How Introverts Can Make It in an Extraverted World


Individuals with high introversion may feel that they are outsiders in a culture that favors extraversion. You probably recall the bright spots who shone in every social circumstance when you consider the individuals in your social circle at work or in your school days who attract the most attention. Extraverts are known for being willing to stand up and be counted, whether it’s offering to be the first person to toast during a special occasion or being the most likely to respond to a question posed to the group by a teacher or supervisor. For an introvert, what does that mean in a world that seems to favor the extravert?

Naturally, not every society views extraversion as the most desirable personality quality. Indeed, if you’re traveling in a nation or culture that views such outwardly focused behavior as aggressive and unpleasant, being extraverted can get you into difficulty. When you send an email to someone from such a background, even using exclamation marks can give the impression that you lack inhibition. As a result, the comparison between introverts and extraverts may be very culturally specific.

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At the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Positive Psychology, Rodney Lawn and colleagues (2018) claim that “autonomous, expressive, and comfortable in the spotlight” characterize the ideal person in the “individualistic West.” The extraverted individual should, therefore, be happier by living up to this ideal picture than the person who would rather stay in the shadows. Furthermore, since happiness is highly regarded, introverts’ predilection for avoiding attention from others should make those who possess this trait extremely self-conscious about their inability to flourish in the limelight. The Australian researchers hypothesized that introverted individuals globally might not experience the same levels of self-dissatisfaction. According to this perspective, introverted types would only experience low levels of enjoyment when society views their “extraversion deficit” as a flaw.

Lawn and his coauthors contend that the trait of “authenticity” is the additional element in the link between introversion and happiness. Introverts will lose their feeling of authenticity if they are compelled by societal pressure to project an extraverted appearance. Put another way, your self-satisfaction will decrease because you will feel like a fake when you have to pretend to be gregarious and outgoing when all you really want to do is sit quietly or listen to other people. Some of the mid-20th century psychoanalysts, including Karen Horney and Alfred Adler, spoke on the psychological toll of trying to uphold a false self, albeit from a different angle. This ancient wisdom holds that people feel considerably better about themselves if they think they can follow their own inner guidance. You won’t need this fake front if your culture insists that you must be extraverted and you already are.

The 349 participants in the Lawn et al. study were all living in Australia at the time of the study, although only 58 percent had been born there; 42 percent had been born in China or other Southeast Asian nations. The participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 61 (with an average age of 24). The authors claim that Australia is a nation that prioritizes extraversion and individualism, but they also adjusted for ethnicity (Eastern Collectivist versus Western Individualist) to account for the sample’s diversity of nations. Standard questionnaires measuring well-being and introversion-extraversion were among the online assessments. By comparing participants’ judgments of their own introversion-extraversion traits with what they believed to be the ideal along this scale, the authors were able to measure extraversion-deficit views. Participants also indicated how much they thought introversion and extraversion were socially acceptable traits, which helped gauge societal attitudes about these traits. Lastly, using scores for self-alienation, authentic living, and embracing outside influence, the researchers assessed authenticity.

The authors used an analytical approach to test their predictions about how authenticity and scores on the extraversion-deficit scale affect the relationship between introversion-extraversion and well-being, even though a correlational study and cause and effect cannot be established. Regardless of their cultural background, the majority of participants said they thought they lived in a society that valued extraversion and that they wished they were more extraverted than they actually were. On the extraversion-deficit measure, introverted people performed better. Lastly, on the authenticity scale, people who scored highly on extraversion also rated themselves higher.

Lawn et al. claim that the results provide credence to the theory that extraverted societal ideals cause introverted individuals who follow the extraversion-deficit model to feel bad about themselves. However, those with high introversion may be much happier if they can resist the extraversion-deficit mentality. Moreover, extraverts provide themselves a natural path to increased well-being since they feel more authentic than introverts. The writers state in their conclusion, “Perhaps this just serves to further illustrate the extent of the natural advantages that extraverts enjoy in a Western cultural context, in terms of a person-environment fit.” But introverts can “catch up” with folks who are high in extraversion and learn to be more at ease with who they are if they can learn to modify their perspective on the world and be more authentic with themselves, introversion and all.





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