“Today introversion and extroversion are two of the most exhaustively researched subjects in personality psychology,” says Susan Cain in her best-selling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. To know why you are so quiet and not berate yourself because you are not as bubbly and naturally confident as your sister, brother, or coworker is a starting point of great health and relief for many. To know why you speak too quickly and tend to often offend others is equally valuable. These are the basics of knowledge gained when you know where you stand on the introversion-extroversion scale and the temperament mix categories. In determining and studying your basic personality trait and a temperament mix, you gain knowledge of your particular strengths and weaknesses. What strengths you have to build on and what weaknesses you need to overcome provide a road map leading to fulfilling your optimal potential. The tenets of extroversion/introversion and temperament blends should be taught to us as youngsters. We would gain critical knowledge about ourselves that removes all kinds of questions and confusion we have about who we are and why we behave as we do. Many hundreds of clients have thanked me for introducing these concepts to them. To have a deeper understanding of who you are and why is key to your growth. The capacity to walk in your strengths and minimize your weaknesses will improve life beyond measure for you.
In Quiet, Susan Cain adds: “Today’s psychologists, joined by neuroscientists with their brain-scanning machines, have unearthed illuminating insights that are changing the way we see the world—and ourselves. They are answering questions such as: Why are some people talkative while others measure their words? Why do some people burrow into their work and others organize office birthday parties? Why are some people comfortable wielding authority while others prefer neither to lead or be led?” A key element in personality theories is the introversion-extroversion trait. This trait approach to personality is one of the central fields of theory relating to the study of personality. The introversion-extroversion trait theory focuses on the differences between individuals rather than similarities. In this case, the differences basically refer to whether the person is more reserved or more outgoing.
Carl Jung, a twentieth-century Swiss psychiatrist, first published his personality type theory in 1921. In this theory, he introduced the terms introvert and extrovert (also spelled “extravert”). These terms originate from the Latin words for “flow of energy.” Jung believed that each person has a preference regarding his or her flow of energy. He saw the introvert as having their energy turned toward the inner world involving thoughts, feelings, fantasies, and dreams. Introverts are cerebral (analytical and deep thinking). For the most part they live in their brain and use their intellect rather than their emotions to draw conclusions. They spend a great deal of time in serious thinking and carefully considering their own thoughts, desires, and conduct. This, of course, requires a good amount of solitude or quiet. The introvert is drained by interaction with others. Therefore, the introvert’s “batteries” are charged while being alone.
Extroverts, on the other hand, prefer their energy turned toward the outer world, including things, people, and activities. Extroverts enjoy being with many people. They tend to be good risk-takers and usually meet new challenges with enthusiasm.
Jung also proposed that introversion and extroversion coexist in each person but not to the same degree. Introverts can exhibit extrovert traits from time to time, while extroverts can display introvert moments. Jung also considered introversion and extroversion to be healthy. In fact, he found that in pathological personalities either the introvert or extrovert trait predominated and the opposite trait was inaccessible to their consciousness.
Jung’s definition of introvert and extrovert differs from what is generally thought of today. In twenty-first-century language, the term introvert popularly refers to an individual who is shy, quiet, withdrawn, and unsociable while the term extrovert is seen as describing an outgoing, social, and more verbal person. While Jung’s views certainly still have value for this topic, I will adopt today’s common meanings of these terms for the rest of this book.
Experts in this area of personality traits write that the extrovert is preferred by our society and that introverts are vastly misunderstood. Extroverts appear to have more social skills than introverts. They are generally willing to talk with almost anyone, and they do this with gusto and expression. For the most part, extroverts have no problem speaking up and making their thoughts known. Because of this, overall, extroverts tend not to chronically subjugate in the workplace. However, in their personal lives, the reality is often different. Many extroverts do tend to subjugate. I have worked with extroverts, from entrepreneurs to lawyers to single moms, and I have seen how much they can suffer from chronic subjugation. In fact, my clinical experience and research into this issue have led me to conclude that subjugation in the form of people-pleasing or compliance is tempting for everyone.