Are you keen to be productive, and yet at the end of the day don't have as much to show for your ambition? You can only do so much to change your life with pure willpower, so let your environment do the rest for you.
There is one dimension of personality that is the most empirically studied and well-regarded as scientifically meaningful in psychology. Once you know it, you can own it.
It’s where you fall on the spectrum of extraversion (A.K.A., extroversion, the same term but more commonly used and erroneously spelled) and introversion. It is a spectrum, so most people are not 100% one or the other.
Answer the questions below if you do not know where you fall on the extraversion/introversion spectrum:
You're planning a night out. Which option sounds more fun?
A. Dinner with your good friend and sharing what’s really on your mind.
B. Going out with a group of friends. The more, the merrier!
As a student, would you rather...
A. Listen to an interesting lecture
B. Participate in an interesting discussion
In general, after attending a large party or networking event, how do you feel?
A. Tired and drained, even if you had fun
B. Energized and hyped for more
As a child, were you often called “quiet” or even “shy”?
You find yourself home alone for the afternoon. What's your reaction?
A. Excited! You can do whatever you want!
B. Restless! Need to call a friend!
In general, you…
A. Need a moment to think before a question.
B. Like to answer things “on the fly” and see where your own thoughts go.
Which statement is true for you?
A. It’s important to live a meaningful life and status does not matter that much to you.
B. It’s important to be well-liked, financially well-off, and to also be seen as important.Y
You and a coworker have a disagreement. How do you react?
A. You reflect internally and may bring it up later because you need time to process.
B. You want to get it all out there and deal with it right away.
So, Which Is It?
If you answered more A's, you're an introvert and the more B's you answered the more extraverted you are. If you had an even number for both letters, you're an ambivert. There are more in-depth tests for extraversion/introversion you can take. The questions above were adapted from some of those tests and you may choose to take a more in-depth one if you still can’t conclude which way you lean.
You cannot change your disposition on the extraversion/introversion spectrum. It is a temperament you are usually born with. Studies of babies show that developmental psychologists may be able to predict where someone may be on the E/I spectrum by the time they are 11 years old, just by observing how the babies react to different unexpected stimuli.
So, never spend another day of your life fighting whichever side of the extraversion/introversion spectrum you find yourself. Now you can own it, and use your own psychology to your advantage. Hack your own psychology to get what you want out of your life.
Extraverts are often talkative, sociable, action-oriented, enthusiastic, friendly, and out-going. In the modern world, these are great gifts in many situations. How do you put your best extraverted foot out there?
1. Extraverts prefer lusher environments. Think rich sights, sounds, smells and textures to touch. People in this category need more stimuli from their environment than an introvert, and are less likely to be overwhelmed by a rich physical experience. In fact, extraverts are in danger of understimulation if their environment is not stimulating enough. This may result in less motivation.
2. Extraverts deal well with distractions. Cognitive performance for extraverts is not as diminished in knowledge work when there are distractions (ex., overheard conversation in the other room) as for introverts. This is not to say distractions are good for knowledge work, but that extraverts have a higher tolerance for distractions during times of knowledge work than introverts.
3. Extraverts need a work space that is energizing. To what degree it is energizing will take an extravert's own experimentation. Use highly saturated colors to energize you (ex., jewel tones), particularly reds, although take note even a small amount of red briefly decreases our ability to think analytically. Use cooler light (about 6,000 K) for alertness and a memory boost so you can remember what you’re working on later.
4. Extraverts choose their furniture based on their desire to be near someone else. Seats that will make an extravert happy are sofas that seat two or more people. A larger sectional couch may be the extravert’s crown jewel of the living room.
5. Larger spaces are important to extraverts compared to introverts. When you walk into a room, notice how you feel in your body and be honest with how it makes you feel. Whatever your first impression, that will tell you if the space suits your extraverted needs.
6. Extraverts usually will want to entertain more people at once in their personal space. The typical homes of extraverts will need more seating areas for entertaining throughout the home.
