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By September 15, 2011 12 Comments Read More →

What’s the REAL difference between “Introverts” and “Extraverts?”

The most common misconception about Introverts and Extraverts is their relationship to people. If you’re shy, it’s assumed you’re an Introvert. If you love to party, it’s assumed that you’re an Extravert. While there is a measure of truth to this, there is a far more accurate answer.

When you distill it down to its essence, the actual difference between Introverts and Extraverts is this: for Introverts, the inner world is the ‘real world’. For Extraverts, the external world is the ‘real world’. This is why Introverts will pause slightly before they speak, as if they’re making sure their words first resonant internally before they put it out ‘to the world’. Extraverts are the opposite – they’ll often speak while they’re thinking, as if hearing it outside of themselves helps them determine the value or truth of their own statement.

So, how does this impact their relationship with people? Not everything in the external world is going to resonate with the complex internal world of the Introvert. In fact, much of the world does not.  Introverts are put in the position of constantly filtering information and calibrating it to what they know to be true internally. This can be quite taxing after a while, and time to themselves becomes a necessary reprieve.

The exception to this is when an Introvert makes space for another person in that ‘inner world’. This is most commonly seen when they mate or develop an extremely tight bond. That other person no longer is at odds with the ‘internal world’ as they have their own place there. It’s been reported by Introverts that they could actually spend all their time with that person, and usually feel lonely when that person is away.
On the other hand, Extraverts feel the most ‘at home’ when they are interacting with their environment. As a general rule, variety is stimulating and the more people they come in contact with, the more interesting it all is. Too much time to themselves leaves them bored and restless, and they need to interact with their environment to ‘recharge’. This doesn’t always require people – simply going for a walk, getting out-and-about or studying interesting things can be enough.

We all make places for special people inside of ourselves. As Extraverts are charged and fueled by the variety of their environment, if they spend too much time with a single person it can almost begin to feel like being alone. Intending no insult to their loved one, they can become restless and want to ‘get out into the world’ with or without that person accompanying them. Introverts, gun-shy from years of having to ‘calibrate’ to the outside world, can become bashful and protective of their energy. Extraverts, realizing other people are full of new information and energy can become extremely social to pursue that energy. But each person is unique, and how the two frames of mind exhibit themselves can be nuanced.

For example, Introverts can become ‘pontificators’ – people who take control of the conversation and its subject. Instead of calibrating to the outside world, they attempt to force the outside world to calibrate to their ‘inner world’. In these situations, doing all the talking avoids a back-and-forth conversation that quickly wears on the Introvert. An alternative example is the Extravert who is very aware of, and can fear, approval and disapproval of others. Since that is the ‘real world’, disapproval feels like an objective evaluation, and a resulting shyness can come over the Extravert that dearly wants to be social.

Each of us experience life differently, and we develop a variety of strategies to get us through life. When it comes down it, however, an Introvert is happiest when life is resonating with how they feel on the inside, and an Extravert is happiest when they can explore the outside world to their heart’s content.

There is an approximately 50/50 split in the population between Introverts and Extraverts.

About the Author:

Seeing how people tick is at the heart of Antonia’s natural ability to understand how people systems work. She is an author, thought leader, coach, trainer, systems thinker, and personality profiling expert.  At the age of 15 Antonia picked up a book on personality psychology and her world changed forever. She began to see the patterns of why people do what they do – not based on behavior alone – but based on how the mind works. Antonia has co-developed a 6-month profiler training course that teaches coaches and business professionals how to "speed read" people, understand how their mind works and and then work with the unique personality for achievement, life purpose, or team building. You can email Antonia (antonia@personalityhacker.com).

12 Comments on "What’s the REAL difference between “Introverts” and “Extraverts?”"

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  1. Kamo says:

    The article is not very accurate, I think. The most important points are:

    1. You didn’t mention the most important thing – introverts get their energy from the inside, while extraverts get it from the outside. It isn’t really a matter of real and unreal world, unless of course this only figuratively speaking, but a matter of where you are most at home. Nobody is 100% introvert or 100% extravert, we use both functions, but one of them is the dominant function.

    2. Going out for a solitary walk (in the park, for example) is something that introverts enjoy, too. Either a solitary walk or a more quiet one with someone close.
    Studying subjects of interest is an introverted activity.

    3. There are more extraverts than introverts and it isn’t 50/50, but more like 70/30.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kamo!

