Introvert? Extrovert? Neither or Both?


I’ve always been so confused by the whole Introvert/Extrovert thing. Because I identify more with the Introvert side of things—I recharge by being alone, not around a bunch of people, I’d rather read than anything go to a party—but, I’m also friendly, I enjoy new friends and I have no problem talking to the girl behind me in the checkout line. So what the heck am I?


Recently, I noticed people are shocked when I say I’m an Introvert. They react as if I’m insulting myself and they want to convince me that I really am an Extrovert and all is well. Haha. Well, I don’t think one is good and one is bad. I think they are just different ways of moving through life. So, yes, I lean toward the Introverted side of things, but apparently a good actress can seem like an Extrovert when inside she just wants to go home and curl up with her book.


Ask anyone I went to high school with…I was rather shy. I did not like to be the center of attention. I was quiet unless I knew you really well. The only time I put myself out there was when I was singing and it took a lot of convincing on the part of my music teacher to get me up on that stage. And even though people said I looked calm, I wasn’t. I was terrified. I just didn’t show it. (I still feel that way when I’m in a room full of people I don’t know. Calm on the outside, sick on the inside. But at least now I know why I feel that way!)


Once I graduated, I found that I had to be more outgoing to be successful at my job. So I adapted. I became more Extroverted when I needed to be. But despite what people think, I didn’t actually turn into an Extrovert.


Still, over the years, I’ve been confused about how my brain actually works. I thought I was supposed to be one or the other. But I finally came to a place of realizing I just didn’t fit the mold and I started thinking of myself as an Outgoing Introvert.


And then, last week, my sister Leah (I included her name because she’s leans toward Extrovert. They like seeing their name in print.) sent me a Wall Street Journal article that made so much sense. Did you know that there is a third “vert?” It’s true. There are Extroverts, Introverts and Ambiverts.


An Ambivert is in the center of that spectrum. They can lean more toward Extrovert when needed and then back toward Introvert when that is called for. The majority of people actually fall into this category! Why had I never heard of it before? It would have saved me years of confusion when answering questions on personality quizzes. 


So, it turns out I’m an Ambivert (and you probably are too). It’s not an either/or situation. It’s more of a both/and situation. I’m probably 70% Introvert, 30% Extrovert and I can adapt toward either side, depending on the situation.


Why does any of this matter? Well, I think it’s good to understand how we tick. Learning that Introverts recharge by being alone may give someone with that tendency the feeling that they aren’t strange because they’d rather be alone after a long day at work.


Or, it may help the “non-stop talker Extrovert”  realize that not everyone is like him and he might want to give his girlfriend some alone time—not because she doesn’t like being around him but because she simply needs to recharge.


Or it may help a mom to understand why her six-year-old son asks to go on a play-date every day after school when she’s not wired that way and would rather just stay home. He needs that recharging time with people. It’s how he’s wired. (Not that I’m saying he should actually get to go on a play date every day. But you get the idea.)


If you’re not a believer in all the personality profiles and Introvert/Extrovert talk, that’s okay…not everyone is interested in this kind of stuff. But I know a lot of people who are. As a matter of fact, I wrote a blog post a few years ago about the DiSC personality traits and I still get hits on it every day. It’s one of my most read posts. People are fascinated by this stuff and I am too. So tell me, dear reader, where do you think you fall on the Introvert/Extrovert spectrum?


*Note: When using the term Introvert, I’m talking about someone who leans heavily to that end of the spectrum. And the same with Extrovert. I don’t believe anyone is completely one or the other. But I think there are some people who are pretty strongly to one side.


Photo Cred: Nguyen Hung Vu (Introvert)

Dominic Alves (extrovert)


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What kind of animal are you?

Okay, that title is a multiple choice question, not a rhetorical one. What kind of animal are you? Here are your choices:

  1. Lion
  2. Otter
  3. Golden Retriever
  4. Beaver

Now, if you’re jumping out of your seat right now with your hand waving in the air, saying, “Oooh, tell me which one I am!!” you can take a seat. You’re an Otter.

