Thursday, April 18, 2013

10 Myths About Extroverts

Some time years ago I stumbled upon Carl King's page 10 Myths About Introverts (check it out!). In it, he describes ten "myths" about people considered "introverts". Now, maybe there are people who find this article helpful when trying to understand others or accepting themselves, but I think it is naive to put so much emphasis on the supposed categorization of people.

According to Wikipedia, the terms introvert and extrovert were popularized by the famed Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and they are central in personality theories and in this case they are personality classifications. The later popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is further development of Jung's ideas and it (among other personality classifications) has been criticized in popular and academic circles as too simplistic and not based on reality.

What about these ten "myths"? I have never encountered these kinds of misconceptions about "introverts" or felt the need to reeducate people. I do not even believe introverts and extroverts really exist. Humans are immensely complex creatures and it would be degrading to present them as so easily categorizable. But even if this division of people into two distinct categories was based on reality, these myths are still stupid and misleading.

Let's play with the stereotypes presented in the "myths" by creating 10 Myths About Extroverts. Since in the original article introverts were presented as honest, intelligent and generally better people than others (extroverts), then extroverts must be stupid, superficial and tricky individuals indeed, right? Let's see:

Myth #1 – Extroverts like to talk.

This is not true. Extroverts just talk unless they have something to think about. They love small talk. Get an Extrovert thinking about something they are interested in, and they'll be quiet for days.

Myth #2 – Extroverts are bold.

Boldness has nothing to do with being an Extrovert. Extroverts are not necessarily interested in people. What they need is an excuse to shut up. They interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Extrovert, be very cautious. Remember to be polite.

Myth #3 – Extroverts are polite.

Extroverts always see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be superficial and fake. Fortunately, this is acceptable in most settings, so Extroverts can feel little pressure to fit in, which they find exhilerating.

Myth #4 – Extroverts like people.

On the contrary, Extroverts don't value the hundreds of friends they have. They can't count their close friends on two hands. If you are unfortunate enough for an Extrovert to consider you a friend, you probably have a
unreliable backstabber for life. Once you have attracted their attention as being a person of little substance, you're in.

Myth #5 – Extroverts like to go out in public.

Nonsense. Extroverts just like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very slowly, and as a result, need to be there for long to "get it". They'll go on and on to process it all. In fact, all kinds of reflection are absolutely unnecessary for Extroverts.

Myth #6 – Extroverts always want to be with people.

Extroverts are uncomfortable with their own thoughts. That's why they don't think or daydream. They don't like to think about problems and worries. Also, they never get lonely if they don't have anyone to share
their superficial "ideas". They crave an artificial and fake connection with MANY PEOPLE at any time.

Myth #7 – Extroverts are ordinary.

Extroverts are often collectivists. They follow the crowd. They don't care what they are valued for. They think in terms of the crowd and because of that, they never challenge the norm. They make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

Myth #8 – Extroverts are cool popular kids.

Extroverts are people who primarily look outward, paying close attention to people around them. It's not that they are capable of paying attention to what is going on in their thoughts and emotions, it's just that their outer world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

Myth #9 – Extroverts know how to relax and have fun.

Extroverts typically relax at bars or night clubs, not in peaceful private homes. Extroverts are thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is not too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are not sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Myth #10 – Extroverts can fix themselves and become Introverts.

A world without Extroverts would be a world with few supermodels, game show hosts, singers, door-to-door salesmen, customer care assistants, waitresses and athletes. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Introvert can learn in order to interact with Extroverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Extroverts cannot "fix themselves" and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Extroverts decreases with IQ.

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What do you think? Do you think these descriptions fit your image of yourself or somebody you know? Do you think black-and-white thinking makes the world a better place?


  1. In MBTI tests I was considered ENTP i.e. extrovert. I considered myself more introvert. But I had to admit that my behaviour had changed during my working life in management positions as I considered it nearly impossible for a manager to behave introvertly. To be successful you had to try to behave more extrovertly than was natural to you. But with experience that kind of behaviour became more natural. And I discussed with a certified MBTI consultant about that and she considered that kind of development as inevitable in a working career like mine.

  2. I enjoy taking personality tests as an attempt to understand myself - "I do this because I'm an INTJ." I never feel like the personality types fit me no matter which theory is used - Jung, Adler, etc. Personality test and studies are just attempts to classify humans but we are way more complicated, and its the "other" or "gray" area where things get interesting.

  3. Personality tests and playing with personality theories are fine, as long as you realize that they are deceptive.

  4. I have to admit that the MBTI explained for me a well known thing, I mean what is called chemistry between people at the work place. Before that I considered the chemistry an existing fact without any simple explanation. MBTI was a simple explanation and a big help when forming effective working teams. But you cannot believe MBTI to be an eternal thruth of ones personality nor a classification of IQ. And as I explained earlier the results may change (how I started to behave less introvert and more extrovert).

  5. I recently took MBTI test which showed the result that I am an extrovert even though I don't feel like one. I got intrigued by the subject so I read the characteristics of introverts and extroverts. it was then that I found out how wrong people judge introverts. so to bring awareness, I have started a blog that posts myths and facts about everything. Here is a link: myths and facts

  6. Mischaracterizations are one thing, but I would say that the underlying misconception is the idea that people can be categorized into two (or three) groups along some imaginary axis.

  7. @ Mikko: I find the above argument very true. one cannot characterize people into two-three categories.

  8. I care nothing about these people like supermodels and door-to-door salesmen because they;re invasive to introverts. Therefore, I'll always favor introverts over extroverts.