• The Introvert-Extrovert Dilemma

    July 9, 2017 | Blog | Jodi
  • When I was in school, I was a nerd – brainiac, geek, dork, you know who I mean. When the teacher asked a question, there I was with my hand in the air (I never got the memo about boys not liking smart girls). I just felt so bad for the teachers when they would ask a question and no one offered any feedback. I felt it was my duty to relieve their distress and at least attempt an answer. Sometimes I was right. I mostly didn’t really care if I was wrong.

    That behavior, I now know, is pretty typical of extroverts. Something pops into the mind of an extrovert, and out it flows from their mouth.

    It wasn’t until I was in graduate school many years later that I learned about the inner workings of the introvert. A classmate disclosed to me that she generally kept quiet in class because she assumed someone else in the room had a better answer than hers. She was a pretty intelligent woman, yet she didn’t feel compelled to share her thoughts in a large group. This is pretty typical of an introvert – they like to ponder things, compose what they want to say, run through all the “what-ifs” scenarios before giving voice to their thoughts.

    The different ways introverts and extroverts experience their world can create a lot of misunderstanding and hard feelings in relationship. Generally, one partner is more introverted than the other to some degree. Being one or the other is no more right or wrong than to have blue eyes or brown eyes – it’s just the way each of us is created.

    Here are some things about introverts and extroverts that may be helpful to know:

    Introverts can be very friendly and charming in social situations. Being an introvert is not the same thing as being shy or having social anxiety, although introverts may be shy or have social anxiety. An introvert can be chatty and personable, but will need solitude to unwind and recharge afterwards.

    Introverts may enjoy watching the interactions of others just as much as an extrovert enjoys interacting with others.

    Introverts can be very content being alone for long periods of time.

    Introverts do not necessarily need a large circle of friends. They may be pretty happy with one or two very close friends.

    Introverts become “flooded” or overwhelmed in situations where someone is yelling at them, or even speaking intensely and quickly. Words can feel like physical blows to an introvert. The natural response is to shut down, go silent, and escape ASAP. This doesn’t mean they don’t care, it means they can’t perform under pressure and need space to compose their thoughts and process what has happened.

    Extroverts can enjoy periods of solitude, but they need to be around people to recharge.

    Extroverts have a higher tolerance for heated discussions.

    Extroverts can speak “off the cuff” more easily than introverts.

    Extroverts often seek the comfort and company of others when they are distressed.

    Some people find they are more of an “ambivert” – extroverted in some situations and introverted in others.

    How can introverts and extroverts manage in relationships together? The answer is in giving the other more of what they need: introverts need space and time to process and compose their response, while extroverts need feedback. They need to know that they matter. Extroverts often mistake an introvert’s lack of immediate response as rejection, abandonment, disinterest, or punishment. So extroverts – let the introverted partner “cool off,” calm down, gather their thoughts, and come back when they are ready. Try to be receptive and welcoming upon their return. This is extremely difficult for anyone, but especially for introverts. Introverts – your coping strategy may be to escape and ignore the situation, but that’s not a great long-term solution to the issue at hand. Even if you can let the other person know that you are planning to come back and talk later, that can be a tremendous help. Be sure to come back!

    Making assumptions about the other’s intent can be needlessly painful. The absolute truth of it is that we just don’t know – we cannot know – what is going on in another person’s mind, no matter how well we think we know them.