When we think of introverts, we may think of quiet, awkward people who don’t like people. This scenario is rarely the case. Introverts are highly misunderstood, as seen in Susan Cain’s bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
Introversion is a highly complex personality trait, and with approximately one-third to one-half of the world who identify as introverts, understanding this personality trait is important in relating to others or yourself!
What is an Introvert?
Initially characterized by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s, introversion is a personality style where people prefer “their inner life of the mind over the outer world of other people.”
Carl Jung made the distinction between introverts and extroverts on how someone regains energy. In other words, if someone is energized by being around people, they are extroverted, whereas if someone gains energy from being alone (and loses energy from being around others), they are introverts.
Additionally, the introversion-extroversion aspect is one of the four areas identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Personality theories are complex, and while most people have degrees of both introversion and extroversion, one usually is the more dominant trait.
Eight Signs You are an Introvert
Here are some common traits associated with introversion:
1. You enjoy spending time alone.
You have no problems staying home on the weekend. In fact, the thought of being alone is exhilarating. You imagine all of the things you will do: watch Netflix, read a book, listen to your favorite podcast, exercise, snuggle your dog, and simply be alone. Being alone is how you recharge.
2. Your inner monologue is constant.
Your distinct inner voice never stops. You may even wake up in the middle of the night, and there it is, asking about anything from the latest political situation, how to make your favorite dessert from scratch or past haunts, like I can’t believe you said that awful thing 15 years ago! For an introvert, the inner monologue is constant.
3. Social interactions drain you.
You may or may not avoid situations altogether, but if you do find yourself surrounded by people, you are counting down the minutes until you can leave. Social interactions may make you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally drained, which is how the term “introvert hangover” started! However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t like spending time around others at all.
4. You have a small circle of friends.
One common misconception about introverts is they don’t enjoy being around people, period. This is rarely true; most introverts prefer the company of a small, tight-knit group of friends. Introverts look for authentic, long-lasting relationships with others and don’t care to know others on a superficial level, which leads to the next point.
5. Small talk annoys you.
If small talk drives you crazy, you may be an introvert. Introverts find small talk tedious and a waste of time. However, perhaps the biggest issue is what Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D. writes in her book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength. “Let’s clear one thing up: Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.”
6. You prefer writing over talking.
Introverts are usually better at communicating in writing than talking in person and may are drawn to the solitary, artistic occupation. Many well-known writers like J.K. Rowling and John Green are self-proclaimed introverts, and while writers can be any personality type, a vast number of writers are introverted because of the deep reflection and imagination that comes with the craft.
7. You notice details that others don’t.
Introverts are naturally observant, noticing things that others may not. Because of this, they are not likely to overlook details in their work or the way they communicate with others. For example, you may be able to read people’s emotions better than the average person or be one that always double-checks others’ work.
8. You are extremely self-aware.
Introverts tend to spend time examining their experiences, feelings, beliefs, and motivations. They have a good grasp of who they are and foster their uniqueness through hobbies. Strong self-awareness and understanding are typical for introverts.
Misconceptions About Introverts
Introversion is a spectrum, and many people fall somewhere in the middle. However, within this realm, misconceptions about introverts arise, such as the following:
Introverts are shy.
Introversion and shyness aren’t even linked, contrary to popular belief. Introversion is a personality type, while feeling shy is an emotion. Many people mistake shyness for introversion when, in reality, anyone can feel shy in certain situations.
Introverts are unfriendly.
Being an introvert has nothing to do with unfriendliness. This misconception is common because introverts typically don’t enjoy being around large groups of people, and when they are in a social setting, they may be quieter than others. Remember, introverts typically prefer a small, close-knit group of friends to having a bunch of acquaintances.
Introverts are not good leaders.
Many people believe extroverts make the best leaders, but leadership comes in all personality types. In fact, a recent has shown that at least 40% of leaders are introverts. Additionally, some of today’s most successful leaders are introverts, like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, and Elon Musk.
The Bottom Line
Introversion, just like extroversion, is a scale, and there is not a one-size-fits-all personality trait.
Consider Jonathan Rauch’s words from The Atlantic article “Caring for Your Introvert:”
“Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone… For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: “I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses.”
The bottom line to understanding whether you are an introvert or extrovert is: where do you get your energy?