The terms introvert and extrovert are commonly used and its safe to say that most people know what they mean. There are never ending discussions about which is better and the pros and cons of both. Unfortunately, there are also many arguments because they just don’t understand each other. One common misconception is that shy and introvert are the same things and frequently both are used as an insult. The truth is, there is no more a correlation between being shy and introverted as being shy and extroverted. Characteristics of introversion and shyness may be similar, but they are not mutually exclusive and chances are, there are just as many extroverts who are shy as introverts. So what are the differences?
What defines an introvert?
An introvert is a person who draws energy by being alone. They often feel refreshed or energized when engaging in solo activities such as reading. Social situations tend to be more emotionally and physically draining for them. It does not mean that they do not enjoy these social situations, just that they are more work for them and they require a balance of alone time to recharge. Introverted people tend to be more introspective and spend more time thinking about their thoughts and feelings. They are more stimulated by internal thoughts than external stimulation. They may prefer written communication to verbal or to remain more “behind the scenes.” This does not mean that they are shy or that they fear social situations, but speaks more about what feels comfortable and best enhances their well being. It also does not mean that they do not have friends, but rather prefer a small, closer group of friends.
Some common traits of Introverts are:
- More self-aware
- Thoughtful, take time to think before speaking
- More attention to details, desires a better understanding of details
- Interested in self-knowledge and understanding
- Private, keeps emotions to themselves
- Internal processor of stress or emotions, figures things out on their own before sharing
- Tends to be quiet or reserved in large groups, especially with new people
- More outgoing around people they are comfortable with and know well
- Enjoys spending time with those they are close to
- Refreshes by engaging in activities alone
- Learns well through observation
- Prefer deep, meaningful conversations to small talk
What is shyness?
Shyness is a feeling that a person experiences in new or unfamiliar situations. People who are shy may have a harder time talking to and meeting new people and are frequently uncomfortable trying new things. Shyness is generally experienced strongly in anticipation of an event and lessens as they familiarity grows. It is most often associated with distress, anxiety, discomfort, or feelings of being inhibited when in social situations or in anticipation of social situations. Shyness in essence is a fear of people or socializing, in varying levels of severity. Perhaps the largest differentiating trait of shy verses introvert is that people who are introverts enjoy and feel energized by being alone and people who are shy do not necessarily enjoy being alone. They spend a majority of their time alone because of the fear of being in social situations. It is not a choice.
Why the difference Matters:
It is important to understand the difference between being an introvert and being shy. People can be both, but are not one because of the other. The difference being, one is a personality trait and the other is a negative emotion. One leads to a lifestyle that is personalized to the person, comfortable, and balanced and the other leads to isolation that is not desired. It is important to understand the difference and how to help when shyness becomes a problem. It is equally important to remember that an introvert may choose to stay in and someone who is shy may feel forced to stay in but desire being social. Simply put, one may be a problem for a person and the other is not and should be accepted as healthy and who the person is.