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Understanding An Introvert

When you hear the word introvert, what do you think? You can be excused for thinking of someone timid and hates human interaction, as this is a common misconception of introverts.

You may also think of someone who would rather stay in the house reading a book than go out with friends. However, there is much more to know about this often-unappreciated personality type.

What is an Introvert?

The definition of an introvert is someone who prefers an environment that is calm and minimally stimulating. The psychiatrist Carl Jung developed the concept in the 1920s and focused on where different people draw energy from. He considered introverts to prefer to recharge their social battery by spending time alone or with one or two people and feel drained after socializing in large groups. Extroverts, on the other hand, are people that feel re-energized in the company of others.

Introversion is considered a personality trait set before birth, but considering everyone as either an extreme introvert or extrovert is often too simplified. The truth is that most people are a combination of both.

How to know if you're an introvert?

Do you dislike group work, feel tired after being in a crowd, or enjoy spending time alone? If so, you might be an introvert.

Being an introvert is perfectly normal; introverts make up around 30-50% of the US population. Even if you're not an introvert, one of your colleagues, friends, or family members likely is.

Other signs that you might be an introvert are that you:

  • Need silence to concentrate

  • Are self-aware and reflective

  • Take time making decisions

  • Preferring to write rather than talk

  • Have few friendships, but I form a few very close bonds with these friends

Are you still trying to decide if you are an introvert? One way to determine if you're an introvert or extrovert is to take a test online, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the SAPA project.
It's also important to remember that not all introverts are the same. Some introverted people require just a short time alone to recharge. In contrast, others drain quickly in social situations and need long periods alone. It's different for each person, and many people will fall in the middle.

Common Misconceptions about Introverts

Unfortunately, to this day, many still don't understand what it means to be an introvert. This has resulted in widely believed misconceptions, such as that introverts are insecure, antisocial, or suffer from social anxiety and depression.

For most introverts, these beliefs are far from the truth. Here's the honest truth behind five of the biggest misconceptions about introverts.

1. Introverts hate people

An introvert's quiet nature can lead others to think they dislike them. The truth is that introverts often find small talk or office chitchat inauthentic and desire more meaningful connections and conversations.

2. Introverts can't be leaders

Introverts have various skills that make them strong business leaders; in fact, Bill Gates and Barack Obama are introverts! Their excellent listening skills and ability to think critically are personality traits that help them succeed in an entrepreneurial environment.

3. Introverts are rude

While introverts may be quieter and zoned out whenever they are in complicated social situations that make them feel drained, this doesn't mean they're rude! They need some time alone to recharge.

4. Introverts don't (usually) wish we were extroverted.

Although introverts may sometimes envy the characteristics of an extrovert that allow them to blend into any social situation easily, introverts also love their alone time and appreciate the many strengths that introversion gives them.

5. Introverts and extroverts can't get along.

Even though introverts and extroverts differ in many ways, with an appreciation for each other's strengths and differences, we can work effectively together in jobs, friendships, and relationships.

Types of Introverts

In 2011 a group of psychologists studied introversion further and broke it into four main types. You can discover which type of introversion you most closely identify with.

Social introverts

This is the "classic" type of introvert. If you are a social introvert, you will like small groups and quiet settings over crowds. Still, you will be open to occasional gatherings and events.

It can be easy to confuse a social introvert with someone dealing with social anxiety. Still, social introverts don't avoid groups because of anxiety, just simply as a preference for where they feel most comfortable.

Thinking introverts

If you're a part of this group, you're likely a daydreamer and spend a lot of time in your thoughts. You may be intellectual and enjoy reading, studying, researching, and investigating.
Thinking introverts are often extremely good listeners and regularly pause to think before responding to a question.

Anxious introverts

As an anxious introvert, you may seek out alone time not just because you like it but also because you often feel awkward or shy around people.

Anxious introverts can often appear on the edge or nervous in social situations, as their nature is to shrink away from other people as a protective defence mechanism.

Restrained/inhibited introverts

If this is your personality type, you will be more reserved and prefer to think before you act. You may take longer to decide as you prefer to avoid acting on a whim.

Restrained introverts are often seen as very thoughtful and grounded, and people like to rely on them due to their true and dutiful nature.

The difference between introversion and shyness

Shyness and introversion are often confused as being the same. It's easy to see why whenever they look so similar from the outside. While outwardly, many similarities are shared between a shy and an introverted person, there are also key internal differences.

If you are an introvert, you enjoy spending time alone, prefer quiet environments and may feel emotionally drained after spending a lot of time with others. Whereas if you are a shy person, you may not necessarily want to be alone but might feel afraid to interact with others due to self-consciousness in social situations.
As shyness and introversion are different things, you can be both an introvert and shy! It's just important to remember that the two do not go together.

The bottom line

Introversion is simply one part of your personality and who you are. It's not a flaw; there's nothing wrong with preferring your company or having just a few close friends. What matters is that you accept yourself as you are and feel comfortable in your personality.

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