Some people assume introverts are socially anxious, but that’s not really the case. Introverts just don’t handle social situations as well as extroverts do. Although the stereotypical introvert would be at the party, hanging out alone by the food table fiddling with the phone, the “social butterfly” can just as easily have an introverted personality! Sometimes a lot of introverts can pass off as extroverts! In fact, introverts can be warm, interested in others and powerful in their own right as well. People are frequently unaware that they’re introverts, especially if they’re not shy! They may not realize that being an introvert is more than just cultivating time alone.
It can be more helpful to pay attention to whether one is losing or gaining energy from being around others, even if the company of friends gives them pleasure. While introverts and extroverts are often viewed in terms of two extreme opposites, the truth is that most people lie somewhere in the middle of the extroversion-introversion continuum. There are certainly plenty of introverts who are socially reserved and who would prefer to stay home and read a book rather than go to a big party, but there are also plenty of introverts who enjoy socializing. You might even be surprised to learn that many people who you think of as “social butterflies” might actually be quite introverted!
The following behavioral signs of introversion can give you a start in learning about traits and attitudes that suggest that your personality (or that of someone you know) may be less outer-oriented than you realize. See how many you feel honestly apply to you!
We don’t need alone time because we don’t like you. Don’t take it personally. But we need alone time because we just need alone time! In fact we aren’t even judging anyone when we sit quietly. We’re just sitting quietly, probably having a good time watching extroverts in action. And though it might not look like it on the way we behave sometimes, if we say we’re having fun, we are having fun. And if we leave early, it’s not because we’re party poopers. We’re just pooped. Socializing takes a lot out of us! When we want to stay in, we just do it without making a big, aggrieved production about how it is absolutely essential for us to stay in sometimes—we need to do it, we just have to recharge—because we have extreme intermittent photosensitivity OF THE SOUL! Also, we are always on or before time.
If you want to hear what we have to say, give us time to say it. We don’t fight to be heard over other people. We just clam up. Just as introverts are less likely to volunteer in public situations, they are also less likely to volunteer opinions or advice in less public settings. Whether it’s a family discussion around the kitchen table or a staff meeting to decide how to market new products, people high in introversion will keep their views to themselves and let the noisy extroverts take control. Because of this, and because your advice may indeed be highly valued, it’s likely that if you’re constantly being asked “What do you think?” it might suggest that your behavior sends cues to others of your inner desire to focus your attention and thoughts inward. We may look disinterested in striking up a conversation and might even seem lonely, but we are not! We are just choosy. And we’re loyal to friends who don’t try to make us over into extroverts. We speak at a volume perceivable by humans. We don’t obsess over the possibility that occasionally liking to perform activities solo (reading, going for walks, etc.) makes us extremely unique. “Extroverts don’t have the same internal talking as we do,” says Olsen Laney. “Most introverts need to think first and talk later.” As you might remember from your elementary school days, there were some fellow students whose hands shot straight up into the air when the teacher asked a question or needed someone to volunteer. Extroverts tend to be ready and eager to stand out in any academic or social situation. You are probably more of an introvert than an extrovert if you are content to sit back and let others take center stage. It’s not that introverts know less than others; they just don’t feel a particular need to be in that limelight. I remember my best friend would poke me to raise my hands up because she knew I was aware of the answers to the question and still sat there quiet on my bench.
Anything but the telephone. You may not pick up your phone even from people you like, but you’ll call them back as soon as you’re mentally prepared and have gathered the energy for the conversation. “To me, a ringing phone is like having somebody jump out of a closet and go ‘BOO!,'” says Dembling. “I do like having a long, nice phone call with a friend — as long as it’s not jumping out of the sky at me.” We interact with other humans in orthodox ways and sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s not and mostly it’s whatever. Most of those who know me would agree with this! I can talk comfortably over the telephone to just about 10 people in the world at the moment. We communicate emotions, fears, and desires to relevant parties in a clear way. Sometimes you do things alone without tweeting “OHHHH MY GODDDD I LOVE TO DO THINGS ALOOOOONE!!!!!!!!! #INTROVERT”. Introverts are notoriously small talk-phobic, as they find idle chatter to be a source of anxiety, or at least annoyance. For many quiet types, chitchat can feel disingenuous. “Let’s clear one thing up: Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.”
