By: Carla Swiryn, Three Day Rule Matchmaker
In the quest to find someone who complements you, challenges you positively and helps you grow, most people don’t pay attention to the level of introversion or extroversion in their partner. But should they?
To recap, these terms describe where you put your attention and gain energy.
- Are inward-focused
- More introspective and attentive to internal thoughts and ideas
- Typically gain energy by being alone
- Are outward-focused
- Driven more by people, sights and sounds
- Typically gain energy by being around other people
While personality assessments like the Myers-Briggs use this binary breakdown, what I realized from my matchmaking experience is that this binary breakdown is too simplified to truly understand people.
I’m not the only one who thinks so. The term “ambivert” has been thrown around — someone “whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features.” The problem with that is that the term ambivert applies to all people. Everyone feels they have some sort of blend of the two at times. In general, by creating one bucket in between two existing buckets is that the vast majority of people are going to then identify with the middle ground.
What we need to do is go beyond two buckets, beyond three buckets, and make it even more of a spectrum to get to the truth. I have found that five buckets is an optimal scale for matchmaking purposes:
true introvert / slight introvert / in the middle / slight extrovert / true extrovert
Sure, we still have a middle ground that a lot of people gravitate to. But people are able to accurately assess themselves much more accurately with these categories. We’re able to get at the extent of their introversion or extroversion, without getting overly technical and precise.
Of the people I talk to during informal interviews, which includes both paying clients and non-clients going down the free route, 32% identify as “in the middle”. Only 12% identify with one of the “true” categories – again, showing that people don’t like to identify as extreme. This is probably a bit underrepresented in how they actually act and feel, but part of my job is to make my own judgment and combine it with their self-assessment.
Of all of the former clients who I’ve successfully paired and are still together, ALL of them are with someone who was at a slightly different point in the spectrum, between 1 – 3 levels away.
Another interesting data point is whether people lean in one direction more. They do. People identify 12% more often as an extrovert than an introvert. Perhaps the stigma of being anti-social leads people to report more extroversion. Extroverts seem cool. Introverts seem nerdy. Before I had my new scale, I would often hear people say they are a “social introvert”. They wanted me to know they enjoy being around people and aren’t socially awkward.
More importantly, this breakdown allows me to be more precise with personality assessments, resulting in a higher rate of successful matches (currently about 40%, and steadily rising over time). Think about it – you can have any combination of introvert and extrovert work. The similarity or the difference can be fine. But with the new spectrum, there is an optimal pairing. What I found works best is matching a balance, but not complete opposites.
You don’t want to pair a true extrovert with a true extrovert – those people can fight for the limelight. One or both may feel like they have to “dumb down” their personality or talkativeness to accommodate the other.
On the other side of the spectrum, you don’t want to pair two true introverts. That can be boring with not enough conversation. It can also get reclusive as they may not push each other to get out enough and socialize with other people in their lives.
And you don’t want to match a true introvert with a true extrovert. While there may be an initial attraction between them, it’s not a solid long-term match. They are so different that they will have difficulty understanding the other person. There could also be tension because the extrovert wants to go out a lot more than his/her very introverted partner. Or frustration about feeling that their partner has to be “baby-sat” in social situations. Meanwhile, the introvert is concerned that their partner can’t relax and just enjoy being at peace at home together. They could be wonder why spending time as a couple isn’t enough and why their partner is always seeking out the next event.
A major caveat is that this is just one of the many dimensions I look at when matching people. Elements like values, family goals, shared common interests, religion, worldview, and physical attractiveness are equally if not more important. And yes, there are always exceptions to any rule.
In addition, I think it’s important to recognize that there are some serious misconceptions about introverts and extroverts. Sometimes people say they need their alone time, so they’re an introvert. Believe me, extroverts crave some alone time too! I’m a true extrovert, and I loved living alone for seven years. In fact, I have to be so social in my career that I look forward to solo activities like reading a book. The difference is that I recharge with others. I can be exhausted, but once I head out to an event, I get a second wind that lasts for many hours without even realizing it.
Others mistakenly believe that extroverts have unlimited energy. After a long night of networking, I am usually exhausted. It’s just the timing that is important. I recognize I’m tired immediately afterwards. An introvert is more likely to be tired while talking to other people.
And it’s also not true that being an introvert means you’re socially awkward. Introverted individuals can be quick to defend their social skills and so I often hear someone say they’re a “social introvert”. Introverts can definitely be charming, funny, engaging and great conversationalists. But they’re typically less likely to initiate conversation, especially with strangers.
Going back to the newly defined categories…is it better to be in the middle of the spectrum? It does make you matchable to the greatest amount of people, on either side of center. But the key to successfully finding your right partner is honesty. Be honest about who you are, who you want to be, and what you really want and need in a partner. For my clients, the more self-aware they are and open with me, the better I can match to them to the right person.
If you’re looking by yourself, just keep the balance component in mind – look for a complement, not a mirror. Of course, you don’t have to ask everyone on a first date where they fall with this theory. But don’t shy away from the question either – at a minimum, it makes for more interesting and unique conversation than the same boring interview-style questions like “what do you do for work?” And at best, it can help you find the love of your life. That’s a pretty strong upside.