If you are like most people, you probably think an extrovert is outgoing and lively and that an introvert is shy and reserved. You may even think that with a little practice introverts can become extroverts and become the life of the party. Although an introvert can be outgoing and can appear to be the life of the party, he is still an introvert. That’s because the real difference between introverts and extroverts lies in their energy source, not their behavior.
- Introverts draw their energy from within. In order to be productive and happy, the introvert must have quiet time to reflect and to process stimuli. We are those who cannot hear ourselves think when in a crowded or overly stimulating environment. Introverts typically enjoy the process of thinking something through, entertaining new ideas, and playing with multiple possibilities, but we do so in private.
- Introverts develop close friendships and prefer a few close friends to many acquaintances. You will rarely hear an introvert claim that they have a multitude of friends. While many extroverts freely list everyone they know as friend, introverts do not. It’s not because introverts have fewer friends. It’s because our definition of friendship differs from that of the extrovert.
- To an introvert, a friend is someone they can count on in any circumstances, someone they can share their innermost thoughts with, someone that can call at any hour of day or night. A friend is someone who they share a deep bond with. Extroverts, on the other hand, are quite happy to call those who they do things with friends.
- Extroverts draw their energy from the world around them. They cannot be happy unless they receive stimulus from the outside world. They prefer to think on their feet, react immediately to their surroundings, and generally be in the thick of things.
- If an extrovert is having a stressful week, getting out and doing something active relieves that stress. A night on the town can rejuvenate the extrovert. For the introvert, a night out adds to the stress. The introvert needs time to reflect with a good book, an old movie, or a writing journal.
- I have yet to meet an introvert who attempts to convert an extrovert. Yet, it is very common for extroverts to cajole and nag introverts to try to involve them in activities the extrovert enjoys. They mistakenly believe that introverts would enjoy themselves if only they would participate in the same activities. What they do not understand is that introverts do not draw energy from the outside world. They do not understand that an introvert is not an underdeveloped extrovert. We are two different creatures and each has our rightful place in the world.
After nearly 30 years of marriage, my spouse continues to suggest I call someone and go out and do something for the day whenever I am under stress. He mistakenly believes that this will make me feel better. It won’t.
What I Am
- I am an introvert.
- I draw my energy from within.
- To find my sense of balance, I must look inward. Asking an introvert to change her innermost being is fruitless.
What I’m Not
- I am not ashamed of being an introvert.
- I am not afraid to be with people.
- I am not suffering from some deep-seated emotional issue that prevents me from being extroverted. Don’t assume that I am.
- I like to think things through and consider all the possibilities. I like to play with ideas and concepts. It energizes me and provides me with the inspiration and the energy I need to live a happy, productive life.
I am married to an extrovert. He gets his energy from the world around him. When he is under stress, the best solution is to go out there and talk to many different people. It sparks his creative side and provides him with new ideas.
Together, we have found a balance. He accepts my need to delve into books, have long conversations with a few close friends, or to lose myself in thoughts. I’m not sure he totally understands it, but he accepts it. I accept his need to interact with many different people and talk to anyone who happens by.
Introverts and extroverts are two different creatures when it comes to how we meet the world and how we gain the energy to do the things that are important to us. Neither should be esteemed above the other. Without each other, we would lose the balance that makes life so interesting.