When people hear the words ‘extrovert’ and ‘introvert’ they typically associate it with ‘outgoing’ and ‘shy’. While these are characteristics of both extroverts and introverts, the definition is not so simple. In a basic definition, these two words describe how people obtain their energy. Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, wrote a book Psychological Types back in the 1920’s thoroughly going through these ideas of personality*. Later, Katherine Cooks Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers created the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) that categorized each person into 16 distinct personality types, based on preferences such as extroversion and introversion. They believed that everyone had qualities of both, but everyone had a higher preference to one. So, to simplify, extroverts, obtain energy from other people, and introverts, from alone time. I’ll break these down a bit further.
Extroverts are energized by the world outside of themselves. They are typically more animated, enthusiastic, and talkative; often more assertive as well. When with other people, extroverts have energy, which is often why they become bubbly in social situations. Extroverts can be alone, and alone time I think, is important for everyone regardless of energy preference, but in times of being alone, the extrovert will typically have less energy than if they were around people.
The introvert is concerned with their inner world. They prefer self-reflection, and observation as oppose to social interactions. Introverts are typically more quiet, or reserved people. This doesn’t mean that introverts dislike social interaction, are scared of it, or shy away from it, it simply means social interactions are not their preference and can be quite draining for them. After a social situation, an introvert will need to recharge by having alone time.
Okay, so we’ve defined these two preferences, how does this fit into the world today? Social distancing is going to be, naturally, harder for the extrovert. If you think about it, their way of obtaining energy is from other people, and with social distancing, the extrovert will have less energy, and may even begin to feel moments of depression. The introvert, while social distancing won’t be necessarily “easy”- it won’t be difficult nor will it drain their energy levels as much.
I’m an extrovert, and social distancing, even not being able to go out and be around strangers, is hard. My energy levels are low, I yawn a whole lot, and even though I get a good night’s rest, I feel tired. This is a direct result of my preference in how I obtain energy. Typically, I could go for a walk and interact with people I meet there, go to grocery store and chat up someone in the aisle, and being with friends or family (all things an extrovert will gain energy from). Now, take all that away, and add the fear of social interaction, and this is now an extroverts nightmare. I have never been afraid of interaction, even with strangers, it’s always fun for me to talk to people I don’t know (of course in safe situations). I can’t count the number of people I have had in depth conversations with who I do not know their names, or anything about them besides that conversation. Recently, however, social interaction has almost become a fearful mentality. Don’t get too close to someone, don’t talk to someone because now you’re not 6ft away, careful when you touch things that other people touch, be mindful to distance yourself when walking past someone on the street or in a grocery aisle or you may get this horrible flu and pass it to vulnerable people. These thoughts, while they are important right now to slow the spread of flu transmission, they are very hard for an extrovert like myself.
I miss social interaction, and as a result I have less energy to do the things that I typically would do such as exercise, cook, or clean; I’m trying, but my personality does not boast well for social distancing. I know that I am not alone in this, there are LOTS of extroverts out there. Of the 16 Myers Briggs Personalities, 8 have extrovert as the dominant preference, and 52.3% of the population identifies with these 8 personality types*. That means just a little over half the population are extroverts, and social distancing will be difficult, especially for those extroverts who live alone.
To look at this in a different light, I wonder about the extroverts who, without a social distancing protocol, are lonely. Especially those most vulnerable such as elderly in care homes, parents whose children don’t live near them, or those with disability. The loneliness an extrovert can feel is immense, and I think it’s important to keep these people in our thoughts even without a pandemic. Introverts can experience loneliness too, as the Myers Briggs will indicate, everyone has both introversion and extroversion, but perhaps this is a time to think about how many people are lonely in day-to-day, normal, pre-covid life. I have wondered myself, once this pandemic is settled, if volunteering at care homes may be a way that I can reach out to those who are lonely. Things I have thought about before in my life, but feeling this distance myself has definitely put reality to the term “to walk in someone’s shoes”.
If you know an extrovert, check in on them. If you know an introvert who may be extra alone, check in on them. Heck, just check in on the people you love during this time especially. Reach out, offer some time, and don’t forget that all things pass.
-Katherine Hollingsworth, BA
Carney, Sean; Parawan, Jenny; Wang, Carol. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Manual. Web. 7 April 2020.