Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Why do you define yourself as so? How does this personality trait affect the way you live, work, and interact?
It’s interesting to dig deeper into our personalities and learn more about ourselves. (I used to be such a horoscope fan!)
However, people may sometimes project their own ways of thinking and working on others—for example, an extrovert who thrives in fast-paced group brainstorming sessions might wonder why the introvert hasn’t said a word.
To practice empathy and build better relationships, it comes down to understanding each other. How do introverts and extroverts vary? In what ways are they more similar than we imagined? How can we thrive together in harmony? (I swear I’m not trying to sound like a horoscope guru here.)
Prior to COVID, I connected with an introvert and an extrovert from the UBC community, and asked them both the same set of questions. Keep in mind that these two individuals don’t speak for all introverts or all extroverts—everybody is different. Let’s debunk some myths!
Why do you define yourself as an introvert/extrovert?
Introvert: "I think I was never the person who went out and had a lot of friends—I typically have a couple of close friends, and I rarely hang out in big groups. I was also always kind of a shy kid."
Extrovert: "I’m a very social person, and I get a lot of energy from interacting with people."
In contrast, how would your social circle describe you?
Introvert: "I consider myself an introvert, but sometimes my friends would say, 'Well, no, you talk, and when you’re in a group, you’re part of the conversation!' But typically, I am described as introverted."
Extrovert: "They definitely describe me as an extrovert, because I don’t stop talking. People would characterize me as a pretty open person...for example, I can easily strike up a conversation with a stranger."
How long does it take for you to feel socially drained?
Introvert: "It doesn’t take a lot. I start feeling drained when I’m in a new environment with new people that I didn’t necessarily choose to be with. Sometimes, I just feel like the crowd isn’t for me."
Extrovert: "It depends on the people I’m hanging out with. With the general public, for example, at a party, I would say a few hours. But typically, it would take a day or two until I need downtime."
And when you’re drained, how do you recharge your energy?
Introvert: "I recharge by spending time with some of my close friends, either one on one or with a couple of them. I also recharge by myself—since I’m an artist, I love to draw, paint, make music, and read."
Extrovert: "I recharge by sleeping or watching Netflix by myself. However, I’m personally not very good at being alone, which is something I’m still trying to grasp. Usually, I would prefer to hang out with friends or engage with something externally, just so I don’t have to hear my own thoughts."
How at ease are you with opening up about personal feelings to others?
Introvert: "If it’s to a person that I feel I can trust, quite easy. But never to more than a couple people at a time. So I guess I’m only super open to a handful—I’m selective about it."
Extrovert: "I’m very at ease about it…but sometimes, I wish I wasn’t. Like, oops, maybe I shouldn’t have said that because it was TMI. But I feel like, if I’m not presenting my true self to someone, then what am I embarrassed about? I’m pretty secure in the stuff I bring, good and bad, so if you accept it, great. If not, then we don’t need to be friends."
What’s your favourite type of conversation to have?
Introvert: "It depends on the person I’m talking to, and the context. Sometimes, I love talking about school stuff, or just life stuff that everyone relates to. I definitely prefer deep talks over small talk!"
Extrovert: "I don’t like small talk because it feels shallow and surface level. It’s nice, pleasantries and such, but I can’t do just casual relationships or friendships. I much prefer deep talks, like tell me your insecurities and fears and all that."
How would you describe your ideal teamwork environment?
Introvert: "I find it harder to voice myself in bigger teams/tables. I enjoy small teams of 3-5 people because it’s manageable—I can have my opinions heard, and it doesn’t feel intimidating to say what I want to say. Then I can take that work and do it in my own time. I think my productivity is a balance between working alone and bringing it together in a small group."
Extrovert: "Super collaborative: everyone brings their own ideas, and nothing gets shut down. I really enjoy being around my friends and teammates at work as well. Perhaps we’re less productive overall, but it creates a happier and more creative environment, and you’re able to do riskier things when you’re with people you trust. So overall, my work does better."
What’s a common misconception about your personality type?
Introvert: "That introverts don’t like going to parties or being around a lot of people at the same time. Sometimes, it’s fun when I’m with the right people! It’s a bit of a different experience, and I don’t want to be doing the same things all the time."
Extrovert: "A misconception is that extroverts constantly want to be around people or be social. I don’t think that’s the case because we’re all on a spectrum of introversion/extroversion. People should understand that everyone is different."
Do you enjoy being an introvert/extrovert? Why or why not?
Introvert: "I guess I always wished I was an extrovert because I would have ‘so many more friends!’ or ‘so much more to do!’, but I’m fine with being an introvert. I don’t think I like or dislike it—it’s just who I am. My favourite thing is that I can be by myself and have a good time."
Extrovert: "Yes, I like being an extrovert! It’s given me a lot of built-in confidence to go out, openly introduce myself, and share things. I guess I took it for granted because many introverts don’t have that, so I’m grateful."
Is there anything you want to add?
Introvert: "Don’t let the label define you. Just be who you want to be. It’s a spectrum!"
Extrovert: "It feels nice to put labels to ourselves because it gives us a sense of identity. But at the end of the day, because it’s a spectrum, none of it matters. It shouldn’t be like, 'I’m an introvert so this is how I should act' or, 'I'm an extrovert so this is how I should act'. It’s not a medical diagnosis, just something to help us make more sense of ourselves; everything should be taken with a grain of salt.
I don’t really speak for all extroverts! It would be interesting to see the other side. I also envy introverts in the sense that many of them are more at ease with being alone. I’d like to learn how to be comfortable with that. I’m able to have solo time, but aside from filling it with more noise from Netflix, I don’t know how to just sit with myself and be alone with my thoughts."
Appreciating our similarities and differences
It’s interesting to learn about how introverts and extroverts differ in the ways they work and interact, but also what they have in common (more than we may have thought!) in how they recharge their energy.
While the two people I interviewed don’t represent all introverts or extroverts, we can see how unique and intermingled their characteristics are—and it’s no doubt that every individual is unique in their own way.
Being empathetic and open towards others encourages a more collaborative and comfortable environment for all. The next time you interact with someone who acts or works differently from you, think before you assume—everyone operates in their own way.
So, are you an introvert or an extrovert? And how do you fit—as a unique puzzle piece—into the bigger picture of it all?
Header photo credit: Paul H. Joseph / UBC Brand & Marketing