Don't talk unless you
can improve the silence.
It's obvious that the American
dream is to be extraverted. We want our children to be "people who need
people." We want them to have lots of friends, to like parties, to prefer
to play outside with their buddies rather than retire with a good book, to make
friends easily, to greet new experiences enthusiastically, to be good
risk-takers, to be open about their feelings, to be trusting. We regard anyone
who doesnít fit this pattern with some concern. We call them
"withdrawn," "aloof," "shy,"
"secretive," and "loners." These pejorative terms show the
extent to which we misunderstand introverts.
majority of Americans are extraverted (about 75%), but the majority of gifted
children appear to be introverted (about 60%), and the percentage of introverts
seems to increase with IQ (Silverman, 1986). In addition to the problems
encountered with being gifted, these children are frequently misjudged because
they are introverted. Introversion is a perfectly normal personality type
identified by Carl Jung. It is actually healthy to be an introvert. The only
unhealthy part of it is denying your true self and trying to disguise yourself
as an extravert.
are wired differently from extraverts and they have different needs. Extraverts
get their energy from interaction with people and the external world. Introverts
get their energy from within themselves; too much interaction drains their
energy and they need to retreat from the world to recharge their batteries.
People can be extreme extraverts, extreme introverts, or a combination of both.
Since extraversion is the dominant mode in our society, there are no
"closet extraverts," but there are many "closet introverts,"
people who are so ashamed of their introversion that they try to be extraverts.
some tips on the care and feeding of the introverts in your family or classroom:
CARE FOR INTROVERTS
Respect their need for privacy.
Never embarrass them in public.
Let them observe first in new situations.
Give them time to think. Donít demand instant answers.
Donít interrupt them.
Give them advanced notice of expected changes in their lives.
Give them 15 minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing before calling
them to dinner or moving on to the next activity.
Reprimand them privately.
Teach them new skills privately rather than in public.
Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests and abilities:
encourage this relationship even if the friend moves.
Do not push them to make lots of friends.
Respect their introversion. Donít try to remake them into extraverts.
Introverts need to learn
about the positive benefits of their personality type. They need to be taught
that reflection is a good quality, that the most creative individuals sought
solitude, and that leaders in academic, aesthetic and technical fields are often
introverts. Parents need to know that more National Merit Scholars are
introverted than extraverted, and that introverts have higher grade point
averages in Ivy League colleges than extraverts (Silverman, 1986). Contrary to
public opinion, success in life is not dependent upon extraversion. Introverts
also have an advantage at midlife in that long, hard journey to the soul which
heralds the second half of the life cycle. The time has come to respect the
introverts in our families and classrooms, and the hidden introvert in
Kreger Silverman, Ph.D.
* * *
when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
* * *
C. G. Jung discovered and explored the reality of the psyche, an inner reality
that is the complement of the outer one, and for many of us, the more meaningful
of the two. However, before considering the inner world, we need to know where
we stand in the outer one. For Jung, understanding the constellation of our
conscious attitudes was important for the first process in individuation -
differentiation. This process is metaphorically described in the alchemical
process of separation and refinement of elements. It is hard to begin anything
if you do not know what you are beginning with. There is also the fact that the
way in which we relate to the outer world is usually the opposite of how we
relate to the inner one.
You may be surprised to learn that the terms introvert and extrovert
originated with Carl Jung. Psychological Types was Jung's first book after his
amazing encounter with the unconscious - a period of waking dreams,
conversations with inner figures, and a creative outpouring of inner images. So,
you would probably expect him to include some of his experiences and insights
into the nature of the unconscious in it. However, it is not about the
unconscious at all, but about the dispositions of consciousness. And the first
half of the rather long book is taken up with a historical contrasting of the
two major distinctions: introversion and extroversion.
No two thinkers have had a greater impact from the Hellenistic up through the
Modern periods of history than Plato and Aristotle. Aristotle was a student of
Plato until the old man's death. Then, after a tiff about not being made head of
the Academy, he wandered around a bit, eventually deciding to reject Plato's
philosophy and formulate his own.
Where Plato had transcendental Forms, which were primary to the objects that
participated in them; Aristotle had causes, which were the form, use, reason,
and ultimate purpose of objects. When the students at the Academy were studying
geometry (how idealized figures relate together); the students at the Lyceum were
studying biology (how parts and types of animals relate together). Plato wrote
dramatic dialogues using characters other than himself. Aristotle wrote notes
for his own lectures, and let others write those down and systematize them.
Many people throughout that long stretch of history have remarked on the fact
that certain types of people liked Plato, and other types Aristotle. While my
own theory involves masochism (at least in the case of Aristotle), Jung saw this
as the difference between the introverted and extroverted personalities. The
introvert's flow of vitality is inward, while the extrovert's is outward. For
Plato, a horse's existence flowed inwardly from the external ideal Horse Form.
For Aristotle, a horse's existence flowed outwardly from its internal causes and
purposes. These represented similar forms of thinking, but moving in different directions.
This difference of polarity is difficult to understand; our own direction seems
as natural as a river running downhill while the other is as odd as a river
running uphill. For example: I can conceptualize the fact that extroverts report
feeling energized by attending parties, but it is a freakish and unnatural
thing. "Normal people" (read - introverts) should feel drained by such
functions and spend a few days afterward in solitary contemplation - recovering.
To continue the river analogy, these polarities are better represented by tidal
rivers than mountain rivers. Tidal rivers do at times flow backwards, and we all
under certain circumstances function through the other polarity. Introversion and
Extroversion are best seen as preferences, much like right- or left-handedness.
In our extremely extroverted culture, for instance, introverts must often play extroverted roles. Jung also saw the life cycle as favoring extroverts
in the first half of life - learning how the world works, establishing a career
and a family. It favors introverts in the second - where the search for
meaning and purpose are predominant. One solemn example of this might be that
suicide rates are highest among white males over 50 in our society - many of whom
were very successful in the first half of life.
We usually think of introversion and extroversion in terms of personality types,
but both are also attitudes. To illustrate: there is a temple with an idol in
which, and to which, people perform religious services. An extroverted attitude
would be that this is idol worship (and probably idle worship as well); an
introverted attitude would be that the idol is symbolic of the inner aspect
(meaning, or possibly divinity itself) that each person brings.
Spend some time examining these inward and outward flows in your life,
particularly in how you understand your self and others.
© -1996 Troy W. Pierce
* * *
Jung's main theories is that of extraversion and introversion. They are both
related to each other. Using context clues, one can conclude that they are
opposites of each other. These ideas are central to understanding the collective
unconscious and the persona.
- People who are extraverted associate most of their time and energy toward
things outside of themselves. They are interested in other people, social
activities, and they are generally loud and uninhibited. These people usually go
to parties and enjoy themselves immensely. Another key association in Jung's
ideas is that the extravert usually focuses much of his or her attention toward
reality and the persona.
This means that they do not really pay much attention to themselves and what
- Introverted people are the opposite of extraverted people. They focus most of
their attention on themselves and their collective
unconscious. This means that they usually keep to themselves and are quieter
than extraverts are. Whereas extraverts enjoy parties and socializing,
introverts value thinking, dreaming, and fantasies.
* * *
many mistaken notions about introverts; e.g., introverts are often thought to
necessarily be one or all of the following:
An introvert may have no fear of saying hello or to talking with strangers.
An introvert may like to say hello or talk with strangers.
An introvert may be eager to help.
An introvert may be quite verbal.
