Can introverts achieve happiness? Researchers recently untangled some of the knots in the complex associations between happiness, personality, social relationships, and emotion regulation. They examined how quality social relationships and emotion regulation ability might positively affect the happiness of introverts. Their results clarify the nature of those complex associations, and the authors suggest how introverts can achieve greater happiness.

This post considers those results and suggestions, and from them charts an evidence-based vision for a more focused, safer path for introverted lawyers to follow to achieve greater happiness. Anecdotes can encourage. But, by applying these suggestions derived from evidence from an empirical study performed by scholars, and the literature from which it emerged, a more solid and truer hope for many quiet law people springs.

Who Should Read This Post and Why. Quiet people abound in the legal profession. See ∗. Probably well over half of lawyers in the USA favor the preference for introversion or have a personality which measures at the lower end of the extraversion trait. These quiet people prefer to energize themselves from within. They’re usually not gregarious, and don’t chat or engage in much small talk because they are quiet people. Their deep, deliberate and penetrating thoughtful analysis of life’s issues, problems, and concerns characterizes how they use the quiet facets of their personality profile. One important concern about them exists. It relates to how the quiet law people, compared to their more outgoing, extraverted friends and colleagues, can achieve happiness in their lives. This post translates results from an exploratory empirical study, and from that synthesis provides quiet law people guidance and hope.

Although denied or minimized by many practitioners and scholars, emotional intelligence has always played an important role in lawyering. The ability to perceive, use, understand, and regulate emotions in the practice of law has never been more relevant and important for lawyers and managers and leaders. The current definitive guide to emotionally intelligent lawyering makes that case. Lawyers and their leaders must learn about it, develop those abilities and competencies, and practice emotionally intelligent lawyering now. See §.

This post translates important empirical research results, unveils some new and useful information, and from that evidence offers introverted lawyers and their leaders new science-based considerations to adapt to their efforts to achieve greater happiness. With attention, intention, and focused effort and training regarding quality social relationships and emotion regulation ability, quiet law people should positively impact their personal and professional development.

Purpose of the Research. The authors reviewed numerous studies which establish direct relationships between happiness and extraversion, social relationships, and emotion regulation. But, they found from the evidence of the strength, direction, and the type of relationship, i.e. mediate or moderate, that quality social relationships and emotion regulation have with extraversion and happiness inconclusive.

Their research represents the first attempt to untangle the knotty associations shared by personality, happiness, quality of social relationships, and emotion regulation ability. Among the many gaps in existing research, the authors expected their study to show that “introverts with higher quality of social relationships and higher emotion regulation ability would score higher on happiness scales.” They achieved that purpose.

Research Background – Happiness and Extraversion. The concept of happiness has many different meanings. These researchers chose to consider a broad perspective that describes it as “a life involving many pleasant and few unpleasant experiences, and as the experience of high life satisfaction.” Their approach involves both emotional and cognitive components and considers general subjective happiness experienced over time and not just a recent shapshot of recent levels of positive feelings and satisfaction with life.

Personality influences happiness. Numerous studies document that extraversion positively correlates with happiness and that extraverts are happier than introverts. In fact, the authors cited a recent study which involved young adults, and concluded that “extraversion is a significant predictor of happiness, after controlling for parental factors, the subjects’ own social factors and intelligence during childhood.”

Happy introverts exist. But, as research also shows that they possess a personality factor “most tightly associated with the various cognitive and affective indicators of happiness”, extraverts achieve happiness with greater ease than introverts. Considering this background, the authors’ research addressed a nagging, unanswered concern – under what conditions can introverts achieve happiness.

Research Background – Quality of Social Relationships, Extraversion, and Happiness. Numerous studies, according to the authors, show that social relationships can at least partly explain the relationship between happiness and extraverted people. But, they also noted that other studies do not support the conclusion made by many that happy people have significantly more full and satisfying lives than people who have not achieved as much happiness. So, their research considered a different aspect of social relationships.

