The Extroversion-Introversion preferences are one of the most common talked about differences and most often misunderstood.
You may not be well-equipped in the understanding of personality, but you probably have heard of the term ‘Extrovert’ and ‘Introvert’, and probably identified yourself with either one.
In this section, you will understand the key differences between the Extrovert and the Introvert and dispel some of the myths about these two preferences.
Energy Orientation and the Extroversion-Introversion Preferences
When we talk about extroversion and introversion, we are really talking about the individual’s energy orientation. i.e where the individual draws energy from.
This is NOT about physical energy. Both Extroverts and Introverts need proper sleep and physical rest, and both recharge physically through proper care of their bodies.
Energy orientation talks about how they draw and recharge their soul energy.
For example, Introverts who are placed in a social environment for too long will find themselves drained and would need time alone to recharge. This is not so much a physical recharge but more so one of soulful recharge.
Herein lies the key difference:
- Extroverts draw energy and are stimulated from the world around them
- Introverts draw energy and are stimulated by the inner world, the world within them.
Extroverts prefer interaction and interfacing with the world around them, meaning social interactions and activity help their soul recharge while Introverts need time to live in their inner world, meaning time for personal reflection, meditation or just simply solitude.
Everyone can operate in both the outer world and in the inner world.
The preference for Extroversion or Introversion merely tells you which world you prefer to operate in.
It is a popular misconception that Extroverts cannot live in their inner world, and Introverts cannot live in the outer world, which is by observation, clearly false. But it is a popular theory because it simplifies an otherwise complex understanding of our energy orientation.
Here are some keywords associated with each preference:
Extroverts speak as they think while Introverts think before they speak.
Extroverts often need to speak out their thoughts; that’s why they seem to be talkative.
While not true all the time, Extroverts generally find it easier to make sense of what they are thinking when they articulate it.
The result could be an incoherent combination of words sometimes, but its all part of the process of helping the extrovert make sense.
Introverts, however, need to consider their thoughts and words before actually articulating them. This means that they will often take a while to respond to questions.
Hence, don’t try to force answers out of them: they are working it out in their heads!
Extroverts prefer variety while Introverts prefer depth.
The preference for variety extends to most areas of the extroverts’ life. When it comes to eating, they may prefer small bites from many different dishes, rather than eating only a single dish.
It is the same when coming to activities; they prefer variety and would like to try out different projects rather than sticking to one.
This also explains why they have many friends and acquaintances because they enjoy the variety of people they meet.
When it comes to communication topics, extroverts also change topics relatively quickly compared to introverts. When meeting up with their friends, they like to speak about a variety of things rather than sticking to a single topic.
Introverts, on the other hand, prefer depth in their lives.
While they like variety in their food as well, they are generally satisfied with a single dish for a meal. With activities, they prefer doing only a few and sticking to those.
Introverts also prefer sticking to a few close friends rather than having a big pool of acquaintances (which the Extroverts call friends!)
When chatting with these friends, they can go in depth into a single topic and stay on that same topic throughout the meeting. Hence, their friends are likely to share an interest with them.
Extroverts prefer to unload their emotions as they go along while Introverts usually bottle up their emotions.
Extroverts often need to share their emotions as they feel them and unload them by telling their friends or family. This makes them come across as the more emotionally alive or expressive types compared to the Introverts.
Introverts, on the other hand, tend to bottle up these emotions. This makes them look like they lack emotion or in extreme cases, emotionally dead. But Introverts feel as much as Extroverts, it is just simply they do not share it as readily.
However, when the Introvert does come out with their emotions, it usually comes out in a torrent like a volcanic eruption, a sudden burst of emotions that may surprise people around them.
Introverts have a greater need for personal space than Extroverts.
Introverts live with an invisible bubble around them. When that space is violated, you will naturally see them back off a little or just feel uncomfortable. While it may appear aloof or cold, it’s really a need for personal space in a social setting.
It is best not to invade that ‘bubble’ of the Introvert because you would be deemed insensitive by the Introvert.
This also means that they’ll feel much more relaxed in a location where there is an abundance of space like a mountain cabin by the countryside compared to crowded places like clubs or city centers.
Extroverts are more comfortable with social settings. They are likely to stand closer to people whom they are speaking to, and thereby coming across as warm and intimate.
Extroverts generally love places where they are a lot of people doing activities, basically places with a buzz about them: city centers, beaches, clubs and so on. They are energized by the buzz.
When it comes to inviting people over to their homes, Extroverts are generally far more comfortable doing so, seeing their home as a good location to socialize.
Introverts have a greater need for quiet time alone.
Because of their natural need to retreat to their inner world, Introverts do need time alone to reflect, meditate, pray or just simply read or watch a movie. They can spend huge amounts of time alone, without interaction with other people and be fine with it.
