Studies suggest introverts are outnumbered by extroverts by about six to one. Most people assume that introverts are shy, lonely, and fearful of social situations, but these stereotypes are not true. Introverts are not afraid of socializing or being around other people; they may just prefer small groups or solo activities to large gatherings and bustling social events, at least some of the time. Though they may be presumed to be aloof or arrogant, people who lean heavily to the introversion side of the scale simply have an alternative way of navigating the world around them.
The terms "introvert" and "extrovert" were popularized by Carl Jung, a famous psychoanalyst who believed that extroverts directed their energy toward others while introverts focus their energy inwards. Researchers measure extroversion and introversion on a sliding scale, with the extreme of each personality type on an opposite end of the spectrum. Most people fall somewhere between the two, having a variety of introverted and extroverted qualities. In this article, we will use the term "introvert" as shorthand for "people with more introverted qualities" — those on that half of the sliding scale.
There are certainly advantages to having some qualities of an introvert. Because so much of their energy is turned inward, introverts rarely get bored; they find it easy to entertain themselves. They are often more reflective and do not require constant social stimulation. While they may come off as shy or aloof, in today's growing culture of celebrating introverts, many people just explain their predispositions to people they spend time with.
One of the biggest traits of an introvert is that they genuinely like being alone. Solo quiet time allows them to recharge and increases their sense of well-being. Introverts typically enjoy activities like reading, listening to music, writing, or playing video games, and tend to think and problem-solve better on their own. While not necessarily opposed to or fearful of socializing, they tend to opt for quieter activities, either alone or in an intimate group setting.
Although, in the past, many people have held the opinion that introverts do not make good leaders, recent research and anecdotal evidence suggests this isn't necessarily true. When placed in the right leadership role, introverts can excel at drawing out the potential of a skilled group. While an introvert might not be as skilled at acting as a cheerleader or motivating a group to move forward, they are often adept at managing motivated people, listening to a group's ideas, and offering well-thought-out solutions.
Introverts are often the last to volunteer for something. School-aged introverts may not raise their hand in class to give an answer or ask a question. While extroverts are often eager to volunteer to read aloud, present a project, or give a speech, introverts are usually happy to sit back and let others take the spotlight. This does not mean that they do not know the answers or are any less capable or talented than extroverts. They just prefer not to be the center of attention.
Introverts are likely to keep their opinions to themselves, particularly in large group settings. An introvert does not often speak up with advice or opinions without being asked. In a work setting, they are happy to sit back and let a more extroverted personality take control of a meeting or brainstorming session. In social settings, they may not add much to discussions and decision-making or take part in gossip. On the other hand, because introverts are so contemplative and less likely to share openly, they may constantly be asked to share their opinions.
Introverts are not as likely to engage with people because they do not often seek out the attention of others. They may wear headphones when riding the bus to avoid small talk. Research shows that introverts do not respond to gaze-cueing the same way that extroverts do. In these tests, people look at faces on a computer screen. A normal response is to follow the gaze of the face you are looking at. While introverts respond appropriately in most cases, they do not gaze-follow when the face they are looking at appears angry. This indicates that they are less likely to engage with someone who appears mad or upset.
While introverts do have social circles, they are not likely to voluntarily reach out to friends. An extrovert may call someone just to chat or reach out with an email or text. On the other hand, an introvert is more likely to respond to others rather than make initial contact. This can also have career implications, as introverts are likely to have a hard time reaching out to plan events or sales calls over the phone.
We have all met people in public who are willing to share intimate details of their lives: the chatty person at the grocery store making small talk about the weather or the person sitting next to you on the bus explaining that she is late for an important business meeting. Introverts are unlikely to volunteer this kind of information. While they may be worried about being late or have thoughts about the weather, they are more likely to keep these thoughts to themselves unless in the company of a close friend.
A common distinction between introverts and extroverts is how they "recharge" after a draining engagement. Introverts recharge by spending time quietly on their own, while extroverts are likely to recharge through more social interactions. Introverts should recognize that intense social situations are draining and take measures to maintain their mental and physical health in ways that work for them. They shouldn't feel guilty about skipping a party or social event on the weekend, and friends and family should accept that abstaining for interactions helps them stay well.
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