Are Extroverts Happier Than Introverts?

Side view of arguing couple

I am an extrovert who does an introvert’s job. I’ve worked from home for most of my life in the most solitary of pursuits: writer. Which is why, at the end of the day when many people just want to come home and relax, I want to get out and be around other people.

My wife is also an extrovert. She’s the first person to arrive at parties and the last person to leave. As a stay-at-home mom, she’s in about four different Mommy groups and has social activities planned every single day. Our daughter just started pre-school and she instantly took on the role of Class Mom. Finally, as a former international corporate party planner, she hosts all sorts of things at our place: wine tastings, karaoke nights, fondue dinner parties, big backyard barbecues, family pool parties, etc.

If one of us was introverted, the other would have to make consistent sacrifices – by either sublimating our desire to be social or by forcing ourselves to be around other people.

This is a huge source of our compatibility and a huge source of our happiness. If one of us was introverted, the other would have to make consistent sacrifices – by either sublimating our desire to be social or by forcing ourselves to be around other people. The only way it could work is for both parties to agree to disagree and let their spouse do what he/she sees fit. He stays home and reads, she goes on a girls spa weekend. She stays late at her friend’s birthday dinner, he takes a separate car and leaves early. It’s not ideal, but it can work.

With that said, I ran across this long and interesting piece about introversion/extroversion and its effects on our happiness. What I discovered was sort of validating if not exactly surprising.

“Perhaps one of the most important (and consistent) findings in E/I research is that extroverts are overall happier than introverts, and this increased happiness lasts for decades. Scientists have struggled to pinpoint the cause of extroverts’ happiness, though they are certainly not without ideas.

Researchers have proposed that extroverts may feel greater happiness than introverts because they are more sensitive to rewarding social situations (as seen above). On the other hand, others have suggested that extroverts are happier because they engage in more social activities. Some scientists think that extroverts’ perpetual happiness stems from their greater mood regulation abilities. Or maybe they’re happy because they hold on tightly to all of those good memories.”

It must be difficult to succeed in a world that doesn’t value introversion – and nowhere is that more apparent than dating.

If you’re an introvert, you’re probably getting annoyed right now. How dare anyone say that extroverts are happier than you are! Remember, this is science – it’s not reflecting societal bias, it’s just reporting its findings. But here’s a nugget that might make you feel better:

“At the same time, however, scientists have questioned whether extroverts really are happier, or if they’re just more declarative with their feelings. There’s also the issue of how, exactly, you define and measure “happiness.” Whatever the case, extroverts and introverts likely benefit from different happiness increasing strategies, given the inherent differences in the personality types.”

I have a lot of introverted clients and I genuinely feel for them. Not in a patronizing way, but with pure compassion. It must be difficult to succeed in a world that doesn’t value introversion – and nowhere is that more apparent than dating. All of the people who have said to me, “I’m really actually quite funny when you get to know me” are not calculating that if you don’t bring the funny on the first date, there ain’t gonna be a second. Thankfully, there’s a passionate introvert who is attempting to find coping strategies for her fellow quiet types:

“In a recent book on introversion, author Susan Cain explains that although introverts make up a third to a half of the population, Western society — the United States, in particular — is extroversion-centric. She notes that schools and workplaces are designed for extroverts, under the belief that collaboration is key to creativity and productivity (the opposite of which is true for introverts). What’s more, extroverted traits, such as being a gregarious “people person,” are highly valued in today’s society, and this can make introverts feel like something is wrong with them (and perhaps, make the unhappy). She calls for a new system that gives introverts the solitude they need to thrive.”

Click here to read the full article and please, share your thoughts on introversion, extroversion, and happiness below.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    judy

    Are extraverts happier than introverts? Not necessarily.  On the dating scene, introverts can be some of the nicest people – quiet is sometimes fascinating.

  2. 2
    Joe

    I think they’re right when they say that extroverts are just more obvious about their happiness.  How would you know an introvert was happy?

  3. 3
    judy

    Joe 2 – I’m more of an introvert.  Happiness isn’t always in your face and loud.  It can be quiet and serene too.  Just saying.

  4. 4
    Paula

    I’m an introvert as I took the official MBTI test. I happen to be very close to the middle as I’ve learned to adapt extroverted tendencies. I think that your personality can be stretched. I will always be an introvert and enjoy my quiet time. I meditate regularly and I think that helps me be more extroverted because I’m taking care of my inner self. I have fooled people into thinking I am an extrovert because I do perform improv and am outspoken when necessary. I also run my own meetup group so am out socializing once a week for the most part.
    I do think extroverts are happier. When I think of extroverts that I know, they all seem happy but perhaps extroverts show their happiness differently. I am happy and maybe we are just quieter about our happiness. My mother is more introverted then me but she probably seems happier and more content but that could be her temperment.
     