If you’d like more time to think this over and more specific details about the animals, you’re probably a Beaver.

If you’re waiting patiently for me to tell you which one you are, you’re probably a Golden Retriever.

And if you think this list is silly and you’d rather use your own list, you’re probably a Lion.


While that was not a scientific experiment, and no one is strictly all one personality type, it is interesting to see how similar we can be to the personality profiles that are out there. The one I’m highlighting today is from a children’s book by Gary Smalley and John Trent called, The Treasure Tree. My son, “Seven,” and I read it last week and I was amazed how quickly he figured out which animals were represented in our family and circle of friends.

The story follows four animals (you guessed it): A lion, otter, beaver and golden retriever who are best friends heading out on an adventure to find a treasure tree. Four keys must be found and each of the different personalities comes in handy to help find the keys.

It’s a great way to introduce young children to the concept of personality styles. I love the idea of kids learning about this because I desperately wish I had understood it at a younger age. I think it would have helped me to be more secure in who I was and not as easily intimidated by people with different personalities.

You may not be familiar with these particular personality styles so I’ll give a quick overview. (For today, I’m using the animal names used in the Treasure Tree but in parenthesis, I’ll indicate the corresponding personality style from the popular DiSC profile.) Keep in mind, most people are a combination of two or three of the styles, with one or two being the most predominant. For example, I’m a Golden Retriever-Otter with some Lion thrown in for good measure. As you read through the characteristics, I bet people will automatically come to mind for each animal.

Lion (Direct)

Lions are extroverts who are task oriented. They are leaders, partly because they enjoy being in control. They love a challenge and they expect people to follow them and do things their way. They make decisions quickly, without showing any fear. They have to be careful that they don’t come across as arrogant and unyielding.

Otter (Influential)

Otters are extroverts who are people oriented. They love to talk and they’re the life of the party. You know it when they walk into a room because they make their presence known, often speaking or laughing loudly. They are fun and spontaneous, playful and enthusiastic. On the down-side they tend to be disorganized, chronically late and have difficulty focusing on tasks. They despise details.

Golden Retriever (Steady)

Retrievers are introverts who are people oriented. They are kind and compassionate. They like security and enjoy a small group of close friends. They make others feel welcomed and loved. They are great listeners and are loyal friends. They avoid conflict and change, preferring to keep the status quo. They can be stubborn and they don’t always like to try new things.

Beaver (Cautious)

Beavers are introverts who are task oriented. They are organized and they love the details, always asking lots of questions. They finish what they start. They can be very creative and inventive. They like order and predicability. They have to be careful not to be too critical of others or expect others to live up to their high personal standards.


If you’re a mom, I’ll bet you can see your kids in some of those descriptions. I literally have one of each. And it helps me to know that my Golden Retriever-Beaver doesn’t want to sing in the school musical because it’s just not how he’s wired. I have some Otter in me so I like to be on stage and for a while, I truly couldn’t understand why he preferred to be on the stage crew, behind the scenes. I just thought he needed more encouragement to get out on the stage. But as I applied what I know about personality styles I realized that he has no Otter in him so it’s completely understandable that he doesn’t want to be the center of attention.

On the other hand, I have an Otter who never stops talking. Every day, when he gets home from school, he asks who he can go play with. Every day! His social calendar exhausts me. And while I set limits because I can’t allow “play-dates” every day, I understand that being social is hard-wired for him. He thrives on social interaction. Knowing that helps me put more effort into arranging for friends to come over.

