Supporting your journey to a healthier, happier you
Sara Frawley, LMHC

Cartoon credit: Schroeder Jones

So what exactly is an extrovert or introvert? Certain people may come to your mind – the outgoing, social coworker who is the life of the party or the quiet, thoughtful friend who prefers coffee for two over a crowd.

I’m interested in this personality trait and was curious about what information about the topic is out there. There is a lot available in pop psychology or in the form of humor, but let’s focus on the basic definitions:

Extroversion:  The act of directing one’s interest outward or to things outside the self (dictionary.com)

Extrovert:  An outgoing, overtly expressive person; synonyms of extrovert include “outgoing, overtly expressive, sociable, life of the party.” (google.com)

Introversion:  The act of directing one’s interest inward or to things within the self (dictionary.com)

Introvert:  Concerned principally with its own affairs; inward-looking; synonyms of introvert include “shy, pensive, thoughtful, reflective, quiet” (google.com)

While these are useful, just because you’re an introvert does not mean you’re shy or that extroverts do not have the capacity to be reflective. What do you think - are these accurate definitions?

I really like the simple concept of viewing your extrovert/introvert status as how you get your energy, which is another reason I love that cartoon.

Extroverts: Get their energy by spending time with other people

Introverts: Get their energy by spending time on their own

Of course, no one is 100% one way or the other; everyone has traits of both. Extroverts likely enjoy time alone, too, and introverts likely still want to spend time with other people.

There are quick quizzes you can take online (just Google “extrovert introvert test”) to determine if you’re an extrovert or introvert, the accuracy of which probably varies. But for the most part, these can be fun and provide a little food for thought. They can even help you better understanding a friend, family member, or partner.

I’ve talked about this with a friend of mine, specifically how extrovert vs. introvert impacts her relationship with her husband. She is relatively outgoing, typically says yes to social events, and finds talking to new people exciting and easy for the most part. She does, of course, like to have her own personal time, too. But if she spends a lot of time alone, she feels drained and even lonely, even though she has plenty of friends and family who are just a phone call or car ride away.

Her husband, on the other hand, is more of an introvert. While he enjoys his family and friends, and feels comfortable in social situations, he finds social interaction draining after awhile. He likes to take time for himself. In order to keep his mood and mindset in a good place, he spends a lot time listening to music and reading– alone. He likes this time and it actually helps him feel energized.

Neither one is good or bad, better or worse – just different.  I shared this cartoon with my friend and her husband. While the difference in their personalities was known to each of them, they both enjoyed it immensely. In fact, they both use the term “hamster ball” in their own communication, which helps them relate and keep up mutual respect for each other’s wants and needs.

Again, this is why I love that cartoon. The concept of a hamster ball and my friend poking her arms in, trying to “drain energy” from her husband because she wants social time – it’s very funny but also right on the mark.

So what do you think? Are you more extrovert or introvert? Can this change over time? How about the people you’re closest to? How does this impact your relationships with them?


Please note that the Toolbox articles are meant to be informative and are not a replacement for therapy.

Recently a very funny cartoon came to my attention, talking about the differences between extroverts and introverts. I really like this because it just really hits in the nail on the head. When you’re reading it, keep in mind the extroverts and introverts in your life.

Introverts and extroverts