You can’t browse Facebook or the internet without some article about how introverts are different, how misunderstood they are, how to identify them, how to identify yourself as one, and what their needs are. We’ve officially reached introversion saturation, much like we have with articles about narcissism or paleo diets.
I don’t say this to complain or because it’s a bad thing. It’s a natural thing–when something reaches that tipping point and takes off, it means it’s resonating with a lot of people and that its time has come. It’s also a good thing, as the saturation ensures we are slightly more educated about others (and ourselves) than we used to be.
But, as with anything that becomes a mainstream topic, everyone becomes an expert on it. I’ve read more articles on narcissism than I can count, and every one defines it differently and offers different signs of it. Some of the articles even contradict one another. And it’s the same with introversion.
So, to begin what will likely be a series on introversion, I’m going to take a look on how it’s currently being defined.
A huge challenge in psychology isn’t just studying a particular trait, it’s defining the trait in the first place. Tons of research goes into this alone. Even the greatest thinkers won’t fully agree on their definitions, even when those definitions are empirically derived through research. This is also the case with introversion. Right now, at the peak saturation point for introversion articles in the media, the popular definition is that:
– Introverts are people who need time alone to recharge, while extroverts are people who need time with others to recharge.
This definition basically takes Susan Cain’s book on introversion and distills it down to one line. And since her book is part of what made introversion a commonplace word now, this makes sense. But this definition annoys me because it’s not quite accurate. It makes extroverts sound like people who don’t need time alone, who don’t find value in that. In my experience, this is NOT the case. I know many an extrovert who needs time alone to recharge and gather their energy and will often use that as an argument when labeled an extrovert (when they clearly are extroverts). Why are they arguing? Because that definition is weak. The real issue isn’t whether you need time alone, as many people do from time to time, but how much of it you can tolerate. Extroverts may need some time alone, but they don’t often tolerate a lot of it. For example, in my experience, extroverts don’t do well working at home. It’s too lonely for them. However, this is only one sign of introversion, which may or may not apply to everyone.
I’ve been reading about extroversion and introversion since I was 12 years old. And I’m sticking to the definitions based on Jung’s work: that introverts are “internal” people who focus on the inner world of thoughts and ideas, whereas extroverts are “external” people who are more focused on the outer world of people and things. This is why introverts are often artists, writers, scientists, engineers (thoughts and ideas), whereas extroverts are often in business, sales, teaching, construction (people and things). Introverts are often quieter, less talkative, and harder to read (internal), whereas extroverts can be louder, more chatty, and easier to read (external). This definition is less concrete, but I find it more accurate and useful.
Introversion and Dating
As single people, I want you to understand introversion, at least to a certain point. I want you to know where you more or less fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, and be able to (somewhat) understand those who land on a different part of that spectrum. Why? Because dating, by its nature, is a somewhat extroverted activity that comes more naturally to extroverts. Which means that introverts may struggle more at it, and extroverts may misread introverts.
Stay tuned… I have more to say on this topic!