Introvert: Unique characteristics, strengths & social preferences

An introvert is often misunderstood by all. Know everything about the traits of introverts and smash the stereotypes related to introversion.

Updated on Jun 14, 2022 02:51 PM IST  |  341.2K
Meaning of introvert, introvert vs extrovert, power of introversion & more
Meaning of introvert, introvert vs extrovert, power of introversion & more
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An introvert is usually mistaken to be a shy person or someone who doesn't like to interact with people. The truth is far beyond all these preconceived notions made by people - introverts are neither shy nor dislike people, they simply draw their energy from within to get inner peace. Introverts make up an estimated 25% to 40% of the entire population of the world, but there are many misconceptions about introversion that needs to be cleared. This article will explore everything you need to know about being an introvert, including the benefits, how to thrive in an extroverted world, and ways to recharge. 

Who is an introvert?

The famous psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung was the one who coined the terms introversion and extroversion in the 1920s. 

Contrary to popular belief, introversion is not a personality disorder. Introverts are people who draw their energy from within and direct this energy into inner reflection. They like introspecting, spending time alone, and channelize their positive energy into something productive. 

According to the American Psychological Association, introverts love working alone and prefer to dwell on their thoughts, feelings, and inner self. 

Also, many people have a misconception that someone is completely an introvert or an extrovert. However, Carl Jung (the father of analytical psychology) believed that no one is completely extroverted or introverted, instead, everyone carries both traits - it's just one type of personality that dominates the other by making our minds lead to one side or the other. If someone has both introversion and extroversion in equal amounts, then we call it an ambivert personality. 

Introverts are so preoccupied with their inner life that they are usually resistant to outside influences. They generally feel exhausted after going out and interacting with people and then need some time to themselves to charge up their drained selves. However, that does not mean that they don't like to party or hang out with friends. Introverts can be a bit picky when it comes to forming their social group, and they usually need some 'Me-time' after hanging out at a party. 

As already told above, there is no 100% introversion or 100% extroversion. So, even extroverts may sometimes feel the need to remain in solitude, while introverts may want to attend a party.

Source: https://dictionary.apa.org/introversion

Introversion vs extroversion

Introversion and extroversion are the terms that describe the source of energy of people. Extroverts derive energy by socializing with others, while introverts on the other hand derive energy by spending time with themselves. But, that does not mean that extroverts don't like their 'Me-time' or that introverts don't like to interact with people or have any kind of social anxiety. 

Hans Eysenck, the famous psychologist of the 1960s also had a great theory about introversion and extroversion. He stated that the main difference between the two personality traits lies in the method they use to gain their mental energy. He also said that introverts have a higher level of brain activity and that is why they protect themselves from external stimuli. On the other hand, the neuronal activity of people who are extroverts is lower so they need to charge themselves by exposing themselves to external stimuli. 

Difference between an introvert and an extrovert

Some personality traits help us distinguish between an introvert and an extrovert. Some of them include- 

1. While extroverts seek out long conversations and all kinds of social interactions, introverts generally avoid them. 

2. Extroverts thrive in busy environments, while introverts thrive in peaceful environments. 

3. The nature of extroverts is outgoing, while that of introverts is reserved. 

4. It is very easy for extroverts to express themselves to people. Introverts, however, face a lot of difficulty in conveying what's in their hearts to others. 

5. While extroverts enjoy being in a crowd, introverts tend to stay away from crowds. 

6. It has been witnessed by many people that extroverts react quite impulsively, and introverts often stay calm and composed. 

7. Introverts love to spend time alone, while, extroverts avoid spending time alone. 

Now, when we have understood the difference between introversion & extroversion, let us now take a look at the traits of an introvert. 

Let us understand this through an example:

Mark is an extrovert, and Klaus is an introvert. Mark loves making a lot of friends, has a huge social circle, and enjoys being the center of attention. He participates in various extra-curricular activities, goes to all of his friends' birthday party, and get energy by socializing with other. 

Klaus is an introvert, when Mark plays with others in the playground, he enjoys sitting alone reading a book. He has fewer friends and he loves painting. At home, he has various paintings made by him and is slowly becoming a real expert in this field. 

