Optimist vs. Pessimest, Intravert or Extravert?

The optimist / pessimist division is usually pretty clear.  Do you look for the positive or negative in life and others?  When you have an ambiguous situation, is your assumption that others made things easier or more difficult for you?  Generally, is your outlook on life sunny or cloudy?

From my experience, the introvert/extrovert distinction isn’t nearly so clear.  They don’t map cleanly into “shy” and “outgoing” — so, an introvert can be outgoing, and extrovert shy.  I do think that many introverts are shy because being with groups of people causes them to spend energy, while many outgoing people are extroverts because being in a group increases their energy level.

I think one, of many reasons, Andy and I get along so well is that we’re both generally optimists introverts. 

We’re optimists because have faith that the world can be a better place and that, in some small way, we can contribute to that project. When I tell Andy about a teaching success, his common response is “you made a difference in that student’s life”.  It’s important to me to think that I can do so, and it’s nice to have my friend Andy notice.  One of Andy’s most consistent actions is to be quite nice to anybody who is performing a service for us, the people who make our coffee at the ‘boo, a salesperson at BestBuy etc…  In his small way, he’s making the day a little easier for someone he knows (from experience) is doing a semi-unpleasant job.

We’re both introverts because, after a while, we need to retreat from others — not necessarily one another, but we need to have some quiet time at the ‘boo.  Our feet up and our computer screens on, with minimal chatting.  We’ll occasionally bounce an idea off of one another, but the point of  ‘poofie’ is to get recharged.

I make this distinction because I recently realized a colleague is a pessimist introvert — which is the most difficult combination.  The problem is that X sees everything in a negative light AND then stews about it for a while before sending a scathing e-mail. If X would just ask a question or two for clarification BEFORE the e-temper tantrum, much drama would be averted.  On occasion, an optimist extrovert will stop by X’s office to discuss the e-mail and then spread the word that X was mistaken in hir understanding of the situation…. and all is well. 

By contrast, when the pessimist extrovert is irritated, the whole world knows it ASAP. When the irritation is based on a mistake,  their mistake can be corrected and life can go on as planned…

So — think about your personality… who are you?   How can you make the world a better place by just being who you are?

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One Response

  1. […] I’d love to do that –I’m all done with the teaching bit… my students have worn out this introvert… […]

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