What Does It Mean to Be an Introvert?

We each interact with other people in different ways. We may enjoy being in groups of people (an extrovert tendency), or we may feel more comfortable in solitude (an introvert tendency). These two tendencies are opposite ends of a range of personality styles, and you may fall anywhere in that range.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator describes the Extrovert as someone who gets his/her energy from groups of people. This person prefers to get feedback from and discuss problems with others, and usually acts quickly. The Type Indicator describes the Introvert as a person who goes within for information, takes action more slowly, and finds crowds draining. (For more about this Type Indicator, visit this post.)

Science is now explaining the reasons behind these tendencies to focus outward or inward. Research studies show that although we all have the same amount of neurotransmitters in our brains, some people respond better to one or the other of these hormones. The parasympathetic systems of introverts, the “rest and digest” part of the brain, react more strongly, so that they feel calmer, contemplative, and quiet. The brains of extroverts usually respond more to the sympathetic nervous system, the outward-focused, take-action system.

You may fall anywhere within this spectrum of Introvert vs. Extrovert. Your experiences may be more conditional: you enjoy being in a crowd, but only for a while. Or perhaps you thrive on solitude, but need regular interaction with friends.

These labels can be useful in terms of career or relationship choices. An introvert may find it a challenge, for example, to be a salesperson in a busy retail setting. An extrovert may not do well as a solopreneur working from home. A quiet, thoughtful man may be energized by an extroverted partner, or may find it exhausting.

Understanding your tendencies regarding the type and amount of interaction with others may allow you to let go of any feelings that you “should” be different, especially to please someone else. You are hard-wired to be as you are; give yourself permission to be authentic!

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