Are you the life of the party? When it comes to socializing, is your philosophy "The more, the merrier?" When gatherings start getting boisterous, do you find yourself becoming increasingly excited and revved up? Is it easy for you to walk into a roomful of strangers and introduce yourself confidently to everybody? If so, you definitely show qualities associated with the Big 12 trait known as Extroversion: that is, you draw your energy from groups and from other people in general.
But if raucous gatherings typically drain you and instead you prefer solitary or one-to-one activities with a close friend, you're linked to its polar opposite, introversion. Those who are introverted are typically described as shy, reclusive, and hard to read emotionally. They exhibit the stereotypic poker face, which is inexpressive and absent of all vivid feeling.
Extroversion is among the first personality traits to be identified and measured by modern psychology's founders. Nearly a century ago, the innovative Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung originated the term to describe people who are essentially outer directed in relation to life. Contemporary research shows that it's also perhaps the single most difficult trait to change once we reach adulthood. While an extrovert can force herself to work alone in a room for hours, it won't be at all enjoyable or inspiring. And, as soon the task is done, she'll be socializing once more around the water cooler, making jokes, bantering, and later initiating countless phone calls.
Conversely, introverts are certainly able to attend loud parties and parades, and to initiate cold sales or promotional calls on the job if absolutely required, but they'll immediately relish removing themselves from such exhausting situations as soon as the opportunity arises. Trying to turn an extrovert into someone shy and passive or an introvert into a party animal is well nigh impossible. This point has become increasingly important in understanding what contributes to romantic intimacy.
Extroversion ranks among the easiest personality traits to observe among infants. Between the age of two and seven months, almost all show their desire to be involved with other people: they study our faces as we talk, return our smiles, and a bit later, babble responsively to our speech. Some developmental psychologists poetically describe this pattern as baby and adult "wooing" each other.
But not all babies are the same. Certainly by the time they've reached twelve months, some clearly thrive on social attention and indeed have begun actively to elicit it with their enticing antics, facial expressions, and early words. Others, however, become uneasy, fretful, and withdrawn when faced with even a few adults around their crib. Some toddlers become highly animated in a "mommy-and-me" playgroup, whereas others are content to play alone or with a single friend. Typically by kindergarten, children are easily classifiable by teachers and parents as outgoing or shy — and the pattern generally remains consistent throughout childhood and adolescence. Increasingly, psychologists today are finding a genetic basis for both extroversion and introversion.
It's a prevalent misconception that extroverts are typically warm, empathic, and good listeners. For people who enjoy frequent clubbing, partying, and group activities aren't necessarily interested in cultivating close relationships with whom they meet or hang out. Think of politicians who animatedly banter and shake hundreds of hands at a campaign rally yet who never actually connect individually with anyone. Just as significant, plenty of shy and quiet people make wonderful companions in romantic intimacy or friendship. Remember, extroversion is simply a dimension of how energized or drained the presence of many people makes us feel.
Self-quiz on extroversion
Please read each question carefully and mark the one answer that best fits you. There are no right or wrong answers, and you need not be an "expert" to take this quiz. Describe yourself honestly and state your opinions as accurately as possible. Be sure to answer each item. If you make a mistake or change your mind, erase your answer completely. Then mark the number that corresponds to your correct answer.
• Mark a 1 next to the statement if it's definitely false or if you strongly disagree.
• Mark a 2 next to the statement if it's mostly false or if you disagree.
• Mark a 3 next to the statement if it's about equally true or false, if you cannot decide, or if you are neutral on the statement.
• Mark a 4 next to the statement if it's mostly true or if you agree.
• Mark a 5 next to the statement if it's definitely true or if you strongly agree.
____ 1. Loud parties drain me.
____ 2. I like to walk into a room full of unfamiliar people and start socializing.
____ 3. I like to sit by myself and think or read.
____ 4. I avoid solitary sports like swimming.
____ 5. I would feel uncomfortable making business calls to strangers.
____ 6. It is easy for people to read my moods.
____ 7. Most of my friends are on the shy side.
____ 8. I try to be the center of attention in groups.
____ 9. I dislike dining out with a big group of people.
____ 10. I enjoy solitary hobbies like gardening.
____ 11. I attend outdoor events with crowds so that I can feel excitement.
____ 12. I enjoy chatting with strangers on the bus, train, or airplane.
____ 13. I enjoy dining alone.
____ 14. I go to clubs to socialize.
____ 15. I enjoy going to parties a lot.
____ 16. Most people would describe me as a very outgoing person.
____ 17. When I come home, I quickly go to the phone to chat with people.
____ 18. I take vacations by myself.
____ 19. I would rather stay home by myself than socialize at a noisy party.
____ 20. I rarely keep my moods to myself.
____ 21. I love returning to a quiet home and try to keep it that way.
____ 22. At parties, I prefer to let others introduce themselves to me rather than introducing myself first.
Determining your score
• Add the numbers you wrote by these statements: 2, 4, 6, 8, 11,12, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 20.
