complementing one another

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

– Carl Jung

If introverts and extroverts are the north and south of temperament–opposite ends of a single spectrum–then how can they possibly get along?  Yet the two types are often drawn to each other–in friendship, business, and especially romance.  These pairs can enjoy great excitement and mutual admiration, a sense that each completes the other.

Quiet by Susan Cain, (The Communication Gap, chapter 10)



From the book jacket:  “At least one-third of the people we know are introverts.  They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in terms. . . . Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so.”

Andrew Weil (author of Healthy Aging and Spontaneous Happiness), writes:

“As an introvert often called upon to behave like an introvert, I found the information in this book revealing helpful.  Drawing on neuroscientific research and many case reports, Susan Cain explains the advantages and potentials of introversion and of being quiet in a noisy world.”

Snippets of the book

. . . today we make room for a remarkably narrow range of personality styles.  We’re told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable.  We see ourselves as a nation of extroverts–which means that we’ve lost sight of who we really are.  Depending on which study you consult, one third to one half of Americans are introverts–in other words, one out of every two or three people you know. (Given that the United States is among the most extroverted of nations, the number must be at least as high in other parts of the world.) If you’re not an introvert yourself, you are surely raising, managing, married to, or coupled with one.

If these statistics surprise you, that’s probably because so many people pretend to be extroverts.  Closet introverts pass undetected on playgrounds, in high school locker rooms, and in the corridors of corporate America.

. . . It makes sense that so many introverts hide even from themselves.  We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal–the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.  The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt.  He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong.  She works well in teams and socializes in groups. We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual–the kind who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.”

. . . Introversion–along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness–is not a second-class personality, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.

. . . Without introverts, the world would be devoid of:

the theory of gravity
the theory of relativity
W. B. Yeats’s “The Second Coming”
Chopin’s nocturnes
Proust’s In Search of Lost Time
Peter Pan
Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm
The Cat in the Hat
Charlie Brown
Schindler’s List, E.T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Harry Potter

As the science journalist Winifred Gallagher write: “The glory of the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is its long association with intellectual and artistic achievement.”

. . . psychologists tend to agree on several important points: for example, that introverts and extroverts differ in the level of outside stimulation that they need to function well. Introverts feel “just right” with less stimulation, as when they sip wine with a close friend, solve a crossword puzzle, or read a book.  Extroverts enjoy the extra bang that comes from activities like meeting new people, skiing slipper slopes, and cranking up the stereo.

. . . our personalities also shape our social styles.  Extroverts are the people who will add life to your dinner party and laugh generously at your jokes.  They tend to be assertive, dominant, and in great need of company.  Extroverts think out loud and on their feet; they prefer talking to listening, rarely find themselves at a loss for words, and occasionally blurt out things they never meant to say.  They’re comfortable with conflict, but not with solitude.

Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas.  They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family.  They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation.  They tend to dislike conflict.  Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.

A few things introverts are not: The word introvert is not a synonym for hermit or misanthrope.  Introverts can be these things, but most are perfectly friendly.  One of the most humane phrases in the English language–“Only connect!”–was written by the distinctly introverted E. M. Forster in a novel exploring the question of how to achieve “human love at its height.”

Nor are introverts necessarily shy.  Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating.

. . . we are all gloriously complex individuals . . .

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