- BBC Radio 4
- Serie “One to one”
If you were asked if you are an introvert or an extrovert, what would you answer?
Most people identify as one or the other without a second thought.
At the end of the day, they are opposing features that do not seem to allow gray tones.
An introvert, for example, may wish to spend their free time in the quiet solitude of their own company, something that to a more outgoing individual might seem like hell.
But can you really be an extrovert or an introvert? And, will it have any benefit to identify as one and not the other?
The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was the one who popularized the terms introversion and extroversion (or “extraversion” as he spelled it) when he founded his theoretical and clinical corpus which he called analytical psychology in 1913.
The basic premise is that introverts seek energy internally, while extroverts get it from those around them.
However, according to psychotherapist and writer Mark Vernon. Jung would be ‘horrified’ by the way these terms have been adopted today.
Even though many of us firmly describe ourselves as ‘extroverts’ or ‘introverts’ and see them as key parts of our identity, lJung’s definitions are notrstill so polarized.
In Jung’s view, we needed look for both outside and inside to be ‘whole people’.
Far from being “what we are,” Jung viewed introversion and extroversion as types of consciousness that we can experience differently in different situations.
Both introversion and extraversion can dominate our behavior, but we can experience and benefit from the other that is somewhere deep within us.
By harnessing both sources of “energy”, we can really expand our life experience.
In the deep
What precisely is it that we have somewhere deep?
Jung refers to what he calls the “shadow.”
Although it sounds disturbing, it is simply a metaphor for the side of our personality that we supposedly repress because it does not reflect the way we present ourselves to the world.
Someone who goes from party to party, for example, might find spending time alone not as excruciating as he feared; it can be an effective way to recharge.
Is life easier for extroverts?
Viewing introversion and extroversion in a binary way can lead us to make decisions based on the type of personality with which we identify.
For example, there are studies that indicate that ‘introverts’ (as labeled by a personality test) feel that they would not be successful or enjoy leadership roles.
That can completely discourage them from competing for those kinds of positions at work.
In contrast, extroverts, who present themselves as confident, confident, and dominant, are conventionally perceived as better suited for these high-power roles.
Therefore ‘extroverts’ are likely to earn more than ‘introverts’.
The benefits of introversion
However, people are not just one personality type, and those with introverted tendencies can professionally benefit from being extroverted at times.
Research has shown that those with introverted traits tend to overestimate the negative feelings they will experience when acting extroverted, which discourages them from doing so.
But the studiesas well demonstratedaron that these concerns were unfounded, and when introverts explored a different side of their personality, they actually enjoyed acting in an extroverted way (just as much as those with an extroverted disposition!).
That seems to confirm Jung’s theory that we can benefit from rescuing our ‘shadow’ (in this case, extroversion).
As Vernon says, if we take more and more advantage of these ways of being contradictory, “we gradually reinforce them and they stop being a shadow to become part of ourselves.”
Pretend until you get it
The qualities associated with introversion can also be beneficial for leadership situations.
Research shows that while extroverted leaders achieve better results when working with a passive team, more proactive teams respond better to introverted leaders.
Embracing the extroverted quality of confidence will help introverts believe in and put their leadership skills to use.
Once they have achieved these positions of power, introvert leaders can benefit from behavior that comes more naturally to them, such as good listening and thinking skills.
The problem with stamps
There’s something else, Vernon explains, that makes defining people by personality types not particularly helpful: the fact that our personalities change over time, even as adults.
Language is a major factor at play here: describing ourselves or others using a noun such as ‘introvert’ or ‘extrovert’ implies that that is who we are, and with this come the connotations of permanence.
But humans are more malleable than we think, and our love for a label can forbid us to see that we can change and grow.
Introvert or extrovert? Why not both of them?
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.