Ask anyone what they understand by 'extroverts' and 'introverts' and you'll probably get responses like "a person who talks a lot" or "someone who is shy". Right? Wrong. The common misconceptions people who're extroverts or introverts can be attributed to the false picture society paints about these terms. We're led to believe that an introverted person is a regular mouse-type who hides in dark corners and only comes out when necessary. We're inclined to think that extroverts are 'overbearing' and 'insensitive' steam trains that run over anyone or anything that stands in their way. This is simply not true!

Extroversion and introversion aren't connected to how much or how little you talk but rather to how you use, create or expel energy.

If a person is an 'introvert', he or she generates personal energy from inside:

  • This is done by spending time alone to reflect - reflection is usually the way an introverted person evaluates and calculates all the information, events and happenings of the day.
  • They think through processing information by themselves because they need alone time to become energised. They can quickly become drained by being among other people for too long and will again need time alone to recharge their batteries, simply because they have not had time to reflect or process the information gathered from these other people.

However, a person with a preference for extroversion collects energy from outside - from their surroundings and other people:

  • They're energised by activity, people and unity.
  • They have a need to connect to re-energise and they tend to get drained when they're alone for too long.
  • They think out loud and usually verbalise what they're planning or evaluating.

It is extremely important to keep in mind that you get 'loud introverts' and 'quiet extroverts'. Remember that introversion and extroversion has nothing to do with your level of vocalism but simply about how you get your energy.

Everyone is 'introverted' AND 'extroverted'

The defining factor is that each person has a greater preference for either one or the other. You have 'a preference for introversion' or 'a preference for extroversion' but you're able to do both to some or other extent. An extroverted person still has the ability to reflect quietly and an introverted person can think out loud but each prefers to do it the other way. The next time you see a quiet person in a queue or when the girl next to you won't keep quiet, don't automatically brand them. Remember: it's all about the energy.

Should you wish to have a conversation about this article, please contact me at mdewitt@maccauvlei.co.za.