Introversion and Extraversion, are these words synonyms for “shy” and “sociable”?
But we always hear: “I’m an introvert. I don’t like talking to people.”
“Samantha wants to hang out constantly. She’s such an extravert.”
The definition of Introversion and Extraversion in daily conversations has largely deviated from its original meaning in just one little century since the words were created. The two concepts went from having a deep and elaborate psychological meaning to becoming synonyms for “people who are annoyingly loud” (that’s me!) and others who are “unsociable”. Actually, is that so? What’s an introvert? What’s an extravert? People don’t even really know, but they have developed stereotypes to answer these questions. Even professionals in the field of psychology sometimes post articles that limit extraverts to being “loud, people-dependent, impulsive “doers””. Introverts are, according to them as well, “shy or even antisocial, quiet, observant, they’re the thinkers of this world if you would only listen to their ideas, man! An introvert in the workplace can be an asset, I swear!”
OK, languages are live entities. Words and their significations are bound to evolve, I agree. However, the way these two concepts have changed is not for the best. The new definitions are stereotypical, limiting and unprecise, on top of being shaky.
How can Psychology help anyone when it relies on shaky concepts? That’s why today, I’d like to introduce you to the original meaning of introversion and extraversion.
In this article, I’ll reveal the original and fascinating meaning of Jung’s Introversion and Extraversion concepts and reduce the new various stereotypes attached to them to nothingness.
At the end of this article, you’ll be able to tell the truth from the lies in all of ’em Pinterest posts and LinkedIn articles on “The Pros and Cons of Extraverts in the Workplace”, “10 Things Introverts Daren’t Say”, and so on. Let’s use these concepts in an interesting way. ‘Cause we’re nerds, here. We care about DMS.
Let’s get started! Let’s bust the myths, let’s bust a move!
Jung's definition of Introversion and Extraversion
Here are the definitions of Introversion and Extraversion in psychology – in the words of the man who came up with the concepts himself yo! C.G. Jung, from his work Psychological Types:
- Extraversion: outward-turning of libido
- Introversion: inward-turning of libido
Beg your pardon, Sir?
But hey! These words have managed to become quite popular, so there’s a chance for all of us!
That is if we want the complexity of our minds to be twisted and corrupted.
Let’s get to the root of the issue…
What is Extraversion?
Hold on a second, is it extrAversion or extrOversion?
The very spelling of “extraversion” already shows how the word has been twisted from its original meaning.
ExtrOversion, with an O, is the phonetic way of spelling the word created by Jung which is extrAversion, with an A.
Extraversion is the opposite of Introversion.
Today, in this etymology class, you might discover that:
- Extra comes from Latin, meaning “outside, outward“
- Intro comes from Latin, meaning “within, to the inside, inward“
This information will be of interest in a second.
What does extro mean in Latin?
Nothing. But now that extra has been misspelled extro, extro is actually referenced in etymology dictionaries as a pseudo-Latin (not real Latin) derivative of extra (yep).
All this to say that “serious” sources like this blog (😉), who read the sources of the source will spell extraversion with an A. However, extrOversion is in the dictionary, so you do you, my dear. I’m just a purist when it comes to Latin. Clearly.
According to this interesting article, Jung himself (O great Master) said that “extrOversion” was “bad Latin”.
Hehe! Moving on to the real deal…
What does the word Extraversion mean?
Now that I’ve unleashed the etymology beast, it won’t go back inside its cage. So, let’s carry on using it! Mama always says “If you don’t understand a word, check its roots.”
- Extra means outward
- and Version comes from the Latin word vertere: to turn, be turned, transform, be changed
- Extra+version = to be turned outward
So, literally, Extraversion means being focused outward.
And it all starts to make a little bit more sense:
“Extraversion is an outward-turning of libido”.
Wait, what? What is libido, now?
A short aside on the concept of Libido
I won’t get into the elaborate details of this other very interesting concept (this article does. So, check it out!). But basically, if your mind wants something, if it has an appetite for something – whether it is to prepare food, to draw, or to achieve your dream to become a mermaid – your mind is manifesting some kind of “energy”. The energy to desire something. That’s libido, according to Jung. In other words, libido is the energy of the mind when it actively wants something.
So, Extraversion in psychology is when the energy of one’s mind is turned outward.
Still a little bit cryptic, innit? Let’s go further…
What does Extraversion entail?
Being focused outward
As an extravert, your mind’s energy is focused outward and it is energized by external factors. In other words, extraverts need to find inspiration outside of themselves. An extravert’s environment is their main source of inspiration and energy.
As a consequence, Extraversion translates into the need to share and to externalize what one has in their head (and their heart, also).
But first and foremost, Extraversion is the need to meet the outside world (whether concrete or abstract). This is why extraverts gain energy when they go outside, when they go out, when they meet people.
