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4 Myths About Extroversion We're Guilty of Believing

The introvert revolution has revolutionized how we view our personalities. Is it true that extroverts have shallow relationships and draw energy from others like a vampire? Not so fast. This week, Savvy Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen concludes our two-part series by busting 4 myths of extroversion.

By
Ellen Hendriksen, PhD,
Episode #201

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A few weeks ago, I saw a cute online cartoon titled “Introvert Starter Kit,” with drawings of fuzzy pants, a cup of herbal tea, a stack of books, and a cat. I searched for an extrovert equivalent, but none were to be found. The introvert revolution, for all its good, has negatively stereotyped extroverts as fast-talking spotlight-hogging party animals. For better or worse, my guess is that an “extrovert starter kit” would feature a bullhorn, one of those double-barrelled beer can hats, and a red plastic Solo cup. 

Do these hold true? Not necessarily. Therefore, this week, we’ll round out our two-part series on the myths of introverts and extroverts by busting four myths of extroversion.

Myth #1: Extroverts have many shallow relationships.

If the introvert movement has proudly proclaimed that still waters run deep, the side effect is that extroverts are, by contrast, as shallow as puddles.

But this myth presents a false choice. You don’t need to be an introvert to get close to someone, nor do you need to be an extrovert to have a large network.

Now, it is true that extroverts do tend to have larger social circles. This happens for a couple of reasons. First is the simple fact that extroverts tend to initiate social interaction and spend more time socializing than introverts. This greater frequency and duration naturally leads to more chances to form friendships.

Next, there’s a phenomenon called extrovert homophily, which is the tendency for extroverts to associate with extroverts. Similar people choose to enter similar situations, which increases their opportunity to connect. For all these reasons, extroverts are more likely to have larger social networks.

But this doesn’t mean that extrovert relationships are necessarily shallow. Indeed, according to a 2017 study in the Journal of Research in Personality, there’s no direct link between extroversion and relationship satisfaction.

Myth #2: Extroverts feel energized by interacting with others.

This statement is true; it’s not actually a myth unto itself. What makes it a myth is that it’s not the whole truth. The reality is that extroverts and introverts feel energized by social interaction. 

A groundbreaking study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology instructed super-introverts and super-extroverts, defined as those in the top or bottom 20% of an extroversion scale, to act introverted or extroverted during a group task. 

Whether they were natural introverts or natural extroverts, everyone reported enjoying the discussion more when they were assigned to act extroverted. 

Introverts might have to psych themselves up to be “on” and recover more after a social interaction, but it’s not as if the socializing itself is torture. If it is, then we’re in the realm of social anxiety.

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