Introverts vs. Extroverts - Myth & Truth
Updated: Jan 12
“Introverts prefer solitude.” That’s a common view I’ve always had trouble reconciling with my real-life experience.
I’m Introverted, and so are many of my friends, but we sometimes enjoy big social things like nightclubbing and charity fundraisers (or we did, pre-COVID). Maybe Introverts just prefer solitude most of the time? Eh, I’m not even sure that’s right – stereotypes are pretty limiting. For example, I know some Extraverts who sometimes just need to be by themselves. But my personal experience isn’t a complete picture, is it?
Luckily, uncovering statistical information about personality types is a big part of what we do here at 16Personalities. So to investigate how Introversion and Extraversion relate to real-world social preferences, our awesome research team helped me create our “Social Contact” survey. (Go take it to see how you compare!)
Did we bust myths, confirm truths, or at least achieve a better understanding of personality types? Read on to find out – some of the results really opened my eyes.
Hanging Out with Friends “How much time per week do you spend in person with your friends?”
This looks like an expected, notable difference between Introverts and Extraverts – at least in most of the response categories. Extraverts are a lot more likely to report spending more than seven hours per week with their friends, while Introverts are more likely to say three hours or less. Yet I find it fascinating that similar percentages of both personality types report spending four to seven hours per week with friends.
To me, this information seems to refute the idea that Introverts generally prefer solitude, as roughly 40 percent of Introverts report spending at least four hours per week with friends. But, hmm – perhaps circumstance rather than preference accounts for that, like being stuck in a classroom together. I should have thought of that when developing this survey. Oh wait, I did. #Architect (INTJ).
The Right Amount of Time “Would you prefer to see your friends more or less?”
Extraverts are quite a bit more likely to say they want to see more of their friends. That fits with popular perceptions of these personalities as more social. But that said, a lot of Introverts say they want to see more of their friends, too, and roughly half say they see their friends about the right amount. In fact, a relatively tiny number of Introverts say they’d like to see their friends less often.
On the other end of the spectrum, a solid majority of Extraverts apparently crave more social contact with friends. It might be that other life factors, like school and work, consume so much time that Extraverts can’t always hang out with who they want to, when they want to.
Side note: What’s up with the respondents who want to see their friends less? I can’t help but wonder, are they powerless to decline social invites, or do they just need new friends they would enjoy more? Anyway, on to the next question. Things are about to get interesting.
Despite common beliefs, socializing isn’t necessarily unpleasant for most Introverts. But when asked how being with friends usually affects their energy levels, they are nearly five times more likely than Extraverts to say it’s fun but tires them out. On the other hand, Extraverts often experience social contact as an energy boost, and they are over six times more likely than Introverts to say being with friends helps them relax and recharge. But that isn’t what got my attention here.
What I find surprising is that about half of Introverts and Extraverts alike agree that being with their friends can be both tiring and relaxing. I think that challenges (or, at least, refines) ideas about Extraverts being perpetually energized by social contact. I think that’s important because perceptions that Extraverts always want to be social might lead them to ignore their occasional feelings to the contrary. But it’s normal for these personality types to want solitude sometimes.
The above responses also provide excellent insight into how Introverts feel about socializing. They almost certainly pay a higher energy cost than Extraverts, overall, yet many pay it willingly in exchange for the rewards of fun and even relaxation. “Introverts prefer solitude” is starting to look like a busted myth, to my mind. But we’re not done yet. (*rubs hands together in nerdy glee*)
One goal for this survey was to reveal more detail about social preferences, and here, I think we have. (Woot!) When asked whether spending time with a good friend helps relieve stress from other parts of life, nearly all Extraverts and about 8 in 10 Introverts agree. Socializing may be more tiring for Introverts than Extraverts, yet some forms of socializing can apparently grant soothing, beneficial effects.
Introverts’ agreement here kind of flies in the face of some common beliefs about these personalities. Extraverts’ agreement might not be as surprising. Nonetheless, seeking social contact to relieve various kinds of stress seems to be something that most people do – regardless of their personality type. Now, let’s look at this from a slightly different angle.
Unfamiliar Faces “Does interacting with strangers generally consume more or less of your
energy than interacting with your friends?”
Introverts’ responses here make sense, given how they answer the previous question. For most of them, social contact with familiar people is less tiring than being with strangers, even reducing stress in some cases. What I find fascinating is that nearly half of Extraverts say strangers tire them out more – I am a bit surprised that the percentage is that high.
That doesn’t bust any myths, but it updates and refines our knowledge regarding how socially durable Extraverts are – or aren’t. Accuracy helps ensure that the advanced resources we offer are effective. It’s also what drives me personally, because I question everything – especially when “everyone knows it’s true.”
Let’s look at one big, final question about the social preferences of Extraverts and Introverts. I’m not saying that I saved the best for last, but this one really surprised me.
What Personality Types Really Want “Which of the following best describes your ideal social life?”
The poles of popular perception seem to be something like this: Introverts prefer solitude and Extraverts prefer being around lots of people. For some, that’s true – but not for most, as the above responses indicate. Both personality types are surprisingly similar when it comes to the more moderate answer options, showing their differences primarily in the more extreme ones.
But (drumroll, please) the most likely ideal social life for either type seems to be having a partner and a few good friends. The common beliefs about these groups aren’t wrong, relatively speaking – Extraverts are more likely to want a very busy social life, and Introverts are more likely to want solitude. But that technical difference doesn’t accurately reflect the reality of how these two groups want to live.
What’s the Point?
My interpretation is that the survey results above tend to debunk some common myths about personality types – like that Introverts prefer solitude and Extraverts are always super social. I find it very exciting to rethink such stereotypes and achieve a more nuanced perspective. But beyond intellectual interest, how does this research matter – and why am I sharing it with you?
Because knowledge can be transformative. For many of us, understanding and being happy with who we are is an ongoing struggle. We often need to dig our true selves out from under external expectations, cultural dogmas, and clouded self-perceptions. Inaccurate notions about what’s “normal” for personality types – how they should feel and act – don’t help us do that.
Better information equals better self-understanding. Personality traits are a spectrum, with our life experience making us unique. I think it’s important to never lose sight of that, even as we proudly identify as Introverts or Extraverts. Personality types help us understand ourselves yet still don’t describe each of us completely, so it can be a grand adventure to look a little closer.
Thank you Kyle for enlightening us about 16 Personalities offerings and insight into personality types and traits.