Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Introverts — people with quieter and more reflective personalities — typically thrive within the inner workings of their own minds. Extroverts, however, are more outgoing and tend to feel comfortable surrounded by people.
But social savvy isn’t the only difference between the two personality types: Research shows that the factors that contribute to an extrovert’s happiness and those that add to an introvert’s happiness don’t always mesh.
“An introvert’s rocket fuel is an extrovert’s Kryptonite and vice versa,” says Nancy Ancowitz, business communication coach and author of Self-Promotion for Introverts. “Long stretches of quiet activities like reading, writing, and researching may energize an introvert, but can serve as solitary confinement for an extrovert. Frequent social interactions and multitasking can energize an extrovert and really zap an introvert.”
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Are Extroverts Happier Than Introverts?
Quite a few studies have suggested that, when it comes to overall happiness, extroverts prevail. The validity of these studies depends on how you define happiness, but Ancowitz believes they may simply reflect that extroverts are more likely to participate in what are traditionally considered to be positive stimuli. Another explanation is that extroverts react more strongly to “positive” experiences than introverts.
In one study, researchers evaluated undergraduate students who completed a series of online questionnaires on personality, life satisfaction, and personal memories. They found that people with an extroverted personality remembered the past more positively as compared to those with other personality types — they were most likely to recall fun, joyous events and downplay unpleasant ones.
Ancowitz believes that we should consider this type of research with a grain of salt since our cultural bias tends to celebrate extroverts and marginalize introverts. “Certainly, extroverts are more demonstrative about their happiness as compared to introverts,” notes Ancowitz. “An extrovert’s idea of happiness — surrounding yourself with lots of friends, in the Facebook definition of the word — is quite different from an introvert’s — engaging in deep conversation with one person at a time or curling up with a Kindle.”
Although many think that having an introverted personality would lead to poorer emotional health and well-being, in truth, introverted individuals tend to be just as balanced as those with extroverted personalities. Their happiness may just come in a different shapes and forms.
“Despite the cultural bias that depicts introverts as loners and losers, there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re an introvert. You are likely to enjoy connecting with people … in doses,” Ancowitz says. “It might come as a surprise that introverts actually chatter more. However, it’s inside their heads: Studies on the brain suggest that introverts have a higher level of internal chatter than extroverts.”
To help introverts thrive in an extroverted world and stay emotionally healthy, Ancowitz recommends the following:
Indulge — rather than deride — your love of quiet time. A little “me time” will enable you to re-energize and do your best thinking.
Scrap the small talk. There’s no need to be the last man standing at a social event; aim to have a few thoughtful conversations rather than working the room — which can be draining.
Chalk yourself up (without talking yourself up). Promote your strengths quietly through writing, using social networking tools, building strong relationships, and asking for introductions and referrals.
Make pals with public speaking. “It’s a highly efficient use of your energy,” says Ancowitz. “Get up in front of the room once and reach many more people than you normally would in a day.”
Be the “go-to” person in your area of expertise. Write about it, speak about it, and spread the word to people who would benefit from it.
Practice your lines. Ancowitz suggests that something as simple as "Hello, my name is Nancy," along with good eye contact and an extended hand, is usually all you need.
Be a matchmaker. This positions you as a valuable connector and takes the spotlight off of you.
So go ahead — celebrate your introverted nature and relish the fact that you’re your own best company.