Total for part A
• Now subtract the numbers by these statements: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 18, 19, 21, and 22.
Total for part B
Your score on Extroversion is A minus B:
Interpreting your score
Scores on this self-test of Extroversion can range from -44 to +44,
If you scored 22 or more, then you are high on Extroversion. You indisputably draw your energy from being around other people. "The more, the merrier" is your motto. Loud parties and big crowds give you a wonderful boost, making you feel more alive. You enjoy initiating conversations and being the center of attention. You'll do almost anything to avoid being alone for very long. It's easy for everybody to read your emotions, so don't even try putting on a poker face. With your outgoing disposition, for you intimacy typically means bringing your partner into enjoyable group activities.
If you scored 21 or less, then you are low on Extroversion: that is, you're an introvert. This doesn't at all mean that you're unfriendly, simply that you draw your energy from solitude. You feel empowered when working or relaxing alone. Conversely, loud parties and big crowds leave you feeling drained and depleted. You'll avoid situations in which you need to initiate conversations with strangers or to be the center of group attention. People typically find it hard to read your facial expressions because you don't provide many clues about what you're feeling. For you, intimacy typically involves quiet, one-on-one activities.
Extroversion: the four scenarios
You both score high
You can count on it as you do tomorrow's sunrise: You two are going to be partying, clubbing, and immersed in lots of group get-togethers. Because you both enjoy meeting new people, introducing yourselves, and participating in diverse activities with others, your social network will definitely be larger — and wider — than that of other couples. You'll know many individuals through work, in your neighborhood, at the gym, and so forth. You'll have lots of friends. and you'll know all of their friends. For you, the more people in your life the better.
At home, you're likely to prefer company to being alone as a pair. Eating dinner with several friends or acquaintances, either at one of your homes or at an enjoyable new restaurant, is your ideal. Big social events, like weddings and graduations, will be satisfying to you both. And you'll gravitate to places where crowds congregate, whether for entertainment, sporting, political, religious, or holiday events.
As extroverts, you are both easy to read emotionally, and this will certainly enhance your communication. Your partner won't have to guess what you're feeling: your facial expression and body language will reveal all clearly. And vice versa. Trying to hide what's going on inside runs counter to both your natures, if you try, you won't be very successful. When feeling down, both of you become energized by the presence of many others, so attending a public meeting or joining an impromptu party will quickly lift your spirits.
Your greatest challenge? Creating enough time and space during the week so that you can enjoy a "private zone" for intimacy as a couple, apart from everyone else. If you're continually surrounded by dozens of boisterous folk, deepening your relationship with your beloved can become frustratingly elusive. Make sure that you always have times to look into each other's eyes.
You both score low
"I want to be alone," purred actress Greta Garbo in The Grand Hotel, and you two can definitely emphasize. More than other couples, you're averse to clubbing, partying, and joining boisterous festivities. In a society that places an ever-increasing emphasis on being part of a team, in the workplace and elsewhere, you two stand out. But this is not to say that you're unsociable or unfriendly. In fact, many people low on Extroversion enjoy deeply satisfying friendships marked by closeness and loyalty. Particularly those with a strong Need for Companionship can bond extremely powerfully. It's simply that you both draw energy from being by yourself and feel tired and drained when plunged into a group for very long.
As a result, you'll prefer doing things alone as a couple or with someone who is equally well matched on this major trait. Thus, on Friday and Saturday evenings you are far more likely to be found at a quiet restaurant table for two or at most four rather than on a thundering dance floor packed with whooping revelers. Watching the New Year's ball fall majestically at Times Square is something you'd absolutely prefer to do together snuggling in a calm living room than "live on location," accompanied by a million hoarsely veiling fellow celebrants. Don't expect to feel awkward turning down lots of partying and clubbing invitations; your combined introverted demeanors make it unlikely that you'll receive many. And that will suit you just fine.
