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By Katie Omohundro, LCSW – January 22, 2019 –

First popularized by psychiatrist Carl Jung, the terms “introversion” and “extroversion” have been used in a variety of ways. From “the shy one” to “the social butterfly,” there are a number of generalizations which are often mistakenly used regarding the introvert/extrovert spectrum. But once we know where we stand, what’s next?

Attention and energy are significant dividing points between introversion and extroversion, particularly where one puts their attention and how one gets their energy. Extroverts are more likely to focus on the outer world of people and things, while introverts are more focused on the inner world of ideas and images.

For introverts, understanding their strengths, as well as how to handle their challenges, is a multi-step process. The sooner we learn how to manage our differences from those around us, the more we can keep from draining our batteries.

Here are four things that conscious introverts have done to help them be more successful:

  • Reframing: Being an introvert is an asset.
    • Negative stereotypes about introverts are easy to come up with: unfriendly, withdrawn, shy, lacking social skills.
    • The gifts of introversion are many – but less understood. Introverts may just be processing all the information in ways that are much different from extroverts.
    • Introvert and extrovert brains are wired differently! What an asset it would be to have the best of both worlds and have a super team of both introverts AND extroverts!
  • Make re-energizing a high priority.
    • Introverts get re-energized from the inside – from their ideas, impressions, and feelings.
    • Introverts need considerable ‘down time’ for that re-energizing to happen.
  • Create ‘introvert’ ways of doing things.
    • “Normal” in our culture is extroverted.
    • Research shows that up to 75% of people are extroverts. That’s 3 in 4 people!
    • Getting good at being an introvert on purpose makes life a lot easier.
  • Develop “extroverting” skills.
    • Sometimes it’s smart or essential to act like an extrovert.
    • It is important for introverts to recharge those batteries and be ready to take on that draining task of talking in front of peers.
    • When introverts are prepared and use their skills and preventative measures to keep that energy-level up they will be more successful.

It is believed that everyone has both an introverted and an extroverted side, but typically one side is more dominant than the other.  Understanding where we are on this spectrum is half the battle of learning how to manage our energy and learning ways that work for us so we can truly thrive.

Author and Marriage and Family Therapist Marti Olsen Laney writes in her book “The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World,” “Our culture values and rewards the qualities of extroverts.

America was built on rugged individualism and the importance of citizens speaking their minds. We value action, speed, competition, and drive. It’s no wonder people are on the defensive about introversion.”

For those that identify more as an introvert, the world may make them feel isolated, weird, or misunderstood. When an introvert first learns they are an “innie” and then learns how to tap into their skills and ways to recharge, they can be unstoppable!

Shy child
By Jacob Jewell, Courier & Press, April 26, 2016 –
When I was younger, I used to think of diversity in wide brush strokes. To my young mind, diversity was obvious and categorical, involving things like race, religion and culture. It has taken time for me to realize certain types of diversity are more nuanced.
As a youth, I felt just a little bit left out at times. I spent most of my elementary school recesses in the classroom with my teacher, just the two of us occupying the room. I devoured whatever book I was reading, sitting at my desk while my teacher worked on her lesson plans.
I actually enjoyed this and really got a lot out of those breaks from the rest of my school day. Still, to some extent, I hated that I was so quiet in a culture with the motto, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
It was only later on, after reading a book by Susan Cain in high school, that I really understood what it meant to be “introverted,” which can largely be defined as a way of thinking.
What I mean by this is that extroverts tend to think aloud, whereas introverts, like me, largely benefit from a type of private, reserved thought. These tendencies are not categorically exclusive or etched in stone, but I do think they rely on different thought patterns.
I’ve also come to realize the differences between introversion and extroversion have a lot to do with ways of getting energy. I’m not shy at all, but do find that my extroverted counterparts tend to gain more energy in groups than I do. After a long day out with friends, I really start looking forward to time alone to recharge my batteries.
Nowadays, I see this minority identification as a mark of intelligence. Spending a bit of time in one’s own head can be a pretty productive enterprise.
I’ve also heard it said that we each have two ears but only one mouth and should use them in that proportion. After all, we have to listen to learn.
I really wish I had thought this way as an elementary school student. It would have made it a bit easier to recognize and understand the subtle differences and benefits that come with being a little outside of what is ostensibly “normal.”
As a child, I missed the “normal” mark by a long shot. I was slapped with the “nerdy stick” when it came to good books or Saturday morning projects like building marshmallow guns. If I could give a bit of advice to a youngster who is in a similar situation, I would tell him to rock this minority status.
When I was young, I never liked watching televised sports at all, even if I stuck out like a sore thumb. I’ve turned around a bit and really think LeBron James is a genius in his own right. I’d still encourage kids to enjoy other forms of genius that may not be so readily digestible.
Looking back on my middle school experience, I really don’t care that my lack of understanding basketball or video games limited my sixth grade talking points. I’ve also seen that one can be a great cross country runner without joining theteam. There is something sacred in solitude.
I’ve learned it’s OK to have hobbies that may take a little work to enjoy. It’s OK to be quiet and alone with your thoughts sometimes. It may take being different to be your best, but you’ll stand out for it in the end.