Outer and inner worlds
In the course of a normal day, every single one of us moves between two quite separate worlds. The extravert world is the world which exists outside of ourselves. It’s the world of people, things and activity. We extravert every time our attention is drawn to the outer world. Even when we sit watching television on our own, we are involved in an extraverted activity as our attention is focused on the external world.
The introvert world is the world which exists inside our head. It is a world of inner reflection. Here we process thoughts, make decisions, mull over our experiences or whatever in a solitary manner. Our attention is drawn inwards.
When people hear about extraversion/introversion their first response is often to say “I do both” (particularly if they are an extravert!). But everyone does both. The question here is: which of these two worlds do you prefer? Do you feel more comfortable, or at home, when you are involved in the outer or the inner world? People who prefer the outer world have a preference for extraversion. People who prefer the inner world have a preference for introversion.
Jung was the first writer to classify people as introverts and extraverts. For him the essential difference was how we gather and use our energy.
Extraverts are energised, literally turned on, by action and interaction. They’re stimulated by talking, doing and being with other people. They allow their energy to flow into the external world. That’s why extraverts often talk louder and use more gestures than introverts. So extraverts are energised in the extravert world and expend most of their energy there.
Introverts derive their energy from internal sources. They can easily feel drained by involvement with the external world and have to turn inwards to recharge their batteries. Because action and interaction uses up their energy, introverts often try to minimise the energy they expend in the outer world. Unlike extraverts, they are unlikely to repeat themselves or to talk for the sake of it. If you want to know what an introvert is thinking, often you will need to ask as he/she may not volunteer an opinion.
Extraverts in everyday life
Extraverts like action and interaction and tend to have a broader social circle than introverts and more hobbies and activities.
Extraverts tend to talk about what is on their mind and what is important to them so you are likely to know what makes them tick, even if you don’t want to! Extraverts’ need to talk can sometimes be so great they will talk to themselves. This is particularly true if they are struggling to do a job, like counting, and they will often resort to counting aloud just to make it easier to concentrate.
In fact concentration is a bit of an issue for extraverts. They are easily distracted by talking, traffic, or the sound of the TV. Introverts, by contrast, find it easier just to tune out of the external world and concentrate on inner thoughts.
Most extraverts like spending some time alone and need periods of peace and quiet. But extraverts often find they have to come down slowly from a hectic day when they have been doing a lot of extraverting. They may even spend an evening on the phone.
Introverts in everyday life
It is very easy to underestimate introverts. Introverts are people who reflect deeply on life, but as they often have no real need to communicate these thoughts to others, this depth is often hinted at but not fully revealed. The term, “still waters run deep” was certainly coined to describe introverts.
Introverts abhor the idea of talking for the sake of it. Unlike many extraverts, they do not see silence as something to be filled with conversation. In relationships, many introverts say they like being with others in “companionable silence”.
To others, introverts can appear shy when in reality they just have little need to share their thoughts with others. Introverts also prefer to think through what they want to say before giving voice to their thoughts and often resent being put on the spot or expected to talk “off the cuff”. Unlike extraverts, introverts rarely use conversation to work out important parts of their thought processes. They would prefer to think through these issues on their own and then communicate later – if at all.
In the workplace, introverts often develop good social skills and can often appear quite extravert. This can tire them, however, and they are then more likely to need time to introvert at home.
© Carol Craig
MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries; OPP Ltd. has exclusive rights to these trademarks in the U.K.