Relationship Counseling for Personality Challenges in Maumelle, AR (North Little Rock)
The Introvert and Extravert Struggle
Carl Jung was an expert in personalities. His work was inspiring for the individual and even more so for couples. Myers, Briggs, and Keirsey went on to develop methods and strategies in personalities that have changed lives. It is from their collective work that I write on the introvert and extravert struggle.
I assume you know your personality type already, but if not, please take fifteen minutes to find out. Google the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI). The official MBTI costs about $50 to take, but you get a lot of insight for your money. I don’t get paid a dime for recommending their website. In fact, if you prefer a free version, go to the following free web link. It is pretty good.
OK, so I assume you now know for sure what your personality type is. Do you know what your significant other’s personality type is? You can probably guess, but why not have them take the test so you know for sure. Look, I know it is a lot to do just to get to the crux of this article, so if you can’t get your partner to take the test now, let’s assume one of you is an introvert and the other is an extravert.
In simple terms, we often think of an extravert as being a “people person.” That isn’t exactly true. Likewise, an introvert isn’t always the opposite of a “people person.” We will talk about the “F” feeling type later, but that element really affects our interactions with others. When it comes to introversion and extraversion, the best way to describe this aspect of personality is to understand that how we recharge our internal batteries as human beings is a function of introversion and extraversion.
Introverts have a battery like a cell phone battery. It is typically small and easily drained with overuse. At the end of the day, it is important to “plug in” and recharge. Extraverts have a battery like a car battery. It is typically large and stays charged as long as the car is running (constantly charged by the alternator). That analogy is useful to frame the discussion, so make note of it.
Now that we have a good starting point, let’s talk about what charges the introvert’s battery. Typically, an introvert can be around people all day long at work, school, or even at home. They might be great salespeople, public figures, or business owners always in the public eye or surrounded by people; thus, an introvert can be a “people person,” but all of that interaction drains the introvert’s battery. At the end of the day, the introvert needs to recharge with quiet time. This could be a walk (alone) in the park, woods, or somewhere peaceful. It could be time spent reading a novel, watching TV, or doing a solitary hobby. This time is nonnegotiable. If an introvert feels drained and doesn’t get some alone time, they tend to get irritated and could feel overwhelmed. Extraverts, make note! This is where you can be the hero or the villain.
The extravert charges his/her battery by being around people. Even if they spend all day around people at work, home, or school, it is common to see an extravert seek out social events, group interaction, and other ways to be around people afterwards. So if an extravert ends up with a quiet, solitary job, like computer programmer or writer for example, then their battery will run low. Imagine a car that is turned off, but the lights are left on. Without people to help recharge the extravert, much like a car battery with the lights left on, we tend to get a dead battery. Introverts, make note. An extravert will get “stir crazy” after excessive isolation. You can be the hero just by making allowances for them to recharge.
So here is what it looks like in a relationship.
John is an extravert. He runs a small business. He ends up spending most of the day looking over production reports, sending emails, and making phone calls. He finds himself thinking how great it will be to go play poker with the guys, hit the sports bar to watch the game, or pretty much anything other than sitting behind his desk after work. (This is an example. The extravert could be female as well.)
Jane is an introvert. She is a school teacher. She spends most of her day interacting with teenagers, faculty, and school staff. She daydreams at lunch about curling up on the sofa with her favorite book, which she has read several times, or catching up on a craft project she started. All she wants is a little peace and quiet. (This is also an example. The introvert could be male as well.)
John calls Jane on the way home from work. “Hey, babe,” he says, “how was your day?”
Jane responds, “Fine, just want to get home and relax.”
John has heard that a lot lately. He says, “I wanted to take you out to that new sports bar for hot wings, and tonight is the NCAA Championship. I hear they have amazing hot wings.”
Jane cringes and thinks, Oh God please, not another rowdy bar, but she says, “I have a headache and just want to take it easy tonight.”
John thinks, Ugghh, not another headache. All these headaches are killing me, but he says, “Well, if you aren’t up for an action-packed night of hot wings and b-ball, then I can ask one of the guys to go with me.”
This is the point in the discussion when I make the point that understanding the needs of the introvert are different than the needs of the extravert. Both need to recharge, but they do so differently. If the introvert can’t muster the energy to go with the extravert, then she can ask him to stay home (which is reasonable), or she can encourage him to go without her (which is also reasonable). Is there a third option? The extravert has already asked the introvert to come with him. Should he beg or entice her knowing she is wiped out or encourage her to stay home to recharge? Is there a third option for him?
Before we look at other options, let’s look at the effects of the decisions so far. If the introvert goes out with a low battery, she might have fun, but she might also really feel overwhelmed and become irritable. She might begin to have troublesome thoughts like, He doesn’t understand me. He loves his pals more than me. He loves basketball more than me. If she stays home, would she have those same thoughts? Would she feel abandoned and left out?
What if the extravert stays home? He might enjoy the game on his wide-screen TV, while the introvert enjoys her book and recharges at home. He might feel like cheering when his team wins the championship, but the victory could be hollow without the energy of the group recharging him. He might feel unfulfilled and have his own troublesome thoughts like, All she ever does is read, read, read. She never wants to have fun. She used to go out with me all the time, and we never missed the NCAA Championship when we were dating. This sucks; I should be out. I need to be out. I deserve to be out. What if he went to the sports bar without her? Would he have similar thoughts? Would he come home with a little guilt? Would he feel less connected when he got home and found the introvert very content, as if she didn’t miss him at all?
These troublesome thoughts need not destroy the relationship. It is very reasonable to need to recharge and want to recharge, so the trick is understanding your partner. If we seek to understand, then we can make better choices and communicate verbally rather than harboring those silent thoughts that lead to bad feelings and broken relationships.
So what is option three that I mentioned above? Well, if you are an introvert and you know you need to recharge, is it possible to recharge and go out? Of course you can. The conversation might go something like this (just an example).
“I know the big game is tonight, and I want to be with you. I am low on energy and really need to recharge a bit before the game. Let’s do all the pregame action at home where I can relax. We can head over to watch the game and eat hot wings in two hours. That gives us plenty of time eat and be seated before the main event.”
There is option three for the extravert as well. If you are the extravert, is it possible to stay home and recharge? Of course you can. The conversation might go something like this (another example).
“I know I have been asking you to go out a lot and that works for me, but I realize you need to recharge in other ways. I know your battery is low and so is mine, so let’s run to sports bar, grab some wings, hang out with the guys for all of the pregame festivities, and come home early so you and I can enjoy the main event together with a little less chaos.”
Some of you reading this will be thinking, Oh heck no. That would never work for me. I agree. These are examples that I feel would work for me. My wife is an introvert, and I am an extravert. You have to develop your own options, but the point is simple. Understand each other. Communicate with each other. Make allowances for each other. Speak your thoughts instead of entertaining troublesome thoughts in silence. Use personality strategies to enhance your relationships. When all else fails, remind yourself that your partner is the love of your life and you want to give them your best.
If you want to learn more about personalities, consider reading or listening to the audible book Please Understand Me by Keirsey or Type Talk by Myers and Briggs. Both are excellent. If you want couples, family, or marriage help, please give Thriveworks Maumelle or Thriveworks North Little Rock a call at 501-628-9066. Every relationship deserves a little coaching or counseling. Call today.