    I think the studies are a bit of BS. I’ve met plenty of miserable extroverts. One of my extroverted friends is like that. Happy for the most part but miserable with her work situation.

  5. 5
    JT

    That was a very good article.  The definition of extrovert and introvert I relate to the most is the Jungian version which based it on energy levels, whether a person is recharged in social situations or quiet situations.  Society rewards the ‘extrovert’ because as a species our survival has been based on interacting and helping one another.  That being said, there are many ‘introverts’, using Jung’s definition, who enjoy meeting with people, make friends easily, are great co-workers etc. but  they just need some quite time to recharge.  Most of my friends would say I am an extrovert, but I need quiet times to recharge.  We all need a balance of both quiet and connection.
     I think what upsets many introverts is the unwritten assumption that because one is ‘introverted’ that the individual doesn’t like being with people, is a loner, and depressed.  Rubbish!  Anyone who is withdrawn from society in a significant way is more than introverted; they are usually suffering from mental illness of some variety.  In the same way, a person who is energetic to the point of hyperactivity, is always on and never gives others a break, is frequently socially exiled because they are ‘too much’ and probably has some sort of borderline mental/chemical deficiency as well.
    For most people, I don’t think one group is happier than the other and when it comes to dating as long as the two individuals are more or less balanced in energy there is no reason that an introverted couple can not and will not be as happy as an extroverted couple.

  6. 6
    Anais

    No one is all extrovert or all introvert but I score as an “ISFJ” on the MBTI test which isn’t surprising.  It took me awhile to realize how introverted I was.  I thought I was just “shy” but I’m really not that shy anymore, and people often mistake me for being shy.    I “think before I speak”. I get drained after too much social interaction. I’m not naturally extremely witty because I need time to think.   I don’t mind doing solitary hobbies or going to things like concerts alone which many extroverts would think is weird. And I’m less vocal about my feelings.
     I prefer “meaningful conversation” (e.g. different subjects, “getting to know you” etc) over small talk and witty banter and take time to observe things.  I’m often in a an inner world. I’m better at getting to know people one on one than in large groups.  
    I recharge by being alone rather than being around other people. e.g. I went to Peru with 11 other people and felt drained being around such an extroverted crowd day in and day out for 8 days. 
    When I feel drained or when I feel there isn’t anything important to say, I tend to be more quiet and then extroverts ask me “Why are you being so quiet” It’s annoying as hell. but I took a note from my ex who was also an introvert by telling them “I don’t have anything to share with you at the moment”..  Or “because I’m a librarian” (which I am lol)
    On the flip side, I love going to parties. I love working in crowded NYC, I love  different activities (dancing, video game tournaments, travelling, museums, karaoke, dressing up, to name a few, and trying new things) and I have a pretty wide social circle (though I’m more  selective about who I “let in” than alot of extroverts are). Right now, I’m taking things slower social wise because my October was so active and I need time to recharge :-)

  7. 7
    Fusee

    Interesting topic and article!
     
    The part on happiness is actually a small paragraph, but I agree with the fact that it’s going to depend on how people define happiness, and how much they actually care about the pursuit of happiness. What matters is knowing oneself and doing what works to feel content, regardless of whether it’s going to events every night or curling up on the couch with a good book. The biais here is that I believe extroverts will put more energy towards the pursuit of “feeling happy” than introverts. As an introvert, it took me a long time to realize I was not happy, that I could become happy, and that it actually mattered! Not only to my own well-being, but also to others’. To me being happy became also a social duty, so that I do not drag others down with constant frowning, complaints, or even drama. So I had to start caring about happiness, before even working at being happy! To me, happiness is peace, harmony, and love. Large groups and loud atmospheres are a nightmare for me.
     
    Yes, American society rewards extroversion, and technology enables those addicted to external stimulation. And so what? Happiness is more than social approval. I’m pretty proud of my very active brain that gives me hours of entertainment without needing outside stimulation. Heck, I can sit on an airplane for 15 hours without needing to open a book or watch a movie. If that’s not low-maintenance, I do not know what that is!
     
    Dating might indeed be harder for hard-core introverts, especially in the early dating stages when strangers are supposed to reveal themselves to one another… Since I’m a not at the extreme of the spectrum, and I’ve been blessed with a natural ability to pick someone’s interest, flirt, and establish emotional connections, dating has never been difficult to me, but I can see how it could be for others with more extreme introversion. Long-term relationships are a whole different ballgame for me though, as introversion goes hand in hand with higher sensitivity : )
     
    In terms of compatibility though, I definitely believe that people on either side of the spectrum should be with someone close in personality type. Being in the middle could work with moderates of both types. But a true introvert with a true extrovert would be at risk of not being compatible, unless neither party’s love language is quality time.