Introverts listen before they speak. They watch from the sidelines and take some mental notes before they insert themselves into any social situation. This preparation allows them to enter a conversation confidently, without stumbling over their words or doubting the accuracy of what they say. Introverts are often described as quiet, reserved, mellow, and are sometimes mistaken for being shy. While some introverts certainly are shy, people certainly should not mistake an introvert’s reserve for timidity. In many cases, people with this personality type simply prefer to choose their words carefully and not waste time or energy on needless chit-chat. If you are the quiet type and a little bit reserved, you probably are an introvert. We shy away from asking questions and we also dislike being asked too many questions. We would rather analyze on our own instead. We also do not like unnecessary explanation which we are asked to do to prove ourselves. It stresses us out! All things said, we can talk endlessly with people we know very closely or enjoy being with.
Introverts are not dependent people. They believe it is foolish to depend on another person to take care of their material needs. This freedom makes them feel empowered, because they know they can manage any curve ball that life might throw at them. It’s true that opposites attract, and introverts frequently gravitate towards outgoing extroverts who encourage them to have fun and not take themselves too seriously. “Introverts are sometimes drawn to extroverts because they like being able to ride their ‘fun bubble.'” They are shy with their love interest even when they are comfortable.
Introverts concentrate with everything they’ve got. They make a point of paying attention to nonverbal cues that might reveal hidden meanings, because they know words are only half of the story. This ability helps them avoid potential misunderstandings. Introverts identify changes in their environment very quickly. They will probably be the first person to notice a new haircut. This often causes their friends and coworkers to thank them for being so thoughtful. The upside of being overwhelmed by too much stimuli is that introverts often have a keen eye for detail, noticing things that may escape others around them. Research has found that introverts exhibit increased brain activity when processing visual information, as compared to extroverts. When describing the way that introverts think, Jung explained that they’re more interested in ideas and the big picture rather than facts and details. Of course, many introverts excel in detail-oriented tasks — but they often have a mind for more abstract concepts as well. “Introverts do really enjoy abstract discussion,”
EASY TO PLEASE
Introverts don’t need much to feel happy and content. They would rather stay home and enjoy a good book or bubble bath than go to a loud bar and buy expensive drinks. This distinction helps them save money and relax after stressful days. They forgive easily. Introverts are masters of their emotions. They reflect until they are able to understand the triggers that are responsible for their negative thoughts. This retrospection helps them dig deep enough to deal with entrenched self-defeating beliefs that limit their potential. Introverts are trustworthy as they can keep secrets. They know how hard it can be to trust somebody, so they won’t share a personal detail if you don’t want them to. This is exactly why introverts are excellent best friends. But they are often taken for granted because they seldom complain. They are patient and can tolerate irritating people too. But we are likely to avoid people who seem like they might be in a bad mood, if not outright furious at something or someone. People high in introversion don’t want to look at someone who seems mad. This is because they are more sensitive to potentially negative evaluations. If you think a person is angry because of something to do with you, his or her gaze becomes a threat.
Introverts believe knowledge is power. They are intensely interested in the things that they care about and want to learn everything they can. This eagerness helps them become experts in their fields. Introverts have interesting things to say. They might not be fans of small talk, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be engaging in a deep discussion. This distinction is a common source of confusion. Introverts are often considered to be “quiet,” but that’s not because they don’t like people. They just don’t like to talk about trivial things. Introverts are passionate people who want to make the most of their days, so they’d rather not waste their time with a shallow conversation. If you want to find out how fascinating an introvert can be, simply ask them an intelligent question about a topic that they care about. They have a penchant for philosophical conversations and a love of thought-provoking books and movies! Introverts like to jump into the deep end. Introverts observe and take in a lot of information, and they think before they speak, leading them to appear wise to others. Introverts tend to think hard and be analytical. We are often called an ‘old soul’ since our 20’s! Despite the belief that introverts are so quiet, they can be the best leaders of all. If the group is ready to lead itself, then the introverted leader will draw the most potential out of them. It’s only when the group needs a spark provided by its head that introverts might be unable to provide the necessary guidance. Then you’ll need to partner with an extroverted yin to your yang.
