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Extroverts: Friend or Foe?

and How To Refocus On Our Own Journey

I've always been curious about the relationships between introverts and extroverts. On the surface, we reside at opposite ends of the personality continuum. Dictionaries even consider 'introvert' the antonym or opposite of 'extrovert.'

So what's the introvert's general view of extroverts?

Well, I conducted an informal poll within several introvert Facebook Groups this past week and over 90 people provided considerable insight. The wordmap highlights the one-word answers with the larger fonts representing the most common responses.

Let's condense these further into 3 groups for further consideration:

  1. Aggravated: this group represents 54% of the responses which range from sympathetic and avoidable to more stirring responses like annoying, irritating, draining, distrustful, resentful, and intimidating. Sarah G. shares, "They're draining, distracting and seem less capable of understanding us than we do them." My first thought is how unfortunate this group is to be wasting so much valuable energy chastising another group of people. This group has active disdain for extroverts. But then I realize I too have fallen into this group. I have been envious of their casual social demeanor, the ease with which they strike up conversations and the bravado they exhibit at meetings and events. I've rolled my eyes at many extroverts who appear to feel they "own the room" as others seem to follow their every word and action. I can relate to the descriptors but I do recognize it's not helpful to me.

  2. Indifferent: this group comprises 17% of the respondents. Most here prefer not to spend any time thinking about extroverts at all. Winston S. shares, "I was born an intro{vert] and they were born the way they are. Not much feeling about it." This group probably benefits by preserving their energy for more important issues and just shrugging off the extroverts in the crowd and moving on.

  3. Constructive: somewhat surprisingly, this group represents 29%. Most often, they describe their view as "respectful" with some going so far as to say "complementary" or even "love." I suspect some have close relationships with extroverts, either at home, in social circles, or at work. They are happy to spend energy with extroverts and see it as an investment in themselves and their community. Amanda P. says, "I don't mind extroverts at all. I didn't expect for so many people to hate on them. That's not being very accepting of others' differences, yet you are complaining about them not being accepting of you as an introvert..."

So what can we glean from this information?

By nature, we introverts are very introspective and covet our precious energy. We think (and re-think) the past, present, and future. Yet, despite all that inward reflection, we often spend our valuable energy comparing ourselves to others. That is common in our society as many secretly compare titles, looks, or possessions to try to build self-worth. But introverts often take it a step further, admiring and coveting the personality of others. Hence, we often become envious of their confidence or view them with disdain for their bravado and charm.

But this is just not healthy. Jeric P. states, "Be happy for who we are and enjoy things we're comfortable [with] instead of wasting it by getting envy to them." We are all different. And frankly, we don't know the anxiety and tumult that others deal with in their own private lives. Most extroverts could list just as many frustrations and insecurities as introverts as they struggle to live up to their image, strive for deeper relationships, quest for some private time, or yearn for acceptance from others. Crispin MM surmises, "...imagine having to deal with all those people when you can be alone..." None of us should be so fast as to be envious of others.

Embracing Our True Selves to Gain Contentment

Instead, introverts can use their introspective strengths to recognize their many talents. These often include being great listeners, developing deep and thoughtful relationships, and using balanced analysis and creativity to develop unique solutions and ideas. These are some of our strengths that our relationships, workplaces, and communities need to balance off conversations and decision-making. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and generate our own goals; goals based on our learnings, and personal and professional growth. Stretching our comfort zone and making efforts to learn and grow should be celebrated. Focusing on our own strengths and growth is much more productive than yearning to be like someone else.

I encourage you to go down this path with self-compassion and reflection. Be kind to yourself as you learn and grow. Set your goals based on your own ambitions, not that of others. Enjoy the effort. The value is in the journey more so than the destination. Apply your penchant for reflection along the way. Journal your thoughts, your strengths, your attempts, and your successes. Don't succumb to the temptation to chastise yourself for shortcomings along the way. Keep it positive.

Contentment Breeds Confidence

At various checkpoints along the journey, we will discover growing contentment - in who we are, in what we are doing, and in where we are going. Rather than wasting energy envying others, we are funneling that energy into our own success and contentment.

Along the way, we will recognize we are building self-esteem and self-confidence. Suddenly, we are proud of who we are and the journey we are on. And without the envy, the frustration at others starts to slip away.

Confidence Builds Community

Not only do the negative sentiments fade, but we suddenly begin to recognize the value in others and the opportunities we may create together. We can respect what extroverts bring to the table without being envious. We begin to see that together, our teams, social circles, and relationships can thrive.

  • Extroverts can help introduce introverts to others; introverts can help create deeper bonds.

  • Extroverts may brainstorm new ideas while introverts offer balanced analysis to challenge and strengthen solutions.