  8. 8
    Allison

    I think sometimes people think that extroverted means “having a personality” and introverted means “having no discernible personality.”  You can be funny and introverted– and extroverted and incredibly boring.  I like extroverts, but am totally happy with confident introverts.  Confidence and good listening skills are way more important to happiness and successful dating than where you fall out on some artificial binary.  

  9. 9
    Steelheart

    Extroverts are out in front of other people more, so their behaviors and preferences are more visible and therefore considered more typical or more normal. That’s all there is to this. It’s simple cognitive bias.

  10. 10
    zoozq

    Extroverts are happier than introverts is about as  valid as blondes have more fun lol  The questions on these so called scientific surveys are geared toward positive responses falling within the natural behaviour  inclinations of extroverts.
     “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen is an awesome book that explains and validates the introverts way of functioning in the world.  Just because one identifies themselves as an “innie” doesn’t mean another “innie ” would be their best match as a partner.  I was married to one and it was all kinds of wrong.  The MBTI types describe a wide range from one end of the continuum to the other. I fall somewhere between an ISFJ and ISFP and find that a moderately extroverted guy is a good fit for me, as I tend to feed off their natural energy, and then when I need to, I just chill on my own for a few hours. 
    The biggest stumbling block for us introverts, I find, is communication styles. We tend to only share our true and innermost thoughts and opinions only with those we feel close to ( which takes time to establish) and only when these opinions are fully considered and composed.  So we are labeled as “quiet” when, really, in the right company, we can ramble on incessantly on a subject we are passionate about Lol
     I have found that that gleaning a bit of understanding about how peoples brains are wired differently affect the personality has made me much more accepting of a variety of people. And this acceptance can certainly make one happier :)
     

  11. 11
    Clare

    I am THRILLED to be an introvert, and I really do think the idea that extraverts are happier is a myth. With an extravert, everyone tends to know what they are feeling, the feelings of an introvert tend to remain more of a mystery, but that does not mean they don’t have equal sources of joy which are just as important to them as parties and team projects are to an extravert.

    I get tremendous satisfaction out of accomplishing a set of activities I set myself to do in the solitude of my study or office. I feel a great deal of peace and contentment in reading a book in comfy surroundings or watching a movie without talking.

    Introverts tend to have a rich inner life which the extravert doesn’t understand, and hence values less. It is hugely dangerous to assume that because someone is different from you that they are less happy.

    I love the insights gained and the calmness of not rushing around talking and doing ALL.THE.TIME. There is a pleasure in the quiet life all of its own.

  12. 12
    Goldie

    I’m not sure I agree that our society rewards extroverts. Show me one big invention that was made at a party, or one masterpiece of art that was created while chatting up a crowd, and I might reconsider. Yes upper management and CEOs are all extroverted, but that’s only a small part of what got them where they are, and they themselves are only a small subset of the “successful people” group.

    I actually fall exactly in the middle. I’ve taken MBTI a few times, and have gotten both an I and an E, always very close to the middle of the spectrum. I guess this means I can kind of see things from both sides. My 20yo has Aspergers, and is an extreme introvert. I would not say he is unhappy. He might be the happiest person in my family, if truth be told. He doesn’t need friends, a partner, or social recognition to be happy, all he needs is to be in his room working on his pet project (he is a CS major who does his own game development on the side).

    From my experience I would agree that introverted people only share with those they feel close to. I have this flaw. My close family and partner (when I have one) think I never shut up, and my coworkers and casual friends keep telling me that I’m quiet. But this is exactly the reason why dating and being in a relationship come easy to me. I prefer being in one-on-one situations or with a few close friends/family, to being in a crowd.

    Only potential problem I see for introverts, is when they are so introverted, they cannot share their thoughts and feelings with anybody, not even with their partner. That may end badly down the road. And this, indeed, can make a person unhappy – he’s got all those feelings, that are being ignored by his close ones, because none of them have any idea those feelings exist. Then one day he blows up and nobody understands why. (Mental note to self: need to talk to my 20yo about learning to verbalize his feelings.)