7. Extraverts are more comfortable with less distance between themselves and others than introverts. The higher level of extraversion, the less need for physical barriers between people speaking. Extraverts then favor open furniture arrangements.
8. Extraverts often enjoy art depicting people more than art depicting nature. Extraverts can use art in their home or office to stimulate them to their own "sweet spot" of being between under- and overstimulated.
9. Extraverts will favor open spaces. Open floor plans could be very important for extraverts when they choose a place to live. Consider this the next time you go apartment-hunting or decide to buy a home.
Do not think that because introverts are listed second that they are anything less than second. In fact, we just needed to give extraverts their “buzz” before they buzzed away somewhere else!
It is understandable that many introverts feel like they are compared against extraverts and that their strengths are not celebrated. This is particularly true in the West, whereas in many Eastern cultures the typically introverted attributes are highly valued. For an example, look up “dongshi children” if you are interested in how introverts are celebrated as having the potential for wise leadership in Chinese culture.
Get the most out of your introverted self by using these environmental design tips:
1. Introverts thrive in curated spaces because they usually are more effective at processing sensory stimuli than extraverts. As a result, an introvert can quickly become overstimulated if there is “too much” going on in one space. For this reason, carefully select which senses you want to engage and to what degree in each space of your home or office. If an introvert takes the time to do this, they will be able to notice all their senses better, such as being able to notice a scent more deeply and more richly.
2. Distractions are a huge no-no for introverts. For deep work, make sure your environment limits distractions. If there is an auditory distraction, such as a extraverted coworker talking up a storm nearby, use white, brown or pink noise (ex., with earphones at the office or speakers at home) to drown out the chatter or other distracting noises.
3. Introverts are often more sensitive to all types of stimuli than extraverts. Introverts don’t need as energizing as a space as extraverts when working on something important to them, but it is still important to provide some stimuli.A quiet place with a view or pictures of nature are often a great resource of the right balance of stimuli for introverts. Not everyone is the same (nor has the same opportunities), so one must experiment to see what is able to them and wisely curate their surroundings to find what level of stimuli gives them the mindset for their best work.
4. Introverts may find that they prefer single or two-person seating for sofas and chairs. The number of seating areas can be less in an introvert’s home than an extraverts home.
5. More physical boundaries between people speaking is preferred by introverts. This may include desks or coffee tables.
6. Introverts may prefer more personal space. More introverted people tend to like more interior walls and segmented spaces in their home than extraverts, who usually enjoy open floor plans.
7. Introverts may have an advantage when looking for a place to live in terms of acceptable room sizes. Introverts often prefer smaller rooms than extraverts, and so large rooms may not be a necessity when looking for a new place to live. Saving square footage could mean saving more money for other more impactful environmental features!
8. The selection of art is important for many introverts. Depictions of nature is more appealing than depictions of people for the typical introvert.
9. A focal points in areas of socialization is particularly important for introverts to feel at ease. This allows introverts to gracefully avert their eyes to something during or after a conversation without appearing or feeling rude or unsocial.
These design tips are based on neurotypical brains. If you or someone you know is interested in how autism, ADHD, or any other different type of thinking and relating to the world will change how you should create your environment, please message us or leave a comment below and we will be sure to include more articles on the diversity of minds and how they can thrive with a little tweak in their environment.
But, my partner/roommate/family members are not on my side of the spectrum! What do we do?
We will cover this in another article, so stay tuned. Most of us must live with others at some point, so this is an important question to answer.
Important to Note
Neither extraverts or introverts are “better” than the other. Humans needed both tempermants to survive in the small- to medium-sized human bands of the African savannah 200,000 years ago, about the last time our brains were updated to their relative current size and capability. Humans need to have a variety of temperaments that are flexible, but our survival as a species is based on our working together with our different strengths to contribute to the whole.
Does this topic interest you as much as us? Many of these scienficially backed tips are adapted from Dr. Sally Augustin’s findings in her new book, “Designology: How to Find Your Perfect PlaceType and Align Your Life with Design.” This author highly recommends her book if you are interested in the topic. Or, wait for the next article on Cityistic to get your quick fix!