In general, those gifted with an extreme extroversion set point, or a tendency towards extroversion, have a naturally “sleepy” brain; and, therefore, need plenty of external stimuli to be happy. Below is a list of some of the main characteristics that are connected to a naturally sleepy, stimulus-starved brain.
- Extroversion is not the same as being outspoken. Some of the most outspoken people I have ever known are not extroverts.
- Their brain has a naturally low level of arousal and this can cause them to seek out higher than what seems to be normal stimulation. Their brains are naturally sleepy.
- They are stimulus hungry and will seek out situations that will make them feel alive.
- They will lean towards competitive situations: competition provides stimulus. Sometimes they will argue just to argue because their brain enjoys the interaction.
- Performance for the extrovert will increase with distraction. They can out-perform introverts in high stimulus situations.
- They need people! They will often be found seeking out opportunities to interact with others. They like to go where the action is.
- Tend to be impulsive; less conservative. Jumping up and doing something on the spur of the moment can provide the extra stimulation that extroverts crave.
- Generally prefer noisier music.
- Often not bothered by risk because risk can mean the unknown-something exciting.
- Like the narrow aperture of a camera in the Arlene Taylor’s metaphor, it means that they don’t pull in as much detail from their environment.
- Extroverts may have lower blood flow to the arousal portion of the brain.
- Tend to require lower doses of pain medication or sedatives.
- May have lower levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. This neurotransmitter influences our alertness level.
- Smoking is more common. Again, smoking tends to be connected to social activities, and the extrovert needs to fit in to get the extra stimulation their brain craves.
- As babies, they may be the ones that require more activity. Constantly needing to be held; preferring to be rocked to sleep. Sleeping shorter periods of time.
- They will tend to be at higher risk of adaption. Again, because they need to fit in, they may fall into behavior that is not always good, just so that they can get the stimulus their brains need.
- Want to be involved in and in the middle of everything! The more activity the better.
- They tend to have better recall when put on the spot.
- Competitive. Again, competition will provide a lot of extra stimulation and, therefore, is a good fit for the extrovert. However, they may not like the quiet competition situations like chess.
- Often easily bored. Their brain prefers it when things in the environment are active.
- They may also like to be involved in sport activities that are very physical in nature. This will be especially true if they have the kinesthetic sensory preference.
Again, I find that my own family experience has a good example of this portion of the BPC. My brother-in-law was an extreme extrovert. When he was dating my sister, many years ago, we would find it a little strange that he could fall asleep anywhere, and at any time. When he would come to visit, if you did not actively involve him in conversation within a matter of minutes, he would fall asleep. His brain, if left unstimulated, would simply go to sleep. What we didn’t fully understand at the time is now completely clear to us; he was a highly extroverted person and at times we bored his brain.
An interesting side point is that when he fell sick to diabetes and, as a result, became legally blind, his activity slowed tremendously. How it must have hurt his extroverted brain to have to live in an environment that was not as active as it would have liked. This became apparent when, toward the end of his life, he was completely reliant on others for transportation, limiting the situations that could provide much needed stimulus, he fell into depression. A good lesson on how important it is to honor the I/E ratio of our loved ones.
Now, for the next part: The negative pejoratives, or titles, that are often attached to the extroverts. When working with people to understand this part of the BPC it is important that we help them reflect on terms they may have used, or feel are connected to themselves, and make the needed adjustments.
Negative terms or pejoratives:
- They are noisy, loud
- ADD, ADHD
- Party animal
- Unable to focus
- Risk takers
If you feel, or a person you are working with feels, that these are titles attached to them it is important that you help them to make adjustments in their self-perception. Also, you will need to validate this portion of their BPC and honor their need for a high stimulus environment. In honoring the extrovert make sure that you:
- Understand their need for plenty of stimulus. It is the only way that their brain is happy.
- Be patient with their apparent extra energy. It is simply that they are staying active to keep their brain going.
- Be patient with them and their desire to be in the middle of things. Often, they aren’t trying to be offensive; it is just that their involvement is what their brain craves.
- When meeting with them keep things moving; keep an active pace
- Give them group activities to keep their brains stimulated.
- Allow for frequent breaks during meetings or lectures.
Once a person understands where they fall on this scale, it will help them make wise choices in their personal and professional life. With that in mind, some good career choices that might match the more extroverted brain would be:
- In charge, the boss
- Assembly line work
- Receptionist, front office
- Public relations
- Any job that requires work with people or a high stimulus work area (i.e.: Starbucks)
- Retail sales
In a nut shell, the extrovert has a brain is naturally sleepy, so they will seek out any arena that provides extra stimulation. They will lean towards situations and lifestyles that offer the extra stimulus to make the brain happy and keep it awake. This means possibly loud and seemingly chaotic environments, but understand it is simply that they need the busy life to keep them happy.
A WORD ABOUT ADD, ADHD
There are many people today that are diagnosed with ADD and ADHD … are these possibly misdiagnosed? While there is definitely such a thing as clinical ADD and ADHD, (disclaimer: this information is not meant to dispute or replace medical advice) it is my opinion that, all too often, individuals in this category of being extreme, or even high, extroverts are misdiagnosed with these conditions. If you noticed, in the descriptions of the extrovert there were similarities to people who are said to be ADD or ADHD. The extroverted brain can appear to be one that matches the ADD or ADHD type personality. The problem is, we shouldn’t try to “fix” someone who is extroverted; there is nothing to fix. Giving medication to someone to try to adjust or mask their natural gifts will only lead to frustration and low self-esteem.
This can be extremely devastating for young children in a school setting. When you are given a negative label at an early age it puts limitations on your brain that it is hard or near impossible to overcome. How often I have met an adult, who I clearly see as an extrovert, who tells me they can’t achieve or do something because they are ADD or ADHD. How sad to be held back and held down for something that is your natural power and gift.
Instead, we should strive to be insightful and determine if we just simply need to honor these natural gifts, and stop trying to make them fit into a mold that has been set by society. When you are working with clients, or in groups, I encourage you to be sure that you acknowledge their strengths; assuring them that, to succeed to their maximum ability, they need to resist changing to fit into someone else’s ideal. Understanding and validating the beauty of a person’s I/E level will lead to thriving relationships and help them to live authentic to themselves.