Ah! Meeting people! Extraverts are sociable, then!
Saying this is a fallacy.
If as an extravert, you gain energy from external stimuli, you might want to be more sociable. But Extraversion isn’t equal to “sociability“ or to be dependent on people to have fun. “People” can be an external source of stimulation, but they’re not the only one that exists. And therefore, some extraverts may prefer to rely on other kinds of stimulation, such as discovering new sensations – by going bungee jumping, for instance – or discovering new ideas – at the museum or in another country, rather than going to a bar or talking to strangers at a party. The Extraversion package can include or exclude “being sociable” or it can include “being sociable in X situation”. So, if being extraverted can mean being more sociable, it also encompasses a lot more than that.
We’re talking about being inspired by what’s outside of you. Extraverts can very well not be sociable, but rather be obsessed with discovering the world. That’s extraversion as well.
We’ll talk about this more at the end of this article. It will all come together nicely.
Concrete examples of extraverted activities
In the following activities, your mind’s energy is directed outward.
- writing: you’re externalizing thoughts/fantasies on paper
- singing: you’re externalizing emotions, energy – and maybe receiving energy from your audience which energizes you
- acting: you’re externalizing emotions, energy and also presenting your analysis of a character. You’re confronting yourself to other actor’s reactions and ideas which nourishes your performance
- doing sports: externalizing energy, exploring new physical sensations. You can be stimulated by competition (confronting yourself to other’s libido), which is an external source of inspiration
- talking: you’re exchanging emotions, ideas and thoughts. Externalizing and receiving messages which can generate new thoughts and feelings inside of you.
- debating: externalizing thoughts and exploring new or old logic, receiving new thoughts as counter-arguments which can generate new arguments in your head
- sharing a post on social media: externalizing your interest in something, receiving a reaction from the people you share it with – getting external approval
- yelling at someone: externalizing emotions, confronting yourself to a person’s reaction
See how we’re talking about getting stimulation outside of oneself here? And also receiving energy from an external source, as well? This is extraversion. Have you ever done any of these things before and felt energized by it? Are you all extraverts? No, I don’t think so. You’ll understand my point further a little bit further.
An outward process that nourishes the mind = extraversion
Now, let’s talk about what the Introversion package offers.
What is Introversion?
What does the word Introversion mean?
So, Introversion is the opposite of Extraversion – not much surprise there! And as mentioned above:
- Intro means to the inside, inward
- Version means to be turned
- Intro+version= to be turned inward
You got it, introversion is an inward-turning of libido. Which is a fancy way of saying that your mind’s energy is focused on the inside, toward yourself, your values, your logic.
(By the way, these two complicated definitions of Extraversion and Introversion I gave earlier are obviously not the only ones Jung provided to explain the two concepts; but they sure helped structure this article.) 😜
What does Introversion entail?
Being focused inward
If it is from within that your mind gets re-energized, it means that introverts are going to find inspiration, not from their environment, but from their own inner world. An introvert is someone whose mind gets energized from its own… I want to say “maceration”. Let the ideas and feelings soak, marinate inside your head and body, and you’ll feel inspired, re-energized, as an introvert. So, in other words, an introvert’s own inner world is their main source of inspiration.
As a consequence, Introversion translates into the need to internalize thoughts, feelings, to get alone-time to figure out what you have in your head and your little heart.
Examples of introverted activities
In the following activities, one’s mind’s energy is directed inward, it’s “incubating” ideas on its own, inspired by what’s already there (in your psyche).
- thinking (about anything, solving problems, your next argument in your dissertation…)
- analyzing people in your head
- revisiting memories
- taking a walk (alone, just you and your thoughts and feelings)
- listening to music on your own (whether in your room or alone at a concert hall): again it’s just you, your thoughts and feelings that are being processed (*)
- reading: it can also be seen as an extraverted process, as you’re receiving ideas from an external source. However, reading is mainly a moment to find yourself alone with your thoughts and a moment where you can appropriate yourself someone else’s thoughts. Which to me sounds very much like an introverted process (marinating thoughts, like you let that chicken marinate in curry sauce… Yummy!)
- obsessing over something
Again, have you ever done any of these things before? Are you all introverts now? No. But you get my point: we’re all introverted and extraverted sometimes.
Hold on, are we introverted and extraverted or is it more what we do, our activities which are focused outward or inward?
(Side note: Some activities mentioned above in this article can be both introverted or extraverted, depending on how one approaches them. We mentioned above reading, for instance. Doing sports can also be a way to focus inward. I’m trying to illustrate theoretical things with concrete examples, but psychological experiences are specific to the individual.)
How can I be both an introvert and an extravert at the same time?
People aren't introverted or extraverted, their thinking processes are!