      I’d like to reply to your three points because I think we agree more than you realize. First, this post absolutely did acknowledge an Introvert’s need for alone time saying, “Introverts are put in the position of constantly filtering information and calibrating it to what they know to be true internally. This can be quite taxing after a while, and time to themselves becomes a necessary reprieve.” The purpose of the post, however, is to answer WHY Introverts need alone time and Extraverts require interaction with their environment.

      You’re correct – nobody is 100% of either. Your dominate cognitive function will dictate whether you are introverted or extraverted, but you have the opposite attitude represented in your secondary function. But looking at them in polarity is the easiest way to see the differences for identification.

      Second, indicating that Extraverts enjoy walks wasn’t meant to exclude Introverts from enjoying this activity. It was meant to indicate that an Extravert can get energy from activities that don’t necessarily involve other people. As long as they’re interacting with their environment in an interactive way they can become energized by it. People are just easiest, fastest ‘jolt’ and so it often is seen that it’s the only way Extraverts get energized.

      Third… Ah, yes. The 70/30 statistic. I once believed this, as well, and quoted it often! However, after profiling literally hundreds of people, Camronn and I were perplexed that we weren’t seeing a 70/30 split (or, rather, a 75/25 split which we were expecting) represented in the population. And our sample set was all over the place – we’ve profiled people in multiple business from basic production companies to customer service teams to internet marketing firms to people in the entertainment industry. The numbers just weren’t adding up to the stats we’ve been fed for so long. The statistics most commonly referred to are David Keirsey’s stats, which indicate a 75/25 split. But upon deeper research we learned that Keirsey’s numbers come from studying high school students – the time period in one’s life that is the most extraverted. While we have yet to conduct our own mass controlled study (which is something we absolutely will be doing in the future), it would be disingenuous of us to post stats that we don’t believe were carefully culled, and that directly opposed our own experience. Statistic are meant to reflect reality, not the other way around. I recommend you do a serious observation of your own experience: do you honestly see far more Extraverts in the world, or are you simply seeing people’s extraverted side come out because of how they feel they must approach other people? As mentioned, after profiling literally hundreds of people, Camronn and I have seen a 50/50 split (even sometimes seeing MORE Introverts than Extraverts!).

      My suspicion is that you are Introverted, and I completely sympathize with Introverts feeling very misunderstood in this world. It makes it feel as if there are fewer Introverts in the world. I propose that there aren’t fewer Introverts, but rather that our culture rewards extraverted behaviors more, in the same way that Judger behaviors are more rewarded in the business world. It gives the illusion of fewer numbers, when really it’s a misconception of how introverted behaviors work.

      I hope this helps clarify the blog post. Cheers!

      -Antonia

  2. Kamo says:

    Antonia, thank you for taking the time to consider my reply and comment on it.

    Yes, I do believe we are in agreement. I carefully read the article and the purpose of my input was to try to clarify some of these points as I personally see them, because even after reading articles like this one I think many people still don’t get the idea of introversion and extroversion, and may keep seeing introverts as people who are antisocial, even misanthropic, people who shut from the world or are just shy. At times even I myself question introversion and extroversion, go back and keep digging and second-guessing myself.

    As for my temperament – evaluating my life against what I know about introversion, going back to my earliest years (even including kindergarten) and recalling tendencies that characterize my style and behavior and could be more or less observed in specific experiences, also according to a few tests I’ve taken online, I am inclined to conclude I am an introvert. My MBTI type is INTJ or INFJ, but I have also tested as INTP and INFP a few times, and once I scored ISTJ. It seems that I is the most expressed of all, while the others are more moderately expressed, sometimes on the border (especially T/F – they are pretty much balanced, and it’s hard to decide if I follow my head or my heart – they somehow seem to blend).

    “As long as they’re interacting with their environment in an interactive way they can become energized by it.” – Personally, I have some problems with sentences like this one, also when they appear in tests and descriptions, since I start considering what could be classified as ‘interacting with the environment in an interactive way’, having in mind that things are relative – what I may find interactive could be boring to others, so I start considering specific things from my past, trying to evaluate them and to come up with a summary and decide if it is true for me or not… I like to do the same things that most other introverts like – reading what interests me (today I more often read e-books than paper books), browsing the Internet and participating in a few online boards related to my interests, listening to music a lot (I also compose my own), writing, sometimes watching TV, but not much – I often find TV mindless and I don’t like watching it for more than two or three hours, I am rather picky when it comes to TV and movies. And sometimes I also like to just vegetate. Solitary walks in the area are great, though I often prefer to just stay at home and didn’t practice this until my 20s; as a child I tended to go out with my parents in weekends. My mind is rarely empty during a solitary walk though – there are often some underlying thoughts and feelings going on which are related to things I am interested in, and the environment often acts as a beautiful background, even if I don’t think about anything in particular, in which case I may simply zone out to the inner emptiness of the mind. Or at least this seems to be the most accurate description I can give in words… So, I think it’s a matter of degree, on one hand, because by reading a book, browsing the internet, listening to music or playing video games we still interact with the environment to some degree, since these things are part of it and not completely in our brains, but this level of interaction is stimulating enough for us. I think it’s also a matter of internalization – I think we tend to internalize things deeper. That’s why extraverts may sometimes seem somewhat shallow to us.

