Introverts have received a lot of attention lately, yet misconceptions about introversion still exist. Who are introverts, really? And perhaps more importantly, who are they not?
Introverts make up 30-50 percent of the population.
That means up to half of the world is introverted.
Introverts loathe small talk, but they enjoy meaningful conversation.
“Introverts crave meaning, so party chitchat feels like sandpaper to our psyche,” writes author Diane Cameron.
When in relationships, introverts want to keep up with their partner’s inner life, not just day-to-day events.
“When an introvert cares about someone, she also wants contact, not so much to keep up with the events of the other person’s life, but to keep up with what’s inside: the evolution of ideas, values, thoughts, and feelings,” writes Laurie Helgoe in her book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.
Introverts become distracted and overwhelmed in highly stimulating environments.
Introverts are known for their extraordinary ability to focus intensely for long periods of time in quiet, minimally stimulating environments. Yet in highly stimulating environments, introverts tend to either zone out because there’s too much going on, or they become distracted. On the flip side, “extroverts are commonly found to be more easily bored than introverts on monotonous tasks, probably because they require and thrive on high levels of stimulation,” Clark University researchers wrote in a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Despite preferring to work alone, introverts can still be good team players.
“We just don’t need to be in the same room as the rest of the team at all times. We would much prefer to have part of the project carved out for us to squirrel away with it in our offices, consulting as necessary but working independently,” writes Sophia Dembling in The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World.
Introverts often feel more lonely and bored in a crowd than when they are actually alone.
“I am rarely bored alone; I am often bored in groups and crowds,” writes Helgoe.
Introverts often express themselves better in writing than in conversation.
Writing allows introverts time to gather their thoughts and select just the right words.
Introverts are often called “old souls.”
“Introverts tend to think hard and be analytical,” Dembling tells Huffington Post. “That can make them seem wise.”
Introverts notice details that others might miss.
They often have a keen eye for detail. They might notice the subtle shift of a friend’s mood or the slight variations of color and texture in a piece of art.
Introverts often feel alienated.
“In an extroverted society, we rarely see ourselves in the mirror. We get alienating feedback. Alienating feedback comes in the form of repeated encouragement to join or talk, puzzled expressions, well-intended concern, and sometimes, all-out pointing and laughing. Alienating feedback happens when we hear statements like, ‘What kind of loser would be home on a Saturday night?’ Alienating feedback happens where neighborhoods, schools, and offices provide no place to retreat. Alienating feedback happens when our quiet spaces and wilderness sanctuaries are seen as places to colonize,” writes Helgoe.
Introverts may end up in one-sided relationships.
“Because introverts are typically good listeners and, at least, have the appearance of calmness, we are attractive to emotionally needy people. Introverts, gratified that other people are initiating with them, can easily get caught in these exhausting and unsatisfying relationships,” writes Adam McHugh in Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture.
Introverts tend to internalize problems.
“We place the source of problems within and blame ourselves. Though introverts may also externalize and see others as the problem, it’s more convenient to keep the problem ‘in house.’ Internalizers tend to be reliable and responsible, but we can also be very hard on ourselves,” writes Helgoe.
Introverts are not necessarily shy.
According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet, shyness is the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is having a preference for minimally stimulating environments. You can be an introvert without being shy, like Bill Gates. There are even extroverts, like Barbara Streisand, who are shy.
Introverts aren’t anti-social.
They alternate between periods of work and solitude, and periods of social activities. They may have strong social skills, be talkative, have deep relationships, and enjoy going out with friends. They simply need downtime after socializing to recharge.
Introverts aren’t just extroverts who need to come out of their shells.
About introverts, Cain writes, “At school you might have been prodded to come ‘out of your shell’ — that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and some humans are just the same.”
Introverts are not people who need to be “fixed.”
Of course, we all have habits or behaviors we could improve, whether we’re an introvert or an extrovert. Yet introversion is not a flawed way of being or a “problem” that needs fixing. Helgoe writes, “Your nature is not the problem. The problem is that you have become alienated from your nature — from your power source.”
Want a much more detailed dive into the world of an introvert? Check out our complete definition and guide.