There are many introvert misconceptions.
We get a bad rep.
Shy. Socially awkward. Weird. “That odd one in the corner”.
It can be hurtful being assigned labels that are untrue.
I’ve heard so many stories from introverts who have been asked questions like:
- “Maybe you don’t just get out enough?”
- “Why are you so quiet?”
- “Don’t be shy.”
Even last week I was spotlighted in a Zoom meeting by someone who laughed and said “We’ve all contributed… apart from Daisy who’s the quiet one!”.
A horrible feeling.
(And also untrue. Everyone’s levels of contributions are different. I had spoken up, but not as much as other people… which meant I was assigned the “quiet one” role).
Look, I get it. There is so much confusion around introversion that it feels like part of our jobs are to educate other people around us.
To tell them that introversion is all about our energy levels and how we respond to information in the environment, rather than being a misanthrope, a loner, or someone who lacks the ability to speak.
Common introvert misconceptions:
1. Introverts are boring
Not all. Granted, some. But some extroverts are boring. Actually- some human beings are boring.
Extroverts process their thoughts and decisions by speaking. Introverts do it in our heads. Some introverts have a really complex inner world and can find themselves getting lost in it for a while.
None of this means we’re boring, we just have a different way of being.
Introverts tend to have fun in more low-key ways, which may not necessarily involve a lot of people. Or any other people at all.
Needing quiet time alone isn’t the same as sulking, having a negative mindset, or being sad.
Most people would be surprised at the sheer amount of activity we have going on in our minds. The two parts of the brain associated with thinking (the frontal cortex and Broca’s area) are very active in introverts.
The frontal cortex is linked with decisions, planning, organising, while Broca’s area is associated with self-talk (what you say to yourself).
With these two areas working overtime, it’s another reason why you may have spent last night worrying about the time you stuttered in the middle of a conversation with your boss.
2. Introverts hate socialising
Actually, we (sometimes) like parties. Introverts prefer to go to gatherings that we know bring us joy, which tend to be smaller and more intimate.
Bonus if there are pets we can make friends with.
What introverts actually need in social gatherings is for everyone else to slow down a little so we have some space to speak up. Introverts hate interrupting and the thought of fighting for their voice to be heard puts us off speaking.
The assumption that we’re not good at socialising assumes that we need help expressing ourselves and connecting with others.
This isn’t the case. We much prefer meaningful conversations in places that have a purpose. Not every social gathering has that.
Our style of social interaction is simply different than that of extroverts. We tend to…
- Listen more than we talk (and are excellent listeners)
- Be attentive and pick up on the emotions behind the conversation
- Speak when we have something important to say, rather than speaking for the sake of it
- Dislike small talk and prefer to say nothing than something we feel is insignificant
- Talk someone’s ear off on a topic that we know a lot about
3. Introverts are shy
This is one of the common introvert misconceptions.
Correction: not all introverts are shy.
What often happens is that people who are struggling with social anxiety confuse introversion with shyness.
Shyness and introversion are two separate traits. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval, rejection, and humiliation, introversion is how you gain and lose energy.
You can be a shy or confident introvert. You can also be a shy extrovert.
If you do identify with being a shy introvert, it can be frustrating in social situations when you get nervous and fearful. Especially important situations where you’re meeting new people, networking for your job, expressing your opinion, or merely suggesting plans.
How to reframe this thinking
When you were small, did you play in your neighbourhood? Or the street outside your house?
You probably felt pretty comfortable doing that. You had fun being there and you knew your neighbours. It felt safe.
When you went to a different neighbourhood, let’s say one where your grandmother lived, it probably felt strange and uncomfortable in the beginning. However the more you went there, the less nervous you felt. You started to get used to all the strange and unfamiliar experiences. You started to feel better.
If you stopped going there for a while, your nerves probably increased the next time you went.
We can apply this to social situations.
Make a list of all the places you feel comfortable being in. This could be anything from your house, the gym, a particular coffee shop, or a park.
Now think about a situation that terrifies you. Perhaps a meet-up group for a hobby, or speed-dating.
Set yourself the challenge of going to this new place once within the next week.
Start small. Go there for a short period the first time and leave early.
(If you feel uncomfortable doing this, you can even schedule something in your calendar that you have to leave for. This could be anything from cooking dinner to watching your favourite TV show.)
Celebrate the first time you go there. Really congratulate yourself for taking a leap. Then schedule when you’re going to go back.
Keep going back. The more you put yourself in certain situations, the more you get used to them. Your anxiety transfers into comfort.
4. Introverts don’t need people
We’re humans. Humans thrive off connection. Being an introvert is not synonymous with being anti-social.
Instead, a lot of people for a long period of time drain our energy.
Knowing how to reenergise is key to avoiding the “introvert hangover” (yes, it exists).
It’s the feeling of exhaustion caused by:
- High stimulating environments (noise, crowds, lots of energy).
- Pushing past your energy reserves, going from feeling “okay” to “overwhelm”.
- Packing too much into your social calendar.
Introverts’ brains are more sensitive to dopamine compared to extroverts’ brains, so our energy gets used up quickly when socialising.
