Night and day, feminine and masculine, mysticism and science, black and white, sane and insane….as humans, we like to think of things in terms of categories, of dichotomies. Upon closer examination, we often find that most of our facile categories run on more of a complex continuum rather than falling into an easy either/or characterization.
The same is true of an introverted versus extroverted personality. At one end of the continuum lies an extreme introvert; at the other end is an extreme extrovert. In reality, all of our personalities fall at various points along the continuum in shades of grey rather than black and white.
However, asking yourself whether you are an introvert or an extrovert and discovering where your personality falls along the continuum can prove helpful if you seek to become happier and more fulfilled in your life and your relationships. Whether it can be pinned on nature or nurture (and the empirical evidence is pointing to a strong nature component), the majority of us are either primarily introverted or extroverted.
In our culture of extrovert-worship, introverted personality traits are often maligned rather than celebrated as they deserve. This has lead to many people becoming closet introverts, pretending to be extroverted to fit in at work, school, or in their families. Let’s talk about the characteristics of introverts versus extroverts to help you answer the question “are you an introvert or an extrovert”?
First, an exploration of the basics of introverts, including positive characteristics of an introvert, challenging characteristics of an introvert, the introversion continuum, and even ideal jobs for introverts to pursue. Then, we’ll move on to detailing the same aspects of extroversion, all with the goal of painting an overall picture to help you decide whether you resonate more with being an introvert or an extrovert. Regardless of what anyone else has told you, whatever you find most resonant with your own personality and inner tendencies will be that of most use to you.
In general, positive characteristics of an introvert can be boiled down as follows. If you are an introvert, you may possess some of these traits or all of these traits. They may be well-developed or not as strong. Remember that personality is not an exact science.
You tend to reflect deeply on inner experiences and have a strong inner dialogue
Energized by downtime
You need to retreat from the outer world to rest, rejuvenate, and “recharge your batteries” through activities like reading, artwork, meditating, or simply resting
You place more emphasis on your own thoughts and feelings than those perpetuated by society or your peers; you have a strong inner compass which guides you
You are innovative, artistic, and/or poetic and often come up with novel solutions to problems
Idealistic and Dreamy
You can easily vividly envision a more just and beautiful world; you are easily taken by daydreams and flights of fancy
You think about experiences and learn from them; you have accumulated a lot of self-knowledge and have a strong inner dialogue
You have learned to rely on yourself rather than looking to other people to get your essential needs met
When working on something meaningful, inspiring, or interesting, your concentration is unrivaled; when working on a project, sometimes you can tap into an almost altered state where time ceases to mean much of anything
You look at situations from multiple perspectives, can play “devil’s advocate” even in your internal thought processes, and can tease apart problems to find underlying causes and possible solutions
You check and double check that something has been done right; you value a job well done and your reputation with other people as well as your internal sense of self-respect
Interact best with others on a one-to-one basis
When you know someone well or at least feel a resonance with them, you are an engaged, empathetic, and responsive presence
People would describe you as reliable and trustworthy; you take pride in living up to your responsibilities and doing what you said you would do
Quiet (not necessarily shy)
You prefer listening to talking; you tend to people-watch and observe rather than seeking to be the center of attention
This list of challenging introvert characteristics is provided not to pigeon-hole you or make you feel less-than. Rather, these are common struggles of introverted people trying to fit into our extroverted society. If you identify with many these struggles, or identify strongly with a few, this can help you answer the question of whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. And remember…this site is written by and for introverts…so we feel you.
Everyday social interactions such as going to work, answering the phone, making small talk, etc. sometimes give you an out-of-proportion feeling of anxiety and apprehension
You dread collaborative situations and prefer to work solo, only presenting a finished product when you are good and ready
You feel like most people don’t really understand you and may have trouble reaching out to other humans
Although certain situations may make you feel like speaking up or acting out, you feel a strong internal restriction against doing so; you feel a desire to “break free” but you don’t know how to do it or what to say
You have difficulty initiating social interactions; even when you would very much like to reach out, you feel inhibited
Although your inner voice is quite strong and clear, you struggle to make your wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings known to others
People may perceive you as distant and uncaring with regard to social norms of interaction
Introverts will do best and be happiest in situations that allow us to maximize our gifts rather than struggle further against our struggles. When choosing jobs and life situations, it helps to know whether you are an introvert or an extrovert and choose accordingly. An introvert or extrovert can “fake it” for a period of time when doing jobs associated with the opposite personality type, but it’s a losing game. They’ll feel unfulfilled and drained rather than inspired and supported.