How about you? Do you see yourself in these descriptions? Do you see your kids, spouse or friends? Learning more about how the personality styles interact can be incredibly beneficial in all your relationships. I could probably write 5 more posts on this subject, there is so much to talk about (there’s the Otter in me, coming out again.) But for now, I’ll just link you up with a good resource. For a free, printable personality test from Gary Smalley, click here. (In linking you to this online test, I am not endorsing this particular website. I am an Otter, not a Beaver and therefore I have not looked at all the pages on said website, so click at your own risk ;))

One last thought…the Golden Retriever in me is feeling a little sick to my stomach thinking about the fact that I have my first book signing on Saturday (click here for more info). The idea of the unknown…having to talk to strangers…all of that is so uncomfortable! But the Otter in me is jumping up and down saying, “Hey! Come to my book signing on Saturday! It’s from 1-3 pm and there will be chocolate!” So, if you’re available you can come comfort the Golden or celebrate with the Otter. Either way, I hope to see you there!



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Why You Messin’ With My Plans?

I learned something new about my husband recently. After 21 years of marriage…I learned something new! I was telling my friend Kristy that I was frustrated because I had called him when he was at Lowes and asked him to stop at the grocery store and grab something we needed. He acted irritated and gave me push back. Said he didn’t have time. I was ticked because I feel like that kind of thing happens a lot. I’ve interpreted it like this for years: If it’s not his idea, he acts like it won’t work. It drives me crazy!

Now Kristy and I had already discussed how different our personalities are. She’s an administrative whiz. She’s organized and likes to plan things. If you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time, you will know that I am not those things! (You can check out my post on my glaring faults here. Or one that highlights my difficulty with clutter here.) So when I mentioned why I was irritated with my hubby, she nodded and said, very matter-of-factly, “You changed his plans.” I what? “He already had his plan for while he was out and you changed it. I have trouble changing my plans too.”

WOW. I had never thought of it like that before. And it sounded so rational when she said it. I’m a FBTSOMP kinda girl. I “fly by the seat of my pants.” If someone calls me and asks me to add a stop to my itinerary, I say, “Sure” cuz it doesn’t bother me. (Incidentally, I rarely make all the stops on my list. But I know that I won’t. It’s just how I am. I’ve accepted it. Hubby always makes all the stops on his list. He plans it and he does it. End of story.) So I had never considered that when I ask him to do things that are last minute, I’m messing with his plans and its uncomfortable for him…it adds stress to his life. He likes to plan and he likes to stick to his plan. And that’s okay. It’s how he’s wired. I was looking at the situation through the lens of my personality…forgetting to take his personality into account. (And I never realized it all these years!)

I told him about what Kristy said and he nodded. As if it were just common knowledge that his frustration was because I was messing with his plans. (I think all you organized people must have a club where you sit around and discuss these things…or more likely, you don’t discuss them. Someone presents it with a power point with lots and lots of bullet points. If my peeps…you know, the disorganized FBTSOMP people, got together there would be no bullet points, most of us would be late but there would definitely be chocolate and cool music playing.)

But I digress (shocker!) Back to my story…ironically, ever since my talk with Bill, he’s been more willing to change his plans when I ask. (And he says to me every time, like a proud school-child with an A+ paper, “Did you see how I did that? I just changed my plans.” It’s quite cute.) And I’ve been more careful not to try and change things if I don’t really need to. A little understanding goes a long way.

I learned early on that just because someone sees things differently than me, doesn’t mean they are wrong. I love learning about the differences in personality traits and how they affect communication. It’s that old “walk a mile in his shoes” idea that we so often lose sight of. How about you? Is there someone in your life that is just different from you? Do you fall into the trap of thinking they are wrong just because they are different? Can you think of a time when different personality styles caused miscommunication? How did you work things out?

Are you an Introvert? Extrovert? Thinking? Feeling? Dominant Director? Influencer? Cautious Thinker? Security Minded? Phlegmatic? Sanguine? Melancholy? The list of personality styles is endless and dates back to Ancient Greece. But if you’ve never taken a look at any of these theories, it’s really worth a little of your time. In my next post I’ll go into more detail about personality traits/styles and give you some resources to learn more.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope your summer is going well! Try walking a mile in someone else’s shoes…but not when it’s really hot out.




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