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Life as an Introvert in an Extrovert’s World

What It's Really Like to Live as an Introvert in an Extrovert's World

Introverts make up 25% of the population, but most of the remaining populations–extroverts–do not understand introverts or what makes us tick. Many extroverts don’t understand introverts, and so many people don’t understand the differences.

What is an introvert?

Introversion and extroversion, made popular by Carl Jung, psychologist and therapist, are dimensions of personality types. So everyone is either an extrovert or introvert. Many people think that introverts are shy, depressed or quiet. But those characteristics are not at all related to introversion.

Introversion and extroversion can be best described by how someone gains and releases energy. It is that simple. Introverts expend energy when around others, particularly in large groups. We crave alone time to recharge. For introverts, alone time is as vital as sleep. We have to have it, and a good bit of it. Extroverts are the opposites. When alone, their energy level frequently goes down, they crave being around people and gain energy that way.

 Characteristics of an Introvert

 There are a few common characteristics of introverts.

  • Introverts do not like small talk. To us, small talk feels intrusive and does not engage us. In a large group, we are frequently the quiet listeners who are processing and taking in everything that is being said. In contrast, we love deep, profound conversations with few people. Many of us really enjoy talking about our passions and the things we care about.
  • Introverts get distracted easily. Introverts frequently have an increased sensitivity to our surroundings, so when there is a lot going on, our attention span is easily affected.
  • When surrounded by people, introverts know where the door is and are selective about where we locate ourselves. Many introverts do not love being in large social settings, so to mediate that, we normally know where the door is in case a quick exit needs to happen.
  • Introverts can’t stand being on the phone and screen everyone’s calls. This happens for a few reasons. Sometimes, phone calls interact negatively with what we are already doing at that moment. Additionally, phone calls frequently involve small talk that we don’t enjoy.
  • Introverts begin to shut down when we need alone time. When introverts have been in social settings for a while and need alone time, you will know it. We all have a limit when it comes to stimulation and when are beginning to reach out limit, we begin to shut down and have to have alone time to recharge. I frequently equate my energy level to a phone battery. When I have had a lot of social interactions and have not balanced it out with alone time, I am in the red and have to go home to charge my battery back to 100 percent.

Extrovert World

Because most of the world is made of extroverts, the world seems to be made for them. School and work settings require an abundance of group work. To maximize space, most companies have employees working in cubes, close to other employees. This isn’t really ideal for an introvert either. Networking events are sometimes a must in order to excel. And although they are great, they are exhausting for introverts. So, what can extroverts to do better help and empower introverts? How can introverts empower themselves?

Extroverts: Appreciate when your introvert friends don’t want to go out and be okay with that. So often in college my friends, with the best of intentions, drug me out when I really just wanted a night in. Don’t feel bad or get angry when your introvert friends want to text more than be on the phone. When you meet introverts, appreciate that they will prefer deeper conversations as opposed to small talk. If you are a teacher, please give your students time for solo work in addition to group work. And when it comes to desk seating, not all of your students want to sit in groups.

Introverts: Limit the time you are in large groups and leave when you need to. Let your friends and family know your limits. For me, I always make sure I have at least one night a week and one weekend each month with no plans. That allows me to recharge at least weekly. Do what you need to make sure you have enough energy to get through the work day and workweek.

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So, with all that being said, are you an introvert? How many people in your life are introverts? If you are an introvert, what can YOU do to empower yourself? If you are an extrovert, what can you do for the introverts in your life?

About the Author

Jessica Sharp

Jessica Sharp is passionate about empowering underserved and minority communities, diverse representation, and brain education. Jessica is the Founder and Chief Educator of Sharp Brain Consulting which works with public service agencies to provide education about the brain and its effect on organizational outcomes. Additionally, she is on the leadership team of Meals on Wheels in her town of Greenville, SC. She is completing a Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Missouri. Upon her completion, she will attend William James College to obtain a Doctorate of Psychology. Follow her on twitter at @sharpjes.