There are a lot of myths surrounding the concept of introverts versus extroverts — one of the main ones that it’s an “either-or” situation.
You’re either an extrovert or an introvert. End of story.
But reality is a bit more complicated.
Extroversion and introversion live on two opposite ends of a spectrum. The way you get and put out energy helps determine where you fall on this spectrum. But you can fall anywhere on this spectrum, not necessarily at one end or the other.
The other huge myth? Introverts are shy and extroverts are outgoing.
Megan MacCutcheon, LPC, further explains that “people sometimes assume introverts always have social anxiety or dislike being around others while extroverts are always loud, aggressive, and boisterous.”
Here’s a more realistic look at what the extrovert-introvert spectrum looks like and why one end isn’t any better or worse than the other.
What it means to be more extroverted
People who tend to fall near the extrovert end of things draw their energy from the outside world: the people, places, and things around them.
You enjoy working in a group
Extroverted people tend to feel most comfortable when working with other people, whether the task is a work project, party planning with friends, or a school assignment.
You might organize the group, keep it running smoothly, or even jump in as the leader.
No matter how you participate, you most likely feel energized to do your best work when that work involves active collaboration with other people.
You’re always ready to try something new
Are you confident and outgoing? Not afraid of taking a chance on something you’ve never done before, even if it’s a little risky? Maybe you find it easy to change plans or adapt to a new situation.
If so, you probably have a more extroverted personality.
Extroverts tend to take action rather than ponder. Once you decide to do something, you usually just go for it without worrying too much about what might happen.
You may not spend a lot of time considering all potential outcomes, and people might even describe you as impulsive.
Talking through a problem often helps you solve it
Extroverted people often find it easier to understand and solve problems when they can talk through them, restate them in their own words, or seek input from other people.
What’s your go-to approach when faced with a challenge or difficult problem?
Say you’re dealing with a homework assignment, sticky situation with a friend, or tough task at work. Do you talk about it to as many people as you can to get different perspectives? Sort through your thoughts out loud?
If so, you’re likely more of an extrovert.
You find it easy to express yourself
Extroverted people usually have little to no trouble expressing thoughts, feelings, and opinions. These can range from minor preferences, such as the foods you dislike, to deeper emotions, including romantic feelings.
While some people might think of you as blunt, the ability to clearly communicate how you feel without hesitating or worrying what others might think can often be a positive trait.
Folks on the introverted end of the spectrum sometimes get a bad rap.
It’s often said that they’re:
- shy or socially awkward
- lack strong interpersonal skills
- don’t make good leaders
But these characteristics don’t really have anything to do with introversion, which simply means your energy comes from within — instead of from people and things around you.
You consider things carefully
When faced with a new opportunity, or any big decision, you probably spend a good amount of time thinking it over before you make any plans to proceed.
People with a more action-oriented approach may not always understand why you devote so much time to reflection, but this tendency to look before you leap may help you feel confident you’re making the right choice for yourself.
You prefer to avoid conflict
Generally speaking, introverted people are less likely to strike up conversations with people they don’t know well, or even with people they do know well.
This can relate to a preference for internal dialogue and reflection. But a dislike of conflict can also play a part.
Research suggests introverts often have a higher sensitivity to negative feedback. If you’re worried someone might criticize you or view you in a bad light, you won’t have much interest to put yourself in any situation that leads to that outcome.
If you do join a debate or discussion, you might be more likely to share your ideas in written form, anonymously, or both. Responding in writing gives you the chance to think over what you want to say first, which is probably what feels most comfortable to you.
You’re good at visualizing and creating
People on the more introverted end of the spectrum often spend a lot of time in their heads. Your friends and loved ones might say you’re always off in your own world, or something along those lines.
But that world is where you do your best work. You might think through challenges or use your imagination to brainstorm new ideas.
Sharing those thoughts and feelings out loud may not come easily to you, but it might seem completely natural to write, illustrate, or set them to music.
You’re a natural listener
If you’re introverted, socializing can drain your natural energy reserves, so you prefer to listen and absorb what’s happening around you.
When at work, among friends, or in other social settings, you usually settle comfortably into the background.
The myth that introverts are shy or socially anxious stems from this natural tendency to quietly observe.
Sure, you might avoid small talk, prefer to let the noise of the crowd wash over you, or feel better when you can tune everyone out with headphones. But you also listen and weigh ideas carefully, and when asked for your opinion, you often have quality ideas to contribute.
And the whole thing about introverts not being leaders? There’s a lot of value in a carefully considered perspective, especially one that includes not only your thoughts but those of your coworkers and peers.