How to Understand Introverts and Extraverts
One element that should be recognised for having an impact on the effectiveness of the connections in your life is the mixture of extraversion and introversion.
These are psychological terms that are thrown around with some abandon, popular definitions pegging introverts as quiet, and extraverts as noisy. As a teacher, I believe it is relatively easy to state whether a child is one way or another in the classroom. The shock, then, when I go out to the playground and see one of my ‘introverted’ students running around yelling at the top of her voice, making a whole group laugh! This person is supposed to be introverted, she shouldn't be enjoying herself in a group situation, surely? Or at work, when the guy who is quiet in a meeting and keeps his head down taking notes is in his element at a bar on a Friday evening (number of drinks aside).
The fact is, whether or not someone is extraverted or introverted has little to do with the way they present themselves to the world. The Theory of Psychological Type comes from Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, the first element of which deals with the way in which individuals are energised. He asserts that extraverted people gain energy from the ‘external world’ (interacting with others), while introverted people are recharged by introspection, or the ‘internal world.’
For example, two people could sit in the same meeting and present themselves in exactly the same way. They could talk the same amount and bring the same level of ideas to the table. However, they leave the meeting in very different ways: while the extravert comes away with a great deal of energy and momentum to keep up the work, the introvert is likely to come away with an acute need to sit still in a toilet cubicle in silence, with much of the energy they need to work effectively depleted. Yes, both have contributed the same amount of value, but who has paid the higher price?
In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain argues that diversity provides balance and makes for a fuller, richer world. Thus, we should create organisational structures and cultures that allow for both types of individual to work to their best ability. Organisations need to ensure that both types of people are recognised for their work – not only those who have the energy to shout it from the rooftops (or in a boardroom).
Remembering that we all fall on a scale of introversion and extraversion is a useful way of explaining the behaviours of people we are close to. While some of us are likely to want to talk all evening about their day at work, others want to put their feet up and properly recharge. Recognising people’s differences is important for maintaining respectful and effective relationships at home and at work, allowing everyone to give and create energy in their own way.