The Pressure to be Extraverted

Our oldest son is also an introvert.  He works in the world of computers, developing products and programs with a team of other engineer types, most of whom are also introverted.  You would think they would consider the fact that as a group, they are dominated by introverts.  But these decisions are made by the “guys upstairs-”-the managers, many of whom are probably extraverted.

The guys upstairs are into the latest management techniques, which explains why they ask this group of introverted engineers to meet together every morning to “share” with the others what they are working on and how it is progressing.  Unfortunately, the management hasn’t kept up on the research related to the extraverted practice of “group think.”

Instead of increasing productivity with the group of introverted engineers, studies show that this type of activity is counter-productive.  Typically, for the introvert, it is simply something to be tolerated at best, or resented and ignored at worst.

The same pressure is applied in many of our schools, where kids sit in small groups around a table.  They are to “work together” and “teach each other.”  It may appear to be working with the extraverted kids, and certainly the extraverted teachers enjoy the interaction, but again, studies show that in the minds of the introverted kids, people are just sharing their ignorance.  It often leads to what the introvert dreads–small talk.  Susan Cain documents a lot of this in her book Quiet, which we referred to before.

People are different and for that we are grateful.  When it comes to the differences between introverts and extraverts within a family there is often an uncomfortableness with each other that leads to judgment as opposed to understanding.  It often begins with the marriage–when a husband and wife are different on this personality trait.  The differences soon change from being attractive to being frustrating.  We try to change our spouse into what we are for we understand that trait better than the opposite.

Then when kids come along, and their personalities begin to emerge, we see ourselves in them, and we try to change them.  We also want them to fit in with their classmates, so we pressure the introvert to be more extraverted.  All that does is add to a sense of being unacceptable.  I talked with a woman who was an introvert–the only one in her family.  When she learned that introversion was an identifiable trait, she was overwhelmed with relief.  “You mean, there is a legitimate trait that describes me?”  All of her life she felt judged and unacceptable.

There are other resources that go into depth on this side of personality.  David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates have written Please Understand Me, and Otto Kroeger and Janet Thuesen have written TypeTalk–both books provide excellent information not only on introversion and extraversion, but on other facets of personality as well.

Question:  When have you felt misunderstood because of being either an extravert or an introvert?


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One Response to The Pressure to be Extraverted

  1. Family_Man says:

    Hello Dr. Stoop. I’ve read , I believe , that introversion / extroversion is a function of social skill. That is, those who have more tend to be extroverts.
    I’ve gone back and forth on this, over the years.
    I’m curious if you have any thoughts on this.
    btw, good blog.

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