I’d like to pose a question. Who do you believes fares better as a single Baby Boomer, an introvert, extrovert or ambivert? Most Baby Boomers married and had families. It was something that all three personality types were expected to do. About half divorced and remarried, some several times, but others remained single, so which personality traits did these singles exhibit?
Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and founder of the school of analytical psychology, popularized the concepts of extroversion and introversion in the early 1920s. He identified a third group but didn’t name or write much about it. In the 40s the term ambivert started to be used by psychologists.
Jung said that there are two differing attitudes toward life or different modes of reacting to circumstances. No one lives completely as one type. Your type might be innate and begin very early in life. Here are the definitions attributed to Jung at http://philosophy.lander.edu/ethics/jung.html.
- Extroverted attitude: a standpoint characterized by an outward flowing of personal energy (libido)—an interest in events, in people and things, a relationship with them, and a dependence on them. The extrovert is usually …
- motivated by outside factors and greatly influenced by the environment,
- sociable and confident in unfamiliar surroundings, less cautious, less fearful, and
- likes organizations, parties, and tends to be optimistic and enthusiastic.
- Weaknesses of the extroverted attitude include:
(1) a dependence on making a good impression,
(2) easily making and breaking relationships,
(3) regarding reflection as being morbid and avoiding being alone,
(4) lacking self-criticism, and
(5) accepting the morals and conventions of the day–conventional.
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- Introverted Attitude: characterized by an inward flowing of personal energy—a withdrawal concentrating on subjective factors. The introvert is usually …
- happy alone with a rich imagination, and
- prefers reflection to activity.
- Weaknesses of the introverted attitude include …
(1) a lack confidence in relation to people and things and
(2) a tendency to be unsociable, shy, and hesitant.
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One of Jung’s famous quotes about the different personality types is “The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.” This may explain why he didn’t settle on one personality type and why this question about singles is difficult to answer.
In her Wall Street Journal 2015 article, “Not an Introvert, Not an Extrovert? You May Be An Ambivert”, http://www.wsj.com/articles/not-an-introvert-not-an-extrovert-you-may-be-an-ambivert-1438013534, Beth Bernstein said that ambiverts have gotten more attention in recent years as books, TEDx talks, and consulting firms have started to focus on introversion and how personality traits impact people’s behaviors in marriages, families, and work. She said that according to Dr. Adam Grant of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, more than half the population are ambiverts, while one-third are either strong introverts or strong extroverts. He cautions that ambiverts shouldn’t get stuck in either an introvert or extrovert role because sticking with one of the tendencies too long could cause an ambivert to feel drained. They should be aware of the signs, boredom or burnout.
“An introvert and an extrovert know pretty quickly what they crave,” said Laurie Helgoe, author of “Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength” and assistant professor in the department of psychology and human services at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, WV. She said introverts often pull away from stimulation or interaction and regroup, while extroverts seek out people and activity. Ambiverts, based on the situation, could go either way. Dr. Helgoe said, “If you are aware that you can go both ways, then you can look at a situation and see what behaviors are going to be most effective and rewarding.”
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“Think of “introvert” and “extrovert” as verbs”, said Beth Buelow, a speaker and coach who is founder of The Introvert Entrepreneur, a website for introverts. “You can choose to introvert (turn inward) or extrovert (project outward) depending on what’s called for.” She described the ambivert as:
“Socially flexible—comfortable in social situations or being alone.
Skilled at communicating—intuits when to listen or to talk.
Moderate in mood—not overly expressive or reserved.
Adaptable—no default mode, so they change their approach to fit the situation”
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In a 2014 article in Psychology Today, “What If Staying Single Weren’t Stigmatized? Would you choose not to marry if you gave yourself permission?” at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-introverts-corner/201401/what-if-staying-single-werent-stigmatized Sophia Dembling, author of “Introverts in Love”, said “It seems to me that the stigma of introversion and the stigma of staying single are kissing cousins, and that choosing to remain single is a lifestyle option we need to take another look at—or at least stop looking askance at. Sure, marriage is great for lots and lots of people. But for everyone?”
Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., a singles expert, in her blog “Extraversion and the Single Person Are single people more likely to be introverts?” at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201101/extraversion-and-the-single-person, reported on a study of 6,876 Wisconsin adults, ages 53-54 all non-Hispanic Whites. When first recruited, they were high school age and their extraversion was not measured until their early 50s. She said, “So you can see the plusses and minuses of the study already – it is a big sample, but not a diverse one. It is a longitudinal study, but the key personality variable was only measured once, so we can’t know how people’s extraversion may have changed as they got married or unmarried or stayed single.”
She added, “The 50-something year-olds who had stayed single were, on the average, less extraverted than their high school age mates who were married at the time of the testing. That was true of both the men and the women.” She reminded the reader that introversion is different from social anxiety or shyness. “The socially anxious are fearful about social interactions; introverts just prefer more time to themselves.” She also noted that the study’s author didn’t “….report the mean levels of extraversion for the different groups, so we can’t know whether the singles were on the introverted end of the scale or just less extraverted than the marrieds…This study gives me the opportunity to emphasize a different point that is too often overlooked: Those singles who do spend more time on their own are not necessarily unhappy about that – in fact, many of them just may prefer it that way.”
Now for a twist on the issue that was brought to my attention by Stanley Coren Ph.D., F.R.S.C. in a 2016 post in Psychology Today, “Dog People Are Popular While Cat People Are Single: Analysis of Facebook postings shows differences between dog and cat people”- https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201608/dog-people-are-popular-while-cat-people-are-single. He gave the details of a Facebook report that analyzed a sample of 160,000 Facebook users using a popular stereotype about dog people vs. cat people.
First, the data analysts turned to was the question of who was more popular, dog or cat people. Several studies (not necessarily scientific) have been done that show dog owners tend to be more extroverted and outgoing than cat owners, so they decided to count the number of Facebook friends of each pet owner. Dog owners averaged more friends than cat people (about 26 more). Cat people are 2.2 times more likely to accept other cat people as friends compared to randomly chosen friends. However, they seemed to like pet owners in general and friended 1.8 times as many dog people as might be expected. Dog lovers friended 1.8 times as many dog people and 1.6 times as many cat people as would be expected by chance.
Next, they focused on the question whether the theory of the stereotype that a cat-lover is most apt to be an older, single, female is valid. They found partial confirmation since their Facebook data showed that 30% of cat people are single compared to just 24% of dog people. These findings couldn’t be tied to age or gender since younger cat-lovers and male cat-lovers of every age are just as likely to be single as older female cat-lovers.
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This information should show that there is no reliable way to determine if single Baby Boomers are introverts, extroverts or ambiverts. In my opinion, I think that we’ve adapted to what was expected of us during different times in our lives and sometimes become ambiverts through necessity. We’re like the rest of the population, a melting pot of a variety of personality types which add spice to the lives of the people we come in contact with every day. In the future, we may remain what society expects of us or we may go back to our preferred state. All that matters is that we’re happy with our choice.
Continue the adventure!