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Introverts and Extroverts

The way our brains are wired determines whether we are introverts or extroverts and research shows that there is little we can do about it! Clients often come to me for help with shyness or what they feel is social anxiety or low self confidence in certain situations – when actually it is simply that they are high in introversion – and that’s absolutely OK! It’s really important that we are able to accept who we are and play to our strengths rather than feeling we should somehow be different.

The terms introversion and extroversion were popularised through the work of Carl Jung and later became central parts of other prominent theories including the big 5 theory of personality and of the Myers-Briggs personality test (MBTI). According to many theories of personality, everyone has some degree of both introversion and extroversion. However, people often tend to lean one way or the other. Introverts tend to be more quiet, reserved, and introspective. Unlike extroverts who gain energy from social interaction, introverts have to expend energy in social situations. After attending a party or spending time in a large group of people, introverts often feel a need to “recharge” by spending a period of time alone.

Am I an introvert?

When we think of people as being introverted, we often wrongly assume that they are people who don’t like people, or that they are always shy or suffer from social anxiety.  In our modern extrovert world, there is almost a stigma attached to being a little more reserved, a little quieter. However, as Susan Cain so effectively showed the world in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, introverts are often warm, interested in others, and are neither shy nor socially anxious. And there are an awful lot of them – introverts make up between 30% and 50% of the population. Click here to watch her excellent TEDtalk.

If you are wondering whether you are an introvert, ask yourself the following questions. If you are answering “yes” to many of the questions, you are likely to be an introvert.

Do I enjoy having time to myself?

When you have the chance to take a break, you’d rather spend time reading, playing video games, or just listening to music. That quiet time is important to your sense of well-being even though there are plenty of times that you enjoy social get-togethers.

Does my best thinking occur when I’m by myself?

You’re not opposed to group meetings or discussions, but if you want to come up with a creative solution, you need some time to work the problem out on your own. Having the opportunity to reflect quietly on a problem allows you to make the maximum use of your ability to engage in original thought, and to produce results about which you can feel proud.

Am I a pretty good leader if those in my team are self-starters?

Despite the belief that introverts are so quiet that they make poor leaders, research shows that , under the right circumstances they can be the best leaders of all. If the group is ready to lead itself, then the introverted leader will draw the most potential out of them. It’s only when the group needs a spark provided by its head that introverts might be unable to provide the necessary guidance.

Am I slow to put up my hand when someone asks for a volunteer from a group?

Extraverts tend to be ready and eager to stand out in any academic or social situation. You are probably more of an introvert than an extravert if you are content to sit back and let others take centre stage. You simply don’t feel a need to be in the limelight.

Am I sometimes slow to put my opinion forward in a group situation?

Introverts are also less likely to volunteer opinions or advice in less public settings. Whether it’s a family discussion around the kitchen table or a meeting in the workplace, people high in introversion tend to keep their views to themselves and let the noisy extraverts take control. This does NOT mean that the views of the extraverts are the most highly valued. In fact it’s likely that if you’re constantly being asked “What do you think?” it might suggest that your behaviour sends cues to others of your inner desire to focus your attention and thoughts inward and so come up with more considered opinions.

Do I often wear headphones when I’m in a public situation?

Whether it’s making your way through a crowded bus station or just navigating a crowded street, if you’re an introvert you most likely don’t seek a great deal of contact with others and headphones are a convenient way to do this.

Do I prefer not to engage with people who seem angry or upset?

According to research by University College London psychologist Marta Ponari and her team showed that people high in introversion are more sensitive to potentially negative evaluations. If you think a person is angry because of something to do with you, his or her gaze becomes a threat and so you quickly disengage.

Do I receive more calls, texts, and emails than I make?

All other things being equal, people high in introversion don’t reach out voluntarily to their social circles. If they have a few minutes to spare, they won’t initiate a call just to pass the time by socialising.

Do I initiate small talk with salespeople or others with whom you have only casual contact?

It’s nearly impossible for you to imagine yourself being like that the garrulous individual in front of you in line at the supermarket who chats with everyone about the weather. If you’re late or stressed, you don’t “leak” this information out to the people around you but instead just think it quietly to yourself as you mull over your plight. You may feel that it’s no one’s business but your own, or you may prefer to come out of your bad mood through your own personal stress-busting strategies. Either way, people don’t really know how you’re feeling or thinking at any given moment, unless you feel close enough to them to share these private reflections.

What are the pros and cons of being an introvert?

Being an introvert definitely has its advantages. You’re less likely to make a social gaffe, such as by inadvertently insulting someone whose opinion you don’t agree with. Because you enjoy reflecting on your own thoughts, you’ll be less likely to get bored when you’re alone than someone who needs constant social stimulation. The only risk you face is that people who don’t know you might think you’re aloof or that you feel superior to everyone else. Giving yourself permission to be a little more open in revealing your thoughts and feelings may help you make the best of both worlds, being true to your personality while not erring in the direction of seeming antisocial.

Need some advice and support?

If you are struggling with any emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.



See also: Social Anxiety, All you Need to Know about Anxiety, Face a Challenge with Self Efficacy!

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