Extroversion and introversion are important personality factors that signify how a person gets their energy. Introverts feel more energized when they’re alone, and typically feel drained if they spend too much time with other people. Extroverts, on the other hand, tend to gain energy with others and may be very lethargic if left alone for too long.
Because the highly sensitive person (HSP) tends to need a lot of time alone to recharge from a world that we find very overwhelming, it’s tempting to believe that we are all introverts. However, the psychologist who discovered the highly sensitive trait, Dr. Elaine Aron, estimates that about 30% of HSPs are actually extroverts. So what happens when your brain is hardwired to need consistent interaction with others and process all incoming information with the intensity of a fine-toothed comb at all times?
I personally fall into the category of highly sensitive extroverts, although it took me forever to figure that out. For a long time I assumed I was introverted, then I thought I was just a very anxious extrovert, but now I see that I’m a highly sensitive extrovert. If you’re an HSP (take the test here!) and you’ve never been quite sure where you fall on the extroversion/introversion scale, check out these 6 habits of highly sensitive extroverts and see if they sound familiar.
1. You love parties, but you tend to bail out early.
Not all extroverts love going to parties…but a lot of us do. Even HSPs can enjoy a good party, as long as we know most of the people there and we’ve been to the location before (new people and places tend to overwhelm us). If you’re a highly sensitive extrovert, odds are good that you really look forward to going to parties. You might spend hours pre-gaming or getting ready, and when you finally head out the door you feel confident that tonight is going to be so. much. fun.
Then, about two hours in, you find yourself quietly slipping out the door, going home, putting on your softest PJs, and re-watching your favorite Disney movie.
It’s not that you weren’t having fun, it’s just that your highly sensitive brain can only take about two hours of partying before all the information bombarding your brain starts to outweigh the fun stimulation your extroverted brain needs. Honestly, as long as your anxiety isn’t too bad, you probably don’t even mind leaving parties early. You go, see your friends, have fun, then head home to decompress.
2. You often find yourself trapped in a cycle of over- and understimulation.
Does this sound familiar? On the weekends, you have 57 separate engagements and you are determined to make it to them all, because you really haven’t seen so-and-so in forever, or you know your mom is having a hard time right now, or you just realllly want to try out a silent disco for the first time. It’s no big deal, you think. It’ll be fine.
Halfway through Saturday, you start feeling a bit run down, a little sick or maybe a tad sad, but you’re okay, everything is fine, you’ll get through this.
By Sunday evening, you are exhausted, probably crying, and cannot fathom going into work tomorrow morning, or doing anything at all ever again. You cancel all of your plans for next weekend and instead plan on spending that time alone, finding your inner peace. Instead, you’re bored out of your mind. You immediately start making plans for next weekend, maybe too many plans…
This is the cycle of over- and understimulation that many highly sensitive extroverts fall prey to. As extroverts, we need contact with people in order to feel energized and fulfilled, but as HSPs, we need to balance our time with others so we have adequate time to process our interactions with the world. When we’re in one mode, we may start craving the other, so we make all kinds of plans to fulfill the opposite need of the one being fulfilled right now, whether than means scheduling eight parties in two days, or cancelling all our plans and buying an array of meditation journals and adult coloring books.
3. People like to open up to you…even if they’re total strangers.
If you’re a highly sensitive extrovert, you’ve probably had an experience a lot like this one. You’re grocery shopping, minding your own business, when someone comes up to you and asks you a simple question or pays you a small compliment. You respond politely, and before you know it, they’re telling you all about their recent divorce or their kids’ recent trouble in school or their cousin’s friend’s mom who just got out of jail. You do your best to give the person the support they so clearly need, but you’re always left a little confused about how the conversation got there.
Highly sensitive extroverts give off a very specific energy. Extroverts gain energy from being around others, so their energy is naturally more receptive to conversation with strangers, and HSPs are typically empathic and intuitive, which also comes across to others in subtle ways. Together, this is a perfect recipe for strangers to walk up to you and start telling you their life story.
Honestly, this can be very draining for highly sensitive extroverts because, even though we love deep conversations, we don’t love having others dump their stories on us without giving us an opportunity to share as well. It’s really less of a conversation and more of a monologue that we feel obligated to listen to and nod politely at. Many highly sensitive extroverts struggle with boundaries, and this is one area where learning to guard our energy could help us enforce boundaries that keep us healthy and happy.
4. You get along with kids very well.
I believe that HSPs are naturally inclined to get along with children very well due to our naturally intuitive nature, and extroverts tend to love kids because they’re so high energy. Kids run on pure intuition and energy, making them a highly sensitive extrovert’s best friend.
Time flies when you’re playing race cars or princesses or super secret ninja unicorns, and highly sensitive extroverts will find their energy recharged in no time at all. Best of all, kids’ verbal communication skills are typically still developing, so they tend to communicate through nuance and nonverbal gestures. Since HSPs are already absorbing all of this information all the time, it’s nice to hang out with someone who doesn’t add to all the stimulation with extra words.
5. You enjoy quiet downtime with a loved one.
Believe it or not, it is possible to be extroverted and enjoy things that are low-key. One of the best ways to satisfy your extroversion and your high sensitivity is to hang out with a loved one, quietly doing nothing of importance together. Thanks to you high sensitivity, you will be able to enjoy their energy even without actively interacting, and since you’re both being quiet and doing your own thing, you won’t get overwhelmed by excess stimuli.
My husband and I love to sit in our living room together as he plays video games and I work on this blog or scroll through TikTok, occasionally showing him the ones that make me snort. When we go to bed, I feel like I got my extroversion energy for the day, but my brain isn’t short-circuiting as it tries to process several hours of conversation and activity.
6. You take frequent social media breaks, but when you’re on, you’re on.
In many ways, social media is an HSPs worst nightmare. The lack of nuance, the constant updating (and consequently, the constant falling behind and missing out), and ugh, the aggression. But for the extrovert, social media is an amazing way to reach out and create connections with others even if you can’t see them in person.
So how does this work when you’re a highly sensitive extrovert? You tend to take a lot of breaks from social media, often deleting apps from your phone or even deleting your profiles every now and again. Your extroverted heart wants to connect, but your sensitivity quickly starts drowning in all the miscommunications and raw emotion, and sometimes the only way you can protect yourself is to get rid of the temptation entirely.
But when you aren’t on social media hiatus, you are your friends’ favorite social media personality. Your sensitivity allows you to imbue your posts with a certain nuance that is typically lacking on social media, but because your end goal is to connect with others, your posts generally don’t get too sappy and self-involved. You’re funny, insightful, and people like seeing your posts.