In a world that supports Extroversion: about getting out there and actively engaging the world, an Introvert’s secret wish is to stay at home and simply have nothing on the agenda.
This puzzles Extroverts, who may misunderstand Introverts to be loners, lazy people, or even think that the Introvert doesn’t like spending time with them!
Reality is, in a world where they are asked to be constantly and actively engaging the world, they need a lot more time alone to recharge their souls.
This section Sensing-Intuition Preferences will delve deeper into how differently the two types perceive information.
The Sensing and Intuition functions is about how we perceive information; meaning how we gather information and the type of information we prefer to accept.
Although this preference is less studied than the Extrovert-Introvert preferences, it is nonetheless just as important in the understanding of how different we really are.
These differences have the greatest implications when it comes to communication differences and challenges. In this section, you will understand key differences between Sensors and Intuitives.
Perception and the Sensing-Intuition Preferences
Intuitives perceive conceptual information. They are at home with symbols, concepts, abstract theories, and they make connections across their disciplines of knowledge very unconsciously.
Sensors perceive information in a methodical, sequential manner. They prefer practical and specific facts, preferably something they can perceive with their physical senses.
A good example of these differences can be seen clearly in the classroom, where teachers teach according to their preference (either Sensing or Intuition) and students learn according to theirs.
If the teacher and student are different, the student usually suffers. Either he finds the teacher too vague and too fast, or he finds class boring because the teacher is too literal and too slow.
Intuitives enjoy ideas while Sensors enjoy facts.
Intuitives enjoy living in the world of ideas. Because they are future-oriented, they like to talk about what they hope to achieve, what kind of business they want to start, or what their dreams and aspirations are.
If you want to excite an Intuitive, only ask him to talk the future. You will see energy emanating from them as they do so! However, they tend to give less care about what is going on in their present lives.
They may not be in an ideal environment currently, but they seem to have an amazing capacity for hope… “It doesn’t matter. I know my future is going to be better than today.”
Sensors are very aware of their physical realities. They are, therefore, more likely to be engaged in conversations that deal with existing people, events or circumstances. These could include events like their bad experiences with a colleague, or the exceptional service they received at a restaurant.
They are not as interested in the world of ideas; they may even see these ideas as wishful thinking by the Intuitives.
“If you had one million, what you would you do with it?” – such a question is a future-oriented question that has to do with a hypothetical scenario. This is a question that an Intuitive would love to answer.
The Sensor may reply, “But I don’t have one million, so I can’t tell you.” The Sensor sees the reality much more evidently and points it out, but misses out on the point the Intuitive is trying to make.
Under traditional education, Intuitives are perceived to be more intelligent than Sensors.
In the way we have traditionally perceive intelligence, Intuitives have always been favoured and therefore looked upon as the more intelligent ones. IQ tests and school exams are timed, and reward quickness of understanding, but not necessarily thoroughness of understanding.
In school, the Intuitives were able to get Mathematics questions conceptually right very quickly without the need for continual practice.
Sensors need to understand their work methodically and sequentially. When being taught a subject like Mathematics, they prefer methods and solutions to be presented to them in a step-by-step manner for them to grasp it.
However, when questions are twisted around, it’s to the advantage of the Intuitives who understand Mathematics conceptually. Sensors will struggle to use methods they’ve been taught to answer such questions.
Hence, these tests generally judge Intuitives to be ‘smarter’. Is it fair? – Well that’s another question for another section.
However, with the understanding of personality and the development of intelligence theory, people are beginning to view intelligence in a different light.
Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory is one such example. Now, more people are able to accept that intelligence are not just measured by quickness of understanding or grasping of concepts, but also physical intelligence like the skilled use of our body.
Sensors are great with their memory work and often can remember things with such detail that it seems mind-boggling to the Intuitives. They are also strong kinesthetic learners. When they use their hands and feet to learn, they are far more capable to retain that knowledge in their bodies.
Sensors are much better with detail than Intuitives.
With a natural to grasp concepts and ideas quickly comes also a natural weakness in missing details.
It is more likely that an Intuitive will make careless errors in calculation and computation in Mathematics. This is why theoretical Mathematics in a research environment might suit and Intuitive more; they’re not going to be heavily punished for careless error.
At the workplace, the Intuitive likes to communicate in ideas and leave the details to be sorted out by someone else. When they submit a work proposal, they are more likely to commit grammatical or spelling errors.
Because of their methodical and sequential approach, Sensors seldom have such careless error. Although they often take more time to complete tasks, they are less likely to commit these minor errors. This is why a job that requires practical Mathematics like accounting will suit the Sensor more; their precision in tabulating numbers is key.
This section Thinking-Feeling Preferences will delve deeper into the two different ways people make decisions according to Type Theory.