Extroverts might walk into a crowded party and dive into action, seeing opportunities everywhere as they experience a positive rush. Introverts may walk into the same party and experience a sense of overwhelm and anxiety.
An “introvert hangover” is withdrawing into yourself because of the overstimulation.When we push past our energy reserves, we go from feeling “okay” to “overwhelm”.
If you pack too much into your social calendar, you’re likely to experience a hangover due to not having enough time to recharge alone.
An “introvert hangover” can start during a social event and last up to a few days afterwards, especially if it’s been an intense period of socialising. You may start to feel like…
Physically and mentally drained.
“Exhausted” and “shattered” are words that introverts often use. All of your energy has been used up responding to noise and other forms of stimulation. You may find it hard to string words together and start to speak slower, using simple words.
What do to to feel better: if you know you have social events coming up, schedule some time after to recover. Some introverts need a few hours, others need days. Generally the bigger the event, the longer the recovery time needed.
You start zoning out.
You may find yourself not being able to stay focused on a conversation. Someone is talking but you’re not really hearing what they are saying. You might suddenly become incredibly quiet and have a blank look on your face as you start to lose yourself in your thoughts to escape the noise.
What do to to feel better: This symptom is common during a social event. Take some time out to find a place that is calm and quiet. Anywhere you can be alone to just breathe — even if you have to go hide in the bathroom. Practise some mindful breathing by taking slow and deep breaths in and out, counting each breath.
Everything irritates you.
You have no patience left and are at the end of your tether. Minor annoyances can suddenly become major irritations. You simply have no energy for anything. It’s not unusual for fights with supportive friends or a loving partner to happen at this point because one of you is socially exhausted and has nothing left to give.
What do to to feel better: Spend time alone doing activities that recharge your energy. A walk in nature, getting lost in a book, painting the trees outside your window. You just need to time to breathe and simply be. Additionally, getting some extra sleep may be the best thing for you to recover fully.
5. Introvert’s secret desire is to become extroverted
Introversion is not something that needs to be “fixed”. In fact, introversion-extroversion is a scale upon which most people fall, sometimes more towards one end than the other.
You can be 65% introverted or only 33%.
We can temporarily move up and down the scale depending on the situation (I can be incredibly extroverted when needed, for example), however it comes down to your energy levels.
Become aware of people who drain you of energy. Someone who refuses to respect that you are actually pretty happy staying home on a Friday night? A housemate who invites guests over at all times of the day?
It becomes difficult to live and have energy if there are people around you who don’t value who you are.
Taking charge of how you communicate with people can help this. Find ways to preserve your need for space. Sometimes it feels that communication is dictated by extroverts, but it only seems that way because they tend to be more socially outgoing.
You can take some of that power back without having to pretend to be an extrovert. For example, give yourself permission to attend an event early and leave early before you get drained.
By protecting your boundaries and choosing the setting and kind of communication that works for you, you will be able to use your introvert skills at full strength without suffering unnecessary guilt or shame for not keeping up with the extroverts.
6. Introverts are not team players
Introverts are some of the most loyal people you’ll come across.
Our desire to connect with people on a deeper level means we are excellent team players.
We also need some time alone to think through problems. That chatty colleague who doesn’t stop talking? They are our worst nightmare.
What we can do to explain how our minds work is to communicate our thought process. If you need time to think about it, say so.
“That’s an interesting idea. I need to go over it in my head for a moment before I can share something useful. You guys keep going while I think for a minute.”
If it feels strange to tell people you’re thinking, that’s normal.
But it also sets expectations and piques their interest. When others know why you’re silent, they’ll see you as more of a team player.
7. Introverts don’t have many emotions
Another one of the common introvert misconceptions, and definitely not true.
Some introverts don’t necessarily show all of their emotions in the typical sense, but may instead show they care in other ways (like a complimentary email after you smashed it at a meeting).
Introverts have a lower threshold for emotional reactivity, so it’s actually easier to elicit an emotional reaction from us.
We can be perceived as warm and friendly by using non-verbal skills to express yourself. For example:
- Leaning forwards, showing interest
- Actively listening to someone
- Asking questions to learn more about a topic that we’re unfamiliar with
(Doing all the things we naturally do)
Being authentic will look different than an extrovert.
For example, we may send an email to express appreciation or thanks rather than in person.
We really shine in 1-1 conversations, but can show our participation in group settings by coming to the meeting prepared.
When in doubt, smiling is the best fall-back tool to use 🙂
Have you encountered a misconception that I’ve missed?
- Common introvert misconceptions are all around shyness, social anxiety, and negative perceptions of what it means to be an introvert
- Introverts are not boring or socially incompetent, we just have a different way of showing up and socialising
- Knowing how to adapt to an extrovert-driven world can help introverts’ lives become a lot smoother
Did you know there were 4 different shades of introversion?
Recent research has found out that instead of one “type” (which is already too simplified), there are different shades: Social, Thinking, Anxious, Restrained.
I’m a Thinking Introvert. Which one are you?
Take this quiz to find out more: