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Introvert vs. Extrovert: Why It’s Fluid & What Splits Them Apart

The introvert vs extrovert argument rumbles on. Which are you? Both are equally as valid and special as the other but there are some key differences. 

introvert vs extrovert

Introvert vs extrovert, which one are you? Before you declare yourself either, let’s first call on Carl Jung, the psychotherapist who popularized the terms in the early 20th century.

According to him, “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”

Do you think that an extrovert is outgoing and an introvert is secluded or shy? Perhaps you believe that you can only be one or the other. In that case, your thinking is way off.

Our personalities change over time and it’s possible that different situations affect how you feel and act. For instance, you might become extremely introverted when in a large group, but quite extroverted with people you know well. That’s a common scenario.

It’s also wrong to assume that introverted people are always shy. That’s not the case. Introverts are simply quiet and like to think rather than speak. Some are shy, for sure, but certainly not all. Extroverts aren’t all loud and brash either – they’re just more outgoing in general.

[Read: The 4 different types of introverts and how to recognize each of them]

Introvert vs extrovert is an ever-fluid thing

The original meanings of “introvert” and “extrovert” have significantly changed over the years. Now, the two are seen as a flexible spectrum, with introversion on one end and extroversion on the other. People often lean towards one end, making them either more outgoing or timid.

However, we all have introverted and extroverted sides. It’s just that one may be more dominant in most situations.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at introversion and extroversion and see just how different they are from each other. You can use these common characteristics of introversion and extroversion to help you find out where you fall along the spectrum.

Do we push everyone to fake an extroverted personality?

Of course, when it comes to the debate on an introvert vs extrovert, it’s true that neither is better than the other. [Read: Why introverts are much more than just shy and awkward]

And it’s true that the world, and media in general, extols the virtues of an extrovert and glorifies them. But that’s just not fair. Statistics say that 1 in 3 people are real introverts, and the rest of us are either in the middle of the spectrum or slightly leaning towards extroversion.

So the truth is that there are significantly far more people who are introverts, than real extroverts. Yet, every part of the system is created to favor the extrovert. School, office, parties – Every one of these scenarios favors the loud spoken one, and we expect everyone else to “try” to fit in to the mold of the extrovert. But is that fair?

The key differences between introverts and extroverts

Leaving the global agenda aside to pretend like every one of us is an extrovert, the introvert vs extrovert argument basically comes down to deciding which one is your more dominant personality side. You can look at these differences and work out which ones call out to the most.

There are key differences between both, but as we said before, it’s likely that certain situations may trigger you to move in the opposite direction too.

1. Brain activity

According to a study that used a positron emission tomography (PET) scan to monitor the brain activity of introverts and extroverts, people’s brains work differently depending on their personality tendencies.

The social butterflies showed more activity in their posterior thalamus and posterior insula, the parts of the brain responsible for interpreting sensory data. This means they are driven by sights and sounds and crave sensory stimulation more than their counterparts.

Meanwhile, the brains of those who tend to be more restrained showed activity in the frontal lobes, anterior thalamus, and other brain structures responsible for recalling events, problem-solving, and making plans. These so-called wallflowers are more focused on their internal thoughts. [Read: The introvert’s foolproof guide to dating an extrovert]

2. Processing

Introverts, as reflected in the term’s etymology, are internal processors. They often dive deep into their thoughts, swim there, and are happy to just make a day out of it.

To other people, they may come off as silent and reserved, but their minds are racing, loud, and very active. These people are also able to better evaluate situations and make decisions on their own.

Extroverts, on the other hand, are outside processors. They are expressive and verbal. They would rather verbalize or express their thoughts, make decisions with others, and manage situations such as conflicts through verbal communication. [Read: In love with an introvert? How to be a better partner to them]

3. Relaxation

One great way to differentiate between an introvert vs extrovert is by looking at the way they like to relax and rejuvenate.

As cliché as it may sound, an introvert’s idea of a relaxing day is a good book and anything that gives them a good time alone.

For extroverts, their favorite way to unwind is to go out and spend time with family and friends. That isn’t to say, however, that introverts never want to socialize with others, which is why experts emphasize the spectrum. But in general, extroverts will gain energy through social interaction, whereas introverts will find it somewhat draining.

4. Adaptability

Introverts find it harder to be spontaneous than extroverts.

Introverts prefer to have a plan and are generally goal-oriented. Thus, they find it hard to adapt to changes in their plans, so they can feel uneasy or overwhelmed when unexpected things happen.

Meanwhile, extroverts are better at going with the flow. In fact, they thrive in spontaneity, which allows them to better adapt to change. However, they tend to be more impulsive, while introverts are more strategic. [Read: 18 easy hacks to become way more spontaneous and open to life]

5. Socialization

Introverts would rather have a small but tight group of friends. If these friends are lucky, the introvert might share his or her most closely guarded ideas and most intimate thoughts with them. However, a lot of the introvert’s inner world is best kept to him or herself, as introverts place such a huge premium on privacy.

