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carl jung

Parties aren't always fun


Parties aren't always fun

Introversion and Extraversion differences offer lots of room for misunderstanding and conflict. To the unaware or opposite-preference mind, Extraversion can look like loud-mouthed, over-the-top, talk-too-much noise. Introversion can look like shyness, withholding information, or aloofness. 

Screen shot 2012-08-23 at 3.17.34 PM
Screen shot 2012-08-23 at 3.17.34 PM

She's so loud! He's so shy!

Introversion and Extraversion differences offer lots of room for misunderstanding and conflict. To the unaware or opposite-preference mind, Extraversion can look like loud-mouthed, over-the-top, talk-too-much noise. Introversion can look like shyness, withholding information, or aloofness. I'm going to go on a limb and say that most people with Extraversion preferences don't steamroll anyone or monopolize any conversation on purpose, and that Introverts don't intentionally keep quiet or exclude themselves from group processes. Many Introverts I know will only contribute something to a group conversation if they have something new to add.

Origins of Extraversion and Introversion

When Jung first discovered and studied these different attitudes to dealing with the world, he was talking about the direction of mental or "psychic" energy. Here are some paragraphs from his 1928 publication, A Psychological Theory of Types:

"My profession has always obliged me to take account of the peculiarities of individuals, and the special circumstance that in the course of I don't know how many years I have had to treat innumerable married couples and have been faced with the task of making husband and wife plausible to each other has emphasized the need to establish certain average truths. How many times, for instance, have I not had to say: "Look here, your wife has a very active nature, and it cannot be expected that her whole life should centre on housekeeping."

He goes on to say that during his many years in practice, he observed active and passive natures, who either seemed to jump in or reflect first:

"(...) there is a whole class of men who, at the moment of reaction to a given situation, at first draw back a little as if with an unvoiced "No," and only after that are able to react; and there is another class who, in the same situation, come out with an immediate reaction, apparently quite confident that their behavior is self-evidently right. The former class would therefore be characterized by a negative relation to the object, and the latter by a positive one."

Different ways of dealing with the world

What this means in every-day terms is that in the first instance of being presented with something or someone new, Introverts are more likely to take some energy inward, perhaps recalling previous situations (introverted Sensing), activating the sixth sense for hidden messages (introverted Intuiting), categorizing information (introverted Thinking), or checking with their own values (introverted Feeling).

Extraverts, on the other hand, may be more likely to focus their energy on the object or person, perhaps fully experiencing the moment (extraverted Sensing), finding patterns and possibilities (extraverted Intuiting), bringing order to the pieces (extraverted Thinking), or harmonizing and finding common areas (extraverted Feeling).

So - next time you invite someone to a party and they don't really want to go, perhaps they have preferences for introversion and would rather spend an evening with you alone or in a smaller group setting, because too many new people to meet and interact with may be overwhelming. And next time you're having dinner with someone and they keep looking around at other diners, maybe they have preferences for extraversion which means they're drawn to stimuli from the outside world, because they enjoy having things to react to.


Image by Suburban Prairie, flickr, Creative Commons License




Psychological Type Theory

Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (1875 - 1961) developed a personality theory at the beginning of the 20th century. He observed and explained patterns in seemingly random individual behavior.

His theory forms the basis for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Tool and has most recently found application in the Neuroscience of Personality research.


Jung's first observations revolved around two ways people engage with the world.

He defined the term Extraversion (in the MBTI results described with an 'E') for people who gain energy by relating to the outside world.
He defined Introversion (in the MBTI results described with a 'T') for people who gain energy by focusing on their own internal world.

Extraversion does not mean exaggerated, Introversion does not mean shy. The terms describe where our mental energy flows, and are also referred to as an "attitude".

Jung continued, stating that our brain activity is mainly engaged in one of two things: taking in information (a process he called Perception), or making decisions based on the information we have taken in (which he called a Judging process). These two processes are also referred to as the cognitive or mental functions.


Jung describes two forms of taking in information: Sensation (aka Sensing) 'S' or Intuition 'N'.

People who prefer Sensing 'S' tend to trust information from their five senses. They prefer detailed information about the here and now, as well as practical application. Introverted Sensing 'Si' is focused on past experiences and reviewing, Extraverted Sensing 'Se' is focused on experiencing the surroundings in the moment.
People who prefer Intuiting 'N' tend to find patterns and themes in the information they gather. They prefer general overviews and find possibilities of what the information might mean for future development. Introverted Intuiting 'Ni' is focused on a vision of what might be and foreseeing, Extraverted Intuiting 'Ne' is focused on future possibilities and brainstorming.

Sensing does not mean sensitive, Intuiting does not mean intuitive. The terms describe how we use our brains to take in information.


Jung described two forms of decision-making: Thinking 'T' or Feeling 'F'.

People who prefer Thinking 'T' tend to make rational decisions based on logical objective analysis, considering the system and connected frameworks, and may not shy away from a debate. Introverted Thinking 'Ti' focuses on defining principles and analyzing, Extraverted Thinking 'Te' focuses on organizing and systematizing.
People who prefer Feeling 'F' tend to make rational decisions according to the framework of their values, how the decision might impact the people involved, and may prefer to have consensus and maintain harmony. Introverted Feeling 'Fi' focuses on clarifying what's important and valuing, Extraverted Feeling 'Fe' focuses on harmony and connecting.

Thinking does not mean rational, Feeling does not mean emotional. The terms describe how we use our brains to make decisions. 

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