Did you notice that it’s not a personality that is introverted or extraverted. It’s what we do. And what we do comes from our desires to do something. It comes from our libido, our psychic energy, the energy in the mind that wants something.
So, really, can we say that someone is an extravert and someone is an introvert and make any sense?
The point is: we have our preferences for certain extraverted processes and certain introverted processes. Everyone sometimes will be energized by something in their environment, and sometimes by their own inner world.
So, what could Ennpey be possibly aiming at?
Do you know what personality theory was based on C.G. Jung’s Psychological Types, the book in which he theorized Extraversion and Introversion?
The Myers-Briggs personality theory, the MBTI. Yes.
Psychological types and the MBTI as answers
Jung’s Psychological Types theory describes four main types of thinking processes that everyone uses all the time. They’re known as Cognitive Functions. When your mind is working, it’s using one of these. And according to Jung, if anything is introverted or extraverted, it’s these cognitive functions. This is the original theory (simplified).
The famous MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) measures what thinking processes you use the most. Check out this article to learn more about the MBTI theory.
In total, there are…
- four extraverted processes
- four introverted processes
- two introverted functions
- two extraverted functions
So we’re all sometimes introverted and sometimes extraverted. It depends on the thinking processes we use.
But can’t we observe trends in someone’s cognitive behavior?
Observing trends: introverts' main function will be introverted, extraverts' ones will be extraverted
If your preferred thinking process (the one you use the most) is extraverted, you will appear more like an extravert to the world.
You’ll be turned outward more because that’s the easiest way for your mind to get stimulated. In that sense, you are “more” of an extravert. It makes sense to say so. You are an extravert, but not in all your thinking processes.
Indeed, you will still need to balance out this main process with an introverted process. So if you’re favorite cognitive function is extraverted, your second favorite function will be introverted. And vice-versa. That’s how the mind gets the right balance of outward and inward energy.
If you’re too reliant on your extraverted functions, you will feel uneasy in certain situations that require you to use your introverted functions. And vice-versa, of course. That can be one of the reasons why some people can’t bear extraversion/ or introversion. They’re not confident in certain of their cognitive functions. They haven’t developed them well or well enough yet.
Then again, if your main cognitive process is introverted, you will seem more introverted to the world. And it’s going to be in your inner world that you’ll be able to recharge and feel the inspiration to want things. You’ll be “more of an introvert”. However, sometimes, some introverts may appear like extraverts because they’re at ease using their extraverted cognitive functions.
So, yes, we can say that “introverts” and “extraverts” exist, but I’ll show you why generalizations quickly start to make no sense.
Busting the stereotypes
Common stereotypes for extraverts
I’m quickly going to do a lil’ Google search with the keywords “pros and cons of extraverts“. (For the sake of the length of this article, I’m going to focus on extraverts. Because I can. And also because I’ve already written this part 🙂 But the logic will be the same to bust the Introverts’ stereotypes)
Here is the first result I get:
TheOdysseyOnline on extraverts. These are the “pros” of extraverts:
- “Conversing well with others comes naturally. Most extroverts are able to smoothly carry on conversation with others.
- We are “doers.”
- It is easy to express thoughts.”
The cons of extraverts:
- “It is hard to be alone.
- We are easily bored.
- It is difficult to connect to introverts.”
Basing ourselves on what we’ve just learned, it seems like each point they make refers to a different thinking process every time, doesn’t it?
Let’s analyze this.
These stereotypes mistake introverted processes for extraversion
“We are doers”.
What thinking process leads to “doing”, to implementing things? Even if I’ve not explained all the cognitive functions (for more information on what the functions mean and entail, check out this article), do you think that the cognitive process for “implementing” is going to be the same one as the one for “conversing well with others”?
No. It’s not the same cognitive function that makes you good at both. The first one could actually refer to three different functions, “introverted sensing”, “extraverted sensing” or “extraverted thinking”. People who use these functions can be great at implementing ideas. Especially people who use introverted sensing combined with extraverted thinking.
On the other hand, conversing well with others is about empathy and reading people, which would refer to the functions called “extraverted feeling” or “introverted feeling”.
I don’t even need to go further. You get my point. People whose dominant functions are introverted will sometimes fit TheOdysseyOnline’s criteria for extraversion.
Anyone who has developed their cognitive functions well will be able to be good at conversation, at “doing” things, and at expressing their thoughts. On the other hand, people who haven’t developed all their functions enough will be bored easily, won’t be able to stand being alone (which can also come from a psychological wound), will have difficulties connecting to introverts.
“But the activities you mentioned earlier are in line with TheOdysseyOnline’s point: “doing” is an extraverted process, so is conversing and expressing thoughts, right?”, you might say.
