Appreciating Differences - Jack Falt - Ottawa area, Ontario, Canada

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Appreciating Differences

#2 - Extraversion-Introversion

This column, written by Jack Falt, is the second article on personality types and a regular feature of Energy Medicine. It was first published December 1998, Volume 1, Issue 2. See the subsequent articles on this site that describe the meaning of the four dimensions of behaviour that personality measures.

The first dimension of behaviour that personality type measures is Extraversion-Introversion. These terms have become part of our general vocabulary but here they are used in a more precise way. An Extravert (Jung spelled it with an 'a') does not necessarily mean a wild boisterous person who dances around with a lampshade on the head; nor does being an Introvert mean living like a hermit in a cave. The terms are a measure of where we get our energy from. Extraverts get their energy from the outer world and feel drained when they are by themselves too long. Introverts get their energy from within and lose energy quickly when having to deal with a lot of people. Think of Extraverts like solar cell batteries. They need to be in the sun to get charged up. Introverts are more like rechargeable batteries. They need to be by themselves to restore their energy, and then they can go back out into the world of people. This is why an Introvert-Extravert couple have difficulty when they attend a party. Both like people, but the Introvert prefers the intimacy of talking in depth with a few people, and then tires rather quickly. The Extravert is gregarious and enjoys meeting a lot of different people, and feel energized by the experience. Half way through the evening the Introvert wants to go home; the Extravert wants to stay, and in fact would like to go on to another party after this one. For the couple who don't understand each other's psychological type, each thinks that the other is deliberately trying to sabotage the other's fun. One way of solving this problem is to take two cars or one goes home in a taxi.

Those with a high Extraversion score are not necessarily individuals that are more outgoing and lively. Rather, it means that they have a clear preference for Extraversion, i.e. practically everything they do will relate to the outer world. Similarly, a high Introversion score does not mean that these individuals are quiet and withdrawn, but that they usually go inside to think things through before they respond and need a lot of time by themselves.

"If you don't know what an Extravert is thinking, you haven't listened. If you don't know what an Introvert is thinking, you haven't asked." These two statements sum up one of the main differences between the Extravert and the Introvert. Extraverts tend just to say whatever comes into their head. They also tend to repeat themselves. This can create some confusion as people listening to them assume that what the Extraverts are saying is what they mean. Not necessarily so! Extraverts often just think out loud and these thoughts are more like a first draft. If the Extravert happens to be your boss, it might be wise to ask if this is what is expected right now. Often she will reply that she was just trying out some ideas.

Introverts on the other hand tend to mentally rehearse what they are thinking. When they have it all worked out in their mind, then they might tell you. It is not that they want to conceal their thoughts. It just doesn't occur to them to say them out loud. That is why it is wise to ask. Silence does not necessarily mean consent. A spouse may assume that what was talked about was agreed to. No! "You talked and I didn't say anything!" says the Introvert. "Why didn't you say something?" asks the Extravert. "Because!" responds the Introvert. The 'because' is that the person is an Introvert. Perhaps, he isn't even aware of why he is reluctant to speak out.

The wise boss with a problem to solve will ask for the Introvert's opinion. Often the Introvert has been thinking very seriously about the problem and has it all worked out in her head. Coming forth and speaking about the solution takes energy. The Introvert just may not think to speak up. Also, it takes time for Introverts to process what they are thinking about. So give them a few minutes to collect their thoughts. On the other hand, the Extravert may answer you before you have time to say the whole question.

Extraversion-Introversion is not a measure of shyness. It is possible to have shy Extraverts and assertive Introverts. Shyness has more to do with an awareness of physical sensations. Either Extraverts or Introverts making a speech before a crowd may feel nervous about the situation and try to avoid the task. Sometimes they may feel nervous and do it anyway. Some Introverts can be quite comfortable speaking before a group.

The one time Introverts have no difficulty in talking is when they are speaking about their special interest, hobby or skill. Then, sometimes it is difficult to shut them up! This is material they know thoroughly and so don't need to rehearse what they are going to say.

Extraverts are more likely to initiate a conversation either with acquaintances or strangers. Introverts can act like the proverbial wall flower and wait until someone approaches them. They can feel quite uncomfortable going to a social event where they may not know anyone. If you are hosting a party, you will be doing the Introverts a favour by introducing them to several people, being sure to indicate what they might have in common. Another strategy would be to pair them up with an Extravert who will carry the conversation until the Introvert feels more comfortable.

Not only do Extraverts talk more than Introverts but they are more expressive in communicating their feelings, emotional state, interests and experiences to others. The Introvert is typified by the image of being a "man of few words." Unfortunately, in the real world very often the ones who get noticed are the ones who speak out.

The population is almost divided about equally between Extraverts and Introverts. There are also those individuals whose score is very close to the middle, and it is harder for them as well as you to know what their true preference is.

It would seem that Extraversion-Introversion is an inborn tendency and often can be observed in even very young children. But even if we have a very strong tendency to prefer one over the other, we are also challenged to develop our weaker preferences. The Extraverts need to learn to go within and develop their thoughts in quiet and solitude. The Introverts need to make the effort to speak out and take the initiative in social situations. Often this is why it is more difficult to observe what older people's preferences are. Along the way many have learned to develop their weaker preference. One of our goals in life is to honour our preferences but develop the weaker ones so that they are available to us when we need them. This is what Jung called "individuation."

See previous article: #1 - An Introduction

See the next article: #3 - Sensing and Intuition

See next article: #4 - Thinking and Feeling

See the next article: #5 - Judging and Perceiving

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