The differences in decision making processes have a profound impact on our lives, leading to different conclusions and therefore difference choices.
This section will educate you on these differences and hopefully help you understand why people make decisions differently from you.
Judging and the Thinking-Feeling Preferences
The Thinking-Feeling dichotomy is known as the Judging function: i.e the process by which we make decisions and come to conclusions.
A Feeling individual prefers to make decisions by their personal values and considers the human impact of decisions. This process is subjective in the sense that it is personal; as different people do hold different values. Yet, it is not irrational as sometimes claimed by Thinkers; it is in fact just as rational to consider human impact to your decisions.
A Thinking type individual prefers to make decisions by a logical, objective and detached manner, putting the task ahead of any individual’s thoughts or feelings. This process is objective as the logical process usually involves the weighing of pros and cons.
Such a different decision making or judging process often leads to different decisions and sometimes lead to conflict between the two types as well.
P.S There has been a popular misconception in culture that all men are Thinkers and all women are Feelers, popularized by famous relationship books. Such stereotypes are incorrect, and will only lead to cultural pressures on Feeling men and Thinking women on how they should behave.
It is much more accurate to classify them into Thinking and Feeling preference types (i.e it’s an individual’s choice for Feeling or Thinking) rather than using a gender bias.
Thinkers tend to be straightforward and blunt while Feelers tend to be tactful with their words.
Thinkers tend to be objective and logical in their analysis and prefer to say things as they are, so they come across as frank and even blunt at times.
The good thing is you never have to second guess a Thinker, what they say is usually what they mean. They do not see a need to mince their words or try to be diplomatic.
Feelers, however, tend to be tactful with their words. They are keenly aware of the feelings of others and the impact of their words on others. Hence, they often come across as diplomatic, sensitive and encouraging.
In the same vein, Feelers have trouble trying to speak uncomfortable truths or confront others. They often prefer to keep their resentment to themselves, preferring to preserve the harmony. Thinkers often cannot get their head around this; finding Feelers to be highly complex creatures.
For Thinkers to get through to Feelers, they should consider the Sandwich Principle, putting negative feedback in between two positive ones.
Thinkers are more task-oriented, Feelers more people-oriented.
Thinkers have no problem in making difficult decisions that affect people like hiring and firing staff in an organization. To the Thinkers, they are working for the company and therefore the most important task for them is to maximize benefit and productivity for the organization.
It is not that Thinkers do not have compassion; they simply use a logical, objective process in coming to that conclusion. To them, feelings, relationships and values should not come in to interfere with the logical process.
Feelers tend to be more people-oriented in their decision-making. Before coming to a decision, they tend to think about the impact on individuals involved. As such, they tend to be warm, friendly and sympathetic co-workers.
This is why Feelers may have a harder time firing staff; they find it hard to be the bearer bad news, much less the cause. This applies to other areas at work as well: they find it hard to confront their co-workers to give negative feedback.
Thinkers may appear more detached in decisions while Feelers appear more involved.
Thinkers take a third-party, detached point of view when making a decision and hence they may appear impersonal and detached. When observing a situation, even if the situation is affecting them personally, Thinkers will take a step back and view it objectively as a third party would.
Thinkers are therefore perceived to be calm, composed and tough-minded.
Feelers often take an involved, personal approach in decision making. When observing a situation, Feelers will take an emphatic approach, putting themselves in the shoes of others, even if the situation does not affect them personally.
Feelers are therefore perceived to be compassionate, caring and sensitive.
Thinkers find it uncomfortable to deal with the emotions of others while Feelers may find it hard to make objective decisions, especially when their personal feelings are involved.
Thinkers may find it hard to deal with the emotions of others. When a friend or loved one comes to them sharing their woes or trouble, Thinkers often are at a loss as to what to say or do. They may offer a solution as a result, which is not what the other party needs.
The other party really just needs a listening ear. The Feelers understand this, and often naturally offer their presence, attention and a listening ear. They are comfortable when others come to them in distress, knowing that their presence and empathy are all that is needed.
The Thinkers find it especially uncomfortable when personal feelings are brought into the workplace. To them, personal feelings and work should be kept separate, and should not interfere with decision making.
Feelers have a challenge staying objective especially when they get slighted or offended at the workplace. Negative criticism can affect them adversely, leading to negative spillovers into their personal life as well.
This section Judging-Perceiving Preferences will delve deeper into how we orient ourselves to the external world.
This mainly talks about whether we desire closure and conclusion in our environment or we seek openness and experience from it.
Like all the other dichotomies, these two differences can lead to differences in our lifestyle and the way we choose to run our daily activities, and often lead to conflict as well.
