Ask a bunch of people what type of person an introvert is and you’ll get different answers.
Even experts can’t agree on what it means. Definitions range from “shy-socially anxious” to “preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.”
This even goes so far to the dictionaries who tend to link it to being shy and reserved.
Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung developed the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” to help explain personality differences. He thought of introverts as drawing energy from being alone, while extroverts draw it from their surroundings and relationships.
It is thought between 25 – 40% of the population identify with being introverted, whether that’s only slightly or for some of us much more.
There are two core dimensions to being an introvert: how we process & respond to information, and energy around other people:
- How we process & respond to information in the environment. Introverts will think about how they would like to respond, what way it is, what context to bring in – then they will respond but it’s been probably too long and people have moved on. Extroverts will respond right away. Introverts are often misunderstood because we take longer, literally because our brains take a different pathway and takes longer, which is why we need alone time to process what’s been going on.
- Also being drained from being around other people
Common Introvert Traits
Introverts need and want to spend time alone. At work, they prefer quiet, private spaces and like to handle projects on their own or in small groups.
Think first, talk later
Introverts think before they talk. Even in a casual conversation, they will stop to reflect before responding. They know the power of the pause.
Focus on depth
Introverts seek meaning and connection in conversations. They prefer to dig deep into topics rather than have casual chit chat.
“I prefer listening to talking, reading to socializing, and cozy chats to group settings.”
— Susan Cain, author of Quiet.
There are differences between an introvert’s brain compared to an extrovert’s, including that information travels a longer pathway through an introvert’s brain. This causes us to process information more deeply.
Out of the spotlight
Introverts are usually quiet and reserved. They tend to speak softly and slowly. They have no desire to be the centre of attention, preferring instead to fly below the radar. Even in heated conversations, they tend to project calm on the outside.
Privacy is important
Introverts tend to have two distinct personalities: a private one and a public one, which is why they can be talkative in comfortable settings, like home, and quiet elsewhere.
Instead of just one introverted type, there are 4 shades: social, anxious, restrained, and thinking.
Take this quiz to find out which one you are!
Social: If you are a social introvert, you prefer to go out with a few close friends rather than large groups. Or sometimes it’s a preference for staying home alone, nose in a book. This choice isn’t based on fear and anxiety, rather a personal preference for quietness and intimacy.
Thinking: Do you find it easy to get lost in your head? Could you spend hours daydreaming? Do you love thinking deeply about life? You may be a thinking introvert. You have a rich inner world and tend to be thoughtful, introspective, and self-reflective.
Anxious: Anxious introverts are those of us who genuinely struggle around other people. You may feel awkward, shy, and self-conscious because you’re not confident in your own social skills.
Restrained: Restrained introverts are reserved and slow-moving. You are someone who takes the time to think before speaking. You may take a while to get going and are very deliberate in your intentions.
Common Introvert Myths
Introverts are boring: Extroverts process their thoughts and decisions by speaking. Introverts do it in their heads. Some introverts have a really complex inner world and can find themselves getting lost in it for… a while.
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. 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.
Introverts are shy: Correction: not all introverts are shy. 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. We’re humans. Humans thrive off connection. Being an introvert is not synonymous with being anti-social. Instead, 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).
Introverts want to become extroverts: 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 move up and down the scale depending on the situation.