An introvert may be extremely intelligent.
then is an introvert? The essence of an introvert is to focus on his or her
not mean that an introvert is self-centered or is not involved with the external
world. An introvert operates predominantly internally by thinking quietly.
contrast, an extrovert operates predominantly externally by vocalizing while
thinking.). Thus, whether the introvert is working on external or internal
issues, he or she will tend to be taciturn and reticent. (In contrast, an
extrovert will tend to talk.)
an introvert ever gets into a discussion about a topic that he or she has a
particular interest in, then his or her internal machinations may be
externalized. Such a discussion may be quite beneficial, functional, deep,
involved, and/or emotional. The tendency amongst introverts is to have
discussions of the most meaningful sort; otherwise, no discussion at all is
preferred. From an introvert's point of view, most other discussions are simply
say, there are many problems involved with this. Most people, i.e., most
non-extroverts, need more communication and feedback. There is useful
information and bonding that can be acquired via "chatter." These
problems do not mean that introverts should convert into extroverts! It would be
a dull world if everyone thought and operated in the exact same way.
introvert needs to know how to succeed in a predominantly non-introverted world.
Here are a few quick pointers:
that there is nothing unnatural or wrong with being an introvert.
loudly and clearly when you need to. Since introverts rarely speak, others
should be more attentive to what introverts have to say.
hesitate to ask questions when you need to. Trust your introversion to
filter out all but the most important questions.
don't have to make disingenuous jokes, make pointless comments, or chip into
conversations without earnestness.
are with a talkative group of extroverts, then you and the group can and
should be comfortable with your silence. This is especially possible once
they know you and recognize that you are not being silent out of hostility.
own person. Do what interests you. Be authentic.
* * *
Relationship of Introversion to Shyness and Introspection
guise or another, the concept of introversion has been a part of the study of
human behavior for ages. Going back as far as the Greek physicians Galan and
Hippocrates, thinkers have noticed behavioral patterns that fall along the
lines of those who seem to be more energetic and outgoing, and those that seem
more reserved or withdrawn (Eysenk, 1973). Although the concept seems prevalent
in literature, both psychological and pre-psychological, definitions and
conceptualizations of exactly what these two types of people are still seem to
elude us. Common sense tends to link introversion to shyness and extraversion
to confidence, but this is not how most of the major psychologists studying the
issue have viewed things.
comes to more modern psychology, Carl Jung, while accused by some of
appropriating the terms (Eysenk, 1973), can certainly be said to be the man who
popularized the notion that people fall into two 'attitude types': introverts
and extraverts. Jung's idea of introversion was complex. On the surface, it had
less to do with inhibition and more to do with the interjection of a subjective
point of view between the subject and the object (Jung, 1971). In other words,
an introvert would not take the 'objective' or outer world for granted, but
always looked at it from an individual, interpretive point of view. Introverts,
in this view, pay more attention to their own psychological processes in
response to external stimuli than to the stimuli themselves. Jung did, however,
describe extreme introverts with characteristics commonly thought of as
belonging to shy people (Sharp, 1987), seeming to suggest that this preference
for the inner world caused a negative attitude, and in extreme cases even fear,
toward the outer world. Later theorists working with Jung's ideas came to think
of introverts as people who were 'energized from within' and drained by extended
exposure to external stimulation (e.g., social gatherings, loud or busy
environments, etc...; e.g., Keirsey & Bates, 1984; Myers, 1980; Thomson,
1998). The emphasis became more focused on motivating principles and less on
behavioral descriptions or phenomenological experiences. The issue of shyness
was either avoided, or it was suggested that introverts are not necessarily shy
but simply less socially oriented.
(1998) criticized Jung's definition of introversion as blurring two concepts:
introversion (a tendency to be reserved) and introspection (attention paid to
inner thoughts, feelings and fantasies). Keirsey's claim is that Jung's
'intuitive types' are introspective, but not necessarily reserved (introverted)
and that Jung's 'introverted types' are reserved, but may either be more
observant (paying attention to the outer world of concrete, sense impressions --
Jungís Ďsensing typesí) or introspective. However, a study designed to
test Jung's concepts of introversion and extraversion did indicate that
introverts used more words pertaining to inner processing (e.g., consciousness,
wondering, imaging, etc...) and extraverts used more words pertaining to
external objects and time (Davis & Johnson, 1983). In addition to the above
complications, other psychologists have formulated altogether separate theories
major figure in psychology, Hans Eysenk, took a more biological perspective, and
came to understand introverts as people who had a naturally highly aroused
Reticular Activating System. His theory is that this fact causes introverts to
withdraw from stimulating situations more readily (e.g., Eysenk, 1981). How
shyness fits into this picture has seemingly not been answered with a complete
consensus. While Eysenk once postulated that shyness was a form of neuroticism,
not introversion (Eysenk & Eysenk, 1964), evidence accumulated from various
studies fails to support the idea that shyness fits neatly into either category.