The processes are extraverted indeed, but the people using these processes might not be. The OdysseyOnline doesn’t mention cognitive functions here, they’re talking about people. And remember, we said that we determined whether someone is an introvert or an extravert depending on their main cognitive function. They’re mixing everything up.
One extraverted function is always seconded by an introverted one and vice-versa. So, if someone’s dominant function is introverted and their second function is extraverted and well developed, they may fit TheOdysseyOnline’s criteria. However, very few people could fit them all. It’s not very helpful. It doesn’t make much sense.
One last stereotypical definition of Introversion and Extraversion – Truity
Fun fact, my main function is Extraverted Intuition. I’m an extravert – no questions asked. However, I definitely don’t tick all of TheOdysseyOnline’s boxes for being an extravert. I actually usually fit more the introverts’ stereotypes on the internet. For instance, here is Truity‘s definition of Extraverion and Introversion in the context of the Big 5 test. Reading their definition, I recognize myself more as an introvert, as I really do not care about social rewards, power, status, and attention from other people. Here is there definition of Introversion and Extraversion:
- “Extraversion describes a person’s inclination to seek stimulation from the outside world [Ennpey: That’s good! But wait for it…], especially in the form of attention from other people. Extraverts engage actively with others to earn friendship, admiration, power, status, excitement, and romance.
- Introverts, on the other hand, conserve their energy, and do not work as hard to earn these social rewards.“
Ok, so introverts do nothing. Also, they don’t seek romance outside. So where I wonder? I get it, they’re loners. They want to die alone. It’s normal for introverts…
As you can see, this definition doesn’t allow us to apply a systematic approach to defining someone as an introvert or as an extravert, because again it only looks at one aspect of extraversion: people as a source of stimulation. And it doesn’t even study introversion: according to this definition, Introversion is just the opposite of Extraversion. A.K.A. “not being interested in social rewards”.
So, I’m an ENFP, all right. How do I know I’m not mistyped and I should be an introvert? Because I’m absolutely sure that my biggest source of inspiration comes from outside. New ideas that come from external sources make me come to life, give me energy. My main cognitive function is turned outward. It’s extraverted. Extraverted intuition!
Extraversion is plural, and so is introversion
Wide descriptions of Extraversion or Introversion which don’t even mention cognitive functions will never be consistent. Jung’s theory was elaborate for a reason. Simplify it and it stops being consistent.
Extraversion is plural. Introversion is plural. Each extraverted cognitive function is different and brings out different strengths and weaknesses in people. Each extraverted function fuels on a different source. For instance, extraverted thinking fuels on external logic. Extraverted Sensing feeds on new physical sensations and the externalization of ideas. Extraverted feeling fuels on the approval of the group. Extraverted intuition feeds on new ideas and concepts.
Now, imagine four people who each have one of these extraverted functions as their dominant function. They’ll all be called extraverts. But they won’t gain energy by doing the same extraverted activities. And if they do, it won’t be for the same reason.
The same goes for introverted functions. There are different types of introversion. There is no one-size-fits-all. I’ll write an article on the different types of introversion to fully explore the topic which I couldn’t do here because this article is already extremely long. Sorry, Introverts <3 You’ll get your special moment soon! So stay tuned!
So, mainstream Introversion and Extraversion articles erase this plurality, leading to a lack of consistency in their definitions. In the end, they’re so generic, they’re as valid as an astrological prediction from Cosmo magazine.
These kinds of posts and articles don’t make any sense in terms of psychology, but if you enjoy them and know that they’re not the truth, be it! I just wanted to shed some light on this very interesting topic that is Introversion and Extraversion when defined as intended by C.G. Jung and used by Briggs-Myers and Cook-Myers.
What to take away from the concepts of Introversion and Extraversion?
Aaah! I’m glad the truth has been restored. Erase those clichés from your brain. You will never hear the words Introversion and Extraversion the same way again. For you have tasted the complexity and truthfulness of their original and true meanings.
No one has an introverted personality or an extraverted personality. It’s our thinking processes (cognitive functions) that are introverted or extraverted, focused either on the outside or to the inside.
Extraversion is when the thinking process is fueled by the environment, by external factors.
Introversion is fueled by the individual’s inner world, its unconscious.
Introversion is plural because all four introverted cognitive functions are very different. Extraverted is plural for the same reason.
Whatever happens, extraversion, because of its outward nature, will always be more visible than introversion. Even more so if a person’s dominant thinking process is extraverted. That’s why some introverts who have developed their extraverted cognitive functions well might appear extraverted.
It’s very important for everyone to use both kinds of processes to balance the mind and be content in life.
If you want to learn more about the development of cognitive functions and why some people develop theirs more than others, check out other articles on this blog and stay tuned for more.
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Have a great day, night, afternoon, champagne glass, evening in a tent, what?