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What exactly is the difference between introverts and extraverts?

If you’re like a lot of people, you’ve probably thought about whether you’re an introvert or an extravert. When you try searching it, there are countless results about tests you can take and information you can read to try to figure out it out. This mass of information makes the true difference unclear, especially because a lot of this information is not that reliable. So, what exactly is the difference? 

First of all, it isn’t that clear cut. As you can read in this blog entry, extraversion is one of the Big Five personality traits. Everyone falls somewhere on a spectrum from zero to a hundred for this trait. This makes it very unlikely that anyone is 100% introvert or 100% extravert. Most people will fall somewhere in the middle. In many ways, this makes any definitions arbitrary because every person will define it differently. Is an extravert anyone scoring over 50, or is it 80 and any less than that is an “ambivert” (someone who is a mix of the two)? There’s really no clear-cut universal boundary. 

However, this lack of fixed definitions doesn’t negate the fact that there are some major differences. Again, most people will resonate with aspects of both. That’s normal. That said, there are some traits that are more correlated with extraversion. These include friendliness, assertiveness, excitement-seeking, and cheerfulness. Introverts are more likely to prefer interacting with smaller groups of friends and might become drained more easily from social interactions. 

Extraversion is really about how you gain your energy. Shyness doesn’t necessarily make you an introvert. Likewise, confidently giving speeches doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an extravert. Rather, how social situations make you feel is more of an indication. Do you actively seek out social situations or do you prefer staying in? After attending an event full of meeting new people, are you energized or drained? Naturally, you’ll feel drained sometimes and energized other times, but how do you feel most of the time? Do you resonate more with the description of extraverts or introverts? These answers can indicate whether you’re more of an extravert or introvert, but the most important thing to remember is that the definitions are flexible.