    And we really tend to be misunderstood. Sometimes we can also be mistyped as extraverts when in some occasions we are “louder” and more talkative, especially among very close people (that’s why some say we have two faces – a private and a public one). Also, I was once mistyped for an extravert when I wrote that I have 60-something contacts in my messenger (now they are actually less than that). I don’t think it is a matter of contacts number, but a matter of how we interact with them; I don’t think of these people as friends, but usually as acquaintances with similar interests, there are also a few ex-classmates among them. And some of these people I’ve met in private online chats or boards, got close enough with time and decided they are interesting and trustworthy enough to add them to my contacts. We don’t exchange messages often and when we do, I usually can’t and don’t type to more than two persons at once (even this number is too high). I’ve seen introverts with less contacts as well as introverts with much more contacts than me in their lists (I’ve seen some introverts with 100 – 200 contacts in their Facebook accounts which seems crazy to me).

    The worst years of my life were in school. I was an unobtrusive and more reserved child, not very active physically, I preferred to relax on my desk and rarely interacted with other children except with one or two whose personalities were closer to mine and with whom interaction was more meaningful and somehow more serene. I was treated differently by most of my schoolmates, in a disrespectful way that bordered on bullying, I was feeling like an outsider and was considered weird, and I believe this is the main reason I later developed Social Anxiety Disorder / Social Phobia, because with time I kind of became afraid and suspicious of people, especially of peers my age. I definitely preferred to interact with adults – on one hand, conversations with them were more interesting, and on the other hand, they were much more accepting of me. I should note that it’s a huge relief for a person like myself to have a like-minded classmate in school with similar personality, otherwise one may feel as a total outcast, isolated and sad, so I think what you wrote about the sharing of our inner worlds with like-minded individuals is very accurate. However, my personal experience shows that even a highly introverted child can find at least one or two such children in class. My personal observation also shows that many people developed SAD due to very similar, often identical experiences in childhood and teenage years. I also suspect that more introverts than extraverts suffer from SAD, although I have no data to back this up, but am willing to do a small personal online research. The problem is that the statistics of an online research may turn out distorted if we take into account that introverts may predominate in (some) online boards, email lists, etc., as some studies claim. My proposition is that introversion can lead to more mistreatment and feeling that you are different and that you have something defective, which could make people more self-conscious (although I think many of us are already self-conscious and not so confident and secure as most extraverts to begin with). This may also lead to less developed social skills and when these things combine and the need for social skills kick in as life goes on, there are more chances for anxiety disorders.
    Do you have any observations if SAD tends to occur more often with introverts?

    In short, I grew up thinking I am different and although I was aware of some of my qualities, the thinking that I am inferior and defective in some way was predominant. I have somewhat neurotic personality since childhood and my feeling of insecurity and anxiety increased with time. From the outside it may seem that I don’t care and am calm, while on the inside there may be a huge volcano of emotions and thoughts. And people have told me more than once that I seem to radiate a kind of peace in the environment (funnily, this also happens via online chat messengers).

    As for the statistics, I think they are really questionable and further observations are needed, so any numbers should be used with some care. I’ve also seen 80/20. I was initially more inclined to think that the distribution is 50/50 unless I learned the available statistics and, since I am just an amateur without enough clinical data, I decided to go with them. Your proposition is interesting and it isn’t unfounded, at least from theoretical point of view… Although it is true that many introverts project extroverted behavior, especially in school years in order to fit in (I don’t think I was not among them for the most part), and that personality becomes clearer and fully developed in the early to mid 20s (I think), the question: “Why our culture prefers extroversion?”, comes to mind. Since culture (generally speaking) is build and formed by people, if the distribution of these same people in terms of I/E is 50/50 from all sides of life, then it doesn’t quite make sense to me why these same people would build the world with such imbalance and go against their own nature. What I mean is that 50/50 suggests that the preference for extroversion and the mistreating of introversion at least shouldn’t be that prominent, in my humble opinion, even if we count extraverts as more assertive which could have contributed to the situation now. I know that most psychologists tend to agree that extraverts dominate introverts in terms of quantity. Marti Laney who wrote the book “The Introvert Advantage” seems to be among them (if I recall correctly, she even says E/I in U.S. is 20/80). On the other hand, if the E/I distribution is 75/25, this raises the question, if more extroverts than introverts are born every year. If this is true, it implies that the number of introverts is expected to eventually go down and down and down with time until introverts become a rare kind. Unless there is a kind of fluctuation to balance this, which I cannot explain. But I doubt we have statistics from the past that would allow us to observe this. The cultural and social processes are rather complex though and we can hardly pin them down to a single formula as we can do with physics, so a lot of observation is needed.

