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How to Spot Introversion and Extraversion in the Wild

Kyle 2 weeks ago 4 comments

Have you ever wondered what someone’s personality type is?

The Type Guesser tools in our members’ Academy can be a big help, or you could try to take our personality test as if you were that person (which is kind of iffy). The best way is to have people take our test for themselves – but that’s not always possible.

So it can be super useful to have enough “walking knowledge” to roughly gauge people’s personalities on the fly. We here at 16Personalities sometimes assess people’s traits, based on our knowledge of personality research data.

Bet you’d like to be able to do that too.

Why? Think of it this way. Leopards and cheetahs seem kind of similar: big teeth, spots, etc. (Watch out, a safari metaphor is stalking you!) But in the wild, knowing which animal hunts alone at night and which one hunts in groups during the day can be important.

Well, the human world is a jungle in some ways too (or a savanna, whatever). Spotting people’s personality traits can be a huge advantage in dating, job interviews, and all kinds of social situations. It helps you better understand people – and what they might do.

So, want to learn to spot personality traits in the wild? We can help.

Unlike with killer-kitty identification, you’ll need to pay attention to behavior rather than appearance. Observing a person’s habitual tendencies may indicate where they fall on the personality trait spectrum. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

In this article, we’ll focus on spotting the Mind traits – Introversion and Extraversion – by drawing on key insights from our “Social Activities” and “Sense of Touch” surveys. (Feel free to click on those survey links to make your voice heard.)

So get your binoculars and notebooks (and preferably some kind of cool explorer’s hat) ready, and let’s head out into the bush and take some field notes.

Social Energy

How people socialize recreationally is heavily influenced by whether they more strongly express Introversion or Extraversion, so it’s one way to begin estimating those traits. Let’s consider some key data:

No matter how they’ve learned to act in unavoidably social “habitats” like work or school, people often show their core personality traits when they get to have things their own way. Those who usually seek vibrant social interaction to unwind are likely more Extraverted, and those who rarely do are almost always more Introverted. Here’s another related statistic:

In addition to how likely someone is to socialize for recreation, how they choose to do so can also clue you in to their personality traits. Someone who usually prefers small groups is probably more Introverted, while those who prefer the vibe of many people probably have strong Extraversion.

You could test someone a little bit by offering a few casual, low-pressure invitations and seeing what they go for – or don’t. Watch what someone normally does with their free time, and you can begin to guess their traits.

It’s interesting how Sam seems happy to grab lunch, go camping, or even plan a double date but rarely shows up for proper parties – especially after work. Or maybe just puts in a cursory appearance. Middle name: “I’m not really up for that.” I mean, Sam’s fairly social but seems to like smaller groups and plenty of downtime. An Introvert, I guess, but in a good way.

Conversation

Talking is pretty darn universal among all people, but observing how someone goes about it can help you learn about their personality traits, at least when it comes to Introversion and Extraversion. Check this out:

So take mental notes on that as part of your overall appraisal of someone: Do they start chatting with strangers often, comfortably, and by choice more than necessity? If so, they’re probably much more Extraverted than Introverted. Let’s consider another related research insight:

Contrary to popular perception, people who are mostly Introverted can be quite chatty in some situations. So merely being a lively part of a conversation may not be a reliable indicator of someone’s personality traits. But whether they start and actively sustain most conversations likely is.

Rather than make broad assumptions, pay attention to details like this. Spotting the patterns of what a person routinely prefers can tell you a deeper story about their traits.

Alex is always chatting with strangers when we’re out together. Not just servers but also people we have no real need to talk with. And when we’re with people we know, I notice that Alex usually starts conversations or spontaneously adds to whatever’s already being discussed. I do that sometimes, but Alex likes doing it all the time. Seems like an Extravert to me.

Physical Space

How people feel about their personal space or physical distance from others often relates to whether they are more Introverted or Extraverted. This is something you can see for yourself, if you know what to look for, like this:

You can watch people for any tendency to hang back or hesitate before entering more active parts of a room. Whether a person dives right in, joins slowly, or tries to stay separate might indicate roughly where they are on the scale between Extraversion and Introversion. This may be visible during group interactions at work or school, as well as during social functions. Here’s another behavior to consider:

The responses to that research item aren’t as starkly different as the other statistics we’ve given here, but they do indicate tendencies. When you’re observing someone, how close they usually stand to people they’re talking with (when there’s a choice) can offer some insight about how Introverted or Extraverted they may be. The following fact can too:

Noting how (or how often) someone touches other people, especially those they don’t know very well, can be a good indicator of their Introversion or Extraversion.

Our new employee usually sits one seat apart from other people, if possible, and waited to grab their orientation packet until after everyone else had. They also opt for a friendly smile and nod unless someone else offers their hand to shake. The space they seem to prefer tells me that they’re pretty Introverted on a core level, even though they’re quite friendly and confident otherwise.

People Are Much More Than Categories

Ideally, you can best see how Introverted or Extraverted people are by sharing our world-renowned free personality test with them. But with keen observation, the information we’ve provided, and careful consideration, you can make useful estimates – even if you don’t own binoculars or a safari hat.

And as you do so, don’t rely on stereotypes or assumptions. No single behavior can fully inform you about someone’s traits, and there are minorities to each research statistic. For example, some people who firmly test as Introverted may have a couple of habits or preferences that are different from most other Introverts.

People are complex and unique, and it takes time to know them well. The behavioral tendencies that we measure in groups – as accurate and useful as they are – merely serve to aid in understanding an individual.

Remember: knowing someone’s personality type is an important step on the journey of human connection, but it’s just the beginning.

Further Reading

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