by Lucy Holland, V Form
Last spring break, my mom and I went to Vieques, which is a little island off the coast of Puerto Rico. Before we got on the puddle jumper plane that took us to our destination, we stopped in Hudson News, the chain store mostly found in airports. A title grabbed my attention: Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking. I had only a rough idea of what introverts and extroverts were, but the title intrigued me, seeing as I had always had a mini obsession with psychology because I think that the way the human mind works is intriguing and stimulating. I began reading it on the plane and kept on reading it everywhere we went (especially the beach) until I finished it two days after I got it.
Humans can, on the whole, fall into one of two personality types: introverts or extroverts. While no two people are exactly the same, their attitude toward life and their behavior with other people may be similar. Extroverts are typically much more outgoing and thrive on social interaction. Introverts are essentially the opposite; they are happier and more content when they are alone. This does not mean that introverts dislike the company of other people; it simply highlights their need for solitude to maintain an emotional and psychological balance.
Extroverts are generally considered the more common of the two types, but it is estimated that one third to one half of Americans are introverts (Goudreau). Surprisingly, these personality traits govern much of our everyday lives and our daily choices. Extroverts are more likely to exercise regularly, to cheat on their girlfriend or boyfriend, and to make big bets (Cain 2). Extroverts recharge when around people and are exhausted when they are alone. More often extroverts are friendly, and they love and thrive at social gatherings. They tend to speak their minds and are better at communicating publically than introverts (Arya).
Conversely, introverts are more likely to function well without sleep, to learn from their mistakes, and to delay gratification. While most people assume that introverts just like being alone, the truth is that during the time that they are solitary, they are actually recharging their batteries from previous encounters with other people. The statement that all introverts are shy is false. Introverts are just much more interested in what is going on within their brain as opposed to other peoples (Cain 2). When introverts go off by themselves, they are most likely just thinking about or exploring different ideas. In past surveys it has been found that 60% of the “gifted” populations are introverts, but only 25-40% of the common population (Arya).
Leadership skills can be found among both introverts and extroverts alike (Cain 2). In mid-nineteenth century America, when large groups of people began to migrate from rural to urban areas, men who were lively and outgoing had an advantage when looking for work. During this period, the “extrovert ideal” was born. This concept is founded upon the belief that the outgoing and extroverted will succeed in business (Cain 21-22). As this idea took hold in American society, parents began promoting and fostering sociability and an outgoing nature in their children, teaching them that spending time alone was unhealthy. Children, who did not, as they matured, exhibit signs of being extroverted, worried their parents (Cain 27). Public opinion has shifted away from its extrovert-obsession. In retrospect, it becomes clear that some very impressive people throughout history were famously introverted. Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Dr. Seuss, Steven Spielberg, Larry Page (the inventor of Google), Jack Dorsey (the inventor of Twitter), J.K. Rowling, and Rosa Parks all stand among the scores of famously extroverted people of the past (Cain 5).
In recent years, an altogether different stereotype has been introduced which is quite the opposite of the twentieth century “extrovert ideal.” This new idea holds that introverts are, in fact, more successful in business. At a first glance, this new “introvert ideal” makes sense, as introverts are more likely to spend time alone doing school work or focusing on their jobs, while extroverts socialize more often. The reality is that both introverts and extroverts can be aided and impeded by their respective personality types. While it is true that introverts have met with success due to their habit of spending time alone, they also encounter difficulties when presenting their work in public or when speaking in front of a large audience. While introverts run into problems presenting, extroverts can have problems focusing on their work (Cain 168).
Introverts and extroverts can both be successful. Neither type is predisposed for performing at a high level. As indicated by IQ scores, introverts and extroverts are proportionately intelligent. While introverts think things through more slowly and carefully, extroverts make quicker decisions. While extroverts get better grades in elementary school, introverts tend to do better in high school and college. Everything is relative (Cain 167-168).
You are not able to choose whether or not you are an extrovert or an introvert. You can fight it all you want, but deep down you are who you are. I realize now that as a child I saw myself as an extrovert (or I would have if I knew then what introversion and extroversion were) when I know now that this is not true. I am just an introvert who strives to be outgoing. Looking back at my childhood it makes sense; the thing that resonates most is that I was constantly reading. In fifth grade, we were asked to keep a log of how many books we’ve read. By the end of the year, almost everyone’s total was around 10. Mine was close to 50. This doesn’t mean that reading made me an introvert; it made me an introvert because all I wanted to do was read. I would rather have sat on the couch reading than going over to my friend’s house. Although I am not able to read as much as I’d like to now because I’m so busy, I still find myself having introverted qualities, such as going right to my room after classes and taking a nap until study hall. Though I am introverted, I am not always quiet, and I do like being social and going out (on the quiz below, I got 15 true and 5 false, so I’m about ¼ extrovert).
If you do not know whether you are an introvert, an extrovert, or a combination of the two (an ambivert), take the quiz below! It should provide you with an approximate answer. (This quiz was taken from Quiet by Sarah Cain, pages 13-14)
“Answer each question ‘true’ or ‘false’, choosing the answer that applies to you more often than not.”
- I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities. _______
- I often prefer to express myself in writing. _______
- I enjoy solitude. _______
- I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame, and status. _______
- I dislike small talk, but enjoy talking in depth about topics that matter to me. ______
- People tell me I’m a good listener. ______
- I’m not a big risk-taker. ______
- I enjoy work that allows me to “dive-in” with few exceptions. ______
- I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with one or two close family or friends. _______
- People describe me as “soft-spoken” or “mellow.” _______
- I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it is finished. ______
- I dislike conflict. _______
- I do my best work on my own. _______
- I tend to think before I speak. _______
- I feel drained after going out, even if I enjoyed myself. _______
- I often let calls go through to voicemail. _______
- If I had to choose, I’d prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled. ________
- I don’t enjoy multitasking. _______
- I can concentrate easily. _______
- In classroom situations, I prefer lectures to seminars. _______
The more you answered “true”, the more introverted you probably are.
If you would like an additional test, “Psychology Today” has a 25 minute trial:
The psychologist Carl Jung who wrote Psychological Types published in 1921 said, “There is no such thing as a pure extrovert or pure introvert.” This suggests that it is entirely possible to have qualities of both introverts and extroverts. Having pieces of both personality types is the key to a balanced and healthy life.
Lucy Holland is a V Former living in Thieriot. She is from Nantucket, MA, and her favorite color is purple. She plays varsity softball in the spring.
Arya, Ank. “The Introverts and Extroverts: Introduction, Definitions and Their Nature as per Psychology.” Topics: WhatSoEver! N.p., 26 Mar. 2013. Web. 05 Oct. 2013.
Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking. New York : Crown Publishers, 2012. Print.
Goudreau, Jenna. “So Begins A Quiet Revolution Of The 50 Percent – Forbes.” Forbes.com. Forbes, 30 Jan. 2012. Web. 28 Sept. 2013.