Q: What is the difference between an extravert and an introvert?
A: I would like to approach the distinction between extraversion and introversion by talking about energy. All of us have energy. Some of it is biological, the push you pick up from healthy nutrition, eight hours of sleep at night and daily walks down a country road.
As well, some of our energy is psychological. This is the energy that motivates us, stimulates our emotional well-being and sets for us our long-term goals.
The question is where do we get our psychological energy? Is this something that we import from our environment, our community, local church group or friends and neighbours? Or is our psychological energy something that we manufacture away down deep inside of ourselves?
According to well-known Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, the answer is yes to both questions. Some people get stimulated by catching up with their friends and neighbours and feel good when they are in the midst of vibrant social exchanges or being the centre of attention. These are extraverts.
Other people feel better when they are alone, mesmerized by the constellations of a starry, starry night, quietly projecting their search for life’s meaning into their foremost moment of their thoughts. These are introverts.
Extraverts are stimulated by the world around them. Introverts are captivated by thoughts within themselves.
In most intimate relationships, one of the partners is more extraverted than the other. The other is more introverted. The danger is that the two of them will start to compete with each other for control of whatever it is they are inclined to do.
The extravert is excited when they go to a neighbour’s house for a party, soaking in interpersonal exchanges with others at the party, maybe even getting to spend a few moments as the centre of attention.
The introvert throughout the excitement is counting the moments until they can go back home, to peace and quiet, perhaps even a little solitude. This probable conflict of wills, extraversion versus introversion, is not where we want to be.
It is better to appreciate each other for whomever it is that we are inclined to be than it is for the two of us to compete for control.
Let me tell you about my ideal couple.
She was a successful politician, flying out to Ottawa Monday mornings and spending the week meeting back and forth with other parliamentarians, sometimes doing cocktail hours with representatives from the international community, and always filling her drive to extraversion.
He, in the meantime, would retreat to his workshop in the garage attached to their house. He was an introvert, handcrafting sailboats in the solitude of his workshop.
At the end of the week, she would return home to tell him about all of the adventures she had while in our capital. He would show her the masterpiece he was carving in the garage.
They learned to love and respect each other for the differences they had, to capitalize on the excitement she brought into their lives, to contemplate with him the spiritual and philosophical drive each of us must endure.
I always thought of them, of the balance they had between her extraversion and his introversion, as a good model for the rest of us.
Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.