    Despite all that I wrote, I usually tend to tune in to other introverts and my personal experience shows that they are minority.

    Your website is nice. I’ll be checking it in the future.

    -Kamen

  3. Kamo says:

    P.S.: A typo: “I don’t think I was *not* among them for the most part” was actually meant to be “I don’t think I was among them for the most part”.
    Also, speaking of school, coming back home drained was something that often happened to me, especially during my high school years. Sometimes the noise, the fact that there was simply too much going on around was scary, causing discomfort and inner dissatisfaction.

  4. Kamo says:

    Antonia, I send you an e-mail more than a week ago. I am not sure if you received it, though (I had a few instances when international e-mails got lost). Can you confirm that you received it?

    -Kamen

  5. James Feldman says:

    False, it’s more around 75% to 25% with extraverts taking the majority

    • Hey, James! Thanks for the comment.

      The 75/25 is a common stat quoted for the split between Introverts and Extraverts, one that I quoted myself for over 5 years. However, as Camronn and I were profiling more and more people, the stat just didn’t hold up to our experience. Now, I’m as death-grippy as the next ENTP when it comes to researched stats, and very loathe to give them up simply in favor of personal experience, so it wasn’t a mere matter of saying, “Op, looks like they’re wrong. Better choose anecdote over research.” But I can’t really hold tight to stats that very much disagree with literally HUNDREDS of profiling sessions. So, we got the bottom of it.

      The only study I could locate that comes down definitely on a 75/25 split is David Keirsey’s, and as a strong voice in the Myers-Briggs community, his stats have been repeated many times over. Looking at the CONTEXT of his study, however, it’s difficult to see his stats as being the last word. Keirsey’s research was predominately focused on High School students – the time period in your life where you’re by far the most social! While it’s interesting, it’s not exactly a ‘controlled’ case.

      Looking further into the subject, we discovered there are some research stats that claim there are more Introverts than Extraverts by a 51/49, but most (with the exception of Keirsey) place it at a 50/50. This matches our experience – we profile literally hundreds of people a year, and the only dichotomy that is overwhelmingly represented is Sensors over Intuitives (unless you account for gender, which indicates a large Feeler preference among women).

      Until we’re able to perform our own controlled statistics gathering research ourselves, I’m going to stick with the stats that match my personal observation (and don’t lean on High School students to be the tie-breaker), an approximately 50/50 demographic split.

      -Antonia

  6. Stanisław says:

    I agree with you Antonia… this 70/25 statistic is false, the reason why they came out like this is simple, we introverts aren’t so easy to notice. I made some research my self and came to conclusion that Extraverts and Introverts don’t occupy the same space. Or putting it frankly the whole research made by that person was biased as he concentrated only on an extraverted enviroment, thus the statistic number,however if he added a typical introverted enviroment like facebook for example he could get the same stats as you did. This is because extraverts and introverts follow theire respective paths in life..meaning that an introvert personm might become a writer while an extravert will make a good salary man. The same goes with culture if you concentrate on Hollywood and Bollywood you mostly see extraverted culture, however if you’re a fan of anime than you’ll see the introverted culture, the same is true with most independent productions which are more introverted than extraverted…or putting it more clearly more artistic means of expression is the domain of introverts rather than extraverts who in theire work concentrate on showing bounbds and fast paced action.Also relationships are different for both Extraverts and introverts as you described extraverts need a lot of people around themelfs which ma cause a betrayal, while introverts are generall more loyal to theire partners, or are more willing to accept novel ways in theire relationship (thought not all of them, some introverts are hardcore fanatics of the current social model) Introverts are often these more concerned with theire own viosions, soul and idea’s while extraverts seek bounds and exciting new oppourtinities in the outside world. Althought these are only basic traits , if you look closefully it can sometimes be hard to tell whether the person is introverted or extraverted as both personalities mimick each other

  7. Muy bueno, aun no estoy de alianza con todo.

    Gracias por la aclaración, bss

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