Introverts, Carl Jung said, have an inward flow of energy, while extroverts have an outward flow of energy. Among the things that Jung identified as characteristic of introverts are being reflective and having a rich imagination. Extroverts, according to Jung, are influenced by their environment and often accept conventional ideas.
Somehow, we’ve ended up thinking that all this means that introverts are shy.
There are shy extroverts, though, and introverts with great social skills. There are extroverts who rely on approval from others enough to feel uncomfortable in social situations and introverts who are so fascinated by ideas that they easily get caught up in conversations. Many people have trouble deciding whether they’re extroverts or introverts just because they like parties and they also like a quiet evening at home.
A better way to understand the difference between introverts and extroverts is to go back to the question of energy.
- Introvert Irene enjoys being with other people, but after a party or a weekend with friends she feels tired and needs to recharge by taking some time by herself, working in her garden.
- Extrovert Elaine enjoys being by herself, but after an afternoon concentrating on a project alone she feels lonely and needs to recharge by going out with friends.
Knowing your needs when it comes time to recharge your personal batteries is very important. An introvert can enjoy going out with friends, but it diminishes his personal energy store and he’ll have to make it up with some alone time eventually. An extrovert can enjoy a solo hike, communing with nature, but that depletes his personal energy store, and he won’t feel refreshed till he gets together with people to recharge his batteries.
Don’t try to force yourself to unwind with an evening of clubbing if you know you’ll be more refreshed by a quiet talk with a friend — or vice versa. Understand and respect your own personality.