External Orientation and the Judging – Perceiving Preferences
Judging people desire and seek closure in their lives. They want things to be settled and work to be concluded as soon as possible, and therefore they like to make decisions. Judging in this case should not be confused with judgmental, which has a negative implication.
Perceiving people desire and seek openness in their lives. They prefer to keep their options open and will resist making any decisions up till the last possible moment. Perceiving in this case should not be confused with perceptive, as both Judging and Perceiving types can be perceptive.
These differences will run through the whole life of the individual. From arranging schedules, budgeting finances, planning events, the Judging individual wants all these to be settled, and often finds it hard to understand the Perceiving individual who seems not to want to settle any of these.
The result is that Judging individuals often form a very bad impression of Perceiving individuals, and look upon them as unreliable, passive and purposeless people.
However, the Perceiving individuals see a life to be experienced, and hence they want to take things as they come. They strongly believe that the new information will cause them to change their decisions and thereby resist making any decision too early.
Who’s right? Of course neither. Whether anyone should make a decision or stay open to new possibilities is often dependent on the situation, and the key for any individual is to learn when to adopt a Judging stance or a Perceiving stance.
Nonetheless, personality preferences state that individuals, if given a choice, will prefer one over the other.
Below is a list of some observable distinguishing behaviour of Judgers and Perceivers:
Judgers generally enjoy keeping a schedule, while Perceivers don’t.
It would be a mistake to say that Perceivers don’t keep a schedule. In a world where most people are driven by productivity and efficiency, keeping schedules is an important part of our lives.
However, it is the Judgers that ENJOY the process of keeping a schedule. They like to settle things, and that includes the appointments, meetings that they have. Leaving things open or unconfirmed unsettles them, and they want to find closure as soon as possible.
Perceivers, if they do keep a schedule, would tell you that they do it because it is useful or helpful for them, but if they were honest, they would tell you they DO NOT ENJOY the process of doing it. Perceivers actually find keeping a schedule stifling and constricting to their casual, spontaneous nature.
The same actually applies to the finances of an individual. Most Judgers will keep track of their expenditure mentally or physically because the recording of it gives them a sense of control. Perceivers, on the other hand, don’t do so, and if they do, it is often done reluctantly and only because they feel it is absolutely necessary.
Judgers look finished with their dressing; Perceivers generally don’t.
Judgers often even plan their dressing in advance. Usually, they would have planned their outfit for the day the night before. For some, they may even plan a week in advance how they will wear their clothes with considerations like not wearing the same clothes on the same day of the week or what combinations of clothing to wear.
The result is that Judgers look finished with their dressing. Even if it’s a casual occasion, the combination of outfits, accessories and even their hair look suitable for the occasion, and they appear well thought out.
Perceivers, on the other hand, do not see a need to decide on their outfit until the same morning. That is usually when they will pick the first outfit in the wardrobe or the first shirt in the stack.
The result is that Perceivers often look casual and unfinished in their dressing. Maybe the colour combination’s not perfect, or they’re lacking an accessory or two. In generally, they look more casual than what the occasion requires.
Of course, the exception is for big days like wedding dinners or grand events, where most people would plan their outfits long in advance.
Judgers are scheduled in their projects, while Perceivers report bursts of energy near the deadline.
Judgers take a planned approach to project completion. When given a project or task to do, they will plan out their work in accordance to their current schedule. They will take purposeful step by step measures to complete the task, and their work will be completed in a scheduled manner.
If the project is due in a month’s time, their work will be divided evenly across 4 weeks according to their schedule.
Perceivers, unless trained, take a spontaneous approach to project completion. Often, they do not have the motivation to complete a task until it is extremely close to the deadline. Then, they will find a burst of energy to complete everything at once, sometimes even forgoing their sleep or rest.
If the project is due in a month, the Perceivers will do most, if not all of the work in the last few days of the last week.
As a result, a Perceiver’s work may come out incomplete or filled with careless errors, and as a result, viewed upon poorly by Judgers especially.
Judgers may fall into the trap of being judgmental while Perceivers may fall into a trap of passivity.
While Judging itself does not mean being judgmental, Judgers may sometimes fall into the trap of becoming judgemental of others. Because of their desire for closure, Judgers often want to decide if something is right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate and so on. This may result in them pre-judging others when they have not received all available information.
Judgers can do well if they suspend their conclusion in order to listen and request for more information. They may form a different and more accurate conclusion with new information.
Similarly, Perceivers in their desire for openness and new information may refuse to make a decision even when it is absolutely necessary and fall into the trap of passivity. Perceiving at its worst is an individual who just wants to drift through life, not wanting to make any decisions for themselves or their lives and allows the forces of life and the will of others to push them wherever.
While being flexible and open to changes is a good virtue, Perceivers must learn to know when closure is necessary. Sometimes a bad decision can be better than no decision at all.