While I never thought of myself as an extrovert, I have become pretty socially comfortable over the years. I wasn’t always that way. I used to think of myself as shy—not painfully so, but just naturally so. At gatherings where I didn’t know many people, I would hang around with familiar folks.
I always admired my wife, who without skipping a beat, could strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. I don’t think she has a shy bone in her body!
But many people are more introverted than shy. They are just naturally quiet and reserved. They’re good listeners. They definitely have a point of view, but they frequently keep their opinions to themselves. And before they open up, they might want to get to know you a bit. And then when they do feel more comfortable, they still share only a few, well-considered thoughts. They don’t enjoy being in the limelight.
Is there a difference between shyness and introversion? I think so. Shyness refers to social reticence or discomfort. Some people feel uncomfortable in a crowd, awkward in starting or sustaining a conversation with a new person, and tend to withdraw from initiating social intercourse. They may not feel major anxiety, just a little uncomfortable.
Shy individuals want to connect, but they feel awkward in new social situations. They find socializing difficult. They are much more comfortable if someone approaches them and starts a conversation. They may feel secretly lonely–reaching out to others is just plain hard. They just feel uncomfortable in many social circumstances.
Introverts, on the other hand, tend to be more inner-directed. They enjoy spending time with themselves, appreciate quiet, and have less social needs. They might prefer to spend an afternoon reading a book under a tree than participating in a noisy picnic. A quiet evening at home with their partner may be preferable to attending a dinner party with friends. They are not uncomfortable interacting with others. They just prefer their own company. They may have a small number of close friends rather than many acquaintances. They enjoy solitude.
Are some individuals both shy and introverted? You bet. Those two characteristics can occur together in some individuals.
Can you always tell if someone is an introvert or an extrovert? Not always. For example, those of us with very social jobs (that’s me!) often like to spend time alone during non-work hours. That doesn’t make me an introvert! Individuals with jobs that are solo (like computer folks) want to socialize on their days off. That makes sense to me. I love to spend time by myself on weekends because my weeks are filled with people every minute of every day. I enjoy the social aspect of my work—but on my days off I seek the pleasure of my own company.
Introverts may be under valued in work settings, which tend to regard extraverts more highly. Individuals who are quick to speak up at meetings or on teams seem to get extra attention. While the quiet, more thoughtful, introverted employee can be ignored. It’s not fair. Introverts are just more thoughtful, reserved, and contemplative. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have great ideas that are quietly shared without fanfare!
Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D. author of a blog in Psychology Today (7/17/2102) titled “The Revenge of the Introvert” calls out what not to say to your introverted friends:
- Why don’t you like parties? Don’t you like people?
- Surprise, we’ve decided to bring the family and stay with you for the weekend!
- How come you’re not contributing in meetings?
- Why aren’t you more outgoing?
It’s important to accept each other and ourselves are we are. Every personality type has both positives and negatives.
Are you an introvert? What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of introversion?