How Introverts Can Make It in an Extraverted World

Authored by and submitted by mvea
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People high in can feel that they’re square pegs in round holes within a culture that values . When you think about the people who get the most in your social circle at work or back when you were in school, it’s quite likely that you remember the bright stars who shined in every social situation. Whether it’s offering to be the first to offer a toast while celebrating a special occasion or the one most likely to answer a question that the boss or teacher asks of the group, the extraverts can be counted on to stand up and be counted. In a world that seemingly adores the extravert, what is an introvert to do?

Of course, not all cultures believe that extraversion is the most highly valued trait of all. Indeed, being extraverted can get you in trouble if you’re traveling in a country or culture that regards such outwardly-focused behavior as brash and impolite. Even putting exclamation points in your email to people from such backgrounds can make you look rudely uninhibited. Therefore, when introverts compare themselves to extraverts, the result may be highly culture-bound.

According to Rodney Lawn and colleagues (2018) at the Centre for at the University of Melbourne, the ideal person in the “individualistic West” is “autonomous, expressive, and comfortable in the spotlight” (p. 2). By conforming to this ideal image, the person high in extraversion should, therefore, be happier than the person who prefers to inhabit the shadows. Moreover, because is so highly valued, the preference that introverts have for escaping public notice should lead people high in this trait to be deeply unhappy with themselves for not thriving in that spotlight. The Australian researchers believed that people around the world who are high in introversion may not share the same dissatisfaction with themselves. It’s only when the “extraversion deficit” is regarded by a society as a weakness that people with introverted personalities would, according to this view, have low levels of happiness.

The other component of the introversion-happiness relationship, Lawn and his coauthors propose, is the quality of “authenticity.” If introverts are forced to don the outward appearance of extraverts due to social pressure to be outgoing, they will lack a sense of authenticity. In other words, if you have to appear to be bubbly and talkative when you’d rather sit quietly or listen to other people, your satisfaction with yourself will dip because you feel like you’re being a fake. Although writing from a different perspective, some of the mid-20th Century psychoanalysts such as Karen Horney and Alfred Adler also discussed the psychological cost of struggling to maintain a false self. People feel much better about themselves, according to this longstanding , if they believe they can stay true to their own inner guideposts. If your culture maintains that you need to be extraverted, and you are extraverted, you will have no need for this false front.

The 349 participants in the Lawn et al. study ranged from 18 to 61 years (with an average age of 24), and all were living in Australia at the time of the study, although only 58 percent had been born there and 42 percent had been born in China or Southeast Asian countries. Australia, according to the authors, is a country that values individualism and extraversion, but to take into account the multiple nationalities in the sample, the authors controlled for (Eastern-Collectivist vs. Western-Individualist). The online measures included standard questionnaires assessing introversion-extraversion and well-being. The authors measured extraversion-deficit beliefs by comparing the ratings participants gave of their own introversion-extraversion traits with what they regarded as the ideal along this scale. To measure cultural attitudes toward introversion-extraversion, participants also rated the extent to which they felt these qualities were socially desirable. Finally, the researchers measured authenticity with questions along the scales of self-alienation, authentic living, and accepting external influence.

Although a correlational study, and cause and effect cannot be determined, the authors adopted an analytic strategy that allowed them to test their predictions showing the impact of authenticity and scores on the extraversion-deficit scale in altering the relationship between introversion-extraversion and well-being. Most of the participants, regardless of cultural origin, indeed believed they lived in a country that valued extraversion, and most stated that they wished to be more extraverted than they were. People high in introversion also scored higher on the extraversion-deficit scale. Finally, those with high extraversion scores rated themselves as higher on the authenticity scale.

The findings, according to Lawn et al., support the idea that people high in introversion who adhere to the extraversion-deficit model become unhappy with themselves as the result of comparing themselves to an extraverted cultural ideal. On the other hand, if people high in introversion can avoid adopting the extraversion-deficit mindset, they could be far less unhappy. Furthermore, because extraverts feel more authentic than do introverts, they provide themselves with a natural route to greater well-being. As the authors conclude, “Perhaps this just serves to further illustrate the extent of the natural advantages that extraverts enjoy, in terms of a person- fit, in a Western cultural context” (p. 16). However, if introverts can come to adjust their worldview and feel more authentic with themselves, introversion and all, they can “catch up” with those high in extraversion and become more comfortable with who they are.

To sum up, the Australian study’s findings provide new insights into the ways that introverts can be happier with their “square peg” status. By recognizing that not everyone can be an extravert, and that it’s fine to be their authentic, quiet selves, they can indeed flourish and achieve long-term fulfillment.

HugotheHippo on December 6th, 2018 at 14:43 UTC »

Pardon me if I'm having a knee-jerk reaction here but the article doesn't seem to adequately explain what they consider as 'Eastern culture' that presumably values introversion.

Eastern culture as I've grown up with is all about social activities. You do everything together or else you're an antisocial weirdo. You stay back after work 'voluntarily' because your boss hasn't left yet. You go to drink with your boss and your colleagues until your face falls off, attending to their every whim and gesture.

This is not a kind society to introverts or people who find solitude to be a welcome company.

Quantentheorie on December 6th, 2018 at 14:12 UTC »

I have a hard time with this article because it paints a very limited image of introverts and extroverts as well as behaviour indication someone to be one. And while the cultural aspect is raised the author still relies on western interpretations on how to categorise behaviour as extraverted or introverted:

Indeed, being extraverted can get you in trouble if you’re traveling in a country or culture that regards such outwardly-focused behavior as brash and impolite.

The point is that in those cultures the behaviour isn't considered an expression of extraversion because thats not how extraverted people in those cultures express their pro social attitude - they are as extraverted as other extroverts in other cultures but use different outlets. North American extravertive behaviour patterns are not the "default" or "normal" way of extravertive behaviour (Even french introverts kiss their relatives on both cheeks while the most outgoing japanese person would be a little disturbed by that) but the whole article uses examples tailored around that point of view.

the ideal person in the “individualistic West” is “autonomous, expressive, and comfortable in the spotlight” (p. 2).

save for the "comfortable in the spotlight" part introverted people are perfectly autonomous and they can easily be expressive. Introversion does not necessarily mean people don't express their feelings or individuality - not speaking when you don't feel like you have anything to say is an expression of feeling in of itself and it's not right to talk about introverts being quiet in public as a perpetual state of "wanting so say something". They are not autists with social deficiencies.

One one hand I'm perfectly okay with the conclusion that "being yourself" will lead to more happiness and increase your chances of social acceptance but on the other I think the author fails to show that introverts already possess many of the qualities valued in modern society and tend to sabotage themselves with anxieties from aspiring to behaviour they experience as unpleasant because, like the author, confuse being socially able with being extraverted.

ThEgg on December 6th, 2018 at 13:51 UTC »

Anyone interested in the subject of introversion should read Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. It's a great book and can explain a lot for both an extrovert or an introvert who feels unhappy about the extrovert status quo.

Anyway, big thing to take away is that extro-introversion happens on a spectrum, not every introvert is 100% on the introvert scale, likewise for extroverts. People don't seem to understand that introverts can be party animals or gregarious like any extrovert. What happens often is that people assume a lot about introverts, when they really have no idea.