We have all heard the terms introvert and extrovert. They are used to describe people’s personalities and the effects of social interaction on their energy levels. While some people view these labels as insignificant, many use them as a way to understand their place in the world, how their own brain works, and how they best interact with others. These concepts have gained popularity over the years, factoring into dozens of personality assessments like Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Enneagram. These ideas are tools to help people understand themselves and their needs better.
According to Beth Belle Cooper, Carl Jung, who first came up with the language of introvert and extrovert, thought of these things as a spectrum rather than a dichotomy. No one is entirely extroverted or introverted. Still, most of us are going to lean more one way than the other. It’s helpful to note that, no matter your tendency, you probably have at least a bit of both introverted and extroverted tendencies.
What Is an Introvert?
An introvert recharges their energy by being alone and is drained by extended social interaction (think big groups or lots of together time). There’s a lot of exciting research that points to physiological differences between extrovert and introvert brains.
Culturally, introversion is often associated with shyness, social anxiety, fear of public speaking, and preferring to be alone. The term can have a negative stigma attached to it. People may assume introverts are stuck up, detached, exclusive, or intensely private. These are unfair assumptions.
8 Things Introverts Wish People Understood
#1 They Love Alone Time
The biggest misconception is that introverts do not like people. The truth is, an introvert highly values the time they have for themselves. For an introverted person, alone time is a chance to recharge and fill up their energy tank.
#2 They Value Deep Conversation
Small talk has its place and can be great for making an impression, but introverts often prefer depth. They want to dive in immediately and get to the meat of the conversation. This makes sense logically – if you have limited social energy, why not spend it on what matters to you?
#3 They Prefer Genuine Interactions
Authenticity is an essential element of all kinds of relationships, especially for many with an introverted personality. They may find it difficult to form friendships with people who they feel are shallow. Introverts often avoid shallow interactions whenever possible since they feel like a waste of energy.
#4 They Often Enjoy People
Introverts often love to be social, but since they’re working with diminishing energy in a social setting, they tend toward intentionality when it comes to social interaction. Introverts can be extremely loyal and close to a few people and prioritize that inner circle in their social interactions. That doesn’t mean that introverts aren’t generous with their time or are disinterested in new people, but it can be perceived that way.
#5 They Don’t Control Their Social “Switch”
Introverts can have trouble switching immediately from alone time to social time, and sometimes they can’t make the jump. And when they run out of energy, they may sort of “power down” in the moment. Neither of these things indicates that they dislike people or social time.
#6 They Value Empathy
Empathy is extremely valuable to introverts. Introverts may spend more time observing others. They are naturals for picking up on what others are feeling and being there for them. They are often excellent listeners. Empathy and deep connection are gifts that they like to give.
#7 They Are Great Friends
Authenticity, listening, intentionality, empathy – if you’re thinking those sound like excellent qualities in a friend, you’re spot on. Introverts need friends – and they often make really excellent ones. Many introverts are also very loyal.
#8 They Want to Be Invited
Sometimes people think they are doing their introverted friends a favor by leaving them out of a social event. This is more likely to lead to hurt and misunderstanding than relief. Leave it to the individual to decide whether or not they want to participate in a social event. Being included in an invitation doesn’t entail obligation (“I was invited, so I have to go”) but rather an opportunity (“Is this something I want to do and have the energy for?”) and an affirmation (“People want me around!”). No one wants to feel left out.
A Parting Note for the Introverts
American society in the 21st century is arguably wired in favor of extroverts. (Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, is a place to start with this topic.) But introverts are valuable and should be encouraged to be their authentic selves. If you’re an introvert, it’s worth exploring what that means and how to lean into your personality in a way that works best for you. We need introverts in the world. We need you.
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