What is an Extrovert? Everything You Need to Know
If you’re naturally the life of the party, we may be talking about you.
In many ways, your personality is what makes you, you. The qualities you have inside affect the outside world, and will affect how you relate to people, the decisions you make, and how you emotionally react to the circumstances in your external reality.
The field of psychology has made huge strides in determining how to define and understand personality conceptually. Some people tend to have bigger personalities than others, meaning that they can be talkative, energetic and generally fun to be around. You know when these individuals walk into a room, because they usually light up the place.
Typically, we call these people extroverts.
As far as personality goes, extroverts are the more social of the human bunch. Whether you identify as one, are married to one or spend time with an extroverted best friend, you likely know a little bit about these lively people. Here’s a deep dive into what an extrovert actually is, and what kinds of characteristics they usually have – for better or for worse.
What are the personality traits of an extrovert?
Extrovert, noun or verb? As a noun, an extrovert is described as “a lively and confident person who enjoys being with other people.” As a verb, it means “to direct” outward or toward things and endeavours outside of the self.
The term extrovert originated in the 1906s with psychologist Carl Jung, who was the first to use the term in his work on personality, although in his time it was spelled “extravert.” He classified people into two groups, extrovert and its opposite personality style, the introvert.
The terms were based on where people were understood to derive their energy from. Jung theorized that extroversion is defined by being excited and energized around other people, to gain energy from social situations. On the other hand, introverts turn inwards, and introversion is defined by feeling drained by social situations, craving alone time to recharge.
While extroverted personality types are typically more outgoing, loud and talkative, introverts may be more reserved. At the very least, they need to balance out the spurts of being an outgoing, friendly person with rest periods, where they’re alone. According to a great man peer reviewed studies, social events tend to zap their energy. (You can take a Jungian personality test to get a breakdown of whether you’re a natural extrovert or introvert, among other qualities.)
Since Jung’s time, scientists in the field of psychology have dived even deeper into how personality works. Newer research has been able to uncover hormonal and genetic theories of personality, which show that our inner traits are not necessarily defined by upbringing or socialization, but are more innate.
In fact, a study in 2007 discovered that your DNA may actually determine the way your body responds to dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in how we feel pleasure. In this way, your genes can predict your personality traits, particularly if you feel happy being around other people (extrovert) or more satisfied spending time alone (introvert).
How are personality types measured?
According to modern psychology, extroversion (and introversion for that matter) aren’t black-or-white traits. These aspects of personality are measured on a spectrum.
Some people are extremely outgoing and highly extroverted, while others are extroverted in certain situations or in particular ways. Having more extrovert tendencies in one’s personality is more common—human beings are social animals after all so most people have at least a little bit of extrovert within them.
So, we know now that extroversion is a continuum. It can also change over time. Some people are more introverted as kids, and then come into their own socially later in life. Others are outgoing as young adults and then shift into nesting mode when they have families, becoming more introverted.
It’s normal for your personality to shift with your life circumstances, or in certain situations when you might feel more social or more shy. For example, even extroverts can be intimidated with large groups or new friends. Very few people naturally feel comfortable holding court in front of a group of strangers!
What are some common positive traits if the person concerned is an extrovert?
We know that extroverts are social creatures but what specifically makes them tick? Here’s a breakdown of the qualities of this personality type:
Enjoys communicating by talking
Extroverts love talking things out. They process emotions by telling stories and talking through problems and they enjoy communicating verbally in general. While some people don’t like to talk about thoughts and feelings, extroverted people feel compelled to speak to others in order to better process their lives and the various situations that come up.
Likes being the center of attention
While introverts shy away from the spotlight, extroverts are the opposite—they relish it. They don’t mind speaking in front of the crowd, regaling a table full of friends with a crazy story or performing for others. In fact, they get energized by being the center of attention.
Has lots of friends
Extroverts typically have large friend groups and get energy by hanging out in group settings. Parties, group trips, meet-ups for trivia night, brunch or happy hour typically fill up an extrovert’s social calendar. These events feel exciting to outgoing extroverts and make them feel personally fulfilled.
Looks to outside sources for inspiration
Just like how extrinsic motivation is an outside source of your energy and motivation, when extroverts are mulling over a problem or are excited by a new project, they enjoy gaining insight from other people. While introverts may go inward for inspiration, extroverts direct their issues (or personal wins) outward.
Extroverts tend to have a hand in all sorts of interests and activities. Rather than devote themselves to one sport, activity or subject, they like to have various passions and hobbies to keep them busy and active.
Appreciates group work
People who are extroverted enjoy working with others as a team. They seek out collaborative experiences, both in work settings and in leisure activities, like playing team sports. On the opposite side of things, introverts may prefer working alone or with just one other person.
Not afraid to take risks
Research has found that extroverts are uniquely rewarded chemically when they take risks, as measured by releases of dopamine, that pressure-related neurotransmitter, in their brains when they engage in chance-taking behavior. Introverts, by contrast, may be more risk averse.
Some limitations of being extroverted
Being extroverted does come with some drawbacks, or rather areas that extroverts might be more self-aware of. The following traits uncover the less positive sides of being extroverted. If you’re an extrovert, you may want to be more cognizant of these aspects of your personality:
Needs to have the spotlight
While having the floor is fun for extroverts, it’s important to be sure that you’re giving others a chance too. You don’t want to monologue while your dinner guests grow tired of your story or be the only one talking when you go out for coffee with a friend. Be aware of those around you and look for cues (yawns, people looking away) that you may have gone on too long.
Talks more than listens
On a similar note, extroverted people sometimes forget to ask other people questions and invite conversation. Especially if you’re hanging with more introverted people, you likely need to be a little more aware of how much talk time you’ve had versus the others in your group.
Work on asking thoughtful questions and not always jumping into to speak if there’s a lull in conversation.
Tends to act first before thinking
Extroverts tend to be impulsive, diving right into acting (or speaking) without always taking the time to think things through. While it can be hard to not do this, you can work on taking a deep breath before you make a quick decision or perhaps writing a draft email or text (and waiting an hour before sending).
Feels isolated by too much time spent alone
When you’re been on your own for too long, you may start feeling lonely or depressed since your nature as an extrovert is to want to be around other people. If you’re not able to get together with others in person, remember to reach out by text or phone to a friend if you’re starting to feel isolated.
Sometimes isolation can lead to depression, which makes it harder to pick up the phone and connect with others. Learn to identify when you start to feel down in your own thoughts so you can have a plan ready for pulling yourself out.
The joy of extroversion
All in all, extroversion can be fun and fulfilling. Your personality style is confident, social and communal. Your extroverted and introverted friends alike enjoy your presence—the former loves to be out and about with you while the latter loves how you can do the social heavy lifting in a group conversation.
Naturally, like anyone else, extroverts can get burnt out on being the life of the party. Sometimes you just need to chill and recharge on your own every now and then. (Remember, the whole extroverts/introverts thing is a spectrum, right?) Take a tip from your more introverted cohorts and take breaks from your busy social life when you need to.
Finding balance in your life is, after all, the true key to a joyful existence.