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Introverts in an Extroverted World

Sarah Chana Radcliffe M. Ed., C.Psych. Assoc.

Nearly half the planet is introverted, but too often they’re still looked at as strange. How to live with and nurture an introvert — including yourself.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The word “introversion” was coined along with its opposite — extroversion — by Swiss psychiatrist Carl (C.G.) Jung in the 1920s. Jung was referring to a person whose orientation to life is mostly internal, through his own thoughts and feelings. The extrovert, on the other hand, focuses on the external world, the world of people and activities. The extrovert is quick to jump in, while the introvert is reflective and likes more time before taking action.

According to Jung, all people have both characteristics within them but one is more dominant than the other in any given person. Practically speaking, this means that each person has times when she feels the need to focus internally (think about things, mull matters over, daydream) and likewise, times when she is drawn to the outer world (participating in meetings at work, engaging in projects, hosting guests). An introvert simply feels the need to turn inward more often than her extrovert counterpart does.

These tendencies are measured in modern personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). From such tests a person can learn whether his personality is predominantly introverted or predominantly extroverted. However, most of us simply “assess” ourselves. If you’re a “people person,” you call yourself extroverted; if you’re a “homebody,” you’ll say you’re introverted. Although this isn’t exactly what Jung had in mind, the movement toward or away from social interaction is probably the issue that matters most to us.

 

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