common finding among psychologists attempting to study shyness through
psychometric measures and factor analyses seems to be that shyness is not
entirely contained by either introversion (or 'low extraversion') or
neuroticism, but is partly tapped by each of these higher order constructs
(e.g., Briggs, 1988; Crozier, 1979; Jones, Briggs & Smith, 1986; Pilkonis,
1976). The details of these studies vary, however.
one point using the word 'introvert' to seemingly denote a lack of interest in
socializing, elsewhere in the same publication Zimbardo (1977) divided shy
people into being 'publicly shy' (whom he called "shy introverts") or
'privately shy' ("shy extroverts"). The publicly shy person's shyness
is obvious to others; the privately shy person's shyness is not. Thus, the word
introversion was used to denote the obviousness of one's shyness. In an attempt
to follow up on this idea and identify different types of shy people, Pilkonis
(1977) analyzed intercorrelations among shyness scores on a short form of the
Stanford Shyness Survey and Form A of the Eysenk Personality Inventory (EPI),
among others, and found that shyness negatively correlated with extraversion (r
= -.43, p<.001) and sociability (r = -.39, p<.001) and positively
correlated with neuroticism (r = .28, p<.001). Another analysis in the same
paper suggested support for Zimbardo's distinction by comparing 'aspect of
shyness' ratings to scores and discovering shy people who tended worry more
about awkward behavior and failures to respond, also scored higher on the
Self-Consciousness Scale. However, Jones, Briggs & Smith (1986) did their
own factor analysis of 5 different shyness scales as well as a number of related
measures, including the Self-Consciousness Scale, and found no reason to
conclude that there are independent types of shyness. One of the scales used by
Jones, Briggs & Smith (1986) was the Shyness Scale, constructed by Cheek
& Buss (1981), which is one of the most popular measures of shyness.
Buss (1981) noted that, while most psychologists recognize a distinction between
shyness and low sociability, most laypersons, and some psychologists, do not
make such clear distinctions. They argued that psychologists typically recognize
shyness as a negative reaction to social situations, and sociability as being
typified by a preference for being with others over solitude, and to affiliate
with others. Their concern was that most scales tapping into aspects of social
anxiety did not specifically assess shyness as a distinct construct. To remedy
this, they constructed a scale meant specifically to assess the degree of one's
shyness and compared it to a scale assessing sociability. The results showed
that shyness was not mere low sociability. It had a moderate, negative
correlation to sociability (r = -.30), indicating that shyness and low
sociability have some overlap, but are not the same. In a second study presented
in the same paper, it was found that there are indeed people who are high on
both shyness and sociability. These people exhibited the most social difficulty
of the groups compared, presumably due to a conflict between a desire for
affiliation and contact, and inhibition or fear of socializing. There were also
people low on both sociability and shyness, indicating that some people who
exhibit social avoidance behaviors may not experience any fear, anxiety or
inhibition when among others, but simply have low interest in socializing.
Schmidt (1999) replicated the comparison of the Cheek & Buss (1981)
sociability and shyness items, and found a very similar result (r = -.32), and
added to its credibility by finding differences in electroencephalogram (EEG)
recordings between people with the four different combinations of high or low
shyness and sociability scores. The subjects were placed in a tense social
situation while their brain activity was monitored. The results were interpreted
as indicating the possibility of different neural substrates for shyness and
(1995) put an even finer point on shyness, separating it from embarrassablity.
