I recently read an article that made the claim extroverts will never understand that an introverted personality has multiple layers. I’m not going to link to this article because it’s not my intention to attack the writer, but I mention it to highlight a common misconception among introverts — that our personalities are more complex than extroverts.
The truth is, all people have layers. And we all — both introverts and extroverts — have a tendency to assume that how we see people act initially is how they act all the time. We meet someone who seems chatty and friendly, we assume they’re generally a talkative and friendly person. We meet someone who’s quiet and reserved, we assume they’re generally a private, quiet person.
But just as introverts don’t want people to assume they’re nothing more than a quiet person who doesn’t speak up much in crowds, extroverts don’t want people to assume there’s nothing more to them than the life-of-the-party social butterfly. We’re all complex, layered people with nuances to our personalities.
The Masks We Wear
Introverts often talk about how we wear different “masks” in different situations. We have our social mask that we put on when hanging out with a group or meeting new people. In this mask, we can be so engaging and talkative that sometimes people might even mistake us for extroverts. And we might have other masks, too — the professional one we put on for work, the polite one we wear interacting with retail workers, the “don’t talk to me” one we wear when in a public place and we don’t want disturbed.
We don’t usually think of the version of ourselves we show the world (especially new acquaintances) as a complete picture of who we really are. Introverts tend to be private people who keep a large part of their personalities hidden. We take time to open up to people and let them see behind any of our masks.
The thing is, extroverts do this too. Even the most social extrovert has layers to their personality that they don’t share with everyone. Extroverts also wear masks to fit in with different social situations and groups, just like introverts do. Depending on their personality type and individual preferences, some extroverts might be even more private than introverts regarding their personal lives.
Our Alter-Ego Co-Pilot
Another thing to mention is that an introvert’s extroverted “mask” isn’t something that’s foreign to their personality. We really do have an extroverted side that’s just as real as our introverted side (though not as strong). This is called our co-pilot function in Myers-Briggs® theory, and it’s the mental process that we naturally use when engaging with the outer world.
When we look at functions in Myers-Briggs® types, we see that everyone has an introverted and an extroverted side. We just prefer one or the other. Our preferred function is called our primary or “driver” process. It’s introverted for introverts and extroverted for extroverts. Our second-favorite is called our secondary or “co-pilot” process. It’s extroverted for introverts and introverted for extroverts.
It might seem like extroverts put more of themselves out there than we do, but that’s mostly because they’re more comfortable in the outer world. And just like an introvert has an extroverted side, so do extroverts have an introverted side. All extroverts have this introverted part of themselves, though how comfortable they are with it varies. Some might love alone time or deep, one-on-one conversations while others minimize “introverting” as much as possible. It just depends on the individual (much like it does with introverts).
Beyond The Surface
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen introverts complain about extroverts being too “surface level” in their interests and communications. This complaint isn’t confined to introvert/extrovert situations either — I often see Intuitive types make similar comments about Sensing types. But I wonder how much effort the people who complain “no one tries to know me” put in to really getting to know other people. Maybe they’re the ones blocking deep communication by assuming the other person is uninteresting.
There are some extroverts who are so caught-up in themselves or gossip or moving on to the next thing that they don’t really get to know people. But there are also introverts who are so caught-up in themselves or their own ideas, thoughts, and plans that they don’t really get to know people either. The problem isn’t with one personality type being more or less “shallow” than another. The problem is that people in general rarely bother to dig past surface level communications. It takes effort, but it’s something anyone can do regardless of type.
Assuming they’re both engaged in the conversation, an introvert and an extrovert (or two extroverts) can get into conversations that are just as deep and meaningful as two introverts. In fact, I often find it easier to get to know extroverts because they’re the ones more likely to engage with people and ask personal questions.
People Are More Than Their Personalities
Every one of us is more than our personality type. Introverts don’t like people making negative assumptions about us, like saying we’re rude or boring. So why would we think it’s okay to make negative assumptions about extroverts saying they’re shallow or incapable of relating to us? It makes no sense.
Studying personality should give us a better appreciation for how wonderful our differences are and how complex every personality and individual really is. No matter what our personality type, we all have layers to who we are and we all keep some of those layers private from casual acquaintances. Let’s stop using personality types to make sweeping statements that minimize certain groups of people and instead start appreciating the wonderful complexity of all the people around us.
Featured image credit: StockSnap via Pixabay