Do Introverts Need to Act Like Extroverts to Be Happy?


The Wall Street Journal article How an Introvert Can Be Happier: Act Like an Extrovert  hit the digital airwaves this Tuesday and two days later there are over a 110 comments and lots of buzz.

I do appreciate a controversial piece on introverts.  While some of the points about Dopamine and integrating more outgoing behaviors make sense I take issue with the basic premise that introverts need to act more “Type A” to be happy. Haven’t we asked them to do that enough? It is often the extrovert’s projection of what happiness means that lays a trip on introverts.

After interviews with hundreds of introverts I have found they make highly effective influencers when, instead of trying to act like extroverts they use their natural strengths to make a difference. These six strengths include taking quiet time, preparation, engaged listening, focused conversations, writing and a thoughtful use of social media. When they leverage these powers in the workplace they are not only more effective but also more satisfied.

One more note: several of the studies cited here have very small samples and may have little widespread relevance.

Read the comments to get a feel for the passion and differing perspectives on this topic. For example, one person named L Bostrom wrote about how he gets energy and happiness from his own introversion:

“Am reading Ms. Kahnweiler’s book, and have to say I finally realized why, though I can force an outgoing persona and actually enjoy the interactions, it is a true drain on energy and does not make me at all “happy” (whatever that means, per some of the great comments here). I get energy from introvert activity that helps me face the social aspects of life.”

He went on to say:

“I found this article to be ridiculously conclusive, and punctuated by a few comments from Real Introverts to the effect of “I disagree with those studies” or “Gee, that’s not how I feel”.

One response to the comment about social media. As an introvert, I find that it is a very easy way to keep up with people or events, or just for feedback about the world. It does not feel to me like a fake extroversion or anything like that. In fact I would count it among the things that are enriching for me. ”



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