The first dimension of behavior in psychological type theory is how our Energy is gathered.
Each behavior is on a continuum with a preference for one or the other, the degree of which falling somewhere along the continuum. A person could be a strong Extravert meaning he’d fall completely to the left of the continuum or a person could be more towards the middle, meaning closer towards the fulcrum on the continuum. We are, however, one or the other not both. Even though we use both preferences throughout our day, we don’t use each preference with equal ease. Our inborn preference is our natural strength.
Extraverts are energized from the outside world of people, places and things and Introverts are energized by their internal world of ideas, emotions and impressions. Extraverts are energized by being around people and Introverts are drained by being around groups of people too much and need time alone to recharge. Extraverts often feel they are the one to initiate contact while Introverts seem to hold back from initiating contact.
This preference is not gender based – in other words there is no difference in the percentage of men and women who are Extraverts or Introverts. It is the preference for one or the other that influences behavior, not the gender.
Extraverts often tackle many projects at once and in their work style prefer an open door policy and are seen out walking around the office. Introverts discourage interruptions, prefer to work alone and like to immerse themselves in a project. Extraverts are action oriented taking on many different tasks at a time and Introverts prefer to work at a steadier pace, thinking through how they will do the job before they begin.
Extraverts like to think out loud and really need to talk something through in order to understand it, while Introverts prefer to carefully think things through and even mull them over. This doesn’t mean that Introverts are shy. To the contrary, their process is internal and observational.
All of this information seems very straightforward and helpful and so we may ask ourselves, So what? Why are you spending time talking about this in an article? I’ve observed a lot of friction and stress between people in business and personal relationships that can be easily solved with an understanding and use of psychological type theory.
For instance, regarding a couple I know that is on the verge of divorce (he is an Introvert and she is an Extravert), a lot of their communication problems could be solved by an understanding and application of personality type theory.
The husband (whom I’ll call Art) is an Introvert. Art is in business for himself and works alone out of the home. His business is successful requiring intense concentration and focus as well as accuracy for large amounts of data. Art cares deeply about people and tends to keep these opinions to himself. Art is a very private person.
The wife (Mary) is an Extravert and a stay at home mom who is very active in her children’s life and their religion. Mary tends to take on a lot of projects at once and likes to provide service for lots of people, taking her from the home a lot. When Mary is involved in a project the whole family and house is involved, including the dog. If someone calls that needs assistance, Mary jumps in the car and is off to provide. Mary is happiest surrounded by lots of people and serves as the Activities Director for their Church requiring being a hostess for functions of up to 350+ people at a time.
Art feels unappreciated by Mary and Mary thinks Art is too harsh because he seems to get stressed out and lose his temper easily. How could an understanding of the behavior dimension of how our Energy is gathered assist Mary and Art in having a better relationship and eliminate a lot of the tension in their relationship?
For one thing, just knowing that there is a difference between how each of them gathers their energy and what that means will be amazingly freeing in how they interact. The common way people interact is to project their way of behaving onto others. We look through our lens of behavior and expectation at others and expect and/or judge them if they don’t behave likewise.
If Art was informed about Extraverts and how they are energized outside of themselves, he would know that Mary requires interaction with others in order to relate to the world. He would understand that if Mary spends too much time alone, she can get depressed. And, if Mary was informed about Introverts, she would understand that Art requires time alone to plan his day, work his plan and think about his work. Mary would know that Art finds it tiring and draining to constantly be around and interacting with a group of people. He likes to plan and schedule the time he spends socially. Mary would understand that if Art is pushed into too much Extraverting, he is likely to become stressed-out and lose his patience/temper.
I’m an Introvert and didn’t find this out until I was in my early 40’s. As I learned more about my preference for being energized as an Introvert, I began to manage my activities making sure that I had time alone for reflection and thinking things through. I suffered from tension headaches all of my life that always lasted two to three days at a time – every week. When I became educated about type, I realized that all of the Extraverting I was doing, because I thought that was what you were supposed to do in life, created physical stress and was the reason I was getting these crippling headaches. In fact, once I planned my interaction with people better, the headaches stopped. I haven’t had such a headache now in over a decade. And, my health is excellent in large part, because of being able to manage my activities through the knowledge of how I gather Energy and making sure that I don’t overextend myself through my interaction with other people.
There are four behavior dimensions in personality type: how our Energy is focused, how we gather Information, how we make Decisions, and how we take Action. Energy is the first dimension and all four are equally important. Having knowledge and understanding of our preferences and the preferences in each of the four dimensions of our loved ones and associates can profoundly affect the quality of our life and relationships.
The percentage of Extraverts is 50% and the percentage of Introverts is 50% in the United States.