Introverts vs Extroverts
Last week’s highlight on introverts was not meant to deride extroverts. No. It was just to correct the growing impression that in a talking society like ours, introverts are dummies. Huge mistake we all make!
Nigeria is not the only country guilty of this. The United States is. Call it the extrovert’s world. It has been documented over the years. Many studies have shown how in some societies, talkative people, for example, are rated as smarter, better-looking, more interesting, and more desirable as friends. “Velocity of speech counts as well as volume: we rank fast talkers as more competent and likable than slow ones. The same dynamics apply in groups, where research shows that the voluble are considered smarter than the reticent—even though there’s zero correlation between the gift of gab and good ideas.”
But clearly, as we showed last week, some of the world’s greatest ideas, art, and inventions came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there. As one writer observed, “Without introverts, the world would be devoid of: the theory of gravity the theory of relativity W. B. Yeats’s “The Second Coming” Chopin’s nocturnes Proust’s In Search of Lost Time Peter Pan Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm 34/929 The Cat in the Hat Charlie Brown Schindler’s List, E.T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind Google Harry Potter.”
So, there is no competition between the two personality types really. In very many cases, opposites are great compliments. I have unshakable belief that everything God created is good to serve its purpose.
As with other complementary pairings humanity would be disadvantaged without both personality styles. A classic example is the complementary roles of Rosa Parks (an introvert) and Martin Luther King Jr (an extrovert). The account by Susan Cain is beautiful:
Montgomery, Alabama. December 1, 1955. Early evening. A public bus pulls to a stop and a sensibly dressed woman in her forties gets on. She carries herself erectly, despite having spent the day bent over an ironing board in a dingy basement tailor shop at the Montgomery Fair department store. Her feet are swollen, her shoulders ache.
She sits in the first row of the Coloured section and watches quietly as the bus fills with riders. Until the driver orders her to give her seat to a white passenger.
The woman utters a single word that ignites one of the most important civil rights protests of the twentieth century, one word that helps America find its better self. The word is “No.” The driver threatens to have her arrested.
Enter Martin Luther
On the afternoon of her trial and conviction for disorderly conduct, the Montgomery Improvement Association holds a rally for Parks at the Holt Street Baptist Church, in the poorest section of town. Five thousand gather to support Parks’s lonely act of courage. They squeeze inside the church until its pews can hold no more. The rest wait patiently outside, listening through loudspeakers.
King Jr. addresses the crowd. “There comes a time that people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression,” he tells them. “There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amidst the piercing chill of an Alpine November.”
He praises Parks’s bravery and hugs her. She stands silently, her mere presence enough to galvanize the crowd. The association launches a city-wide bus boycott that lasts 381 days. And America changed forever.
The Lesson here: a great orator refusing to give up his seat on a segregated bus wouldn’t have had the same effect as a modest woman who’d clearly prefer to keep silent but for the exigencies of the situation. And Parks didn’t have the gift to thrill a crowd if she’d tried to stand up and announce that she had a dream.
The right husband-wife combination
So, together we make the world! What I still have to find out is whether the two personality types make a great couple in marriage. Introvert wife, introvert husband in a home in a quiet neighbourhood? Chai! I am even feeling the cold as I write it. If both are extroverts, ha! The home is better imagined-talk, talk! So what do psychologists and relationship experts say is the best combination? Sorry, I have to come back on this. Note before then that former US President Bill Clinton is an extrovert, but his wife, Hillary, is an introvert.
Science says so
Let’s conclude this part of the series by restating the obvious: existence of the two personality types is real. It has also been scientifically proven. In the most recent study, extroverts and introverts have been shown to differ strongly in how their brains process rewarding experiences. The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, found that extroverts are more likely to associate the rush of a feel-good brain chemical with the environment they are in at the time. The findings could help explain why extroverts seek the high of a wild party, whereas introverts may prefer a quiet cup of tea at home.
Researchers have found that extroverts prefer immediate gratification and focus more on faces. On the other end of the spectrum, introverts tend to be overwhelmed by too much stimulation and pay more attention to detail, which is reflected in increased brain activity when processing visual information.