Meanwhile, extroverts tend to socialize with a lot of people pretty easily, keeping many friends. Though, a lot of these friends may be superficial relationships. Being outspoken, extroverts are totally fine with sharing their private life with several close friends or even acquaintances. [Read: The 25 most common secrets all of us keep from our own partners]

6. Sizing up situations

Introverts are often deemed “wallflowers” because they would rather take in any situation first before making a move.

This is why they are often found at the edge of the crowd, contentedly looking at what is going on, rather than jumping in and participating. While they can interact, they find the company of a crowd tiresome and would just as easily retreat into their own shell.

This is so unlike extroverts, who are rejuvenated by the crowd. This is why they are often seen as the life of the party. New situations are exciting, and they can’t wait to jump right in. This stimulation even energizes them, only enhancing their personalities. [Read: Asocial vs antisocial – The similarities end with the name]

7. Meeting new people

When it comes to meeting people as an introvert vs extrovert, introverts tend to be choosy when it comes to warming up to other people, especially when meeting new connections. They size up people and situations first before engaging and allowing others into their world.

Often, introverts surround themselves with people who share similar interests and preferences.

This is quite the opposite for extroverts. They can easily get along with a lot of people, regardless of whether or not these people share their own interests and intellect.

They can easily strike up a conversation and keep it going with others, and can readily warm up to new people in no time. [Read: How to make new friends as an adult – 15 ways to do it right]

8. Aesthetics

Surprisingly, taking a look at the way a person arranges his or her house can be a good indicator of whether they tend to be more introverted or extroverted.

Introverts, being calculated and goal-oriented, show this in the way they design and furnish their house. Their house or office space tends to be simpler and more practical and functional.

They can have a clean and minimalistic aesthetic, which allows them to zone into what’s essential. Their favorite colors are often more neutral or muted, and their décor doesn’t have a lot of frills.

The aesthetic of the extrovert, however, is very different. They love things that are colorful and eye-catching, from the way they dress to the way they design and furnish their homes.

This allows them to stand out in the crowd, of which they so eagerly wish to be at the center. Their aesthetics also allows them to strike up a conversation based on their interesting and often frilly baubles and furniture. This can result in a more inviting, yet often cluttered, look to the home. [Read: The best things to do when you’re stuck at home and feel productive]

9. Decision-making

Introverts take time before making decisions. They are calculated and tend to analyze any situation prior to coming to a conclusion. They also think about every angle and possible outcome before finally choosing the right path to take.

This is because they see the big picture according to their own plans and goals.[Read: Justifying your life choices – Should you worry about it?]

More often considered impulsive and brash, extroverts, on the other hand, easily get carried away by the heat of the moment. They tend to be more driven by their emotions and are less cautious when it comes to decision-making.

They are more oriented to short-term thinking, and would rather get answers and gratification in the present moment than wait for the long-term rewards in the future.

10. Potential job matches

Introverts and extroverts both have specific career options available to them which suit their personalities very well. For instance, an introvert may make a very good counselor or therapist, a good teacher, and also a good nurse.

These are all careers that require careful thinking, consideration, and listening.

However, extroverts may be fantastic in roles such as public speaking, public service roles, and acting jobs. The lists go on.

By understanding your own personality type you can look for a job match that will bring you satisfaction and allow you to reach your potential. However, every job will have elements attached to it that perhaps you feel uncomfortable with.

Maybe an extrovert may need to spend time researching a subject quietly and they don’t feel it fits in with their skills. Perhaps an introvert will need to address a large group of people with a presentation and it causes them a certain amount of anxiety. [Read: How to explain anxiety to someone you love and do it fearlessly]

These situations are normal because no job will ever suit your personality 100%. However, when you understand those triggers and your personality overall, you can improve and perhaps work out a way to make life a little easier over the long-term.

Introverts and extroverts are both equal

It’s important to point out that whether you’re predominantly an introvert or an extrovert, neither is better than the other.

It’s easy to say that extroverted people are the life and soul of the party, therefore much more fun to be around, but that’s not always the case. Some extroverted people can be quite brash and over the top – not all, but some.

Spending time around introverted people doesn’t mean that you’re never going to have a good conversation and there will always be awkward silences. Introverts spend a lot of time thinking and observing, so the conversation you have could be very interesting. [Read: 20 intellectual conversation topics that ignite meaningful communication]

Everyone is valid in their own way. Of course, as we’ve already mentioned, it’s possible to feel that you’re a dominant extrovert but then you encounter a situation that makes you feel introverted. It can also work the other way around.

Work out what your potential triggers are and that will help you to understand your own personality a little better.

[Read: Sabotaging your happiness – 12 ways you could be ruining your own life]

We are all beautifully complex beings, so there will be times when you consider yourself an extrovert, yet still exhibit certain characteristics of an introvert. This guide can help you find out what your inclinations are, be it an introvert vs extrovert, and help you better accept your strengths and weaknesses.

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...