Like with most things, the introvert versus extrovert question isn’t black or white.
Introvertedness versus extrovertedness is a scale more than anything else. We all sit somewhere on that scale – and very few of us are at the far ends of it.
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 poor way to figure that out.
You see, unbeknownst to most, introverted and extroverted isn’t actually descriptions of our behavior. It can most certainly influence our behavior, but it does not determine it.
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 gains energy from social interactions (extroverts) or gains 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 of people. And I never spoke my mind about things.
Then I decided to improve my social skills. I learned how to communicate better. To 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 because I’ve taken the time to recharge my batteries at home before the event) 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.
But I don’t really care that they do. 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.
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 quicker.
So wherever you fall on that 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!