. This test provides information not only on introversion and extraversion but other traits as well.

The MBTI is used in educational settings to understand learning styles, as well as to guide teens and young adults in determining potential occupations or college majors.

Businesses use the MBTI to help teams work better and to evaluate skills and styles.

Individuals who take the MBTI can apply the knowledge of their personality type to educational, occupational, or personal situations. 

For years, you could only take the test through a school or college, a company you worked for, or a certified practitioner.

Today you can take it online, for $49.95

It’s a great tool. I’m an INFP, in case you’re wondering (it’s a type of introvert).

But even without the test, I believe the clearest and easiest way to determine whether you’re an introvert or extrovert is to answer a simple question.

The Most Important Question to Ask

This is the question we need to ask ourselves: what gives us energy?

I’ll use myself as an example. If you meet me in a business or social setting, you might think I’m an extrovert. I love meeting and learning about people. I also really enjoy activities — especially fun experiences and fitness.

But if you look beneath the surface, or get to know me on a deeper level, you’ll learn that my energy level drives and defines my life.

Before I understood that, I would beat myself up a lot. Now it’s a way for me to feel better about myself, create a better life, and help my friends and family accept me.

Here is my energy truth:

I feel most recharged when I spend time alone. 

I identify as an introvert.

I’ve created a schedule and activities that revolve around alone time:

  • I eat meals and snacks before supper by myself and read during those times (my family doesn’t love this, but I’ve made dinner and the evening family time, and this is the compromise we’ve reached). I also read throughout the day. Reading is a pleasurable activity for me, and it’s solitary and critical to my well-being and energy.  
  • 90% of my workouts are solitary (occasionally I work out with a buddy).
  • I am in the pool, by myself, swimming and then relaxing/meditating, almost every day.
  • After several jobs in corporate America, I’ve had my own business for 18 years, where I work at home, by myself. And I’m energized by thoughts and ideas.
  • My socializing has limits. I prefer one-on-one get-togethers, although I often initiate larger get-togethers so I can keep in touch with people. I’m usually the first to leave an event (to minimize the time I spend around others), and I rarely schedule more than one outing in a row.

Now, let’s talk about my friend, Lucy (name has been changed for privacy).

Lucy feels most energized after spending time with other people.

She sees herself as an extrovert.

Here are some examples from her life:

  • She has tons of friends, but her BFF is MeetUps. These are groups of people in your local area for almost every interest — from cooking, to fitness, to watching movies and everything in between. Lucy is involved in several MeetUp groups.
  • She works full-time and goes out almost every night of the week.
  • On a recent weeknight when she was home, she wasn’t excited to chill and relax by herself (like I would be – as an introvert). Instead, she texted a ton of friends to see if anyone was available to go out at the last minute.
  • She sometimes chooses to go to events that she’s not interested in because she’d rather be with people than by herself.

Did these examples help you decide if you’re an introvert or an extrovert?

Are You an Ambivert?

Even after thinking about what drives your energy, you still might not be sure about your personality type.

In recent years, a new term has popped up — ambivert. It’s for those who truly feel they are in the middle of the spectrum. I’m not sure I agree with it, but you can learn more about it here.

Knowing Your Personality Type is Useful

There are many ways that knowing if you’re an introvert or an extrovert can be helpful:

  • Career choice: Do you get energy from working alone or working with other people? Does your job or business (for the most part) correspond with your personality type? If not, consider finding work that is a better fit.
  • Friends: Do you prefer one-on-one dinners or big group events? Spend most of your time in the way that fits your personality. Say “no” occasionally to gatherings, or spread them out, if you’re an introvert. If you’re an extrovert, make it a point to be the ringleader in organizing group events.
  • Free Time: Do you spend most of your spare time in ways that honor your introversion or extroversion? If not, you might want to find more solitary or one-on-one activities if you’re an introvert, and find more group activities if you’re an extrovert.

Next Steps

On your continued path towards a better life, consider your introvert or extrovert preferences. Once you understand them, you can make even small changes to your schedule and lifestyle that make your life so much better.