Thursday, May 15, 2014

8 Myths About Extroverts

If you don’t live under a rock, you’ve probably heard the big news: New Superpower Found--Introversion!

As we all know, introverts have been misunderstood for all of human history. Extroverts get all the praise while the introverts do all the real work. We are just now beginning to understand the truth--that all the good in this world is done by introverts and that extroverts are lumbering, glory-stealing idiots.

Now, I’m not trying to mock introverts, not at all. I’m a natural extrovert who grew up in a mostly introverted family. I love my introverted siblings and parents with all my heart. They are brilliant and talented and interesting and fun to be around. But that’s not because they’re introverts. It’s because they are wonderful people. Introversion is just a small part of what makes them who they are.

Yes, introverts have been largely misunderstood in the past, but now that we’re beginning to understand introverts a bit better, we are also starting to put down extroverts. So here are a few of the trendy myths about extroverts that we need to recognize.

1. They are loud.
Some extroverts are loud. I would say that the vast majority are probably not. Extroverts don’t typically talk softly, but that doesn’t mean they yell all the time.

2. They’re chatterboxes who can’t shut up.
Some extroverts are extremely chatty all the time, and I would say that most of us can be very chatty in certain situations. But introverts can also be chatty when they feel comfortable. That’s the thing: all of us are willing to talk when we feel comfortable; it’s just that extroverts tend to feel comfortable more often than introverts.

3. They could make friends with a rock--and they probably will.
Extroversion does not translate to friendliness or good social skills. Extroverts don’t like everyone. They don’t always feel the need to talk to their neighbors on the airplane or the bus. They can leave other people alone.

4. They’re incapable of being alone.
Everyone--including your typical extrovert--needs a little time alone now and again. Some extreme extroverts like to be around people almost all the time, but if someone hates to be alone at any time ever, it’s probably because they have issues, not because they’re an extrovert. I’ve heard that extroverts are easily bored, that they’re constantly texting, that they always need to be around other people in order to recharge their batteries. It’s just not true. They don’t need as much alone time as introverts, and they can recharge their batteries when they’re with other people, but they can also have hobbies or even a job that they like to do alone.

5. Everything is on the surface; they don’t have an “inner life.”
Extroverts are just as capable of having a rich inner life as introverts are. They can, and probably do, have deep, complex thoughts and ideas. It may not be obvious because they may be more willing to talk about these ideas and even laugh about them than introverts are, which can lead introverts to believe that their ideas are trite or shallow. They can appear silly and not serious, but that’s not usually true.

6. They’re great as politicians and CEOs, but they aren’t artists or scientists.
I have news for you--I’m an extrovert and I’m a writer! And I resent the idea that I might not be as good at writing as an introvert simply because our personalities are different. But that seems to be what people are implying these days. Yes, some professions are perhaps more generally filled with extroverts rather than introverts, and vice versa, but that doesn’t mean that either extroverts or introverts are limited to certain careers.

7. They’re not very smart.
As we all know, introverts are very gifted and talented while extroverts are just your mediocre, average Joes. Wrong! Of course there are many intelligent introverts, but there are also plenty of smart extroverts! And no, I’m not talking about “street smarts” or “social skills,” I’m talking about book smarts, original ideas, and hard-core intellectualism. And it’s not “difficult” for extroverts to be this way. Introverts are not naturally smarter than extroverts (nor is it the other way around). End of story.

8. They will never understand introverts.
This is the number-one complaint I hear from introverts-- “Extroverts just don’t get it. They are incapable of understanding us.” Well, sure, it’s impossible to say I completely understand another person’s life experience without living through it myself, but I grew up around introverts. I have siblings who are extremely introverted and I see how things affect them and how they respond to different situations. What’s more, while introvert/extrovert can be a useful distinction for our relationships, it’s never the stark dichotomy we sometimes make it out to be. I am not an extreme extrovert; I have some introversion in me. I know what it’s like to be overwhelmed by socializing for too long, to need to have some time to myself, and to feel uncomfortable in a crowd of people. Introversion is not foreign or alien to me, and I imagine it isn’t foreign to most extroverts. Like with all of our differences as human beings, those who are willing and eager to understand will make an effort to do so, while those who don’t care will probably never “get it.” Sure, there are extroverts who don’t care and never will, but they have no right to speak for the rest of us. I married an introvert. I care about him and I want to understand. And guess what? Because I care, I do understand in lots of ways. Sure, there are times I get exasperated or frustrated with him, just the way he sometimes gets exasperated and frustrated with me. We’re different. But we understand one another.

If you’re an introvert, there’s one main thing I hope you get from this: There are extroverts in your life who love you. Don’t assume they don’t understand you or that they’re completely different from you. Contrary to what the media wants you to believe, we’re more alike than we are different.


  1. Great article! I'm grateful for the extroverts who love me!

    1. Thank you! And I'm grateful for wonderful introverts like you! :)

  2. What annoys me, as an introvert, is that people equate introverted with shy. I myself am both shy and introverted, but my husband is as unshy as possible... and also introverted. My sister-in-law is extroverted and shy. As I understand it, the difference is how being around other people affects your energy level, not how well you do or don't get along with other people, etc. If hanging out with friends gets you energized, you're an extrovert, but if hanging out with people uses up your energy, you're an introvert. Has nothing at all to do with intelligence, people skills, or creativity.

    Um, in other words, right! I agree with you.