Like many things in life, quality matters. Quality social relationships help one achieve happiness. From another line of research about social relationships and happiness, the authors’ research examined the proposition that the number of friends or the amount of time one spends in social relationships may not help one achieve a desired happiness endpoint, especially for introverts. Those researchers, according to the authors, “found that strength of social relationships was a strong moderator of the subjective well-being in introverted individuals, but not in extraverted ones.”

Research Background – Emotion Regulation Ability, Quality of Social Relationships, and Happiness. People with high ability emotional intelligence usually have high emotion regulation ability. These people have greater emotional ability which involves higher awareness of and the ability to select and deploy the most effective strategies to modify and use emotions, their own emotions and the emotions of others, in particular situations. See ¶.

The authors cited a leading organizational behavior scholar, and noted that “Emotion regulation is linked with happiness: people who intelligently regulate their emotions obtain high scores on several measures of happiness.” But, according to the authors, prior research studies using the measures of the ability emotional intelligence model or self-reported measures of emotional intelligence have not clearly shown if or how personality factors affect the relationship between emotional intelligence and happiness. An additional open question exists.

Several studies noted by the authors show a link between emotion regulation ability and the quality of social relationships. But, like the above open question, showing any definite relation between extraversion and happiness as affected by the impact of emotion regulation on the quality of social relationships has remained elusive.

In consideration of the research background noted above, the research team designed and conducted a study which separately analyzed how the two variables of quality of social relationships and emotion regulation ability operated and impact the direct relationship between happiness on one hand and extraversion, social relationships, and emotion regulation on the other.

What the Researchers Did – Participants, Measures, and Methods. The researchers, from two universities in Spain, utilized a local community-based sample of over 1,000 volunteers. The participants, from a university campus, retirement homes, and through newspaper recruitment represented “a broad, balanced distribution of gender, age, and socio-economic status”.

The participants took several assessments which measured several variables: emotion regulation ability (MSCEIT), the Subjective Happiness Scale (4-item global assessment of happiness), parts from a self-report personality inventory which measured extraversion and neuroticism, and one dimension of quality of social relationships scale (Network of Relationships Inventory) which measures companionship, intimacy, affection, and alliance. Data collection occurred over a two year period.

Research Study Results. This part will note certain highlights of the results obtained by the researchers without mentioning or detailing the statistical techniques and analyses performed. The findings most important for our consideration include the following:

  • Age had no correlation with happiness or extraversion, but had a significant negative correlation with quality of social relationships and emotion regulation ability;
  • Positive correlations between happiness, extraversion, quality of social relationships on one hand and emotion regulation ability on the other;
  • Extraverts received higher happiness scores than introverts;
  • After controlling for the influence of extraversion and neuroticism, quality of social relationships and emotion regulation ability had a significant, positive association with happiness;
  • For introverts, defined as those scoring at least one standard deviation below the mean on the extraversion scale, “quality of social relationships significantly increased self-reported happiness in those who had above-average levels of emotion regulation ability”;
  • Introverts with high quality of social relationships and an emotion regulation ability above the mean had a happiness score higher than the mean for all introverts and much higher than introverts with a low quality of social relationships and low emotion regulation ability;
  • Introverts with high emotion regulation ability experienced a positive effect of social relationships on happiness;

Discussion of Results and Implications for Lawyers, Legal Leaders, and Legal Organizations – Small Changes Can Make a Difference. Several complex associations between happiness, extraversion, quality of social relations, and emotion regulation exist. The large community sample exploratory research study featured in this post untangled some of the nuances regarding two factors – quality of social relationships and emotion regulation – and the results show that they simultaneously can influence happiness.

While this research did not involve lawyers, and the authors noted that their cross-sectional study had limitations, and further study should occur to establish causality in the relationships among the several variables studied, this final part gleans from the results, and offers some important take-aways exist for legal professionals and legal leaders generally, and in particular, for quiet law people.

