If you can picture yourself going out to dinner with a large group of friends or attending a big concert, chances are you’re an extrovert. However, if the thought of doing either of those things sends you into a tailspin…your idea of a good time is a quiet evening reading…then you are an introvert. Psychologists view introversion and extroversion as part of what is known as the five-factor model of personality. What this means is that they, the psychologists, believe that a person’s personality can be described based on their level of five personality traits: 1. Extroversion (introversion is the opposite) 2. Agreeableness (altruism and the concern for others) 3. Conscientiousness (how well organized and responsible someone is) 4. Neuroticism (how much someone experiences negative emotions) and 5. Openness to experience (this includes imagination and curiosity). In this theory, personality traits range along a spectrum — for example, you might be more extroverted, more introverted, or somewhere in-between.
Those who are extroverted tend to be more social, more talkative, and more assertive. Introverts. Not so much. But being an introvert doesn’t mean that someone is anti-social, they’re simply “differently social”. They can love being around family and friends but also crave solitude. And introverts aren’t necessary shy, either. They can also become anxious in social situations.
In 2011, psychologists at Wellesley College in Massachusetts have suggested that there can four different types of introverts; social introversion – these folks enjoy spending time with people they know in small groups; thinking introversion – these are the introspective and thoughtful people; anxious introversion – shy, sensitive, and self-conscious people; and inhibited/retrained introversion – this groups doesn’t particularly enjoy excitement and prefers quieter activities.
So is being an introvert better than being an extrovert? Or vice-versa? Psychologists believe that extroverts are associated with more positive emotions, meaning they are generally happier. But some research has shown that there are happy introverts. These researchers found that one-third of the participants in a happiness study turned out to be introverts! This just means that extroverts experience happier emotions slightly more often than introverts.
In many western societies, extroversion is seen as a good thing. But that doesn’t mean that introverts don’t contribute as much as extroverts. In fact, best-selling author Susan Cain believes that there are some advantages to being an introvert. She thinks that creativity can be related to introversion and, she writes, introverts can make great workplace managers because they give their employees “the freedom to pursue projects independently and they may be more focused on the goals of their company than on their own. “
Most importantly, research suggests that each way of relating to others has its own advantages — in other words, it's not possible to say that one is better than the other. Whichever you are, dear reader, I value you just the way you are!
Tomorrow is Wednesday and that means a visit from my wise teacher, the Dharma Frog, with another insightful lesson. I hope you’ll plan on joining me. Until then I wish you