Most people think of an extravert as being the life of the party and the introvert as the quiet book worm. These descriptions are far too simplistic and don’t really help us to understand ourselves. Here’s how I like to think about extraversion and introversion:
Extraverts turn to the outside world to get their reality check and introverts turn inwards. Extraverts need to know what the world thinks of them whereas introverts rely on the standards they set themselves. Here’s a good example. When an extravert writes an essay, he or she has no idea how good the essay is until the mark comes back. If the mark is high, they believe the essay must be good. If the mark is low, the essay must have been bad. When an introvert writes an essay, he or she has a fair idea about how good it is. If the introvert believes the essay is good but they receive a low mark, then they will probably think that the marker got it wrong. And if the introvert thought the essay wasn’t their best work and they get a great mark, then they will probably still think the marker got it wrong or everyone else must have written appalling essays.
Let’s look at how introverts and extraverts feel about performing in public. After the extravert has given a speech, he or she will be guided by the audience’s reaction. If the audience was happy and a few people came up and said “well done” then the extravert will believe that they have done a good job. The introvert however will make their own judgment about the performance and if they believe that they spoke badly, they won’t be comforted by a few pats on the back.
There are pros and cons to being either one. So why is it interesting to work out if you’re an extravert or an introvert? Because sometimes it’s helpful to pretend that you’re the opposite personality type. If you’re an introvert and you are being really hard on yourself about how you performed, try to think how an extravert would handle it. An extravert would check with a few people and if they said it’s all okay, then they would move on. And if you’re an extravert who is not coping with a lack of feedback at work, try to think how an introvert would handle that situation. An introvert would set their own standards and give themselves feedback.
The idea is not to try to change your personality. But it’s always good to gain further insight in our thought patterns and behaviour so that we can develop strategies to use if we are struggling.