After controlling all other factors, “people with high quality of social relationships or high emotion regulation ability are happier….” This study used the ability emotional intelligence model as measured by the MSCEIT assessment. The researchers suggest that their results “may mean that the ability to regulate emotions based on experience strengthens social attachments and avoids friction with friends, contributing to positive and successful social interactions that generate more happiness.”

Law people with more extraverted and less neurotic personalities generally will report higher happiness. But, certain introvered law people have hope as “introverts were happier when they had high quality of social relationships and high emotion regulation ability.” High emotion regulation ability can increase happiness. This happens, the authors suggest, because “high emotion regulation ability reinforces the positive effects of quality of social relationships….”

Some people may define their quality social relationships in terms of frequency of contact and the number of friends. But, the results of this study show that quality social relationships, i.e. defined in terms of companionship, intimacy, affection, and alliance qualities with people other than family or romantic partners when coupled with higher emotion regulation ability matters more. Such quality social relationships may well provide introverts – quiet law people – the special lift that they need to achieve more happiness as suggested by the study’s “important new insights” noted here.

The two variables studied – quality of social relationships and emotion regulation ability – can develop and improve with attention, intention, and training designed to increase knowledge and increase social-emotional competencies and behaviors. “Evidence suggests that training in social and emotional competencies is crucial and should be begin in the first years of life.” See ♦ In this regard, the authors stated “. . . even small changes to social relations or an individual’s abilities can have important effects for the course of his or her life.”

Unfortunately, happiness eludes many lawyers. We fail to achieve that desired endpoint because many of us emphasize unhelpful or the wrong things in our career preparation and then later in our work. This focus on external factors can negatively impact the lives, careers, and clients of thousands of lawyers. Often, that misdirection begins in law school, and unfortunately for many its downward spiral marches through the early, middle, and later career years. But, results from the first theory-guided empirical research study show that lawyers are “ordinary people”. See ♥.  Those authors stated “In order to thrive, we need the same authenticity, autonomy, close relationships, supportive teaching and supervision, altruistic values, and focus on self-understanding and growth that promotes thriving in others.”

As quiet law people we can achieve greater happiness and thrive when seek out and develop high quality social relationships and manage our emotions intelligently. From the research efforts of emotion and personality scholars striving to advance science, we have been provided greater clarity about the complex associations involving personality, emotional intelligence, and social interaction. We have synthesized those results into a new vision, and now for quiet law people a brighter pathway for happiness exists. To achieve greater happiness, consider this post, the additional resources noted, and get attention, intention, training and take action to develop quality social relationships and your emotion regulation ability and you will . . . .

Thank You.  Thank you very much. Dan DeFoe JD MS – Adlitem Solutions | Organization Development for Professional Services Firms and the Legal Profession: People. Projects. Practices | Web – | Email: | Blog – | Services – Organization Development Practitioner combining and leveraging 25+ years of diverse legal experience, including an appellate clerkship, solo practitioner and of-counsel lawyer, and senior corporate trial attorney, 7+ years of allied health training and work experience, a Master of Science in Organizational Development Psychology, and educationally qualified or earned certifications in industry-leading Jungian-based (Myers-Briggs MBTI) and special business (Hogan Assessments – HPI, HDS, & MVPI) normal personality; ability (MSCEIT) and self-report (EQi 2.0 [derived from Bar-On model]) emotional intelligenceleadership (Certified Intentional Leadership Coach); and stress management (ARSENAL best practices system for stress resilient emotional intelligence) assessments, tools, systems, and coaching to partner with client organizations, their leaders, and member to discover needs and opportunities for growth and to design, develop, deliver, and evaluate results from implementing custom interventions for individual, team, project, or organizational solutions. | Mission:  “America’s leading resource for normal personality and emotional intelligence assessments, and related coaching, continuing education programs, training, and workshops for judges, lawyers, law schools, bar associations, healthcare, medical, and other professional services providers and their organizations and leaders.”  Please visit Adlitem Solutions and Psycholawlogy again soon. Thank you very much.