Klaus too loves hanging around with his best friend, but after a long chat, he sits alone to get peace. 

Klaus doesn't have any social anxiety, he isn't scared of talking to people. But when he is around too many people for a long time and the conversation starts becoming superficial, his energy starts getting drained. His strategy is to spend some time alone after conversing for too long to get his energy back. Mark, on the other hand, loves having people around him, and jumping from one conversation to the other makes him feel energized. 

Many experts also claim that introverts and extroverts use different areas of their brains to form their thoughts. An extrovert tends to use fast associations by using short-term memory. An introvert retrieves information from long-term memory, thereby taking time to develop a thought. Therefore, Mark talks a lot and he speaks fast. He appears brainy because he gives prompt replies to everyone. However, as he uses short-term memory, many times, he speaks first and thinks later. 

Klaus, on the other hand, takes time to comprehend whatever she wants to say and then speak. 

For example, if both of them were asked for directions by a tourist, Mark would immediately come up with different route options., while Klaus would take some time and come up with the best route to help the tourist reach there easily and conveniently. 

In a nutshell, both Mark and Klaus are intelligent in specific areas, it is just they derive their energy from different sources and think differently. As opposed to the popular belief that introverts are smarter or extroverts are more intelligent - the truth is that no one is smarter than another, both personalities have their unique traits, preferences, and intelligence. Both introverts and extroverts do really well in their professional and personal lives. 

Personality traits of an introvert

There is no hard and fast rule to recognizing an introvert. However, there are a few traits that introverts generally portray. Although these traits may/may not fit with an introvert's personality, they may display other personality traits as well. This is because introversion is not about being shy, reserved, and aloof always. However, generally, introverts possess some common following traits mentioned below: 

They need a quiet space to concentrate

They introspect a lot

They are self-aware of their inner nature

They are reflective

They don't make any decision in haste

They enjoy solitude

They feel mentally exhausted after being in a social gathering

They are comfortable being alone

They have a small circle but have a deep bond with their friends

They have a high imagination which they use to solve a problem

They reflect on themselves to rest

They are deep-thinkers 

They perform better in a quiet environment without anyone's company

The crux is that introverts usually like to enjoy independent activities so that they can recharge themselves. They enjoy the company of their close circle of friends, but interaction with too many people can drain them. A study conducted in 2015 suggested that high-quality relationships make introverts really happy. 

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4614904/

Types of introversion

Introversion was a term derived for people who showed a lack of extroversion. There are four types of introversion which have been outlined by research in 2011 conducted by psychologists Jennifer Grimes, Julie Norem, and Jonathan Cheek. These introversion types are: 

1. Social Introversion

This is one of the most common types of introversion wherein introverts like to spend time alone or in small groups. 

2. Thinking introversion

These introverts love daydreaming and are often lost in their thoughts. They are highly creative and imaginative. 

3. Anxious Introversion

As the name suggests, anxious introversion is all about wherein a person feels awkward in social gatherings. Such introverts spend most of their time alone not because they like it, but also because they feel too shy around people. 

4. Inhibited Introversion

People who face such kind of introversion tend to keep their thoughts to themselves and restrain themselves from speaking too much or going out too often. They take a considerable amount of time to make their choices and then act upon them. 

Source: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263279416_Four_Meanings_of_Introversion_Social_Thinking_Anxious_and_Inhibited_Introversion

What causes introversion?

Experts are still not sure about the exact cause of extroversion or introversion. However, many researchers have linked the two personality traits to brain activity. A few studies have concluded that the blood flow from the frontal lobe to the brain of an introvert is higher as compared to extroverts. This part of the brain is responsible for memory, problem-solving, and planning. This is the reason why most introverts think before they speak and are usually absorbed in their thoughts to make a plan to solve problems. 

There is a hormone known as dopamine that plays a significant role in many body functions including memory, movement, pleasurable rewards, and motivation. Basically, it's a feel-good chemical that turns on the pleasure-seeking part of the brain. When dopamine is released into the body, introverted brains react differently to it - they tend to feel drained out by it. An extrovert's brain gets enthusiastic from this hormone, and so they feel energized. 

Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0926641005002880

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11055-007-0058-8

Apart from dopamine and brain chemicals, environment and genes also play a crucial role in forming a personality trait. According to a study, introversion is a personality trait with 50% genetic causation.

Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33548763/

However, many experts believe that introversion isn't totally genetic and environment plays a big role in making a person an introvert/extrovert. 

How your family members behave to your actions helps you develop the personality traits of introversion or extroversion. 

Parenting style is a great contributory factor in your personality development. If your parents scold you, point out your mistakes, and take strict measures to keep you disciplined, you might grow up to be an introvert, afraid to speak your heart out. On the other hand, children with open-minded and calm parents are more likely to become extroverts. 

The type of education that a child receives also plays a major role in the development of their personality. If a child is encouraged to participate in activities and engage among the crowd from a small age, they might turn into an extrovert. On the other hand, if a child did not participate in insufficient events and occasions in childhood, they are prone to become an introvert as they grow up. 

Other life experiences, such as any trauma in childhood, awkward experiences with relatives, or social gatherings which have a deep impact on the mind also have a great impact on shaping our personalities. 

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7218023/

The unexpected joy of being an introvert

Introverts are often misunderstood. They're seen as people who are shy and don't like to be around others. The truth is, introverts simply prefer less stimulation than extroverts. And that's a good thing! There are many unexpected joys of being an introvert.

Introverts always feel a deep sense of satisfaction. They do not go on with tasks that do not contain their souls. Everything they do, they are satisfied that they did it with their full heart, and thus, introverts are satisfied with their lives, their relationships, and themselves. 

Introverts can enjoy themselves in any circumstance. They do not need people to make them happy. They are happy by themselves, in the little joys of life. They can do any task by themselves, and their solitary pursuits make them able to stay happy and content in any situation. 

The relationships maintained by introverts are long-lasting and deep. They are very emotional and take care of their relationships well. While being emotional might be a double-edged sword, it can provide you with feelings of contentment and satisfaction. 

The power of introversion

Introverts are often misunderstood. They're seen as shy, aloof, or disinterested. But what introverts have is a quiet power – the ability to focus intensely on the things that matter most to them. Introversion should be celebrated, and you can make the most of your introverted qualities. 

Introverts are powerful. This is because they carefully assess before speaking every single word. They do not let their words rule their relationships or their career. They are great listeners, and apart from that, they are amazing observers. 

An introvert can observe those parts of a human that no layperson can observe. Based on the body language and the actions of any person, introverts can see more than what meets the eye. This helps them in personal growth, awareness of their surroundings and the people in them, and calculated success. 

How to know if you are an introvert? 

If you are confused about whether you have introvert traits or not, then read the points below:

1. You get drained when you socialize too much

While you might like going out with friends or to parties, too much socializing drains you. You might need time alone to charge you up for the next event, unlike an extrovert who is almost always ready to meet new people and go out with friends. 

You might enjoy a day in a week with people while spending the rest of the week recharging your drained self!

2.  You love solitude

You feel happy and at peace when you are alone. That said, you love being alone. You love watching movies, reading books, or indulging in your favorite hobby. 

If you feel relieved and stress-free when you are alone, you are an introvert. 

3. You don't like conflicts

If there is even the slightest possibility of a conflict, you tend to drift away from it. You stay away from negative situations or people who speak negatively in the form of criticism or taunts. Also, you keep your thoughts to yourself for the fear of disapproval. 

If you tend to avoid conflict wherever possible, you are an introvert. 

4. You don't like being the center of attention

If you shy away from being the center of attention and avoid situations where you have to face the audience, then you might be an introvert.

5. You work much better when you are on your own

You do not like to be involved in group projects. This is also because you don't like lots of conflicts and enjoy solitude. So, you are likely to be an introvert if you love doing work independently. 

6.  You have a close circle of friends 

Introverts usually have a small social circle and do not like having a lot of friends. Also, they are very close to their loved ones. They prefer quality over quantity in terms of relationships and friendship. 

