Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Most people think I’m an extrovert. I’m comfortable speaking in public, giving presentations, and greeting and meeting people I don’t know. I can hob knob with the best of them. But actually, that is not my natural self! In fact, I like to spend a good deal of time by myself—walking in nature, wandering around town, listening to classical music, and sometimes, just staring out my living room window. One of my favorite weekend activities is having lunch by myself at my local Chinese restaurant.
So what does it mean to be a true extrovert? Extrovert’s recharge when they are with others. They enjoy being in a group, seek stimulation, and are energized by social contact. Introverts are more inward, and require time by themselves to revive and refresh. They may prefer having lunch with a good friend than attending a noisy party.
Most of us don’t neatly fit into one category. We may gravitate towards a variety of experiences—some that fit into our comfort zone more perfectly and some that challenge and stimulate us. It’s the ability to stretch ourselves that fosters health and wellbeing. My sweet spot might be lying in a hammock on sunny, summer day listening to the birds sing. But sometimes I might prefer to go to a rock concert with a group of friends.
Your natural disposition or temperament is inborn. Most likely, you take after one parent or the other when it comes to your response to the world around you. Parents notice immediately their child’s inherited nature. Some children are quiet, focused, and relatively non-reactive to the world around them. Others are hyper sensitive, active, and responsive to everything around them. These tendencies persevere throughout one’s life.
How adults choose to unwind may also depend on how they spend their day. As a psychologist and administrator, my day is filled with people from the minute I arrive at the office to the moment I leave. When I’m not working, I crave alone time. My wife is a writer. She spends much of the day crafting words at her computer. At the end of the day, she wants to chat with me! We both struggle to accommodate each other’s differing needs at the end of the day.
It’s possible to develop skills that oppose your natural temperament. I never enjoyed being in front of a group. But many years ago, I had a job that required public speaking. I was very nervous in the beginning, and frankly, not very competent. My wife, Diane, who was a performer in her young adulthood, sat in the audience and took notes. Afterward, she gave me feedback, advice, and coaching. It was a painful process for me, but with practice and pointers, I slowly improved.
My job also requires quite a bit of reaching out and getting to know new people. It requires effort. But I have learned how to become more comfortable in social situations that I might not gravitate towards.
So, here are some tips for introverts and extroverts alike.
- Move out of your comfort zone. Do recharge in your sweet spot! But don’t live there entirely. Try things that don’t come easily. For extroverts, that might be learning to spend time by yourself, without any company. For introverts, learning how to speak in front of a group may stretch your natural abilities. Don’t let your anxiety or awkwardness stop you from acquiring new skills.
- Accept yourself as you are. I will never be a social butterfly or be drawn to large gatherings. So what? I am comfortable being myself. Don’t judge or compare yourself to others. Your temperament came with you when you were born.