The eternal debate - extrovert or introvert?
How do I know if I’m an extrovert or an introvert?
To be honest, does it matter how we label ourselves? It’s not as if it’s something we put on a CV or tell people which one we are when we introduce ourselves to someone new!
But it is interesting or even comforting nonetheless to explain why we act or feel the way we do around other people.
For many years I thought I was a typical introvert as I was a very shy child and was always the quiet one in my family. My older sister on the other hand was what I thought was a typical extrovert. She was confident, would talk to anyone she met (and still does) and was quite occasionally a bit naughty!
I was not.
The worst thing I ever did was sneak out to the sweet shop from my boarding house with a few friends when I was about 10 or 11 and, of course, we got caught - the first and only time I did something wrong…! But my sister was always getting into trouble and had quite a cheeky side to her.
But what I have realised recently, and I think living through lockdown really illustrated this, is that I am not an introvert. I do not get my energy from being by myself, I get my energy from being around other people. I found being forced to stay at home, with only my family and dogs for company all the time, quite hard. I know that I am one of the lucky ones, as I did have people around me but I craved outside influences. I was that person organising a walk with everyone I knew - walking round and round local fields and parks in the freezing cold, just to get some social interaction.
The dogs were walked for hours every day (well obviously just the one permitted hour within the rules!) and a trip to the local coffee shop that did takeaway was the highlight of most days.
The other reason I know that I am not an introvert is that, when I was finally allowed to actually leave the house and go into Court as a Witness Service volunteer (we were classed key workers), it was the best day of the week. I would come back every Tuesday, so full of energy I would have to do an online step class to come back down to earth!
My sister, on the other hand, was actually rather happy to stay home and be quiet. She didn't mind the silence or the inactivity and still thinks I am quite mad when I tell her what we have managed to fit in in one weekend!
So who is the introvert now?
Interestingly, I recently read Quiet by Susan Cain in which she argues that in this society where we value the extrovert ideal, we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of this ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever felt they had introverted tendencies and were interested to explore what it all means.
One section that really stood out to me in the book was about social media and the difference between how introverts and extroverts communicate digitally. Apparently, studies have shown that "introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online... The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of 200 people might blog to 2000 or 2,000,000 without thinking twice".
This really resonated with me - I find sharing myself on social media pretty hard and actually I also find talking about myself really hard. It was only when I started being coached myself that I found myself opening up to my coach - and this really surprised me. I didn't know that I felt the way I did...!
Coaching can help everyone admit the truth to themselves, whether they are an introvert or an extrovert. In fact, normally we are a mix of both. I would say that I am an introverted extrovert - so quite quiet but love being around other people.
Which camp do you think you fall in?
I'd love to find out, so contact me and we can discover together.