The Top 8 Misconceptions About Introverts

An introvert feels misunderstood

For introverts, needing quiet time isn’t the same as sulking, having a negative mindset, or being sad. 

Over the years, I’ve done stand-up and sketch comedy, performed in storytelling shows, and even acted in plays. I loved the feeling of having an audience in the palm of my hand. So you may be surprised to learn that I’m an introvert. 

While many introverts wouldn’t choose to get on stage and be the center of attention, it’s easier for me to be on stage “talking” to people than if I were at a party with strangers, struggling to make small talk and wishing I’d stayed home instead. 

As an introvert, I can like staying in on a Friday night with my favorite movie or suspense novel just as much as the next introvert, but still enjoy performing. It’s the same way that an extrovert could enjoy being surrounded by people at an event, yet still enjoy nights home alone watching Netflix.

All that said, people tend to have many misconceptions about introverts — and it’s time to dispel them.

Top 8 Misconceptions About Introverts

1. All introverts are shy. (But being “introverted” and being “shy” are two different things.)

People often think all introverts are shy even though being introverted and being shy are two different things. While someone who is shy may feel awkward or anxious during social interactions, experts say, someone who’s an introvert has a personality trait wherein they get energy from internal feelings vs. the external world.

Introverts like to think before they speak, so they may appear “shy” and not be super effusive when you meet them for the first time. But give them time to warm up — then, you’ll find introverts have plenty to say

One of the great things about introverts is how they’re outstanding conversationalists because of their ability to listen and react to what others have said. Introverts don’t get into a conversation merely to hear themselves talk — they genuinely want to connect meaningfully with the other person, learn from them, and discuss deep topics and ideas, like life lessons and how to get over a broken heart.

2. Introverts have no emotions. (We do — we just prefer to keep them to ourselves most of the time.)

Introverts aren’t robots. They may not dramatically display their emotions for the world to see, but they have emotions and feelings like everybody else. The difference is, they tend to internalize their feelings and save them for a time when they’re alone and can deal with them on their own.

An introvert may not react in an overly emotional way to someone else’s emotions, but will keep it together. Introverts often help prevent highly charged situations from getting worse and help others de-escalate their behavior and emotions.

There are times when you want someone who doesn’t lose their cool in tense situations, and no one does that better than an introvert. Many introverts can make the right decisions and take the correct actions — all while staying calm and providing emotional support for others.

More than once when I worked for a bank, there was a hold-up. I didn’t personally have a gun aimed at me, but after the thief left and the police came, I was able to help my coworkers remain calm and not fall apart. I did this by simply talking to them in a soothing tone, getting them water, and encouraging them to breathe.

3. Introverts are loners. (Not true. Though we need alone time, we also need people time.)

Introverts need alone time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t stand any kind of human interaction. Introverts may not crave constant human contact, but they enjoy having meaningful conversations, relationships, and just hanging out with people.

Even though some people may think so, introverts aren’t hermits or recluses and don’t need to live by themselves. All they want is some time to be alone and decompress, and to enjoy some peace while they regroup and recharge.

Loners, on the other hand, tend to avoid other people and may even outright reject them when others reach out to them. Introverts may require time to be by themselves, but human contact is also necessary to their well-being. I live with my boyfriend, but if I need some introvert alone time, I’ll go to my “introvert sanctuary” — a calming space just for me — to read a book for a while or spend quality time with my cats. But after I feel recharged, I’ll happily join my boyfriend for dinner or a movie.

4. Introverts hate socializing. (False. We like socializing, but with friends who “get” us, not everyone in the room.)        

While it isn’t very likely that an introvert will shut the bar down or be the last person to leave a party, they do enjoy being around people, conversing, or just hanging out … in moderation. True, they may not be super comfortable around strangers, and they probably won’t be a party-hopper going to one party after another. Still, they’re not morally against parties, gatherings, or social events. 

We introverts can be social if we’re in the right mood, it’s not a massive gathering of people, and the environment isn’t too loud or uncomfortable. Although we prefer one-on-one get-togethers, we’ll still go to bigger ones. And, when we are at such gatherings, you’ll usually find us with our small inner circle, the friends who “get” us, not bouncing around looking for new people to meet.

