Are you shy? Introverted? What’s the difference?

The Definition of an Introvert

Intraversion is personality trait that is marked by reserved behavior and enjoyment of reflecting on a person’s personal thoughts (a marked trait by both the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator and Big-Five Model).

The dictionary defines it as

1. a shy person.
2. Psychology. a person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings.

For the sake of clarity, I never treat “shy” as synonymous with “introverted.” I consider “introverted” a psychological term with a psychological definition.

Why Understanding Introversion is Important

When I was young, I felt the pressure to always go out every weekend. I would feel like a loser if I found myself home alone on a weekend. This lead me to some fun nights, but also lead to a lot of mediocre nights pretending to have fun, when in fact, as an introvert, I would have enjoyed time at home with a good book instead.

The reason you need to understand introversion is to either understand your own needs for socialization. And if you are an extrovert, you need to understand how your introverted friend might not want to go out for the 3rd time this week.

Understand what your levels of introversion/extraversion are. This will help you immensely in calibrating your need for social interaction and finding hobbies that you enjoy, if you don’t like visiting nightclubs again and again. Like Dorothy Boyd says in the movie, Jerry Maguire:

“I’ve had three lovers in the past four years, and they all ran a distant second to a good book and a warm bath.”

Introvert vs Extravert and Misconceptions

An introvert enjoys socializing, contrary to popular belief. The difference is that the extreme introvert feels their energy being drained by social situations, while the extreme extrovert feels energized by social situations. The introvert would enjoy spending the weekend alone watching Netflix or reading a book, while the extrovert would feel bored spending the time alone and would at least want to call friends or go out to a bar where people are.

A nightclub is a perfect example of where you can observe both extrovert and introvert behavior. Though a nightclub is the playground for extroverts, inevitably, introvert friends tag along. While the extrovert becomes excited as the night goes on, the introvert begins to grow tired of bumping people all night and shouting to talk to people. The extrovert probably hates all the crowd-surfing and having to wait 10 minutes for a drink, but the loud music, the gathering of large groups of people (friends and strangers alike), make it a great place to be and party all night.

How can an introvert have an extraverted personality?

In the same way, an introvert can be the life of the party. An introvert can be outgoing, incredibly friendly, a social butterfly, a wonderful host of the party, and a powerful speaker. The thing is that to do this for an introvert requires lots of effort and undoubtedly, leads to wanting alone time aka “social downtime.”

An introvert can have all the coveted qualities of an extravert. All it takes is practice, the ability to model behavior, and most of all a willingness to go outside of your comfort zone.

As a young introvert in high school, I would always look up this one class clown named Remington. This gentleman was very outspoken, extroverted, had lots of friends, was known to all his teachers, and simply brought me and other classmates to tears with his humor and confidence.

Here’s a prime example of Remington’s amazing extraverted personality: in history class, we were discussing the presidential election process. We were talking about how the president is not determined by the popular vote, but rather, the electoral votes granted by each state’s majority vote. In response to this shocking information, Remington, stoicly said “is that really how the system works? I can’t believe it. I feel so… naked.”

Remington had an amazing personality that everyone was fortunate to have in their classes. Thought distracting, the humor, the fun, and the anticipation of the next words out of his mouth had everyone eager in anticipation. And that is what you want, as an introvert.