If you’re an introvert, you may sometimes enjoy going to parties, but chances are, you’re not going because you’re excited to meet new people. At a party, most introverts would rather spend time with people they already know and feel comfortable around. If you happen to meet a new person that you connect with, great — but meeting people is rarely the goal. Networking (read: small-talk with the end goal of advancing your career) can feel particularly disingenuous for introverts, who crave authenticity in their interactions. “Networking is stressful if we do it in the ways that are stressful to us,” Dembling says, advising introverts to network in small, intimate groups rather than at large mixers.
We feel like an outsider in the middle of social gatherings and group activities, even with people we know! If you tend to find yourself feeling alone in a crowd, you might be an introvert. We might let friends or activities pick us, rather than extending our own invitations. One of the most fundamental characteristics of introverts is that they need time alone to recharge their batteries. Whereas an extrovert might get bored or antsy spending a day at home alone with tea and a stack of magazines, this sort of down time feels necessary and satisfying to an introvert. Do you start to get tired and unresponsive after you’ve been out and about for too long? It’s likely because you’re trying to conserve energy. Everything introverts do in the outside world causes them to expend energy, after which they’ll need to go back and replenish their stores in a quiet environment. Short of a quiet place to go, many introverts will resort to zoning out. We feel exhausted after spending time with a lot of people. After a day interacting with others, we often need to retreat to a quiet place and have an extended amount of time all to oneself. One of the major characteristics of this personality type is that introverts have to expend energy in social situations, unlike extroverts who gain energy from such interactions. That doesn’t mean that all introverts avoid social events altogether. Many introverts actually enjoy spending time around others, with one key caution – introverts tend to prefer the company of close friends. While an extrovert might go to a party with the goal to meet new people, an introvert goes with the intent of spending quality time talking to good friends.
While extroverts tend to get bored easily when they don’t have enough to do, introverts have the opposite problem! They get easily distracted and overwhelmed in environments with an excess of stimulation.”Extroverts are commonly found to be more easily bored than introverts on monotonous tasks, probably because they require and thrive on high levels of stimulation,” Clark University researchers wrote in a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “In contrast, introverts are more easily distracted than extroverts and, hence, prefer relatively unstimulating environments.” But on the other hand they tend to be self-driven and disciplined too. They don’t need approval from external sources, so they direct their energy to the pursuit of an ambitious goal instead. This ambition often turns introverts into highly successful people.
EXCELLENT PUBLIC SPEAKERS
Introverts can be excellent leaders and public speakers — and although they’re stereotyped as being the shrinking violet, they don’t necessarily shy away from the spotlight. Performers like Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera and Emma Watson all identify as introverts, and an estimated 40 percent of CEOs have introverted personalities. Instead, an introvert might struggle more with meeting and greeting large groups of people on an individual basis. We avoid shows that have active audience participation! Whether it’s making your way through a crowded bus station or just navigating a crowded street, if you’re an introvert you most likely don’t seek a great deal of contact with others. In decades past, if you wanted to avoid interacting with strangers, you would keep your head down and look straight in front of you. Now you have the added protection of being able to hide behind the protection of your headphones (though no one has to know whether there’s actually music coming through them or not).
