Introversion is hopelessly misunderstood.
Contrary to popular belief, introversion and extroversion aren’t about being shy versus being outgoing. These personality traits are about where you get your energy.
Sure, introverts can be more reserved and extroverts more bubbly, but those are not defining factors of the traits.
Gizmodo digs into the science of introversion and extroversion, terms Carl Jung coined in the 1920s:
“Extroverted people are energized by social interactions, whereas those same engagements are energetically taxing for introverts. So after attending a party or other social gathering, introverts need time alone to ‘recharge.’”
This means it is entirely possible for an introvert to enjoy social gatherings as much as, or even more than, an extrovert does. It’s just that after the occasion, the former needs to recharge, whereas the social gathering is fuel for the latter.
Possessing personality does not make you an extrovert, and neither does enjoying conversations with people. This distinction is so simple. What is less simple is trying to understand why so few people get it right. When did the definition of extrovert come to mean “outgoing” or “sociable?” It must have been the same time the definition of poignant became “pointed.”
Introverts can be outgoing and sociable. Introverts can even be — stay with me here — charismatic.
This Psychology Today article, which talks about how underestimated introverts are, says outgoingness isn’t what makes someone charismatic. So even if an introvert leans on the shy side, she can still possess charisma with her passion, conviction, or commitment to a belief, cause, or concern.
I may be letting you in on a big secret here, but introverts can have passion and conviction, too.
I am one such introvert, and my passion and outspokenness are often what lead people to believe I’m an extrovert. But my personality shows its fiery colors mainly when speaking about something I’m passionate about.
This does not make me an extrovert.
It is not surprising that most of the “you’re an extrovert” comments I hear come from extroverts. If an introvert were to engage in a mutual conversation with me (I say “mutual” because introverts are often domineered in conversations by extroverts) she would observe the nuances of my personality. She would know, because she would process and assess the information in front of her.
But identifying these personality traits isn’t always easy because introversion and extroversion are on opposite sides of a spectrum, and everybody lies somewhere in between the two.
The same Gizmodo article I mentioned earlier quotes Jung saying:
“There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”
As such, introverts can possess some qualities which seem extroverted, and vice versa.
It is no surprise that many writers are introverts. Writers are professionals at observation — it’s what makes us good at our craft. We also don’t despise being alone, so the solitary work isn’t as damaging as it is for extroverts. In fact, that alone time is when we charge up.
Having not only the ability but the desire to process information is one of the most important qualities a writer can have. This requires alone time to reflect and synthesize data. Extroverts are certainly capable of doing this, they just may not prioritize it the way introverts do because, again, extroverts find their energy in stimulating situations, not in quiet moments of reflection.
We live in an extrovert’s world. The only thing we introverts should do with this information is use it to our advantage; remain our introverted selves while we quietly produce the very best music, write the very best book, build the very best app — and then surprise people with our cunning.
Because everybody loves an underdog story.