Incompatible jobs and situations are unsustainable, while compatible jobs and situations allow the introvert to truly shine and go home each day with a feeling of satisfaction rather than exhaustion.
Compatible jobs will, of course, vary based on your unique skills, abilities, and preferences. But if a few or many of the jobs in this list resonate with you as being desirable, you might just be an introvert.
Now that we’ve gone over various traits and job functions that may resonate well with introverts, let’s talk extroversion. Check out the following list of commendable extrovert traits. If a majority of these resonate with you, it’s likely you are an extrovert.
You tend to be more concerned with outward actions than thoughts and feelings
Energized by socialization
You get “cabin fever” if you’re alone for too long; you prefer to keep a busy social calendar
Works well as a team member
You turn in your best work when you’re collaborating and bouncing ideas off other people
People find you likeable at first blush; you find it easy and comfortable to meet n’ greet new people and small talk is no problem
You have a lot of internal get up and go to hustle toward your goals every day
You would like to “get ahead” in the world; you value status and power
You feel comfortable and natural relating to many other people; you are drawn to social situations
You feel little inhibition when encountering new people and make new friends easily
Your demeanor gives off an easygoing, sociable vibe that many people find it easy to relate with
Loves meeting new people
You feel energized and inspired when interacting with new people and getting to know all about them
You love acting on spur-of-the-moment impulses
You have the “gift of gab” and find it easy to communicate your thoughts and feelings to other people, even those you don’t know particularly well
“Life of the Party”
Your friends and acquaintances would describe you as entertaining, outgoing, and energizing; you like telling stories and jokes to entertain people and make them laugh
The daily tasks of life don’t wear you down easily; you find it easy to forge ahead through your to-do list on a daily basis
Here are some less-positive characteristics that may be associated with having an extroverted personality. Remember that this list is not all-inclusive, nor it is it meant to stereotype you or make you feel limited in any way. However, if you relate strongly to struggles within this list, chances are good that you are an extrovert.
Uncomfortable being alone
You feel lonely and anxious when you have time to yourself; you prefer having a constant stream of stimulation from other people or outside situations
Friends, colleagues, or acquaintances seem to tune out when you are talking; this is annoying to you because to you, this level of sharing seems natural
You tend to act before you think, or blurt out the first thing that comes to mind; you may find yourself answering to others based on your impulsive actions
You may have been accused of being too boisterous or offending other people with your talkativeness or the volume of your laughter
Friends and family members may have pointed out that you seem to lack empathy for their feelings, or you are overly self-centered
You might be overbearing; you seem to make people close down rather than open up, even when the opposite is your intention
Extroverts will function best in situations in which they are able to interact with people and get fresh energy from others. Extroverts operate best when they are capitalizing on their ability to be ambitious, driven, and a true “people person”. Extroverts will not be particularly productive in situations where they are solitary or feel as if they are understimulated.
Hopefully, if you have been in doubt on the question of whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, this article has provided you with a framework on which to start investigating the inner workings of your personality. Introversion versus extroversion can make a major impact on which life situations will help you feel happy and satisfied and which will leave you feeling drained and wanting more.
Our point is never to try to force you into a narrow definition of who you are. Everyone’s personality functions along a continuum with introversion at one end and extroversion at the other end. Enhanced self-knowledge can be enormously helpful when making life decisions such as which careers or opportunities are the most healthy, supportive, and sustainable to pursue. We all have crossroads, questions, and personal struggles, whether they are based on our introvert or extrovert personality tendencies.
To live in the world, we all need to know how to generate and manage our internal energy. While extroverts are energized, motivated, and restored by interactions with other humans in higher-energy settings, introverts feel that same supportive internal effect from solitary contemplation, downtime, and space to think and feel on their own or with a few trusted confidants. Determine whether you are an introvert or an extrovert and you will have a giant piece of your life’s puzzle right there in your hand.
Craig is the founder of LifeGuider, he is dedicated to improving not only himself but also others in being more physically fit and mentally capable of handling life’s challenges. He is not your regular life coach, no fancy clothes or fast cars, just a regular “Ole Joe” who has experienced the ups and downs of life like everyone else.
Introverts everywhere, get ready to shudder your way through this article. If you fall anywhere…