When I first studied psychology people were fascinated, but then I realised two things: firstly they were mainly fascinated by themselves. They’d say: “Oh you’d be interested in me,” (well we are all our own favourite anecdote) and secondly, they’d say: “well it depends what you mean by ‘introvert.’” That would drive me to distraction as Jung invented the terms ‘extravert’ and ‘introvert,’ so he’d know what he meant. And it is, of course, about where we draw our energy from. Extraverts draw their energy from their environment, from people, situations, conversations, they are like vampires sucking in energy. Introverts draw their energy from within, from their own space. We can see this at parties, lots of people chatting, having fun, no-one knows who the extraverts or the introverts are; but watch more closely.
It’s funny when you look around the room on Christmas Day and you see some people initiating games, singing in the new Karaoke machine and generally making merry. They will have their new brightly coloured jumpers on, and telling everyone about each present they got. Around the periphery there’s a group who are reading, taking it all in and quietly looking at their presents, content with their own thoughts and company. To the Extravert it seems the Introverts just need to come out of their shells, and to the Introverts it seems the Extraverts just have to speak out every waking thought. So the Extraverts feel sorry for the Introverts, as they believe you can’t really be having fun if you’re quiet. And the Introverts feel sorry for the Extraverts, as it is so sad not to be able to sit quietly and enjoy one thing without jumping around. So this Christmas strike a balance: Extraverts just need to tell the world, they need to speak out their innermost thoughts and they are happiest then they do so. Introverts really do prefer some peace and quiet and they are happiest when they can be quiet and focus on one thing. So live and let live and have a Happy Christmas Extraverted or Introverted.
Jung was clear in his definition of Extraversion and Introversion that it is about is from where we draw our energy. Extraverts are attuned to their external environment and draw their energy from what’s going on around them, people, situations and indeed need that ‘feed.’ Introverts are more attuned to their internal environment and will draw their energy from within. This means that for Extraverts their neural processing will take place outside their heads, speaking out their thoughts while the neural processing for Introverts will occur inside their heads and emerge fully formed when they are ready to speak.
A typical Sunday morning situation and we think you’ll be able to spot which is the Extravert and which is the Introvert.
We often have people contact us trying to correct our spelling of “Extravert” pointing out that it is in fact “Extrovert.” How did this happen, why and how did the ‘a’ become an ‘o?’ Very strange!
Carl Gustav Jung first coined the terms and he was very clear:
Extraversion [sic] is characterized by interest in the external object, responsiveness, and a ready acceptance of external happenings, a desire to influence and be influenced by events, a need to join in…the capacity to endure bustle and noise of every kind, and actually find them enjoyable, constant attention to the surrounding world, the cultivation of friends and acquaintances… The psychic life of this type of person is enacted, as it were, outside himself, in the environment.CJ Jung, Psychological Types, CW 6, pars. 1-7
Whisper it quietly but there seems to be a groundswell of support for, and understanding of, introverts. And rightly so! As Susan Cain points out in her book: “Quiet: the power of introverts” it is difficult to be quiet in a noisy world and self-projection is often seen as the norm. So yeah more power to the introverts.
However what if this goes full circle, what will happen to us extraverts? Our maxim tends to be ‘Dico ergo sum,’ ‘I speak therefore I am,” and so will we be expected to let our energy drain away in pale silence? Who will break the ice at parties and social gatherings, who will state the obvious? We extraverts NEED to speak, it is how we process our thoughts and silence kind of scares us. Social chitchat is the glue that holds the fabric of society together and we are often expected to ensure the atomisation of the introvert world is brought into the collective world.
“Where’s my… oh there it is” is a common phrase for the extravert. They say things as they think them and they need to talk through their thoughts to make sense of them. The upside is you’ll know the context, what’s happening, why they think things, how they got to their decisions. The downside is you’ll know and experience all the mind-changes and irrelevances too; like that they momentarily misplaced… something (they never finished that sentence)! If they are extravert ‘N’ they will go through their future ideas and plans, if they are extravert ‘S’ they will take you through the details.