How Common is Introversion?
To start off, what makes someone an introvert? Well, introversion and extroversion are personality traits lying at opposite ends of a spectrum. Some people fit in at one extreme or another, but many people fall somewhere in the middle.
Much of the difference between the two comes down to energy — where someone tends to focus it, and how they recharge it. Introverts tend to focus more of their energy and interest inward, and they recharge their batteries with alone time. Extroverts are more outwardly focused, and being around others energizes them. For extroverts, small talk may just part and parcel of creating social connections, whereas for introverts it can be exhausting.
PositivePyschology.com cites some statistics related to introversion. A few studies have shown an approximately 50:50 split between introverts and extroverts. A 2014 study of over 3000 people used a 5-point scale to represent the introvert-extrovert spectrum. 12% of respondents identified as highly extroverted, 5% identified as highly introverted, and the rest fell somewhere in the middle. One study found a higher proportion of librarians were introverted, and likely other career areas tend to draw more of one or the other.
Overall, though, it looks like introversion is very common.
Except we live in a society that, at least for the most part, expects extroverted behaviour.
I think that mismatch between personality and expected behaviour can cause a lot of dissonance in people who are quite introverted. The external pressure to be social fights with the inner drive to have alone time, and somehow a behavioural compromise must be found.
Social pressure to perform as expected can be pretty strong, so there are probably a lot of introverts roaming around in the world behaving as though they’re extroverts. While this makes the extroverted people satisfied, other introverts may feel like they’re in the minority, because everyone else appears to be extroverted.
I think it would be nice if we shifted towards a more balanced social model, where it’s acceptable to behave in ways consistent with extroversion or introversion. It would be nice for it to be socially acceptable to decline invitations to certain types of gatherings. Why should extroverts get all the social rule-making powers when there are just as many introverts?
Personally, I embrace introversion. The older I’ve gotten, the less inclined I am to pretend otherwise. And small talk? No thank you. Give me my pet guinea pigs over humans any day.
Originally published at https://mentalhealthathome.org on September 30, 2019.