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Introvert or Extrovert? Understanding the Difference.

What’s the Difference?

Knowing whether you’re an introvert or extrovert not only helps  you better understand yourself, but can help you navigate relationships more effectively and save yourself some frustration regarding where you “fit in”.

Introverts are often misunderstood and labeled as “shy” or “insecure”.  Introverts can appear shy around certain people because they are often more quiet when around people they don’t know well, but this is not usually true shyness.  And, introverts are no more insecure than extroverts as one has nothing to do with the other.  In a nutshell, extroverts are energized by large groups of people, are more talkative around strangers, and find small talk and casual conversation entertaining and easy.  They are comfortable around people they don’t know, can mingle easily, and get charged around larger gatherings.  It doesn’t mean they can’t tolerate being alone, but they prefer the company of others and feel their best when socializing.  Introverts are generally drained by large gatherings of people, especially ones they don’t know well.  They prefer small groups of closer friends over a party of mostly strangers or acquaintances.   They find small talk and casual conversation difficult and often prefer to “sit back, take it in and observe”.   Introverts are energized by being around people they are close to and also by time alone.

Different but Equal!

Introverts comprise about 25% and extroverts about 75% of the population.  Because our culture is more geared toward the extrovert, introverts often feel something is wrong with them.  I have had many people come to me for therapy wanting to change their way of interacting because they felt awkward and bad about their introverted constitution.  They mistook their introversion as insecurity because they were comparing themselves to their extroverted peers.  Understanding the differences between introverts and extroverts can help people accept themselves for who they are and improve self-confidence.  There is usually a great relief when an introvert understands there is nothing wrong with his or her behavior and that preferences are normally static and unchangeable.  They can begin to have pride and confidence in their introverted tendencies.   They can come to know what energizes and drains them and build confidence around this.

Understanding the Differences in Relationships.

When entering a relationship, it’s important to know where you and your partner place on the introvert-extrovert scale.  Opposites can have wonderful relationships together as long as they understand their differences, how to meet certain needs outside the relationship when necessary and know what they can share.  So, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, take pride in who you are and capitalize on the good qualities of such!  There are benefits to both and both are unique.

Sylvia Flanagan, MFT is a San Diego therapist with a private practice in Mission Valley.  For more information about San Diego Therapy, feel free to call or email her.
Office hours are Monday through Thursday 9:00 to 6:00.