How to deal with the often misunderstood
Like most people, you have probably been identified at some time in your life as an introvert or an extrovert. make up a sizeable fraction of society; a random sample done by the Myers-Briggs organization in 1998 showed introverts made up a full 50.7 percent of those tested.
Scientific studies have found several significant differences in the brains of introverts versus those of extroverts. A 2012 study by Harvard psychologist Randy Buckner found that the gray matter in areas of the prefrontal cortex was larger and thicker in introverts. An 1999 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry by Johnson, Wiebe, Gold, et al found that introverts had greater cerebral blood flow in their frontal lobes and anterior thalamus. However, the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex were found to be larger in extroverts in a study by Henk Cremers, Karin Roelofs, et al in a 2011 study performed at the Institute for Psychological Research at Leiden, The Netherlands.
In the recent bestseller, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” author Susan Cain makes and supports the claim that extrovert traits have been valued by society, our educational systems and in the job market over introvert traits and that a great deal of introvert capability is wasted or underrated because introverts are often judged by extrovert standards. Cain writes introversion is often seen as a sign that someone is “broken,” shy, sad or needs help, rather than as having valuable traits in themselves and many suffer additional stress and fatigue from trying to act the part of an extrovert in order to progress in their careers.
Michelle Long is license professional councelor is care manager at the Willis- Knighton Addiction Recovery System and has a private practice on Line Avenue in Shreveport.
“Many times when someone mentions being introverted, we think of the loners who stay home, peeking out of the window but never venturing outside,” Long said.
“We may think of people who are socially phobic, fearing interaction with others. Carl Jung defined introverts as those who gain energy from quiet alone time, seeking fulfillment from within. Extroverts are the opposite – they seek social situations and intense sensory input from their environments to feel happy and energized. In our culture, we are taught that parties are fun, networking is key, and we must engage in as many social situations as possible in order to be happy. For the estimated 25-50 percent of the country who are introverted, this can be exhausting.
“The tendency for introverts to be reserved when meeting others is often seen as being shy or haughty, when in fact they are gathering up the required emotional energy to interact with others. Parties, weddings, presentations and other large social situations can produce feelings of anxiety in introverts as they know that they have to be ‘on.’ It is not unusual for them to excuse themselves early or skip events entirely.
“Introverts do like people and socialize easily – just in small groups, in small doses,” Long said.
“Most introverts have small circle of friends in whom they confide, and they like it that way. They are quiet in large gatherings and when meeting new people because they are listening carefully and thinking before speaking.
An extrovert will speak quickly and never meet a stranger; an introvert will listen and analyze before deciding to speak.
“However, introverts may excel at public speaking, writing, networking through social media and leading small group discussions due to the amount of thoughtful preparation involved. Giving a speech in front of others provides a way to share information and ideas without the need for constant, intense interpersonal contact. Writing a text, tweet or email gives introverts time to develop an idea or response. When dealing with someone who is introverted, give them time to gather their thoughts, space to deal with their feelings and freedom to ask for time alone when needed,” Long said. “Respect their need for quiet time as they can be easily overloaded by noise and distractions.
And remember that the more comfortable they are with you, the more likely they are to open up about themselves.”
“The most important thing to remember is that introverts need downtime to recharge both emotionally and psychologically. Introverts tend to enjoy more solitary pursuits as a way to get back in touch with how they feel and to process the events of the day. Giving introverts time alone is important for their mental health, as is listening when they need to talk,” Michelle Long said.