5 Things Introverts Get Wrong About Extroverts (And Why It Matters)

5 things introverts get wrong about extroverts (and why it matters)

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I have read many off-hand comments by introverts making subtle digs at extroverts like:
  • “I’m an introvert so it’s hard for me to brag about myself” (extroverts don’t have a monopoly on bragging);
  • “I’m an introvert so I don’t like making small talk for hours with strangers at loud parties.” (actually, no one likes this);
  • “I’m an introvert so I lack self-confidence” (those are completely different things).

I think something about introversion and extroversion got lost in translation. It’s great that people are finding out more about themselves and their personality tendencies. It seems that in learning about ourselves, however, we can often incorrectly attribute our own tendencies to all people like us, and assume that the opposite is true of all out-group people.

So an introvert that likes to Netflix and chill may assume that extroverts can’t stand the solitude. (Truth: everyone likes to Netflix and chill). Or an introvert that hates people thinks that all introverts hate people (nope! That’s called misanthropy, not introversion).And so on.

Here, I’d like to clear up some myths that I see all too often.

1. Extroverts vastly outnumber introverts.

 

Most introverts seem to think they’re in the minority and this creates an us vs them mentality. The truth is that there are no hard statistics. Some researchers estimate that 50-75% of the population are extroverts.  Of course, that leaves open the possibility that there are an even or close number of extroverts and introverts (50-50, 60-40). Other research suggests that between one half and two-thirds of the population is ambivert – that is, both introvert and extrovert. So introverts and extroverts BOTH might be in the minority.

And even if most people were extroverts, there’s a wide variety of introverts and extroverts. It’s a spectrum; most people are in the middle of the spectrum. Being a complete extrovert or a complete introvert is rare and honestly, weird. We are all a little bit of both. We are actually much more similar than those personality tests would have you believe.

2. Everything social is easier for extroverts. 

People often confuse introversion for shyness, anxiety, or lack of confidence. Likewise, people confuse extroversion with talking too much, fearlessness and arrogance.  The actual dichotomy is that introvert and extrovert brains function differently in response to dopamine and acetylcholine.  Dopamine rises when we take risks and seek novelty. In contrast, when we read or use our minds, our brains release acetylcholine, which makes us feel relaxed and content

Extroverts lack dopamine and thus need to seek it out via social settings. Extrovert brains also aren’t as sensitive to acetylcholine. Introverts, conversely, have a lot of dopamine already and are sensitive to acetylcholine.  This is why introverts tend to avoid crowded places — introverts can quickly become overwhelmed with dopamine. Also, because of their sensitivity to acetylcholine, they will get quite a lot of contentment from quiet activities. Extroverts and introverts are just responding to the chemicals in their brain that give them the most rewards.

Based on this description, it’s clear that extroverts have no natural advantage in social situations – it just explains why they seek it out more. And again, everyone’s reactions to dopamine and acetylcholine are a little different so it may be true that extroverts seek a little more stimulation than introverts but not necessarily much more.

As I discussed with an introvert friend, he sometimes felt exhausted by the idea of getting ready to go out for a social situation, even though he liked being social.  I, an extrovert, relished the idea of preparing to go out, even if it was not to go to a social situation. It’s not the social aspect, necessarily, but sometimes I need a little more external excitement than an introvert.

3. Extroverts hate silence and being alone.

The optimal balance of chemicals that differentiate introverts from extroverts is different for each person. I’m an ENFP, which is one of the most introverted types of extroverts, so I need time alone. I live by myself and can read for hours with no music or external noise. I work in a very quiet office without much social interaction. This is not something that all or most extroverts, or even introverts, can handle, but I love it and need it.

I know introverts who need to be in the presence of other people but don’t want to interact with them. They like the din of noise that others bring. It would, however, be very stressful to me never to have absolute quiet for some part of the day.  This is all to say that there’s just a wide variety of introversion and extroversion. Somewhere in the middle, there’s quite a bit of mixing – with extroverts appreciating silence and introverts appreciating some fuss. You can’t really assume that one likes or dislikes science based on whether someone is an extrovert or not.

