What Is Extraversion?
Extraversion breaks down into the following two fundamental aspects: assertiveness and enthusiasm.
Those high in assertiveness are the take-charge types. The so-called natural-born leaders. The game-changing alphas. (It’s a valuable trait for a pilot, I might add.)
Those high in enthusiasm are talkative and charismatic. They’re the life of the party. The ones who make friends with enviable ease. (Don’t you just love to hate them?)
Now, what drives extroversion is one’s propensity toward feeling positive emotions. In that sense it’s great to be an extrovert. It feels good to feel good.
And it does feel good to take charge. It does feel good to be enthusiastic about stuff. It does feel good to have lots of friends/sex. (So I’m told.)
I am not extroverted by nature, but I try my utmost to wear that hat when I enter the cockpit of an aeroplane. That feeling when you take the autopilot out and really back yourself. There’s nothing like it. (If only I backed myself!)
But there are costs to extraversion.
How Much Should We Value the Present?
Perhaps the biggest danger comes from placing too much emphasis on the present. Sacrificing the future for the sake of a good time.
Researchers tested this by offering participants a small sum of money now or a larger one later. They found a clear correlation between extraverts placing a higher value on the present.
And this is a good question to ask: how much should we value the present? After all, we may get hit by a bus tomorrow. Or we might live till we’re 101. We simply don’t know.
At any rate, this is an excellent way to think about those who score high in extraversion: Capitalising on the present moment to the maximum extent possible, even if that means sacrificing the future.
It’s the equivalent of going all in on a poker game before the cards have been dealt.
To give you an example, I have a friend (Who’d have guessed it!) who is very extraverted. He is well-liked and has many friends as a result. But he is fairly impulsive.
He lost his job once. To clear his head he decided to go on a skiing holiday. Fair enough, you say, but then he went on another skiing holiday just a few weeks later!
Ok, you say, so maybe he can afford it? Perhaps he has a plan? Maybe he has saved well for such an event? (He hadn’t.) So you give him the benefit of the doubt.
But then – I kid you not – as soon as he got back he jumped on another aeroplane and went on another skiing holiday! Of course, it was ski season, and he had many “friends” egging him on.
So he went on three separate skiing holidays within two months of losing his job. Naturally, he rinsed through his savings which put him in a spot of bother.
This is why it pays to be mindful of your nature. Extroversion may feel good, but there are times when one should reign it in. Sometimes you should feel bad.
The optimal state of being is not to feel good all the time but to feel appropriately good or bad given your current circumstances.
If you feel good all the time, you’re more likely to take risks that you shouldn’t. (There’s a reason you’re given free alcohol at casinos.)
This is something those who suffer from manic episodes do. They feel invincible and go on spending sprees only to wake up the next day with a psychological hang-over realising they’ve spent every dim they had.
You think, “Hey, things are awesome right now, let’s place everything on black!” or, “Things aren’t so bad, one more skiing holiday won’t hurt…”
Evidence has shown that extraverts are more likely to struggle with addiction too. All those jokes about alcoholic pilots. Well, there is some truth to it…
Is Better To Be Introverted or Extroverted?
Now, the lines are blurred, but higher neuroticism correlates more strongly with introversion, which makes sense.
What’s important to stress is that lower neuroticism correlates most heavily with greater subjective well-being, not extraversion. There’s an essential difference between not being happy and feeling bad.
Most of us are motivated by the avoidance of suffering, not the pursuit of happiness. It’s just that extraversion is more “positively related to brain processes that associate contexts with reward.”
What I’m trying to say is that introverts are wired differently. So the things that make an introvert happy and the strengths they bring to the table are different.
And this is another good question to ask yourself: should I try to be more extroverted, or should I play to my introverted strengths?
Of course, it depends.
Introverts are more reserved by nature. They aren’t particularly excitable. They prefer to wait till all the cards have been dealt before placing any bets.
As a result they tend to be better listeners, more thoughtful, and more observant. They get a lot more from spending time in nature and partaking in reflective activities. They value close intimate relationships as opposed to having lots of them.
Working by their lonesome doesn’t bother them so much. On the other hand, they might find a job that requires working with lots of people exhausting. An introvert probably shouldn’t marry an extrovert either. (Just imagine the horror!)
I would also argue that introverts should consciously work on their social skills.They should say yes to drinks on a Friday night every now and then. They should try striking up a conversation with a stranger. They should put their hand up and lend their thoughts.
People actually talk more when they’re happy. Like many things, it works in reverse. Opening up and talking to others will make you happier. It will increase confidence and decrease anxiety.
At the end of the day, we are social creatures living in a social world. This is where extroverts win big. Some of the biggest human rewards are social in nature.
As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who.
This is the perhaps the biggest downside to being introverted: missed connections. Always putting off a good time for the sake of the future.
But the future isn’t a given. Sometimes a bird in the hand really is worth more than two in the bush.
Just ask my friend, he’ll tell you about this crazy time when he went on three skiing holidays within two months of losing his job.
You really can’t fault the guy for living… can you?
This is part of a series on the Big Five personality traits. Please find other posts below:
- Why Understanding Personality Is Key
- The Big Five Personality Model
- Neuroticism: The Cost of Consciousness
- Conscientiousness: The Pursuit of Order
- Openness: The Gates of Mind
- Agreeableness: The Sacrifice of Self
- The Hand We’ve Been Dealt
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