Based on a lifetime of habit, you'll each often gravitate toward solitary activities — like reading, solving word puzzles, exercising while listening to music on headphones, or watching a TV program. Because introverts are typically hard to read emotionally in facial and bodily expressiveness, you and your partner may frequently find yourself thinking about the other: "He or she is really quiet tonight. Is something wrong, or it just tiredness?" Reality checks are therefore important. So speak up, ask questions, show your concern. After all, isn't that what intimacy is all about?
Your greatest challenge? To learn each other's subtle moods and unspoken desires for shared enjoyment — and to respond with a timely nod or smile, loving touch or chat. The extra care and attention to your partner are definitely worth it.
You score high, but your partner scores low
Don't be surprised if you often feel stifled, trapped, and confined by your partner's disinterest in group activities. You'll find it daunting to spend quiet evenings alone together instead of joining parties and social get-togethers. Initially, you'll feel surprise, and later dismay, at your partner's seeming inwardness, self-absorption, and preference for solitude.
You're likely to view your partner as aloof and perhaps even socially incompetent. You love parties — the louder the better; the more the merrier. That's who you are. But your partner will be visibly bored and unhappy, complaining of feeling tired and wanting to go home — just when you know the excitement is beginning. How will such requests make you feel? Stymied, frustrated, and put-upon.
Your partner is likely to see your sociability as shallow, superficial, and an avoidance of true intimacy. Remember, psychologists have found this trait among the most resistant to change in our core personalities. So any expectation you harbor that this discrepancy will eventually "go away in time" — or will be "finessed" or "smoothed over" is only wishful thinking. Someone who was an extrovert (or introvert) at age thirty-five will still be one at age eighty.
So be aware: Your introverted partner is not secretly a party animal in disguise, or emotionally damaged, sulking, or trying to hurt you. He or she genuinely dislikes group gatherings and invariably feels drained in such situations. It may be hard to imagine, but your partner really thrives on solitude, lone activities like reading or swimming, or a quiet dinner with just you or with one or two others. You may feel stifled and bored by such activities, but these please and energize your partner.
You score low, but your partner scores high
The novelist Jane Austen declared in Emma, "One cannot have too large a party," but that's definitely not your experience. In your view, most parties and indeed group activities are generally rather tedious affairs. Little happens there that you consider memorable or even interesting. You also find them draining and sapping of your best creative energies; the more boisterous they get, the increasingly exhausted you feel and the more eager to leave.
Unfortunately, you're paired with someone with the opposite sensibility. So get ready for lots of discord with minimal resolution. Wanting to spend time alone as a couple is your ideal; joining another is also acceptable if it's going to be a quiet evening — a movie or dinner out, or a video and delivery pizza at home. Close friendships may be important to you, and these can't possibly flower for you in boisterous, giddy settings.
To your partner, though, solitary activities with you — or joining one other couple — are the epitome of dullness. No liveliness, no exuberance, no energy: He or she might as well take a sleeping pill for the evening. Your partner much prefers group merriment, and thus, let the good times roll.
So where does that leave you? Typically feeling ignored and rejected. If you decide to be good-natured and acceptingly "go along for the ride," boredom and fatigue will soon set in. Your partner will notice with annoyance that you're not mixing well or circulating very much. He or she may regard you as clingy and dependent, an albatross hung around everybody's collective neck. And however gentle or subtle your signal, your insistence on leaving will seem unfriendly and selfish. If you hold your ground and refuse to attend all such gatherings, expect to be branded by your partner's crowd as aloof and antisocial.
On the positive side, your partner is expressive, and his or her emotions are easily readable. But do remember: His or her Extroversion is here to stay.
The Love Compatibility Book: The 12 Personality Traits That Can Lead You To Your Soulmate
by Edward Hoffman, Ph.D. & Marcella Bakur Weiner, Ph.D..
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, New World Library. ©2003. www.newworldlibrary.com
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About the Authors
EDWARD HOFFMAN, PH.D., is a licensed psychologist in New York City and the award winning author/editor of numerous books including The Book of Birthday Wishes and Opening the Inner Gates. He lectures on self-development throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and South America, and has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows. Dr. Hoffman has published articles or been interviewed by The New York Times, Newsday, Psychology Today, and Guideposts.
MARCELLA BAKUR WEINER, PH.D., a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), is also an adjunct professor of psychology at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City and president of the Mapleton-Midwood Community Mental Health Center, a treatment center for community-living residents. Prior to her current pursuits, she served as senior research scientist for the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene where she published seventy articles. On faculty for the Institute for Human Relations Laboratory Training, Dr. Weiner has trained professionals in the United States and in countries overseas. Dr. Weiner is the author of and contributor to more than twenty books.
Visit their website at www.lovepsychology.net.