Introverts Are Happy Too!

As I predicted in my previous entry “Don’t Worry, Be Happy(er)”, many of my introverted friends felt a need to push back on the assertion that acting extroverted can make anyone – including introverts – feel happier.  Comments such as, “The study was obviously conducted by extroverts”, or “extroverts only think they are happier because they aren’t in touch with themselves” have been hurled at me by introverted friends.  We’ve also had very good discussion within the comments of this blog where I noticed in particular the observations that “Maybe extroverts value happiness more” and “Maybe extroverts are happier because society rewards extroverted behavior”.

Happiness / Unhappiness Levels By Personality Type

First, I think it’s important to note – neither our poll, nor the Wake Forest study concluded that introversion = unhappiness.  In fact, in general, more introverts report themselves to be happy than unhappy.  So, if you are an introvert, the odds are still 2-to-1 that you consider yourself a happy person – unless you are a Rational Architect (INTP), where the happy/unhappy ratio is close to even. (Aside: having spent a large percentage of my professional life working with teams comprised largely of INTP’s, my snarky comment is, “INTP’s are happiest when they have something to be unhappy about”).

Second, the Wake Forest study didn’t conclude that introverts would be happier by becoming extroverts – which would be 180 degrees counter to Keirsey Temperament Theory (see Different Drummers), but rather that anyone could feel happier at a particular moment by doing something that they considered extroverted behavior.  So, if you are an extremely shy individual, you probably won’t make yourself happy by chatting up complete strangers in line at the post office.  But, perhaps singing out loud with the radio in your car will feel good.

Beyond the two dimensional look at extroversion and introversion, since this blog is about Keirsey Temperament Theory, here are another set of ideas at increasing one’s happiness level:

  • Guardians are at their best when acting in a logistical role.   They derive their self image though dependability, beneficence, and respectability.  They are likely to increase their happiness by organizing something – from straightening up the basement, to planning a social function.
  • Idealists are at their best in diplomatic roles.  They derive their self image through empathy, benevolence, and authenticity.  They are likely to increase their happiness by providing aid – from listening to a friend’s troubles to joining a worthy cause.
  • Artisans are at their best in tactical roles.  They derive their self image through artistic expression, audacity, and adaptability.  They are likely to increase their happiness by acting spontaneously – from heading to the beach for the day to using their favorite tools to create a masterpiece.
  • Rationals are at their best in strategic roles.  They derive their self image through ingenuity, autonomy, and being resolute.  They are likely to increase their happiness by improving their competence at a system they are interested in – from reading a book that stretches their knowledge to building a new model of complexity theory.

2 thoughts on “Introverts Are Happy Too!”

  1. If we define “happy” as being effective or well-adapted, characterized by well-being and an abiding sense of contentment… Then…

    Introverts wouldn’t feel a need to “push back” on assertions that “acting extroverted” would make anyone (including introverts) feel happier. Contentment draws from the sole satisfaction of knowing one’s self well, having satisfaction with their uniqueness and place in life, and, thusly, not having the need that one must compare oneself to another…

    Thusly, “comments”, such as: 1) “the study had to have been obviously conducted by extroverts” might more effectively read that the study was conducted by individuals lacking knowledge of the individual psychology of contentment and self-esteem…

    … or 2) “extroverts only think they are happier because they aren’t in touch with themselves”, would seem to reveal that convey that certain introverts might mistakenly believe than only introverts are truly happy…

    … or 3) “extroverts value happiness more” might be deciphered to say that only foot-stomping, leg-slapping, tooth-grinnin’ larger-than-life displays (a.k.a. ‘perky’?) are the only happy individuals? Surely, another misnomer…

    … or 4) “society rewards extroverted behavior”. Now, let’s stop here. There is some validity to this.

    Our culture shapes and reinforces the ESTJ personality from the first days of school (or earlier). For example:

    E: one must speak out and participate in class, according to educationally valued E-type gestures. (And God bless the shy, voiceless introverts who feel lost and don’t belong! — and aren’t those the very misguided and lost souls who are the very ones killing themselves and others in our one-size-fits-all schools?];

    S: just the facts, Mam’, just the facts — data, data, more data and details are, seemingly, valued more (than “N” imagination);

    T: the Thinking process IS what’s measured and reinforced over and over and over in tests;

    J: and meeting deadlines and being organized and doing and having things turned in on time is paramount!

    All of these ESTJ processes are highly valued and reinforced in our American “it’s-all-about-business-and-the-buck” culture. It’s not really “of the people, by the people and for the people”, but, rather, for the success of the economy…

    Then, again, other cultures emphasize and value other temperamental traits more, too. Each culture is like an individual dysfunctional family, passing its own dysfunction along….

    The very fact that we’re having a discussion about the value of extroversion over introversion is indicative of this highly ingrained and learned prejudice.


  2. Thank you, Linda, for that post, I think you hit the nail on the head with your explanation of modern cultures such as our own and the personalities they expect us to imitate. However I would like to take a closer look at the first half of your post.

    As far as your definition of happiness, although I would agree that a sense of contentment, and of being well-adapted and effective can produce long-term happiness, I am under the impression that these articles are referring to positive emotion in general, related to your definition in that a level of comfort with ones self seems to be involved.

    But proceeding with your definition, I would disagree with your claim that an introvert who is comfortable with his self ought not “feel a need to “push back” on assertions that “acting extroverted” would make anyone… feel happier. ” I have read some very well thought out and sincere disagreements to the idea that extroversion produces happiness from the comments on the blog in question. Having said so, it seems to me that sincere disagreement, as opposed to blind offense, is an appropriate grounds for rebuttal of any asserted idea.

    My view on the matter of the relation between extroversion and happiness for an introvert comes from personal experience and is as follows: Different personality traits encourage the development of different abilities and preferences. Therefore, extroverts are more accustomed to taking joy in extroverted activity whereas introverts are more accustomed to taking joy in introverted activity.

    I therefore think that an introvert is capable of gaining happiness from an extroverted activity, given a comfortable environment in which to do so, and a limit on the time they spend engaging in the activity. The same goes for extroverts participating in introverted activity. I think the difference in happiness levels reported by the studies were likely due to the strain created by social expectations.

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