Would an introvert prefer being home with their cat or dog, reading a good book, or watching a movie? Maybe. (OK — yes, usually.) But that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy interacting with people from time to time.

5. Introverts have no drive to succeed. (Not true. If we set out to do something, we do it, and then some.)

We introverts are just as ambitious or unambitious as anyone. If we’re motivated or passionate about something, you can bet we’re going to do whatever we can to achieve it. (After all, don’t forget — we’re overthinkers, and it comes in handy in terms of achieving our goals!)

Introverts have an abundance of determination to set goals, study, train, and even take calculated risks to advance in their careers or passions. For example, years ago, I wanted to transition from being on stage to working behind-the-scenes (so to speak) as a writer, so I took several writing classes. I was determined and focused; before I knew it, I started getting bylines in several online magazines.

Introverts may not be flashy in how they move ahead in their career, but their carefully thought-out path works for them. They’re also not the type of people who make empty promises and then can’t deliver. If an introvert says they’re going to do something, they usually do it. End of story. Plus, since many introverts are conscientious, they complete tasks and projects with high attention to detail and don’t skip corners.

The pathway to an introvert’s success may not be obvious, but it’s clear to the introvert, even if others can’t see it.

6. Introverts are boring. (Nope. We just like to think before we speak instead of talking just to talk.)

Some people mistake being introspective with being boring as if someone who isn’t super outgoing has nothing interesting to say. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Introverts may not enthusiastically interrupt you, but when they speak, it’s usually because they’ve listened, considered all the information, and have something to add. 

Introverts are far from dull — they’re deep. Not only do we introverts have stories to share — like that time I fainted at the movies or my trip to Paris — but we also have our unique take on what’s happened to us. We know how to process our experiences in new ways and see things from different perspectives, which gives us the ability to see humor in most situations.

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7. Introverts are downers. (Just because we’re not the life of the party doesn’t mean we’re not fun or having fun.)

Needing quiet time isn’t the same as sulking, having a negative mindset, or being sad. Introverts have all the same emotions as everybody else: Some are unhappy, some are incredibly joyous, and the majority are everything in-between.

In large groups, introverts are usually content to people-watch and take in the sights and sounds of the event as an observer instead of being the life of the party. Because of this, some people may think introverts are downers, but this is not true. We’re still fun — and have fun — by paying attention to the drama happening among the guests.

8. Introverts are rude. (In actuality, we’re known for being incredibly conscientious.)

Sometimes the behavior of an introvert is misconstrued, and people interpret their actions as rude. If someone approaches an introvert and the introvert isn’t immediately cracking jokes and is more reserved — um, do I know you? — it’s taken as evidence that the introvert is standoffish, rude, or has no manners. 

This reminds me of the time I was having lunch with a friend and a friend of hers whom I barely knew. The acquaintance was complaining about her job, and I didn’t say anything. Later, my friend questioned me on why I hadn’t tried to comfort the acquaintance. I told her I hadn’t had time to thoroughly think about her situation and come up with anything helpful to say. (Plus, remember, I didn’t even know her!)

Introverts may be quiet and reserved, but they generally try to treat people with respect and wouldn’t do anything to deliberately cause someone distress. Introverts may not initially come off as friendly or have the most expressive facial features, but in no way does that mean they’re rude. In fact, we’re known for being incredibly conscientious and care about others more than you know.

In a recent study, researchers found a link between creativity, having a strong sense of self, and introversion. The study pointed out how introverts may not be the friendliest or most outspoken people, but that their quiet self-esteem, thoughtfulness, and creativity  are valuable assets to any work environment. And I couldn’t agree more.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer/storyteller living in Southern California. Her written work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times and Salon, and she is a regular contributor to Medium, Your Tango, and Next Avenue. When she's not writing, you can find her drinking her favorite Indar tea, reading suspense novels, and buying cat furniture for her four cats, Jimi, Allie, Josie, and Carlos. You can follow her at ChristineSchoenwaldWriter.com.