In other areas of life, if you weigh the pros and cons of extroverts and introverts, you won’t reach a conclusion on which is better.
But because Americans tend to think extroversion is ideal, sometimes introverts try to force their personality into a more outgoing direction. But drastically changing your personality may cause unease.
According to personality psychologist Sam Gosling, Ph.D., it could be stressful for introverts to force themselves to be in big groups all the time. If you are a true introvert but feel like you’d like to become more sociable, make small adjustments in your life. “You can change behaviors, not personality,” says Gosling. So you may make a special effort to go out with friends once a week, if you want to be more sociable despite your personality.
Extroverts and introverts each potentially have their drawbacks as well. Among introverts who don’t express negative emotions due to fears of social rejection, they increase their risk of health problems. This was the case in a study of heart failure patients with this type of introversion, who were less likely to report heart failure symptoms and, as a result, were six times more likely to have worse health than other heart failure patients.
Extroverts may be prone to health problems of a different sort. They seek thrills and risk taking, according to Gosling. High-scorers on Gosling’s Ten Item Personality Inventory are “easily bored without high levels of stimulation.” Translation: They tend to be thrill-seekers, and may be more impulsive.
“The issue with impulsivity is there’s some relation to extroversion,” Dr. Markman says. Psychologists and physicians have long linked certain extroverted types with impulsive tendencies. And impulsivity may make you vulnerable to more health risks, due to a greater tendency to try dangerous activities, act without considering the future (i.e. a burger and fries sound good now, but they won’t help your heart health later), and use—or abuse—substances.
Stereotype 3: If you’re an introvert, you’re shy.
Introversion and shyness are different. “Introversion is not a social phobia,” Markman says. Introverts don’t necessarily fear social situations, like a shy person might. There are actually many types of introverts. Research presented at last year’s Society for Personality and Social Psychology convention identified four different domains of introversion: a preference for solitude (social); a tendency toward introspection or imagination (thinking); shyness or rumination (anxious); or avoidance of sensation and excitement (inhibited)..
“We certainly have a stereotype of the introverted person that sits there all alone in a room. [Introversion] doesn’t mean that you like to be alone, but that you don’t like to be the focus of attention in large social settings,” Markman says.
Introverts tend to feel over-stimulated around others, while extroverts require more interaction to get that same level of arousal. As a result, extroverts end up thriving more off the energy in social settings.
And to complicate things further, it’s possible for an introvert to be more socially agreeable than an extrovert. As a result, an introvert may have more quality relationships than the extrovert who has a bunch of superficial interactions because they aren’t as amicable when it comes to investing in long-term, quality friendships.
So next time someone pegs you as an “extrovert” or “introvert,” you can give them a little rundown on Personality 101. Talk about a conversation starter!
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