I’ve always been fascinated by what makes people do what they do and say what they say. What motivates them. How and why they respond to others. It’s a really important trait to have as a writer of fiction … and as a salesperson or teacher.
Nothing is more surprising than when a quiet, normally reticent person suddenly decides to open up and share a dirty joke … or when a blabbermouth sits through an interaction quietly and can’t find the words to describe it. Introverts aren’t shy, and sociable people aren’t always extraverts.
Because I’m loud, talkative, and outgoing I’ve always been described as extraverted. On the other hand, my boyfriend–who’s soft-spoken and prefers to listen than speak–has always been described as introverted.
You know what? Everyone has us backwards. Let me tell you why…
I love being alone. Not every moment of every day, but I’d much rather spend time by myself than in a noisy room filled with people. I was never a party person, not even as a teenager. For the past 8 years, I’ve worked from home and spend 8 to 10 hours of every weekday with just the dogs and cat for company. When I’m really tired or upset, I do an excellent hermit imitation.
But being alone is something my boyfriend tolerates. He doesn’t actively look forward to it the way I do. He’s not addicted to crowds and noise, as many extraverts are, but when he’s down he wants spend time with other people–they cheer him up and give him the opportunity to NOT focus on himself and his worries.
The biggest difference between extraverts and introverts is the manner in which they gather strength. Extraverts direct their attention outward, toward other people and things. By comparison, introverts prefer to aim their focus inward, on thoughts and ideas.
Other differences include:
- Extraverts love external activity. They prefer interacting with others, and doing. Introverts often find themselves over-stimulated when in the company of crowds. They’d much rather avoid sensory overload and simply be.
- Extraverts often view introverts as self-centered and submissive while introverts tend to see extraverts as superficial and aggressive.
If a person is accessible and easily understood, and prefers handling a project that’s broad in scope rather than deep, he or she is probably an extravert. However, if a person is questioning and seeking to understand, and prefers a complex project rather than a far-reaching one, he or she is probably an introvert.
It’s typical for a person to have characteristics of both extraversion and introversion, but most of us fall on one side of the line that divides the two. Which are you? Are you and your spouse or partner both the same, or different? What about your kids, your boss, your coworkers–are they extraverts or introverts?