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Fifty shades of introversion

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Ever since I was a kid, I've been asked this question several times. And on an even greater number of occasions, others have observed my behaviour (or learnt about it) and have labelled me as an introvert or an extrovert. I have been labelled an introvert far more often than I've been labelled an extrovert.

That doesn't mean I'm one or the other though. It isn't a binary state for any of us.

Introverted people tend to (re)gain energy when they are on their own and tend to have their mental energy depleted if they spend time in bigger groups or with other people (at a party or a networking event, for example). Whereas, this relationship with their mental energy is reversed for extroverted people. They tend to (re)gain energy when they are with other people and have their energy depleted when they are alone.

This is a more evolved definition than the older definition of saying that an introvert is someone who is shy and reticent (which many dictionaries still say) and an extrovert is someone who is outgoing and socially confident (again which many dictionaries still say).

But, both these definitions make the state of being introverted or extroverted a completely personal characteristic, ignoring the effect of the external setting.

And when we consider that, we see the various shades of introversion (and extroversion) that come out.

We all have in-groups and out-groups. In-groups are the people that we associate ourselves with, that we share big portions of our worldview with and out-groups are the people that we can't easily relate to.

Put a person in their in-group, even when they don't know the individuals personally and they will show a higher level of extroversion than when you put them in their out-group.

This means we can flip from introvert to extrovert and back depending on what kind of people we have around us and what the situation and the setting is.

Needless to say, neither is good or bad.

Once we understand this external effect, it will be easy to note that introverts (traditional definition) tend to be the ones that see the world differently than the majority of the people around them, while extroverts are the ones that more easily fit in by sharing a common worldview.

The energy depletion and recovery definition is totally right, but it isn't complete. Because the context and the people around us can amplify or dampen our introverted (or extroverted) tendencies by significant margins.

When in doubt, seek out the in-groups.

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