Introvert or extrovert? Which one do you think is better?
That's the question my lecturer asked us in our second year psychology class. He wanted to test out his hypothesis on us; a class of four hundred students. We were asked to raise our hand in response to the one which we thought was better.
"Raise your hand if your think it's better to be an extrovert." I kept my hand lowered.
"Okay great, now raise your hand if you think it's better to be an introvert." I raised my hand. So did my friend Miriam sitting one row in front of me. I'm kind of a nerd (as is Miriam), so as nerds do, Miriam and I were sitting in the two front rows of the auditorium. When we raised our hands, the lecturer looked right at the two of us.
"Yes," he said, "my hypothesis is correct; the majority of people will always assume that it is better to be an extrovert."
I was surprised. Why is he looking right at me? My hand still hanging in the air, I looked behind me at the other students in the auditorium and I realised that mine and Miriam's hands were the only two raised; we were the only two people in a class of four hundred that could see merit in being an introvert.
As an introvert myself, I pulled my hand down very quickly when I realised that everyone was looking in my direction!
My lecturer went on to debunk this common misconception that extroverted people are better. He explained that the common thought is that extroverts are confident, fun and happy but that introverts are shy and suffer from low self-esteem. I know this not to be true. I'm quite, yes, but shy, no, and my confidence peaks and dips depending on different factors (which I assume is the same for everyone...right?).
Extroverts, he continued, pull their personality from outside of them. An extroverted personality is a reflection of its external environment. Whereas introverts, due to lots of thought and introspection, pull from within to find themselves.
This means that extroverts are really good at parties, they fit right in. Extroverts are adaptable to lots of situations - they can basically read the room and fit the requirements of that room. Introverts, on the other hand, are not so adaptable. They will be the same version of themselves no matter what the situation, no matter where they are.
I have to be honest. This summation made me think: Yes! I'm right, introverts are better! The way I saw it, introverts are more true to themselves and know themselves better and so, we win!
Hmmm. Not so fast.
My lecturer then went on to say - as arguments like this one often go - that when it comes to extrovert vs introvert, balance is best. The adaptability of the extrovert is a good life tool. As is the introspection of the introvert. Most people are not an extreme version of one or the other, but somewhere in the middle.
So I can take a leaf out of the extroverted book by pushing myself a little in situations that require me to step out of my comfort zone. Try to adapt to situations that don't exactly match my personality. I can do it. I know I can because I have. But I will say this: its kind of exhausting. When I do push myself in those moments, it takes a lot out of me and I need to recharge my batteries afterwards!
I think the important take away here is empathy. It's not a competition, it's about understanding one another, but I do often feel the need to stick up for the introvert because of that common misconception that my lecturer uncovered during our psychology class.
We're not shy. We're not lacking in self-esteem. We're not quiet because we're afraid to speak. It's basically because we're thinking; deep in thought and loving it.