Why do western societies value extroversion

As an introvert through the crisis Quiet is the new loud

No more meeting friends, no more travel, home office - the Corona crisis hit many people hard or even existentially. In the meantime most of them have settled down in their everyday lives, but one thing remains: the feeling that being alone is an imposition.

Not so for me. Because for people like me an almost good time began with the corona lockdown. I describe myself as an introvert, as an "Intro" and "Drinni". Due to the crisis, qualities suddenly became important that others do not always appreciate in me: calmness, thoughtfulness and being able to occupy oneself alone. They are qualities that many of the heroes of the hour - scientists and medical staff - have. We currently need people who proceed carefully and prudently. Fun fact: The natural scientist and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel should also be part of the “intros”.

In the past few weeks, however, I have met friends around me who cannot bear the thought of working, cooking, eating and sleeping alone in their apartment for several hours or even days. Many feel overwhelmed and lonely like never before. For me, however, isolation meant: concentrated work in a quiet place, enough breaks without small talk, more free time and sleep thanks to less commuting in the big city. Of course, this is a privileged view, as I have not yet experienced any existential disadvantages. But since the lockdown changed so little for me, I soon asked myself: Will introverts get through the corona crisis better?

The world as a children's birthday party

Describing introversion and extraversion, roughly sketched, two poles of personality traits and how people interact with their social environment and process stimuli in the brain. In the early 1920s, the psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung wrote for the first time about "introversion" - people with such polarity withdraw psychologically inward, are reserved, and tire quickly in large groups. Extroverts, on the other hand, need hustle and bustle, loudness and lots of people to recharge their batteries. It is estimated that between a third and 50 percent of the world's population are introverted, mixed forms are much more likely. But one thing was clear so far - in Western cultures, extraversion is something like the social gold standard. Until now.

“I'm an introvert myself and there was a moment when I suddenly understood why I always had problems with myself,” says Jessica Kretschmar. In southern Germany she coaches introverted people who - like her once - doubt their personality and repeatedly offend with their quiet manner. Kretschmar only understood through a lot of literature and her coaching training: "There is a reason why I am like this and that is a good thing." Being an introvert - the coach knows that and I know that - above all, has a bad image in a world that sometimes resembles an overdriven children's birthday party. It is not entirely clear where this comes from - Kretschmar suggests the urge to self-expression in the western world of work and consumption. The psychologist and consultant Johanna Feilhauer from Heinsberg also sees possible causes in this: "If you can open your mouth and show yourself, you will be seen." This applies to jobs as well as to personal relationships.

Introverts are not the involuntary winners of the crisis, but those whose everyday life has not completely collapsed.

Silence as a short-lived detox in the hustle and bustle of everyday life

Still, the matter is more complex, says Feilhauer. Intro- or extraversion are innate characteristics - but not one to which one is simply at the mercy. On the one hand, studies show that, for example, the environment in which one grows up, but also the interaction with other aspects of personality play a role. On the other hand, people can also adjust their individual "factory settings": "Certain crisis or exceptional situations can force us to act differently." Especially in times of the Corona, not everything is black and white, everyone experiences the crisis very differently and it does not depend only together with introversion or extraversion, according to the psychologist. Anyone who is extroverted can still network and communicate a lot thanks to modern technology, and maybe discover a new hobby. Introverts, on the other hand, would find the leisure to really immerse themselves in things.

Until the Corona shutdown, the desire for silence or inner dialogue appeared primarily as a separate exception, as a decoupled “retreat” or “detox” from the world. Introversion was considered a strange deviation, which is often confused with shyness, indolence, fear or depression. While these factors can be added to introversion, the main thing is withdrawal. Some people even go a step further to do this.

There are currently around 80 recognized hermits in Germany. Traditionally they live on the outskirts of settlements, slowed down and spiritually immersed in close proximity to nature. The ascetic existence is a gain for them. Hermits like Maria Anna Leenen in Lower Saxony or Jürgen Knobel in Brandenburg speak in interviews that being alone also throws people back on dealing more with themselves. Many people may simply lack the practice for this, even in a crisis - and when the roar of the world stands still, it can get very loud inside of you.

Introverts, according to Jessica Kretschmar, could naturally deal well with calm, low-stimulus surroundings and a lack of distraction during this time. And another aspect is very central, according to Johanna Feilhauer: Structure in everyday life. “Especially with such crises, regardless of whether I am introverted or extroverted, it matters how well I can structure myself, how well I get through in difficult times? How deeply rooted am I, how good is my network? ”Says the psychologist. This also makes it clear - introverts are not the involuntary winners of the crisis, but those whose everyday life has not completely collapsed.

But can extroverts - or those who pretend to be - learn something from the shutdown? For example, will offices be redesigned and social pressures on introverts subside? Feilhauer says that the “loud” part of society can currently learn what the “quiet” part likes: “I think there is currently more openness to other realities of life - how is the other actually doing?” She hopes that the feeling of “putting yourself in the shoes of others” remains - however, it is currently not certain how good the chances are. Jessica Kretschmar is also skeptical whether the world will respond better to introverts after the crisis. “This negative category that introverts find themselves in is already widespread. As soon as life is normal again at some point, people smile at it again when someone just wants to be at home. ”And I, I hope for the best.


Is introversion genetic or cultural? Research suggests that introversion is an innate trait in humans. Tests have shown that even toddlers react to strong stimuli or noises more rejection or stimulation. This pattern is often maintained in adulthood. Sometimes there are also transitions from introversion to high sensitivity, in pathological cases also to depression. Extroverts, on the other hand, can, in the worst case, be prone to mania.

Introverts are not more intelligent or psychologically more resilient than others - however, they process stimuli from the environment inside them, less through verbalization or interaction. Introverted behavior is also perceived differently in different cultures. In Japan, for example, public restraint is highly valued, as author and introvert coach Sylvia Löhken found out.

Anyone who is offensive with their introversion in their professional life can be coached in numerous training courses - an offer that is not explicitly available for extroverts, by the way. Among other things, Löhken offers a quick test on their website to determine which side you are inclined to.

May 06, 2020

Sylvia Lundschien

Observing and writing down are basic biographical constants for Sylvia Lundschien - but it took a comparatively long time to turn this into a profession. Before her training at the Protestant School of Journalism in Berlin, she studied European ethnology, Russian and intercultural communication in Berlin, Moscow and Frankfurt (Oder). Today she works as a freelance journalist in Berlin and is interested in a wide range of science, feminism, international politics and online curiosities.

Copyright: This text is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Adaptations 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).