Last week I talked about the beauty of a relationship with an introvert. Well, now it’s time to celebrate the extrovert. Perhaps less likely to be victims of stereotypes, extroverts are still often painted with broad strokes, and doing so misses many of the nuances of this special personality type. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the brash woman speaking too loudly to the waiter across the restaurant is a “typical extrovert.” Her behavior has nothing to do with being a “vert” of any kind. She is simply rude and probably has low self-esteem. Also, pressured speech (when someone cannot stop talking) is rarely evidence of a personality type and more often a symptom of something else. Studies show that men typically talk more than women, whether introvert or extrovert, but a healthy extrovert of either gender is not to be defined by constant patter.
What makes someone an extrovert is not so much what they do, as how they process, and what their affinities are as they move through the world.
How do they operate?
- Extroverts often process information by speaking. They do well “talking it out,” which means they sometimes speak unformulated ideas, though others might react as if they are their final thoughts on a matter (don’t do that). It is often through the process of conversation with others that extroverts find the answers to their questions.
- Unlike introverts who “refuel” by going inward, extroverts rev their engines by being around people, out in the world, doing things.
- Extroversion has nothing to do with optimism or pessimism, but often an extrovert will seem more upbeat by being very high energy.
- Not your typical homebody, the classic extrovert enjoys a continuously changing environment. An extrovert is less likely to become overly stressed, for example, by a job that requires constant travel, also due, in part, to a general comfort about interacting with so many different people.
Researchers have defined two types of extroverts—agentic and affiliative. Some extroverts are both at once, and others will be one or the other. Agentic extroverts are happy in the limelight. They are social leaders. Not all leaders are extroverts (Martin Luther King Jr. was an introvert, for example), but that social magnetism that some people have is often a sure sign that they are extroverts. This kind of extrovert might be the person in a meeting with the I-won’t-take-no-for-an-answer attitude who uses charm and force of personality to get results, rather than power point presentations and a preponderance of information. Affiliative extroverts are defined more by their bonds with other people. They surround themselves with large groups of meaningful friends. They possess an effortless social warmth, and are typically affectionate, caring, and magnetic.
Why is it awesome to be in a relationship with an extrovert? Here are 6 reasons:
- They are great communicators. Yes, that means they will talk readily, but a balanced extrovert with healthy self-esteem knows that listening is also part of communicating. They want to express themselves and engage with you in deep meaningful conversations. Have you ever been in a relationship where you just wished that your partner would please, please, please share his or her thoughts and feelings? Well, an extrovert will do that readily. Extroverts are adept at drawing you from your shell and encouraging you to stick a toe out of your emotional comfort zone. When extroverts say, “Tell me more,” they mean it!
- They love physical connection. Part of the extrovert’s social nature often includes a natural comfort level with hugging and touching. They are also generous at sharing. When your car breaks down, ask an extrovert to borrow his.
- They are entertaining and easy to be around. The generosity of spirit, warmth, and energy-levels of an extrovert are contagious and make them the life of the party. An extrovert can have a mellow personality, but still exude that dynamic spirit that draws you in.
- They make things happen. Extroverts, especially the agentic kind, turn ideas into reality. Your lifelong dream of travelling to China may come true because your extrovert partner just decided to figure out how to make it happen. Starting that business you’ve been talking about suddenly seems totally viable when you talk it out with an extrovert!
- They are, in fact, open books. What you see is what you get. You never have to wonder what extroverts are up to or what their intentions are. Just look. It will be obvious. Or ask. They’ll tell you. Whereas an introvert processes so much inwardly that you don’t always know where he or she is at any given moment, extroverts will process out loud without even being asked, so you usually have a pretty good idea of what’s up.
- They include you in everything. No one is ever left behind for outings or gatherings. You will never be lonely in this relationship! (If you are an introvert, you can always say, “Go ahead without me this time, Dear.”)
If you don’t recognize yourself as 100% extro or intro, that is not surprising. Many people fall somewhere on the continuum and are called ambiverts. If that is true for you or your partner, you may find that, nevertheless, you have “leanings” in one direction or another.
If you are an introvert.
Balancing your relationship with an extrovert can be a challenge, but your differences can strengthen and support each other. Good communication, some negotiating, and a genuine commitment to the relationship is key. Most important of all is that you each understand and accept the way each of you is. It does an introvert no good to “think” her extrovert partner “should” spend more time alone. And it does not help for an extrovert to push his introverted partner to “have people over more.”
You can do things separately without damaging the relationship, especially if it is important to your personal wellbeing. I know a couple who spend lots of time apart. Diane likes to be at home, occasionally seeing one or two close friends, while Mike craves the liveliness of his pick-up basketball games and drinking beers with his friends afterwards. He travels for work and Diane is content to stay home. When they are together, it is great. And while Diane is going out more than she used to, Mike is finding it fun to stay home and cozy up with family now and then. Diane also figured out quickly that Mike, as an extrovert, needs to have a plan. He gets bored and antsy if he does not know what they are going to do on Saturday afternoon. And for his part, Mike knows that Diane refuels by being alone, so he gives her the space she needs.
If you both are extroverts.
Two extroverts can work well together with less negotiating, perhaps, since they both delight in similar situations and desire certain levels of activity and socialization. However, two of this typically high-energy type in a relationship can lead to overload or increased stress. When my client, Sam, started a new relationship with someone as extroverted as he was, he did not sleep for a month! He and Roberta were out most evenings, then would come home and talk all night. He was fired up by the energy-level of their relationship at first but then realized something had to give. As they settled into their relationship, they set boundaries so they could, for one thing, sleep!
Dedication to the relationship, a willingness to become healthily attached, and good communication are key, but just as important is that you do not neglect your own needs. If you do neglect them, the relationship is, by definition, imbalanced, and that does not help anyone! Regardless of whether you are in an “alike” relationship or if your partner is on the other end of the spectrum, finding fulfillment is about balancing your needs with the needs of the relationship. Here’s wishing you a joyful, balanced partnership!