Studies suggest a third to a half of Americans are introverts.
Being an introvert or extrovert affects all aspects of life: partners, friends, jobs, lifestyle, relationships, and career advancement.
There are no universally accepted definitions of extroversion and introversion, but you can determine where you are in the extrovert-introvert spectrum.
You are more extroverted if you:
Are sociable, outgoing, and enjoy interacting with others; like being the center of attention and thrive on external stimuli and excitement.
Need a lot of social engagements, have many friends and acquaintances and enjoy large groups.
Are prone to exuberance and euphoria.
Take big risks seeking success and need acknowledgement from others.
You are more introverted if you:
Prefer calm environments and enjoy solitude and quiet. You don't need constant external stimulation.
Tend to think carefully through experiences and mistakes. If you lose money in stocks, you'll analyze what happened before investing more.
Can focus deeply on intellectual and artistic projects.
Have few but deep friendships.
Enjoy small groups more than large gatherings and crowds.
Comfortable discussing personal and social issues in depth with close friends.
Many introverts are highly sensitive.
Highly sensitive people process information deeply, and enjoy conversations on values, not superficial small talk.
Sensitive introverts are deeply impacted emotionally by tragedies and cruelty. They also respond more emotionally to daily impressions.
Introverts have a strong moral conscience, aware of how their behavior impacts others, and mistakes weigh heavily on them.
Highly sensitive introverts care about being seen positively by others, making meeting new people stressful.
Highly sensitive people notice changes faster, and react more strongly to stimuli (e.g, glances, pain, coffee).
There is a difference between shyness and introversion. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment. Introversion is the preference for quiet and low stimulation situations.
Barbra Streisand is an extrovert but is still shy because she experiences stage fright.
Our emotional response is controlled by the amygdala, which determines how we react to input from the outside world.
High-reactive people have very sensitive amygdalae, so they strongly react to stimuli and prefer low-stimulation environments. They tend to become introverts.
Low-reactive people's brains don't respond as easily to stimulation, so they seek out more stimulating environments and become extroverts.
Experiments show that our differences in reactivity to stimulation are present even in infancy.
Extroverted children are like dandelions -- they thrive almost anywhere. Introverted children are like orchids -- they flourish in the right environment.
Parenting introverts is about empathy, understanding their needs and slowly expanding their comfort zones.
Pressure, overstimulation, or dismissal increases introverts' risk of depression and disorders.
In the Western world, extroverts are often seen as more competent, intelligent, interesting, and attractive than introverts, and Western institutions reinforce extroverted values. However, in Asian cultures, introverts are admired for being studious, respectful and less arrogant than the stereotypically loud extroverts.
America's move from rural to urban reshaped personality ideals over the 20th century.
Previously, rural communities knew you based on your actions. Now first impressions mattered most.
Cities favored flashy extroversion over quiet industriousness because you had to sell yourself in the ocean of anonymity.
Introverts have the capacity to purposefully tap into extroverted behaviors, even if it's not their natural tendency.
Many introverted professors use extroverted behaviors -- striding confidently, speaking clearly and loudly, with a relaxed posture -- to teach effectively.
Having a greater purpose can motivate introverts to adapt extroverted traits in key situations.
Many employers create workplaces catering only to extroverts -- open offices, group brainstorming, interactive presentations. Introverts struggle with constant interruptions, noise, and disruptive coworkers in open offices.
Companies should provide flexibility for both temperaments, allowing exchange of ideas but also focused work in private.
Don't assume open offices and groupthink are universally productive. Play to introverts' strengths too. Most major works of art and innovation are largely created in solitude (e.g, Einstein's theories, Chopin's works, Orwell's 1984, Wozniak's PC, and Rowling's Harry Potter series).
Research suggests that for simple repetitive tasks, extroverted leaders' focus on motivation, rules and speed works well. For more complex work requiring creativity, introverted leaders allow more input and generate more ideas and innovation.
Studies show that introverted leaders perform better than extroverts when managing proactive employees. This is unsurprising because introverts are more open to suggestions and less dominating.
During the 2008 crisis, many companies with extroverted leaders had made risky investments, deciding fast with little data. These companies suffered greatly. Companies with introverted leaders researched thoroughly before deciding. The cautious companies weathered the storm better. When quick action is needed, extroverts excel. When careful thought is required, introverts fare better.
Companies should employ both introverted and extroverted leaders for best performance.
In conflicts, extroverts tend to get aggressive, and introverts tend to retreat, which can be problematic. Employers should nurture understanding between the two temperaments. Great collaboration happens when they understand each other's perspectives.