The recent launch of my book, Minding Your Time, has generated a lot of conversation among family and friends. Some of them are introverts and some are extroverts. Some were aware of their strengths and some not. I was even told by an extrovert that the book helped her learn more about her own extroversion and also the introverts in her life.
The other reaction I’ve seen is the one that I want to write about today. I had some people tell me that they were not sure if they were an introvert or extrovert or a little of both… Almost as if the label was what was most important, and they weren’t ready to accept the one that fits best. The truth is that introverts are naturally drawn to their inner world of ideas, but of course, they can still pay attention to what is going on around them. Not all introverts are alike and it will vary how much time someone spends in the “inner” versus “outer” world. Psychologist Carl Jung said, “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.” Everyone is going to have some extroverted traits and some introverted traits, but you’ll usually land on one side of the scale or the other. And you probably have situations when you exhibit more extroverted traits or more introverted traits than usual. The important part isn’t the label, but understanding your own individual strengths and needs based on your personality.
I posted the following quote on social media:
“Introverts think, and then speak. Extroverts speak to think. If everyone understood this concept, it would solve many communication problems.” tweet
I had a couple responses where people were wondering if it was normal that they did both. Of course! I do both. In my case, normally I take in information, my brain processes it, and then in a moment, I speak. This is definitely the process with conversation topics I am not familiar with. Sometimes I may think aloud (speak while thinking), especially on topics that I am very familiar with and passionate about. And I’m sure there are times when an extrovert will think before speaking. I am an introvert and most of the time I will think and then speak.
It doesn’t really do any good to me to know that I am an introvert and stop there. The important thing is to know what being an introvert or being an extrovert means to me in terms of strengths or needs. So in this example, knowing that this is my normal process, I can work with it and be my best. I might need to prepare for some conversations or meetings. Sometimes I may need more than a moment to think, maybe just a minute or maybe even a day, and in that case, I’ll say something like “let me think about that.”
Some who fall in the middle of this scale may call themselves ambiverts. Even if you are in the middle, you still have needs. For example, do you know what kind of activities drain you? And how you best recharge? Do you need some solitude every day? How much? What do you like and need to do in your solitude? Get to know what you need and where you shine. The terms introvert and extrovert are helpful to get some common understanding but don’t get too hung up on the label.