Whenever possible, introverts tend to avoid being surrounded by people on all sides. We’re likely to sit in places where we can get away when we’re ready to – easily. We opt for seats in the aisle, the back or at the corner to avoid interaction! But we’re not opposed to group meetings or discussions, but if we want to come up with a creative solution, we need some time to work the problem out on our own. Having the opportunity to reflect quietly on a problem allows you to make the maximum use of your ability to engage in original thought, and to produce results about which you can feel proud. As an introvert, our idea of a good time is a quiet afternoon to ourselves enjoying our hobbies and interests. A few hours alone with a good book, a peaceful nature walk, or a favorite television program are great ways to help you feel recharged and energized. This does not mean that the average introvert wants to be alone all the time. Many introverts love spending time with friends and interacting with familiar people in social situations. They key thing to remember is that after a long day of social activity, an introvert will probably want to retreat to a quiet place to think, reflect, and recharge. If having a few hours to be alone sounds like your idea of a good time, you just might be an introvert.
DON’T GET HIGH ON SURROUNDINGS
A 2006 Japanese study found that introverts tend to have lower blood pressure than their extroverted counterparts. Neuro-chemically speaking, things like huge parties just aren’t your thing. Extroverts and introverts differ significantly in how their brains process experiences through “reward” centers. Researchers demonstrated this phenomenon by giving Ritalin — the ADHD drug that stimulates dopamine production in the brain — to introverted and extroverted college students. They found that extroverts were more likely to associate the feeling of euphoria achieved by the rush of dopamine with the environment they were in. Introverts, by contrast, did not connect the feeling of reward to their surroundings. The study “suggests that introverts have a fundamental difference in how strongly they process rewards from their environment, with the brains of introverts weighing internal cues more strongly than external motivational and reward cues,” explained LiveScience’s Tia Ghose.
Many introverted children come to believe that there’s something “wrong” with them if they’re naturally less outspoken and assertive than their peers. Introverted adults often say that as children, they were told to come out of their shells or participate more in class. Introverts are often better at communicating in writing than in person, and many are drawn to the solitary, creative profession of writing. Most introverts — like “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling — say that they feel most creatively charged when they have time to be alone with their thoughts. Introverts can move around their introverted “set point” which determines how they need to balance solitude with social activity. But when they move too much — possibly by over-exerting themselves with too much socializing and busyness — they get stressed and need to come back to themselves, according Olsen Laney. This may manifest as going through periods of heightened social activity, and then balancing it out with a period of inwardness and solitude.”There’s a recovery point that seems to be correlated with how much interaction you’ve done,” says Dembling. “We all have our own private cycles.”
SMALL GROUP OF CLOSE FRIENDS
One common misconception about introverts is that they don’t like people. While introverts typically do not enjoy a great deal of socializing, they do enjoy having a small group of friends to whom they are particularly close. Instead of having a large social circle of people they know only on a superficial level, introverts prefer to stick to deep, long-lasting relationships marked by a great deal of closeness and intimacy. They might have a lot of friends on the social network but in reality they have very few close friends. If your social circle tends to be small, but very close, there’s a pretty good chance you are an introvert.
You’re less likely to make a social gaffe, such as by inadvertently insulting someone whose opinion you don’t agree with. Because you enjoy reflecting on your own thoughts, you’ll be less likely to get bored when you’re alone than someone who needs constant social stimulation. The only risk you face is that people who don’t know you might think you’re aloof or that you feel superior to everyone else. Giving yourself permission to be a little more open in revealing your thoughts and feelings may help you make the best of both worlds, being true to your personality while not erring in the direction of seeming antisocial.
Everyone exhibits some traits from each personality type—as Carl Jung said, “There is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert. Such a man would be in a lunatic asylum.” But some people fall squarely in the middle. They may draw energy from a crowd one day, but feel the need to retreat the next. If this sounds like you, you might be an ambivert.
Remember, introversion is not an all-or-nothing characteristic. People can be what you might call introverts with a capital I (aka “very introverted”) or they might be outgoing in some situations with some introverted tendencies. Introversion exists on a continuum with extroversion, and most people tend to lie somewhere between the two.