YIN AND YANG Relationships between introverts and extroverts can be rewarding when built on an understanding of each other’s needs.
‘Why are you so quiet?’, ‘You need to get out more’, ‘Don’t be so sensitive’, ‘Why do you never call or visit?’. If you are an introvert there is a good chance that you have heard these sentences a few times.
The people who are saying them may not mean any harm, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have an impact. It can seem as if an introvert’s very nature is wrong and something has to be changed or improved on.
Extroverts can appear to be more successful, more intelligent and more likeable, while quieter people can be viewed as unhappy, dull or even impolite. It can seem as if our society gives more credit to the outgoing, daring, extroverted types.
But it’s not all on the side of the extroverts, as sometimes they can be told that they’re too loud, they talk too much or that they don’t listen. It seems no matter the personality type, it’s possible to be ‘too much’ of something for someone.
Relationships between introverts and extroverts can be filled with misunderstandings. The contrast between the two means they have very different preferences when it comes to interacting with others. An extrovert might pick up the phone to have a spontaneous chat with someone.
However, if the other person is an introvert, it may well be too much for them at that moment in time. A conversation-loving extrovert can overwhelm an introvert with too much talk and information. The overstimulated introvert can then come across as disinterested when they simply feel overloaded.
Extroverts feed their energy levels from external sources and love to talk things through. The opposite is true for introverts who need time alone to process and organise their thoughts. This can leave the extrovert seeing the introvert as standoffish, while the introvert sees the extrovert as loud and overpowering.
Remember that what extroverts call loneliness and isolation, introverts call peace and rest; and what extroverts call lively and fun, introverts can find loud and overwhelming.
In the early 1900s, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was the first to come up with the terms extroversion and introversion, which he regarded as major aspects of human personality. Nowadays, extroversion/introversion is regarded as a spectrum on which most people hold qualities of both and fall somewhere between the two.
Regardless of where you are on this spectrum, there is no ‘better’ personality. The main cause of struggle between the two is a lack of understanding on each side. Fortunately, many of these conflicts can be resolved or avoided. Simply being aware and accepting of the differences can be enough to change how you approach those whose personality is so different to your own.
So introverts and extroverts, could you view your supposed weaknesses as your strengths? Can you accept where you naturally fall on the extroversion/introversion spectrum? If you can learn to accept yourself, you’re likely to find that others are quicker to accept you too.
For more information on this topic, see Susan Cain’s video ‘The Power of Introverts’ and Katherine Lucas’s ‘In Defence of Extroverts’, both on YouTube.
Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo. More information about Jannah can be found at www.jannahwalshe.ie.