We’ve read a lot about introverts and extroverts over the past few years (TED Talks, Quiet), but there are still misconceptions. The truth is, introverts aren’t necessarily shy or quiet, and instead can be the charming life of the party; and extroverts, while generally outgoing, can also get social anxiety and stage fright.
The easiest way to figure out if you’re an introvert or an extrovert is to ask yourself where your energy comes from: Do you feel revitalized after having alone time or from being around other people? (Interesting, right?) As self-proclaimed introvert Jonathan Rauch said, “It’s not a choice. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s an orientation.”
1. On a train, where do you sit?
When you choose a seat on the subway or a table at a café, do you keep to the edges or plop squarely in the middle? Introverts tend to feel more comfortable on the outskirts, but extroverts favor spots between—or even surrounded by—other people.
2. What’s your ideal birthday party?
An introvert would likely prefer celebrating with couple of close friends, while an extrovert would rather throw a big party. (“Wine for everybody!”)
3. Have you been described as intense, mysterious or aloof?
Introverts typically mull their thoughts over BEFORE sharing them and might even plan out what they’re going to say; small talk might feel fake or unnatural. Meanwhile, extroverts are typically happy to strike up conversations with everyone, from the cashier at the grocery store to fellow passengers on an airplane. At work, they perform best when brainstorming out loud, since they prefer sounding boards to quiet rumination.
4. You feel sluggish and drained. What just happened?
Introverts feel drained after busy interactions and need to recharge by being alone, while extroverts actually gain their energy from groups of people and feel sluggish when they spend too much time by themselves. But here’s an important distinction: Both introverts and extroverts enjoy other people’s company; the difference is how each one responds to the stimulation.
5. Do you love–or hate—doing nothing?
Picture this: Your roommate/family/partner is out of town for the weekend, and you’re home alone. Are you excited to fly solo, or do you immediately call friends to hang out? Introvert Audrey Hepburn once said “I love being by myself…love taking long walks with my dogs and looking at the trees, the flowers, the sky,” while extroverts can get bored and tired when they’re alone for long stretches and end up craving the company of others.
6. Are you the planner among your family and friends?
Extroverts tend to be the ones to extend invitations, feeling like “the more, the merrier.” (You know that friend who always says, “Can so-and-so come along?” Definitely an extrovert.) Introverts can have a tendency to let friends and activities pick them.
7. How do you make decisions?
When making a big life change—say, renting a new apartment or taking a new job—introverts tend to stop, think carefully and make exhaustive lists of pros and cons. But while introverts proceed with caution, extroverts embrace change and risk.
8. The phone rings! What do you do?
Extroverts pick up, but introverts typically screen calls, even from friends. An unexpected phone call can feel disruptive. It’s not that they’re averse to talking—they just want to be ready for it.
9. Does your significant other make no sense?
Funnily enough, introverts and extroverts are often drawn into relationships with one another, since they help balance each other out. In relationships, introverts typically request lots of “me-time.” (As Jonathan Rauch said, the introvert’s motto is “I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses.”) Extroverts might not initially understand and might even feel offended. During an argument, an extrovert may want to talk through feelings immediately, while an introvert might prefer to seek a quiet retreat and think before they’re ready to talk.
10. Do you have tendencies of both introverts and extroverts?
Everyone exhibits some traits from each personality type—as Carl Jung said, “There is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert. Such a man would be in a lunatic asylum.” But some people fall squarely in the middle. They may draw energy from a crowd one day, but feel the need to retreat the next. If this sounds like you, you might be an ambivert.
We’re curious: Do you identify as an introvert or extrovert? What about your friends or significant others?
P.S. Another famous personality test.