What really makes people who they are? Personality is defined as “the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s unique character.” It is often misunderstood. Businessmen and teachers have been trying to figure out how to use the personality of their workers and students to maximize productivity since at least the 1970s. Personality is correlated with learning and productivity. But does it relate to well-being and happiness?
Extrovert vs Introvert
Two major personality "types"—really, people who fall at two ends of a spectrum—are extroverts and introverts. They each have characteristic ways of interacting with the world and processing information.
Extroverts are “social butterflies” who thrive under social stimulation. They focus on their external environment, the people and activities around them. Extroverts often thrive in active, fast-paced jobs, such as politics, teaching, and sales, where quick decisions are commonplace. Extroverts learn by doing and enjoy talking through ideas and problems.
Introverts enjoy spending time alone or in small groups of people, but may get overwhelmed in new situations or in large groups of people. They prefer to focus on one task at a time and observe a situation before jumping in. Fields that may tap an introvert’s strengths include science, writing, and art.
Issues may arise when an introvert and extrovert interact. An introvert may view an extrovert as bossy and overbearing whereas an extrovert may view an introvert as stuck up or shy. Introverts are not necessarily shy, however. Shyness is a feeling of uneasiness or anxiety experienced in social situations, and shy people often crave social interaction but avoid it for fear of criticism or rejection.
Teamed up, the extrovert and the introvert may form a powerful team. Steve Jobs, a charismatic extrovert, teamed up with introvert Steve Wozniak to co-found Apple.
Are Extroverts Happier Than Introverts?
Current tests consistently rate extroverts higher on the happiness scale than introverts. However, many of these tests measure the degree of happiness using activities like socializing and interacting with the outside world, both of which extroverts need to thrive! Introverts do experience happiness when they around other people, but are most happy when participating in lower-key activities.
There also appears to be a cultural factor affecting the happiness level of extroverts and introverts. Many Western cultures tend to favor extroverted personalities, people who act quickly, appear friendly and are outgoing. Introverts often feel pressure to be extroverts, which can lead to anxiety or lowered self-esteem. Introverts in other cultures may feel accepting of their inherent personality. Research suggests the keys to happiness lie in having a sense of purpose, self-acceptance, and a supportive social network, which both introverts and extroverts can form.