Trait Misconception

December 14, 2006

When I am teaching on Introversion/Extraversion, I always clarify one major misconception. Most people think that Introverts are quiet and Extraverts are outgoing. There are good reasons for this wrong view however. Most extraverts are much more talkative and energetic while around other people. That is simply because they are energized being in the presence of a group of people. An introvert is usually quieter in a group because it is easier that way to maintain emotional equilibrium and therefore they won’t feel wasted when they are around people too much.

But here is where the uniqueness of individuals comes into play. You can have a quiet extravert. This person is one who values the comfort and rejuvenation they get from being around others who are interacting, both behaviorally and vocally. They feel no need (for various reasons) to interject their own comments: They feel secure enough to allow others to do the talking and the action. But they love being in a group and they get both security and emotional energy from being in that group.

There are also outgoing introverts. They actually become this way as a type of defense mechanism. By externalizing their thought and reasoning patterns in front of others (i.e. By dominating every conversation) they prevent others from having the emotional center place, and therefore they believe they can hold onto their own energy. In essence, the outgoing extravert behaves as if others are not really there. An outgoing extravert is often known by this characteristic: They don’t tend to listen to interactive comment very well. Whereas, they may be superb at listening skills when going one-on-one with others, when in a group, they prefer to give monologues instead of wasting their time in dialogue.

Recently the basketball player Ron Artest was interviewed and told the reporter that he really doesn’t like to be in large groups of people. But when he is forced to be (as any professional athlete of his caliber must be), he prefers to say and do things that dominate the conversation. Often, he allows every idea in his head leak out without much internal editing. Normally, psychologists would label him an Extravert…but by his own admission, he does not seek out or prefer the crowd.

The true measure of an extravert is whether they feel energized inside by being around and interacting with other people. The measure of an introvert is whether they feel energized by delving inside themselves and finding their true emotional center somewhere within.

One comment

  1. What if you feel energized sometimes, and drained at other times? And how can you tell if the introvert is truly a born introvert, or is one because of what’s happened in his/her life? Maybe because of trauma and the lies associated with it?


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