  13. 13
    Melissa

    I am an extrovert, married to an introvert. Let me rephrase…divorcing an introvert. I’m sure it can work for many, but it definitely did not work for us. I came in to the marriage full of life and happiness, enjoying spending times with family and friends as often as possible. Now, it certainly may be just “him”, not because he was an introvert, but he had no relationships with anybody except me and his daughter part-time. He saw his family for an hour or two a year, the same with a couple of long term work friends and a handful of times over the years, went snowmobiling with a few for 4 days. He spent 99% of his time alone, at his desk, working his regular job and starting a business. Sadly, as time went on, I was spending more and more time alone since he never wanted to go anywhere or see anyone, and when we did, “how soon can we leave?” Even sadder, was his lifestyle started to root into my life – actually “turning” me into an introvert myself! I lost my happiness that I had always had. I wasn’t able to really look at this and see the patterns and behaviors until after we separated. Now, here I am, getting divorced as soon as possible, and according to a close friend, I’ve got my “sunshine” back. I am SO much more happy as an extrovert. Given that the article was specifically about extroversion and happiness, that’s just my point of view.

  14. 14
    Cassie

    Some folks have already kinda of hinted at this, but I think there is a bias towards extroversion in our culture that may have a significant effect on the happiness of introverts. I would classify myself as an introvert. I love to be at home, alone, enjoying my own company and the company of my books or tv. I enjoy the company of others, but only on my own terms. I feel pressure, however, from other people to be more social. I feel like I am not “doing enough” when I spend an entire weekend just hanging around my apartment, going for solo walks, and running errands. That feeling of not doing enough is just me accepting other people’s ideas of what is supposed to be “fun” and what I “should” be spending time on. When I actually think about it, I love hanging out by myself. Luckily my boyfriend and I are well matched, he’s a little more extroverted than I am, but that works fine because I need time to myself and he needs time with his guy friends. Basically, if no one was telling me that having fun and being happy meant hanging out with lots of people and going out every Friday and Saturday night, then I would be totally happy. Of course I shouldn’t let what others think impact my own happiness, but lets get real, who doesn’t?

  15. 15
    Joe

    @ judy #3: I never said happiness was always in your face. I asked how you would tell that an introvert was happy, i.e. from casual observation.

  16. 16
    Goldie

    So what I am reading in ##13 and 14 is that, being extroverted or introverted isn’t, in and of itself, a predictor of happiness or unhappiness. But being shoehorned into one category (either one) when you belong solidly in the other, will in fact make you unhappy. Makes perfect sense to me.

  17. 17
    Stix

    I am a nice combination of both, I believe. I very much value solitude (as does my partner- we are stay in kind of people, and happy this way) although I am also very happy and comfortable in large social gatherings. I just prefer not to engage in them very often, it gets overwhelming. I would say I am an emotional person, but overall a very happy person. I love life…I love life by myself AND with others.
    I think people are happiest when they understand themselves AND others. When they live their life true to their desires, and want the same for others no matter what that looks like.

  18. 18
    Henriette

    I wonder if this is a matter of semantics. Possibly, Extroverts might be more likely to define themselves as “happy,” “cheerful” and “glad” whereas Introverts could be more likely to say that they are “content,” “at peace” or “serene.”

  19. 19
    Emiko

    I’m an introvert, but am often noted for my constant smiling. Admittedly, it’s an adaptive technique. Not because I’m not happy, but I’ve learned showing it keeps people at ease.

    Other than that, I think the study is spot on. Our American society doesn’t value me and my people as much as I wish it did. But, I’ve learned how to defend our thorough approach to life. I make it a point to point out I’m innately introverted. That people drain me because I’m expending energy. That way extroverts don’t think we introverts dislike them. It’s not personal.

  20. 20
    Jen

    Extroverts have higher highs but they also end up having lower lows. Extroverts gain more happiness from social interactions, but they also have less ability to cope when they are alone and more emotionally affected by external sources.

    As an introvert, I never get overjoyed being out at parties social gatherings, but on the other end I never feel sad or particularly lonely doing things by myself.

  21. 21
    Maria

    I’m an introvert and my boyfriend is an extrovert. I love being social, but I need to recharge afterwards. He can go on and on without recharging. For us it requires constant negotiation. I think it’s important to honor my introversion and for him to honor his extroversion. So he’s constantly sending me email about different social activities. If an event is too much for me I tell him “the introvert in me is screaming – NO.” He understands. In return for that understanding, I will accompany him on the social activities that I know are particularly important to him.

  22. 22
    Renee

    I’m an extrovert who I dated an introvert for many years, and the hardest part was understanding what he was feeling at any given moment. He just wasn’t comfortable expressing emotion — even smiling seemed unnatural for him. He wasn’t depressed at all, just very much in his shell. Finally his job transferred him to another office in a distant city, and we just let the relationship go. All along he’d told me he was happy, but not enough to stay, apparently.

    I’m reluctant to date another introvert.

    1. 22.1
      Emiko

      I hope you give us another chance.

      In the end him leaving had little to do with introversion or extroversion. His career came first.

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