What does introvert and extrovert really mean?

A lot of people think that introvert and extrovert are synonyms of shy and outgoing. But that's not quite true, at least not in psychology. Let's explore what it really means, and how that helps us.

My free online course "Social confidence for introverts" covers this topic in more detail, but below is a simple summation.

Like with most things, the introvert versus extrovert question isn’t black or white.

Introvertedness versus extrovertedness is not a one-or-the-other type thing.

It's a scale more than anything else and we all sit somewhere on that scale. And there's even something called "ambiverts" in the middle, who get the best of both worlds.

Personally, I sit more towards the introverted side. Though if you ask many of my more distant friends and acquaintances, they would probably claim that I’m extroverted.

The reason they’d say that is because most people tend to look at someone else’s behavior to figure out if they are extroverted or introverted.

But in many cases, that’s a bad way to figure that out.

You see, unbeknownst to most, in psychology introverted and extroverted isn’t actually descriptions of our behavior. It can most certainly influence our behavior, but it does not determine it.

A better definition of introvert and extrovert.

So, let’s use better definitions for these words, shall we? So that we can be clear on both what we are ourselves, and so we can understand others better.

But more importantly, let’s do it so that we don’t let our position on that scale I mentioned decide how we live our lives.

So from now on, let’s use these definitions:

Extrovert / Introvert is a description of a personality type. Each type either recharge their energy from social interactions (extroverts) or recharge their energy from time alone (introverts).

So far I’m sure we’re all on the same page. But do you notice how those definitions don’t actually say anything about behavior? Only about how we “charge our batteries”.

That is because behavior, such as shy or outgoing behavior, is not a result of our personality type. It is a result of how we have learned to socialize.

I used to be a shy introvert (behavior – personality) who didn’t speak much.

I wasn’t comfortable around strangers or in big groups, and I hardly ever spoke my mind.

Then I decided to improve my social skills.

I learned how to like myself more. To communicate better. Be more socially confident. And to speak my mind and reach out to others.

And before I knew it, I was an outgoing introvert.

This behavior leads those who don’t know me well and only see me at social events (where I’m likely to use my outgoing behavior) to believe that I’m an extrovert.

Since I easily talk to everyone and enjoy meeting new people, and since they don’t know the difference between personality type and behavior, they mislabel me.

It doesn't really matter that they do, though. What’s important to me is to communicate this simple message to everyone – introverted or extroverted alike:

Your personality type does not have to define your behavior, or which level of social skills (and enjoyment!) you can be at.

Behavior is learned - not dictated by your genes.

Social confidence and skills are the results of the efforts you make to learn and improve.

And while extroverts might have an easier time getting more hours of social practice in a shorter amount of time – we introverts tend to have the advantage of often being more self-reflecting and therefore finding our way of doing things more quickly.

So wherever you fall on the introvert-extrovert scale, remember:

As long as you make sure to charge your batteries regularly in the way that works best for you, there’s no reason you can’t be just as comfortable with the behavior that is usually considered to belong on the other end of the scale.

And if you want some help with your social confidence, whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, check out my online course "The secrets of confidence and communication" here.

Hi, I'm TJ Guttormsen.

Since 2009 I’ve coached clients ranging from Olympic gold medalists and billionaires, to people who simply want more out life.

I’ve done over 100 national media appearances, published books, and created online courses that have earned several “Highest Rated” titles from their 11 000+ members.

Today I coach clients from all over the world, and teach seminars for business and events from my home in Las Vegas.

Come join me in my Facebook group, follow my Instagram, or subscribe to my YouTube channel for fresh content on a regular basis.

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