Sometimes it’s easy to spot the introverts. In large groups, we “quiet ones” can usually be found just listening and observing. We shun small talk and try to speak only when we feel we have something of real value to say. We’re probably not the friend or partner who’ll go to every party with you — but when you need someone to listen and really care, we’ll be there. We spend lots of time alone, get lost in big thoughts, and need a few extra beats to think before verbally responding.
Other times it’s harder to tell when someone is an introvert. Many introverts come across as extroverts when they’re around people they feel comfortable with. And just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t have excellent social skills.
Nevertheless, there are substantial differences between introverts and extroverts. The biggest one? The way these two temperaments socialize. Here are seven ways us quiet ones socialize differently than extroverts — and why introverts aren’t antisocial but selectively social.
How Introverts and Extroverts Socialize Differently
1. Intimate settings vs. large groups
There’s a good reason introverts may “have other plans” or “can’t make it” when they’re invited to a party. Although extroverts thrive on stimulation and excitement, that’s not the case for introverts. Due to the way our brains are wired, we don’t get “high” off socializing like extroverts do. In fact, all that noise and stimulation can easily exhaust us. It’s far less overstimulating for us to interact with just one or two people at a time in an intimate setting. This allows us to focus our attention deeply — which is something many introverts excel at doing.
2. Big ideas vs. small talk
Does anyone actually enjoy talking about the weather? Probably not, but introverts especially loathe it. For us, small talk doesn’t come naturally. It feels inauthentic and forced — and it wastes our time and limited social energy. Sure, we’ll do it if we have to, but we’ll be looking for an escape ASAP. Extroverts, on the other hand, seem to have an easier time tolerating (and making) small talk on the fly. Words flow more easily for them, because, as some research suggests, extroverts may rely more on active memory than long-term memory when speaking — which essentially puts words on the tip of their tongue. Introverts do the opposite, which explains why they may pause frequently during conversation and need extra time to think before responding.
To engage introverts, talk about ideas. The bigger, the better. “What’s something new you’ve learned lately?” “How are you really feeling about your new job?” We’re most interested in sharing our inner world — not just what we did today or who we saw. And we want to glimpse your inner world, too.
Dr. Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power, perfectly sums up the introvert’s need for deep talk: “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.”
3. A few close friends vs. many casual acquaintances
Introverts don’t chase popularity. We don’t need everybody to know our name. What we do want are a few solid connections — people who really know us, inside and out. They know our quirks and they hang out with us anyway. We feel safe venting to them, even our innermost thoughts. And they’re okay with the occasional awkward silence. Extroverts, in contrast, generally have many casual friends and acquaintances, because social status is more important to them. Whereas extroverts go wide, introverts go deep.
4. Online friends vs. IRL friends
Both introverts and extroverts have online friends, but according to Susan Cain, author of Quiet, introverts are the ones who are more socially active and transparent online. “Using the Internet to connect with others appeals to us introverts for a lot of reasons,” she writes. “We can carry on a conversation from the quiet privacy of our own homes; we can join groups and sites that cater to our niche interests; we can write our thoughts instead of speaking them (introverts typically express themselves better in writing); and we can turn off our device when we’ve had enough.” And, interestingly, studies have shown that introverts are more likely than extroverts to reveal intimate details about themselves online — information their family and friends would be surprised to learn. In other words, introverts welcome the opportunity to socialize digitally.
5. Calm vs. high energy
Compared to extroverts, introverts are generally calmer and more reserved when socializing (although there will be plenty of exceptions on both sides of the fence!). Introverts may speak slower and chose their words carefully, sharing less about themselves personally. They’re less emotionally reactive than extroverts, keeping many of their opinions and feelings to themselves — even when they feel them deeply. Extroverts, on the other hand, may speak quicker, louder, and with more enthusiasm. They might share their emotions dramatically and have no problem talking about themselves, even revealing intimate details to people they’ve just met.
6. Quality time vs. frequent contact
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to talk to someone every day or hang out regularly. And that’s exactly what extroverts tend to do. They crave frequent contact with the ones they love, even if it’s just a quick check-in text or a phone call to blow off steam. And they have no problem seeing someone two days in a row. A weekend full of social plans — how exciting!
Introverts, on the other hand, need less contact with friends and family. They’ll likely text less and rarely call. And they certainly don’t feel the need to make plans with someone two days in a row — once a week is probably plenty! For introverts, it’s not about frequent contact but rather quality contact.
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7. Downtime vs. more “fun”
Everyone is drained by socializing, both introverts and extroverts. But introverts are the ones who are especially susceptible to massive energy crashes, as well as social burnout and fatigue. Even when socializing is enjoyable, introverts still get worn out. Again, this is due to the way our brains are wired; compared to extroverts, we just aren’t as motivated and energized by social rewards. Don’t take it personally when an introvert leaves your party early or skips out on it altogether. We’re simply responding to our body’s needs. You’d do the same if you felt the exhaustion we feel.
Extroverts, on the other hand, have a longer social battery. When introverts are ready to call it a night, extroverts are just getting started.
Introverts are often accused of being “reclusive” or “antisocial.” But for many of us, that’s far from reality. Just like extroverts, we need close relationships to thrive. We simply go about socializing differently — and just because something’s different doesn’t mean it’s wrong or inferior. The world needs the introvert’s way, too.
Read more about the meaning of introversion and what its’s like to be an introvert.