He performed a factor analysis of shyness, embarrassability, self-consciousness,
and other related measures, which indicated that shyness is more associated with
low self-confidence than embarrassability, whereas embarrassabiltiy is more
associated with fear of behaving inappropriately.
(1988) performed a factor analysis on 74 items compiled from different shyness
scales and compared them to Eysenk's introversion and neuroticism superfactors,
as measured by the EPI. Most shyness items were shown to correlate with both
superfactors relatively equally. Briggs interpreted this as suggesting that it
is not shyness measures, but the constructs of introversion and neuroticism as
operationalized by the EPI that have fuzzy conceptual boundaries. Items that
were found to have a higher correlation for neuroticism tended to be related to
negative affective response, as opposed to social facility, social confidence,
and approach-avoidance. When a further analysis was performed for the same
paper, it became even clearer that shyness items that were more associated with
introversion (as measured by the EPI) had to do with sociability, not
All of this
seems to suggest that, if nothing else, shyness and introversion are complicated
constructs. Shyness seems to relate to introversion, insofar as shyness has to
do with low sociability and a desire to avoid social situations, and to
neuroticism, insofar as shyness has to do with feelings of inhibition,
awkwardness and low self-esteem. But shyness was also found to correlate only
moderately with low sociability, when specifically phenomenological items were
used to define shyness. Introspection also has some theoretical ties with
introversion. Some research supports the connection, but some theorists reject
It was the
purpose of this study to add clarity to these two problems in the definition of
introversion. To do this, a number of subscales designed to assess both
behavioral and phenomenological aspects of personality as it relates to
introversion, shyness, and introspection were used to test two main hypotheses.
The first hypothesis was that introversion, as measured by items designed by
Keirsey, would not be highly correlated with shyness. Keirsey's items were
chosen to operationalize introversion in order to attempt to approach the
problem from a more 'Jungian' influenced interpretation of introversion, as
opposed to the 'Eysenkian' interpretation more popular in academic personality
research. The second hypothesis was that introversion scores, as per Keirsey's
contention, would be independent from measures of introspection and that
intuition scores would not be.
* * *
for concentration. Tend to be careful with details. Dislike sweeping statements.
Have trouble remembering names and faces. Tend not to mind working on one
project for a long time uninterruptedly. Are interested in the idea behind their
job. Dislike telephone intrusions and interruptions. Like to think a lot before
they act, sometimes without acting. Work contentedly alone. Have some problems
things before saying them and prefer that others would do the same; you
often respond with "I'll have to think about that" or "Let me
tell you later."
the peace and quiet of having time to yourself; you find your private time
too easily invaded and tend to adapt by developing a high power of
concentration that can shut out TV, noisy kids, or nearby conversations.
perceived as "a great listener" but feel that others take
advantage of you.
been called "shy" from time to time; whether or not you agree, you
may come across to others as somewhat reserved and reflective.
share special occasions with just one other person or perhaps a few close
that you could get your ideas out more forcefully; you resent those who
blurt out things you were just about to say.
stating your thoughts or feelings without interruption; you allow others to
do the same in the hope that they will reciprocate when it comes time for
you to speak.
time to "recharge" alone after you've spent time socializing with
a group; the more intense the encounter, the greater the chance you'll feel
told by your parents to "go outside and play with your friends";
when you were a child; your parents probably worried about you because you
liked to be by yourself.
that "talk is cheap"; you get suspicious if people are too
complimentary, or irritated if they say something that's already been said
by someone else. The phrase "reinventing the wheel" may occur to
you as you hear others chattering away.
