Introversion is a personality characteristic often mistaken to be the same as shyness; in many instances, however, the two couldn’t be more different from each other. In contrast to a shy person's reluctance to engage socially with the world, the introvert evaluates each opportunity to socialize on an individual basis. Arguably, a combination of an introvert and an extrovert would provide balance within a relationship, but the difference in their mediation of arousal also has the potential to repel like the opposing poles of a magnetic field.
Introverts generally experience a lower threshold at which they are emotionally aroused, explains psychologist Katherine Benziger in the guide “The Physiology of Type: Introversion and Extraversion.” This explains the inclination for an introvert to withdraw emotionally and seek quiet, independent activity. Conversely, the extrovert actively seeks stimulation to fulfill their emotional arousal needs. Although each person is an individual and experiences a unique level of emotional arousal, extroverts would appear to be more likely to engage in activities that would be overstimulating to an introvert. The attraction between introverts would make emotional sense, since neither will have an adverse effect on the other emotionally.
While the rest of the world moves at a fairly high pace, the world of the introvert occurs at exactly the pace they desire, explains clinical assistant professor of psychiatry Arnie Kozak in the online publication, “If Introverts Ruled the World.” Communication for introverts occurs after they have completed processing their thoughts, contemplated responses and predicted reactions. In contrast, small-talk, constant and potentially unnecessary communication is food for the extrovert’s very soul. Communication between introverts may be wrought with long pauses, reliance on nonverbal cues and awkward silence but the introvert focuses on quality over quantity. Introverts, continues Kozak, are more attracted to the person who, like them, contemplates then communicates.
Preferences of Introverts vs. Extraverts
Although the introvert’s natural attraction is to avoid the noisy environments and multitasking characteristic of the extravert’s world, the one-on-one relationship can be very different. Extraverts aren’t always in the midst of a highly stimulating environment and their capacity to explore the world unabashedly can be attractive, even to the staunch introvert. What is most attractive to an introverted personality, explains Kozak, is a facet of the world that explores depth, thought and a life of purpose. None of these however, are lost on the extravert, and individuals can share capacities for both introversion and extraversion. The attraction probably isn’t as much introvert to introvert, extravert to extravert or introvert to extravert as much as it is attraction to specific personality characteristics. An introvert who has become very good at regulating his emotional reactivity, might find an extraverted person more attractive than an introvert, simply because it’s a refreshing change.
Relationships Between Introverts and Extraverts
Even if an attraction presents itself, the introvert may not take action. The introvert is, by nature, drawn to autonomy and activities that he can enjoy alone. Social situations aren't the habitat you'd frequently see any introvert. Ironically though, as social workers Linda and Charlie Bloom explain in "Why Introverts and Extroverts Attract Each Other," introverts who partner with extroverts can result in a strong complimentary merging of two very different personalities. Compromise in venturing outside of the constraints defined by one's personality and being flexible can increase opportunities, as well as eyes.
- Psychology Today: Why Introverts and Extroverts Attract Each Other; Linda Bloom, L.C.S.W., Charlie Bloom, M.S.W.
- Benziger: The Physiology of Type: Introversion and Extraversion; Katherine Benziger, Ph.D.
- Psychology Today: Why Introverts Make Great Leaders - Sometimes; Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D.
- Psychology Today: If Introverts Ruled the World; Arnie Kozak, Ph.D.
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