7.  You are a keen observer

An introvert is a great listener and loves to observe what others are saying/doing. They love observing people, their personalities, preferences, etc., and thrive on imagination. This also makes them understand human emotions in a better way. 

 8.  You often zone out in social gatherings

Whenever you are in a situation you do not want to be in, you zone out to get comfort. It acts as a survival mechanism for you. When you are disinterested in any conversation, your mind drifts to a more relaxing topic running in your head. 

If you cope with tense or boring situations this way, it is quite likely that you are an introvert. 

Some common myths about introversion

Introverts are not aliens! There are some common myths about introverts that need to be broken, including the following- 

1. Introverts hate people

Introverts don't hate people. Instead, they love people deeply because they are sensitive and highly emotional. 

2. All introverts have social anxiety

While some may have social anxiety, not all introverts deal with anxiety issues when they are in a crowded place. 

3. Introverts can’t be leaders

Many people believe that because extroverts love social gatherings and conversing, they make better leaders. However, introverts also have the skills to be a leader. Most introverts are creative, goal-oriented, imaginative, focused, and hard-working which can make them great leaders. 

4. It's nearly impossible to get to know an introvert

While it is true that an introvert would not open up with anyone easily, however, it is not really that hard to get to know introverts. They are really close to people who develop real friendships with them and care about them a lot. 

5. Introverts should try to change themselves and socialize

Many introvert kids feel the pressure to socialize because 'introversion' is not considered normal by many people, especially for kids. People think that kids should always play outside, giggle, and wander around. However, it is a common myth that needs to be changed - there is nothing wrong with wanting to spend some time alone. 

How to survive as an introvert?

Do you have an introverted personality? Do you feel like the world is constantly telling you to "come out of your shell?" Here are some tips on how to survive and thrive as an introvert. From setting boundaries to embracing your quirks, there are a few things that shall help you survive as an introvert. 

If your work involves meeting a lot of people, or you cannot restrain from attending parties or events due to some reasons, you can change yourself to become an extrovert/ambivert. Now, this is not an overnight process and will require some time. But eventually, if you start going out at regular intervals, meeting people, and having conversations, you will see that you will get used to it over time, and it will stop draining you. 

However, if it is not a necessity for your work or job, you need not bring alterations to your personality. Instead, you should be honest with people about the way you feel. They will probably understand you and give you the space you require. 

You should never apologize to anyone for being who you are. This will make people believe that there is something wrong with you, which you too accept. 

The best way to survive in a college, your office, or the world is to have one or more extroverted friends who completely understand you. They will help you talk to new people, go out places, perform the necessary activities, and adjust to worldly affairs. 

Some famous personalities who are introverts:

We have drawn out a list of some famous global personalities who are introverts. Some of the names might shock you! 

  1. Albert Einstein
  2. Bill Gates
  3. Steven Spielberg
  4. Mark Zuckerberg
  5. JK Rowling
  6. Deepika Padukone
  7. Abraham Lincoln
  8. Mahatma Gandhi
  9. Hilary Clinton
  10. Michael Jordan 
  11. Elon Musk
  12. Barack Obama
  13. Johnny Depp
  14. Ranbir Kapoor

Conclusion

Being an introvert is not a bad thing. It is not a disease that needs to be cured. It is just a personality trait. Every person in the world is born to be different. People who love to stay aloof and enjoy their own company more than the company of others are known to be introverts. We should accept this fact. 

However, we also need to comprehend the difference between introversion and depression or anxiety. Being an introvert is completely okay while being in depression is not. Take care of your friends and family. If they are introverts, support them. However, if they are in depression, help them because prevention is always better than cure.

Also Read: Are you an introvert or have social anxiety? Here’s how to know

Who is an ambivert?
An ambivert is a person who has a perfect balance of both introvert and extrovert personality traits.

Do all introverts have social anxiety?
No, only a handful of introverts face anxiety problems in social gatherings. Otherwise, most introverts don't have any social anxiety.

Can introverts become good leaders?
Yes, introverts possess all the skills to become a good leader.

How to become friends with an introvert?
Introverts make great friends. Have deep conversations with them and give them some time to open up with you.

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