* * *
A mode of psychological orientation where the movement of energy is toward the
inner world. (Compare extraversion.)
whose attitude is introverted thinks, feels, and acts in a way that clearly
demonstrates that the subject is the prime motivating factor and that the
object is of secondary importance. [ Ibid., par. 769.]
has to prove that everything he does rests on his own decisions and
convictions, and never because he is influenced by anyone, or desires to
please or conciliate some person or opinion. ["Psychological Types,"
CW 6, par. 893.]
introverted consciousness can be well aware of external conditions, but is not
motivated by them. The extreme introvert responds primarily to internal
large gathering he feels lonely and lost. The more crowded it is, the greater
becomes his resistance. He is not in the least "with it," and has no
love of enthusiastic get-togethers. He is not a good mixer. What he does, he
does in his own way, barricading himself against influences from outside. . .
. Under normal conditions he is pessimistic and worried, because the world and
human beings are not in the least good but crush him. . . .His own world is a
safe harbour, a carefully tended and walled-in garden, closed to the public
and hidden from prying eyes. His own company is the best. ["Psychological
Typology," ibid., pars. 976f.]
introversion in a child are a reflective, thoughtful manner and resistance to
wants his own way, and under no circumstances will he submit to an alien rule
he cannot understand. When he asks questions, it is not from curiosity or a
desire to create a sensation, but because he wants names, meanings,
explanations to give him subjective protection against the object.
["Psychological Types," ibid., par. 897.]
introverted attitude tends to devalue things and other persons, to deny their
importance. Hence, by way of compensation, extreme introversion leads to an
unconscious reinforcement of the object's influence. This makes itself felt as a
tie, with concomitant emotional reactions, to outer circumstances or another
individual's freedom of mind is fettered by the ignominy of his financial
dependence, his freedom of action trembles in the face of public opinion, his
moral superiority collapses in a morass of inferior relationships, and his
desire to dominate ends in a pitiful craving to be loved. It is now the
unconscious that takes care of the relation to the object, and it does so in a
way that is calculated to bring the illusion of power and the fantasy of
superiority to utter ruin. ["General Description of the Types,"
ibid., par. 626.]
A person in
this situation can be worn out from fruitless attempts to impose his or her
efforts are constantly being frustrated by the overwhelming impressions
received from the object. It continually imposes itself on him against his
will, it arouses in him the most disagreeable and intractable affects and
persecutes him at every step. A tremendous inner struggle is needed all the
time in order to "keep going." The typical form his neurosis takes
is psychasthenia, a malady characterized on the one hand by extreme
sensitivity and on the other by great proneness to exhaustion and chronic
extreme cases, introverts are simply more conservative than not, preferring the
familiar surroundings of home and intimate times with a few close friends; they
husband their energy and would rather stay put than go from place to place.
Their best work is done on their own resources, on their own initiative and in
their own way.
retreat into himself is not a final renunciation of the world, but a search
for quietude, where alone it is possible for him to make his contribution to
the life of the community. [Psychological Typology," ibid., par. 979.]
* * *
like to address Marti Laney's book, The
Introvert Advantage. Here's a short & pithy book review:
it's written by an INFP for INFPs. No joke!
introverts will naturally find something in common with the descriptions Marti
shares, the Cinderella shoe does not fit perfectly overall. For
instance, there is no allowance made for the INFJ Chart-the-Course interaction
style, which operates at a faster pace than the Behind-the-Scenes style.
Luckily, Temperament is a common denominator, but there are occasional
inferences to the Cognitive Processes that seems to better describe the whole
type pattern of INFP over INFJ. And the whole bit about
left-brain/right-brain differences seems like an interesting way to
characterize differences among individuals within the INFP type pattern, but
it left me cold. Perhaps that distinction is an artifact of extraverted
Thinking that I seldom relate to -- I don't know whether that holds true for
other INFJs or not.
I think the book goes a long way to validating one's preferences for
introversion, take care to realize that the "fit" won't be 100% for
an INFJ, and doesn't take into account the various type models I've described
elsewhere on this site that would describe more "varieties" of
sets my teeth on edge that "extravert" is misspelled as
"extrovert" on the cover.)
* * *
introversion/extraversion "assessment" is here
* * *
* * *