How to Know If You Are An Introvert or Extrovert?

Let’s start with the definitions:

The simplified definition of introversion-extroversion scale is the source where an individual gain energy from. An introvert will gain energy reflecting and listening to his inner world of thoughts, feelings or ideas. Meanwhile, an extrovert is energized by interacting with surrounding people, ideas or projects and will get bored being left alone for too long.

I would like to clarify some common misconceptions. Many tests give you results in percentage such as 70% Introvert, 30% Extrovert. However, this does not mean you are a different type 30% of the time. Being 90% or 51% introverted still means you have an introverted outlook in life. Being more in the middle of the scale probably means you are more versatile in channeling your energy to meet extraverted tasks.

Being more introverted does not guarantee you are a loner, unfriendly or have very few friends either. It is simply a generalized tendency,. Introverts are very capable of being confident in public speaking or having more friends than an extrovert. Outward behaviors can be misleading. Being an introvert or extrovert is deeper than that, going to the core values and overall attitude towards the outside world. So read below for 3 guidelines which will help you better decide which side you are on. 

Extroverts seek social approval while introverts prioritize individuality

From a sociology point of view, since the time where mankind still lives in cave and in small closely-knitted communities, there are two distinct social strategies. One one hand, one may regard the community’s standards and needs as absolute and everything he thinks or does ultimately allows him to be better recognized by the tribe. The introvert’s ultimate basis is his own needs and himself. It is not about being selfish, but prioritizing individual perspectives and standards over the norms.

For example, an introverted feeling-dominant person will prioritize his moral standards and his subjective experience over the tribe’s. Such a type is the inspiration for the typical protagonist in many classic romance stories where the character is willing to fight and suffer for a personal passion despite resistance from the community or family. An extraverted feeling person, as you can guess, would more likely to follow what the social norms dictate.

introvert feeling in Hunchback_of_Notre_Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a good illustration of introverted feeling

In the case of thinking, an extraverted thinkers will have the habit of thinking how to obtain knowledge from well-validated external sources and to apply a principle or rule to as many people as possible. An introverted thinker, on the other hand, is often more comfortable relying on his original understanding of how things work and how he can “game the system” to obtain what he wants.

Extroverts prefer quantity while introverts want quality

Carl Jung himself mentioned in his book that the extroversion scale points beyond humans to include all living organisms. In the same population of a specific species, on one end of the spectrum are individuals who are more aggressive and less discriminate in acquiring food and mates. On the other end, there are those that prefer to conserve energy, striking with fewer but more efficient attempts.

Of course, like many other biological drives, introversion-extroversion has grown to be more complex in humans. But the general principle stays the same: extroverts prefer to expand their energy while introvert conserves. Both are valid survival strategies. It explains many different outward behaviors between the two types, like how introverts tend to prefer fewer but closer friends or how extroverts seem more outgoing and socially assertive in pursuing their goals. 

Extroverts are often generalists while introverts are specialists

Introverts often can think and work for much longer on a single topic or project, obtaining more unique and in-depth insights than their extroverted counterparts. Extroverts, like Thomas Edison, are of course capable of invention and creating ideas. However, what introverts are naturally good at is depth in subject matters. They are certainly over-represented in professions such as research, writing, drawing, engineering etc.

Meanwhile, extroverts often use ideas to achieve real world objectives. They are over-represented as managers, politicians, marketers… They usually prefer well-validated or popular knowledge and have relatively less patience to dwell on a topic for too long.

Conclusion

If you are a so-called ambivert, trying to pinpoint the side of this spectrum is not an easy task and personality tests online often do not help due to a lack of accuracy. I believe the best way to do is to contemplate the 3 principles above and search within yourself about what you really want. 

Most of us want success or popularity eventually, but does that success needs to come from your original understanding and ingenuity? Do you often distrust the mass and wish everyone can be more unique and think more for themselves? If those questions constantly itch you, you are more likely to be introverted than extroverted. 

Yardstick Introvert Extrovert
Social approval Have a general dislike and often question popular ideas , standards or tastes Seek to achieve socially-approved concepts and objectives without “overthinking”
Quantity versus quality Prefer quality, being picky (job, relationship…) Want to experience it all, easy-going and easy to blend in
Generalist versus specialist Are often specialist Are often generalist