The psychologist, Carl Jung coined the terms Introvert and Extravert.When I ask people what is the difference between extroverts and introverts, they respond that introverts don’t like socializing. This is not the case. The difference is when there is a stimulus – something happens – the extrovert immediately reacts outwards, while the introvert internalizes the information, processes it and then responds to it. It is in the response to the stimuli where the difference lies, not in their social interaction per se.
Since they incorporate information – taking it in – introverts need time alone to process the information. This is why introverts need “space”. They like being on their own, thinking about things. When introverts withdraw, extraverts experience this as rejection. It is not rejection, it is merely processing time. Imagine a computer needs to process information. If we keep tapping the keyboard, it will either freeze or explode. Don’t tap the keyboard of the introvert when they need space. Leave them alone until they are ready to interact.
Extroverts want attention 24/7. They cannot stand being alone. They can’t understand that the introvert voluntarily wants to be alone. Extroverts are always looking for company and stimuli and if they don’t find it, they create it. Introverts avoid it.
Introverts are like cats. When they encounter a stranger for the first time, they ignore him. They may walk past a few times without acknowledging the stranger. They are not rude, haughty, shy or dumb. They are introverts. Don’t pick up the cat. The cat is getting used to your energy. If it likes you, it will make eye contact. Now you can stroke it gently. Don’t pick up the cat. One day the cat will jump on your lap and purr and be all over you. Now you can pick up the cat and play with it. It may even sleep with you. Introverts know it is rude not to at least greet strangers, but they would rather not. Not until they have sussed them out.
Extroverts are like dogs on a beach. They sniff each other’s backsides, wag their tails and off they go, friends for life. They are spontaneous. Introverts are reserved. Extroverts are busy, they talk and laugh and vibrate. Introverts contemplate, develop insight and cruise.
One introvert man said he could remember being so irritated by his first wife who always wanted to know what he thought about a movie the moment they left the cinema. If they understand each other, introverts and extroverts will realise neither is right or wrong, they are just different.
Introverts don’t like noise. Since they are processing information all the time, it is very noisy inside their heads. That is why they abhor additional noise. They cannot listen to you, the radio and the tv at the same time. They don’t like crowds or noisy places. Too much stimuli. Extroverts love noise. When they walk into a home they switch on the tv, the radio and they sing. Introverts run for the hills. Because introverts are usually very quiet at first, extroverts often ask them what is wrong. Nothing is wrong, they are thinking, that’s all.
Extroverts think when people are not talking, they are unhappy. So they keep asking the introvert
“What is wrong?”
“ What is wrong?”
“See I knew something is wrong.”
Stop jabbing the keyboard. Some introverts are shy, some are not. They just don’t have something meaningful to say at that point in time and they don’t like small talk. Extroverts can chatter away all day long.
When introverts enter a restaurant, they aim for the corners with their backs to the walls, where they can see the people, but stay out of sight. Extraverts aim for the middle of the restaurant and within five minutes they have made friends with the waiter, the patrons at the next table and the chef. Introverts just want to eat in peace. Don’t put an introvert on the spot by introducing them to everybody at once and expect them to please everybody. Give them time. Please.
If you invite an introvert to a function over the weekend, their first answer is “No”. Give them time to think about it and probably by Friday they will say yes and go, and have a good time. Up to a point. Once introverts have blended people’s energy, they can be very funny, witty and very sociable. They can be the life of a party, if they want to and if they feel comfortable with the people. However, too much stimuli tires them, so by 12 pm they want to go home. By 12 pm, however the extroverts’ batteries are fully charged and they want to stay longer, and longer and longer. Best go with two cars.
Extroverts can be warm and sociable, funny and bubbly. They move towards people when they feel insecure and they need affirmation. They act out. Introverts can also be warm, funny and sociable but they withdraw when they feel insecure. They can wallow in self-pity.
Extroverts can be gregarious, bigger than life, and they always seem to have so much fun. Some introverts feel intimidated by extroverts and they may feel there is something wrong with them because they are not like the extroverts. There is nothing wrong being an introvert. Half of the population are introverts. They just don’t make so much noise as the extroverts and that is why you don’t notice them. Look to the quiet corners – they are there, one-on-one solving the world’s serious problems. Or laughing quietly at the spectacles of the extroverts. Introverts have much fun too – mostly inside their heads.
Open plan offices do not work with introverts. Please allow them their cubicles or at least place them along the walls with high enough partitions to provide them privacy – if you want them to be productive. Place the extroverts in the middle, facing each other, where they thrive on open competition. If you place introverts in noisy open plan offices, they will resign or become disgruntled.
In a marriage, I advise the extrovert to turn the volume down a little and expect less, and the introvert to up the volume and give a little more. Allow the introvert the long lonely bike ride on a Saturday morning – the me-time – and they will accompany the extrovert to the noisy dinner party that night.
Introverts should be aware of the impact they have on others. Once the extrovert knows how to extend the introvert time to process, the introvert sometimes forgets to give feedback. So by Friday the poor extravert still doesn’t know if he is going to that party that he enquired about three days ago.
Friends may visit the introvert-extravert couple. Soon enough the introvert will excuse him/herself and pull a disappearing act. They either go to sleep or find something else to do, away from the people. They may wash the dishes in the kitchen, just to be able to take a mini me-time break. Understand this and accommodate it.
Another tip for the introvert is to smile more. At a function or social event if you smile, then the extroverts think you are happy and approve of them, so they won’t ask you what is wrong. Smile and continue your own private thoughts and just nod your head now and again. People may just benefit from your sharing those private thoughts – that is if the extrovert gives you a chance to talk.
My father compared introverts and extroverts to bombers and fighter pilots during the Second World War. The bombers fly in formation and cause devastation by their clusters of bombs dropped indiscriminately. The fighter pilots fly alone, often coming directly out of the sun when the enemy cannot see them and they are precise, deadly snipers. In the canteen, the bombers sit together in the middle of the room, the fighter pilots sit alone at the bar.
Both extroverts and introverts can work with people. Extroverts are people-people. Introverts are one-on-one people. Both may have empathy, but extroverts spontaneously express their feelings. Introverts may feel deeply, but they don’t share those feelings easily. Extroverts may be warm, but superficial. Introverts may seem cynical, but actually, they feel too much.
Cats and dogs can live in harmony together as long as they respect their differences.