Complimentary Assessment About Emotional Intelligence As Ability, Self-Report, and Competency: Contact me via email at to arrange a time for a no obligation discussion and assessment of your firm’s or firm members’ interests or needs regarding emotional intelligence workshops, training, continuing education, or coaching. For information about taking first steps, see this related post at Psycholawlogy – Emotional Intelligence Memo to Management: EI as a Buffer of [Lawyer] Stress in the Developmental Job Experience .

Additional posts on Psycholawlogy about emotional intelligence as ability, self-report, or competency, lawyers, and the practice of law which might interest you include the following:

Lawyers, the RULER, the Mood Meter, and Emotional Intelligence

Trait Emotional Intelligence [EI] and Lawyers: EI As a Shield Against Burnout and Job Dissatisfaction

Legal Education and Empathy Assessment: Implications for Mental Health, Well-being, and Future Performance

Emotional Intelligence and Orthopedic Surgery Residents – New Study Shows One Way to Go: Up. . . Up. . . Up! – Suggested Lessons for Legal Educators and Lawyers

All-Star [Lawyers] Players – The Top Five (5) EQ-i 2.0™ Attorney Emotional Intelligence Work Success Factors

“Don’t Just Say It . . . Just Do It” – Measuring [Lawyer] Emotional Competence from the Client Perspective

Additional posts on Psycholawlogy about happiness, lawyers, and the practice of law which might interest you include the following:

The How, What, When, and Why of [Lawyer] Happiness Increasing Strategies: Initial Understanding From the “Positive-Activity Model”

Feel Good Feelings vs. Do Good Feelings: The Link Between Seeking Happiness at the Right Time & Well-Being

The [Lawyer’s] Billable Hour – Part 2: The Nuanced and [Un]savory Relationship Between Time, Money, and Happiness

Featured Article Source: Cabello, R., & Fernandez-Berrocal, P. (2015). Under which conditions can introverts achieve happiness? Mediation and moderation effects of the quality of social relationships and emotion regulation ability on happiness. PeerJ3, e1300 (copy currently available here and pdf)

∗ Additional Resource: To access the current definitive guide about introversion in the legal profession, see Seize Your Quiet Space and Tap Into Your Quiet Power – Review of “The Introverted Lawyer: A Seven-Step Journey Toward Authentically Empowered Advocacy” by Heidi K. Brown.

§ Additional Resource: To access the current definitive guide about emotional intelligence in the legal profession, see Emotional Intelligence, Lawyers, and Better Lawyering – Review of “Beyond Smart: Lawyering With Emotional Intelligence” by Ronda Muir.

¶ Additional Resource: To access information about ability emotional intelligence and the legal profession, see Important Notice to Lawyers: The MSCEIT Emotional Intelligence Test Will Not Show That You Are “Crazy” , Emotional Intelligence Emotion Regulation Ability Helps You [Lawyers] Interact With Others More Effectively and The Importance of Emotional Intelligence as a Factor in the Success and Professional Development of In-House Counsel

♥ Additional Resource: Krieger, L. S., & Sheldon, K. M. (2015). What makes lawyers happy: A data-driven prescription to redefine professional success. Geo. Wash. L. Rev.83(2), 554-627 (copy currently available here)

♦ Additional Resource: Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta‐analysis of school‐based universal interventions. Child Development82(1), 405-432 (copy currently available here)

Image Credits: Knots here  | Happy Lawyer here (a project of Professors Levit & Linder, UMKC School of Law) | Introspection here | Example – “Happy Lawyer” – Avery Blank here see about her at The Happy Lawyer Project here |

Dan DeFoe

Owner and Lead consultant at Adlitem Solutions
I'm an attorney with 20+ years of experience and have an MS degree in organizational development psychology. I provide normal personality and emotional intelligence assessments, assessment interpretation and feedback, and professional development planning and training activities for lawyers, judges, other legal services providers, and their organizations.

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