Although I am a floridly extroverted individual, I have many friends and acquaintances who are quieter, more genuinely thoughtful, receptive and even somewhat shy people. So long as these characteristics to not actively interfere with their day to day lives (work relationships or goals) it is unfair and inappropriate to regard them as being, in any way, ‘ill’, ‘impaired,’ or, worse ye, suffering from some kind of mental disability or deficiency.
These terms, first popularized into mainstream psychological thinking and literature by Carl Jung (Swiss Psychiatrist and credited of the development of what is referred to as “Analytical” or “Depth” Psychology: 1875-1961), refer to the two basic temperamental orientations emanating from the self toward ourselves, the world in general and the people around us. In its simplest form, the differences can be understood as being something like this: The Extrovert is the social animal, the kibitzer, friendly and outgoing. These people tend to be motivated by outer things and their energy flows in that (outward) direction. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to be quieter, reserved – even shy. Their energy flows inward and their motivations often come from that inward place as well. What is most important to be mindful of is that these “Types” are two ends of a rather long and incredibly complex continuum of ways of being. No two people are at exactly the same place on the Introvert-Extrovert scale, nor is any individual person purely one or the other. We are all inclined toward one or the other, but each contain within our personal make-ups, some degree of each. Loud, social aggressive people have quiet, reflective moments and times in their lives. Quiet, shy, inwardly motivated folks have moments and times when they become more assertive, loud – even, at times, arguably aggressive. No one is completely and always one or the other.
That being said, there is not much question but that our modern culture (Western, particularly) tends to overvalue extroversion, seeing it is the quality that most often allows for success and ‘getting ahead’ in the competitive world of the 21st century. Lost in that quick presumptive shuffle is the reality that introverts are better at many things than are extroverts. Many types of work require thoughtful, reflective, receptive people. Without making a list of them here, I think that on reflection, even the most extroverted person would be able to acknowledge that their outgoingness is, at times, a problem – as much of a problem (or perhaps even more) than an introvert’s quietness or valuing of experiential depth rather than its breadth.
There is an old expression, “It takes all kinds.” When it comes to human temperamental type, this is certainly true. In a world full of pure (or profoundly) extroverted people, who would do the listening, careful thinking or the reflecting? In a world populated entirely by introverts, who would assume the initiative to act or act quickly when needed? Who would entertain us? While it is estimated that about 75% of the population of the US fits the general profile of extroversion, the minority of those who are introverted does not, again, render them ill, damaged or dysfunctional – let alone mentally ill. They bring a necessary ingredient to the mix that is humanity and, so long as their introversion is not acutely pathological – thereby preventing them from achieving their goals or living a satisfying life, it needs no professional attention at all. This is because under those circumstances, it is not fair to even regard it as a ‘problem.’ Lets us value ourselves as well as each other – for both our characteristics in common as well as for our differences because it really does take everyone to make the world go ’round.