They may be everywhere, but we don’t always recognize them. It has traditionally been thought that extraverts form the backbone of society, but in recent years, it has actually been believed that introverts make up a fair amount of the people around us – probably fifty percent or even more than that. The chances are you either know an introvert, or are one yourself.
By definition, an introvert is someone who draws energy from spending time alone in their inner world and gets their energy drained from interacting with the outside world. On the other hand, an extravert is just the reverse – they get energy from spending time dealing with the outside world, while turning their attention inward to their thoughts and inner world feels taxing. The main reason for this distinction is that the brains of introverts and extraverts were wired to respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine differently. As such, people are probably “born that way” and one’s preference for introversion or extraversion is unlikely to change drastically over a lifetime.
One way to illustrate the difference is to think of extraverts as automatic mechanical watches. They get charged up by stimulation with the outside world, but if left alone idle for too long, they eventually get lethargic and need to be stimulated again. Introverts, in contrast, are more like rechargeable batteries that drain out the more they are used, and need to be left idly charging to be back to their full capacity.
In the real world, most people are probably somewhere in between introversion and extraversion. Despite an almost equal spread of the two, extraverts tend to be better represented simply because they are more prominent when it comes to dealing with people and the happenings in the world. This has contributed to a skewed definition of what exactly constitutes an introvert, which has become widely adopted in the modern world. In fact, you have probably heard of some of these myths at some point. What are some misconceptions about a seemingly reserved and elusive type of people?
This is probably the most common misconception about shyness and introversion. Although most people believe that “introvert” is synonymous with “shy”, the two are actually completely different things. Being shy means that you get nervous and self-conscious around other people, particularly strangers. Shyness has probably been associated with introversion because the idea of a stereotypical introvert is one who is nervous or anxious around social interactions. However, introversion actually has nothing to do with shyness, but rather that too much interaction with people can get tiring. Shy people are not necessarily introverts, and not all introverts are shy. Similarly, being an extravert also doesn’t mean one is not shy.
Contrary to popular belief, most introverts are actually completely fine with being the way they are. A fun day to an introvert may involve spending their time alone, reading a book, watching a movie, having dinner with their family, journaling or playing a video game. While this may sound completely boring to extraverts compared to heading outside to the mall or a social gathering, it doesn’t mean that introverts are having any less of a good time.
If you are an introvert, you’ve probably heard people talking about speaking up, opening up making new friends or mingling with the crowd more. It’s important to remember that telling an introvert to interact with others more is like telling an extravert to stop talking and stay at home on their own. This also implies that extraversion is preferable to introversion – which is completely not the case, even if people are genuinely just trying to help.
While it is true that introverts need their alone time, it doesn’t mean that they despise socializing entirely. Many introverts actually do not mind or even enjoy socializing – it’s just that too much interaction with others tires them out after a while. Introverts simply tend to be quiet if they think there is nothing worth saying. In fact, introverts actually excel when working in small groups where their voice can be heard and they can do the tasks they are good at. Generally, they simply don’t mind socializing only if they believe it is meaningful. Most introverts do keep a few close friends instead of having a larger group of acquaintances, and for them, that’s enough to be happy.
The outside world tends to favor people that are more outspoken and impulsive. From young, we are taught to speak our mind, be confident and interact with others. People tend to view a talkative and commanding person as the best representative of leadership qualities, but it’s also possible for an introvert to be a great leader. In fact, a number of influential figures are actually introverted in nature, including Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and Barack Obama.
Introverts may seem to be poor leaders because they are usually quiet and can appear aloof, but they tend to run an idea through their mind carefully before announcing it to a group. If an introvert has something useful to add to a discussion, they will talk when it is necessary. Most introverts can rise to the occasion if their leadership is required. It’s true that there are some introverts who do not desire being in a position of leadership, but there are also extraverts who would rather not lead even if they seem outgoing enough to command people.
In a social and talkative world, people who need their “me time” can be thought of as selfish or self-absorbed. Introverts don’t always like going out to social gatherings or chatting with other people, so it may often be the case that they turn down invitations from others, which can seem insensitive from an outside perspective. They could be prone to leaving a group early, but not because they don’t like hanging out with the people there – it is just getting tiring for them. Introverts may also be reluctant to “open up” and make small talk to people regardless of how familiar they are with them, which can be interpreted as selfish to others who feel that introverts don’t wish to engage in friendly chatter. However, introverts actually just don’t like small talk or gossip in general because they find it superficial and meaningless. They are much more likely to open up to someone who mentions a topic or subject they are interested in.
Additionally, introverts don’t always wear their hearts on their sleeves, since they tend to internalize their emotions more often than outwardly expressing how they feel. It isn’t a bad sign if you are talking to an introvert that is being quiet or not as enthused as you would have liked, it probably simply means that they are either drained from social interaction or are internally reflecting on what you have to say.
Most people are somewhere in between the poles of introversion and extraversion. Which do you think you resemble more?
Why do you think the world has favored extraversion over introversion?