4. Extroverts aren’t shy.

I’m an extrovert and I’m a little shy. Most people are at least a little shy. Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, people are afraid of strangers and of rejection. Most people hate networking and few people have mastered the art of small talk (or like it).
My sister and brother are both introverted but they are not really shy. I could point them to a (nonthreatening) stranger and say, go introduce yourself and they would walk straight up to that person and extend their hand. They don’t need the social stimulation of talking to other people but they have less social anxiety than I do. Personally, I’m not sure how my siblings do it, but I know that shyness and extroversion can exist as easily as boldness and introversion.

5. Extroverts are [negative connotation].

I think it’s great that people are talking about introversion and extroversion and learning about themselves. But I think it can be dangerous to use this introversion/extroversion as a lens to understand everyone and everything .

Maybe you meet someone extroverted who is arrogant and loud. Maybe you meet extroverts that are great at parties. These anecdotes are not indicative of all extroverts. Some extroverts are arrogant and some are modest. Some are loud and some are quiet. Some extroverts have natural charisma, some worked very hard to develop those people skills and some are awkward and weird.  The same is true for introverts.
The other side of this coin is that introverts see their own social weaknesses and attribute all introverts as having the same problems. Introverts think that they can’t be good at networking, public speaking or any other “extroverted” endeavors and that couldn’t be further from the truth. These are all skills that need to be learned and practiced.

Why It Matters that When Introverts and Extroverts Don’t Understand Each Other


It wouldn’t necessarily matter that introverts are wrong about extroverts except that often these assumptions cast extroverts in a negative light or fail to empathize the universal problems that all humans have.  Introverts and extroverts all suffer a bit in social settings. It’s only natural now, when our society has moved away from tribes where everyone knew each other to live in huge cities far surrounded by strangers. (I actually heard about this when an author is describing why people are awkward.) Meeting people is hard. Putting yourself out there is hard. Being vulnerable is hard. If I’m good at any of these things, it’s because I forced myself to do them often- it didn’t come naturally from being an extrovert.

Your personality type is not your destiny. Nor is your personality type an excuse to keep you from advancing in your career/life. Everyone is still responsible for improving in areas that don’t come naturally to us, whatever they may be.

While it’s great to learn more about what environments are the most conducive for your own thriving, let’s try to be a little empathetic to people who are different to us, without assuming we know all those differences. We can all try to understand that it’s difficult for any stranger to extend their hand to us, so we can be the first to do so.

3 thoughts on “5 Things Introverts Get Wrong About Extroverts (And Why It Matters)

  1. These days i’m not certain what camp i fall under. I think i am naturally introverted…but overtime i have come to appreciate being out there more, socializing, meeting new people and talking to others.

    I definitely can see this from both sides of the isle…. Very interesting!

    My favorite point is, extroverts aren’t shy,,,, even though some days i would classify myself as extroverted, i still feel shy a lot of times. I’ve just kind of taught myself to overcome that shyness, and take the plunge.

    I’m thinking im all the better for doing so. Cheers!

    1. It’s great to know our tendencies but then we still createwhatever identity we want. Everyone has to overcome a little shyness!

  2. This was a great post to read, since it made me actually stop and think about the extrovert’s perspective. I’ve automatically assumed extroverts have the easier path in life. They make friends effortlessly, quickly make connections, network like crazy, and just enjoy life to the fullest. But realizing there are so many variations to the equation was a real eye opener.

    And the part about everyone basically hating networking (I thought it was just me! Ha. Or I guess that’s just what it feels like…) But funnily enough, sometimes when I do meet people for the first time, they’re surprised I define myself as an introvert, because apparently I don’t come across that way. I personally think it’s because of the adrenaline, since I tend to babble when I’m nervous.

    But that just goes to show you — you really don’t know, and all personalities are truly complex.
    p.s. Also LOVED “Your personality type is not your destiny”. This is something I’m trying my darnedest to work through at this very moment. 🙂

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