“Am I an introvert?”
If you can answer that question in five seconds or less, you’re probably already familiar with this important personality trait. But, whether you’ve thought about it or not, you and everyone you know fall somewhere on the spectrum of being an introvert or an extrovert.
This personality trait can affect your life in a lot of ways. It’s beneficial to learn more about introversion and extroversion, and how they influence your life, relationships, and career.
The more knowledge you gain about being an introvert or an extrovert, the better you’ll understand yourself and the people around you. Being able to answer the question, “Am I an introvert?” can help you get to know yourself and others, and therefore live a more fulfilling life.
The Basics of Being an Introvert
Extroversion (sometimes spelled extraversion, or referred to as introversion-extraversion) is one of the traits in the big five aspect personality theory. This term is used to describe the level of an individual’s enthusiasm and assertiveness. Are you talkative, outgoing, and likely to speak up for yourself? You probably fall on the extroverted end of the spectrum.
Introversion-extraversion also describes a person’s reaction to external stimuli. Do you function better in a quiet, peaceful environment, or do you quickly grow bored and yearn for some sort of stimulation?
The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines introversion as “orientation toward the internal private world of one’s self and one’s inner thoughts and feelings, rather than toward the outer world of people and things.”
Further, “Introversion is a broad personality trait and, like extraversion, exists on a continuum of attitudes and behaviors. Introverts are relatively more withdrawn, retiring, reserved, quiet, and deliberate; they may tend to mute or guard expression of positive affect, adopt more skeptical views or positions, and prefer to work independently.”
Signs of an Introvert
Author Suzanne Krauss Whitbourne lists nine possible signs of being an introvert:
- Enjoying alone time
- Thinking most clearly when alone
- Having the ability to lead, but only if others are self-starters
- Letting others take center stage
- Unlikely to volunteer your opinions
- Likely to wear headphones in public
- Tending to avoid people who are angry or upset
- Less likely to initiate social interaction
- Less likely to initiate small talk
Regardless of whether you fall into those individual categories, you can probably recognize yourself as someone more or less likely to socialize or draw attention in a social situation.
It’s also helpful to think of introverts vs. extroverts in terms of what each type chooses to do as a restorative activity. Both may enjoy socializing and being active, but extroverts tend to feel recharged by the socializing itself, while introverts will need time alone to rejuvenate after a social activity. They have less tolerance for being around people, while extroverts have less tolerance for being alone.
How Introverted Are You?
Being an introvert doesn’t mean that you’re shy or antisocial. Those traits may overlap for some people, but shyness and introversion are not the same thing. Just as with other personality traits, and as mentioned by the APA above, introversion exists on a spectrum or a sliding scale. Some people might qualify as highly introverted, while others just tend slightly that way.
Ambiverts are people who fall in the middle of the introvert and extrovert scale, having fairly equal traits of introversion and extroversion. Some experts even claim that as many as two-thirds of all people fall into this category. If you like to be alone but are also frequently dependent on social interaction, you might be an ambivert, not an introvert.
Regardless of whether you find meaning in a particular label, you can think of the introvert/extrovert distinction as a question of which of your traits are the strongest.>
If you have strong introverted traits, you need regular time alone to recharge.
- If you have strong extroverted traits, you need frequent social interaction.
- And if you have traits of both introversion and extroversion, you’ll need to make sure your needs for solitude and socializing are both getting met.
Of course, we all need both solitude and social interaction, but it’s helpful to know which lack will tend to make you feel the most drained.
Introversion and Your Relationships
Your family and close friends are probably instinctively aware of your extroverted or introverted personality, and it definitely plays a role in your relationships.
As far as your relationship with your spouse, you might find that opposites attract. It’s pretty normal to see that one member of a couple is significantly more outgoing than the other. This balance makes a relationship stronger – but it can cause problems if one or both people aren’t getting their needs adequately met.
If you’re an introvert and your spouse is an extrovert, you might need to set boundaries to maintain regular alone time to recharge. And sometimes, your extroverted spouse might pull you out of your comfort zone a little, but that can be a good thing.
If you happen to be an introvert married to an introvert, both of you might bask in your enjoyment of alone time and being homebodies. But, you might need to make an extra effort to get out and socialize or open up your home to others.
Parenting can be especially challenging for introverts, especially if you are a stay-at-home parent who is in the presence of small children all day, every day. Make sure that you are asking for what you need so that you don’t become drained from lack of time alone.
Set aside planned time to recharge by yourself. If you are a working parent, maybe you can use your commute as a time to recharge. Once your kids are old enough for consistent sleep routines, make sure they’re getting to bed at a reasonable time to give you at least an hour of quiet in the evenings.
When it comes to friendships, introverts sometimes struggle to get to know new people. Laurie Helgoe, an expert on introversion, says that introverts often simply need fewer friends; they are more likely to want a few deep relationships than many shallower ones. She suggests being disciplined about pursuing friendships; like working out, you will reap the rewards over time.
Introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts all need both solitude and community, but the introvert and extrovert category can help you discern which one you need more.
The Perks of Being an Introvert
There are benefits to being an introvert. Time Magazinelists a few:
Being a good listener
- Thinking before speaking
- Being observant
- Being a good friend
- Being a loving romantic partner
Of course, these qualities aren’t limited to introverts, but they may come more naturally to them. For example, introverts may tend to be better listeners since they are internal processors. This makes them an asset in both relationships and the workplace.
Knowing the positive qualities of introversion can be encouraging. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, says that introverts often feel at a disadvantage in the workplace. Since introverts tend to be lower in assertiveness and gregariousness, they often fake being extroverted in the workplace, which can be very draining over time.
But by focusing on the advantages of introversion, you can cultivate those strengths to build stronger relationships and advance in your career. Cain says that introverts can make good leaders and innovative thinkers, even though they are often overlooked.
Maybe being an introvert hasn’t always seemed like a blessing, but it really is a gift. As you grow to understand your needs and personal tendencies, you can enjoy solitude while cultivating meaningful relationships and a fulfilling career.
If you would like to talk with a Christian counselor about your personality traits or get personalized Christian coaching to help you in your life and career, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.
“Busy Introverting”, Courtesy of Elena Koycheva, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Three Amigas”, Courtesy of Charlein Gracia, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Contemplation”, Courtesy of Keegan Houser, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Best Friends”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License