Blog Short #128: Are you an Introvert?
Photo by ILIA KALINKIN, Courtesy of iStock Photo
If you’ve ever taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), you’re familiar with some differences between introverts and extroverts. And you know which category you fall under.
You also likely know there’s a continuum from very introverted to very extroverted, and you may fall somewhere on that line. Some people are right over the center of the continuum on one side or the other.
Although you may move along the continuum as you age and have more life experiences, it’s usually believed that whichever type you are, you are for life.
Today we’ll talk about introverts and how to know if you are one. Next week we’ll do the same for extroverts.
Let’s start with a significant difference between the two.
How Introverts Draw Their Energy
A primary difference between introverts and extroverts is the way they draw in energy.
Introverts do this by having time alone in a quiet atmosphere with no demands to talk or interact with someone.
They can be very social, particularly with people they know well, but after a certain amount of time and interaction, they feel drained and need alone time to recharge.
Extroverts are the opposite. They draw energy from interacting with others and need external stimulation to energize. We’ll talk about that more next week.
Other Signs That You’re An Introvert
Here’s a list of possible signs. You may resonate with all or most of them.
- You have a small group of close friends and enjoy deep conversations with them.
- Small talk with new people drains you. You may have learned how to do it but prefer not to if possible.
- You enjoy solitude and the internal meanderings of your mind.
- You’re very self-aware.
- Too much stimulation wears you out and distracts you. If you’re also highly sensitive, which many introverts are, you don’t like loud noise, violent movies, or sensory overload.
- You like to work independently. You can work in groups, but you prefer to prepare ahead of time before interacting. That might include studying alone, researching before a brainstorming session, or secluding yourself when you have a task to complete.
- You learn by observing first and then doing.
- It takes people more time to get to know you.
A Note About Stimulation
Our brains have a network of neurons called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) located in the brainstem. It’s tuned to incoming sensory stimulation and streamlines what and how much we are aware of, thereby regulating our levels of arousal and alertness.
A psychologist, Hans Eysenck, believed that people have a “set point” for arousal levels when stimulated. Following his theory, extroverts have a low set point, meaning they need higher levels of stimulation to be aroused. And as you can guess, introverts have a high set point meaning they’re easily aroused. It takes less to overstimulate them, which is why extended interaction wears them out.
Highly Sensitive Introverts
Some introverts have even a higher set point than the average. These are people who fall into the “highly sensitive” group. Highly sensitive people can quickly become overwhelmed by things like loud noises, violent movie or TV content, arguments, crowds, and sometimes their thoughts and feelings.
You need more solitude and downtime if you’re both introverted and highly sensitive.
Let’s leave that for a minute and talk briefly about different types of introverts.
4 Types of Introverts
Although introverts have commonalities across the board, there are four distinct types, although these may overlap.
- Social Introvert. This is the type most people think of when they hear the term “introvert.” This person prefers being alone to socializing, although they can do it. They just get drained and need recharging time afterward. They enjoy social time with close friends or family but don’t enjoy large parties or crowds.
- Thinking Introvert. Thinking introverts spend a significant amount of time in their minds. They love to evaluate and analyze. They can spend hours imagining and creating fantasy worlds and situations, although not necessarily as a means of escape but as an exercise in creativity. You might describe them as deep thinkers, dreamers, or creators.
- Anxious Introvert. Like social introverts, anxious introverts also don’t enjoy socializing, but the reasons differ. They feel awkward and self-conscious and worry about how other people see them, whereas social introverts simply prefer to be alone. Anxious introverts can get caught up in worrying about how they acted in previous situations and be fearful about future events and how they might behave and be perceived. They fret.
- Restrained Introvert. These are the people that take extra time to get to know. They warm up slowly. They’re often reserved yet conversant and interactive after getting to know them. They like to sit on the sidelines and observe before jumping in. They think before they act and take time to make important decisions.
Now let’s move on to strengths.
The Introvert’s Strengths
Introverts sometimes get a bad rap because they’re quieter, yet they have some awesome assets. Here’s a short list.
1. They think more.
Several studies have found that introverts have more gray matter in the frontal lobe areas of the brain where rational thinking takes place. This doesn’t mean they’re more intelligent than extroverts, but they enjoy meandering in their minds and engaging in thoughts and ideas.
2. They enjoy single-minded focus.
Introverts naturally like to focus in on a single idea. They’re capable of “deliberate practice,” a system of mastering a skill through repetitive practice and incremental improvements. They’re also “reflective and evaluative,” which allows them to monitor their progress.
3. They’re often gifted.
Introverts are often gifted in a specific field. They like to go deep. They take pleasure in focused, concerted efforts to learn one thing super well rather than a smattering of things not so well.
4. Introverts are more likely to do the right thing.
Because they’re not tuned into immediate rewards and can delay gratification, they don’t tend to act impulsively. They consider consequences and hypotheticals before taking action.
5. They take time to process information and make decisions.
Introverts like full pictures. They’re curious and like to give free rein to their imagination, sift through memories, and plan for the future. When confronted with a problem or new situation, they need time to make connections with previous information that might pertain to the current issue.
As a result, they’re good problem solvers because they can step back and objectively investigate. They stay cool when others are reactive and use their intellect and intuition to decide how to act. They can “see and act on warning signs.”
Introverts and Shyness
Shyness and introversion are different, although the terms are often interchanged. Introversion is a personality type, and shyness is a feeling.
Shy people feel awkwardness and discomfort in social situations, but the cause is anxiety rather than disliking having to “be on” around new people or social demands. Introverts don’t seek out novelty. They like routine, sameness, and consistency.
How do I know which one I am?
If you’ve never taken a test to see, you can try this one offered on IntrovertDear.com. It’s free!
Just for fun, here are some famous introverts: Albert Einstein, Warren Buffet, J. K. Rowling, Meryl Streep, Bill Gates, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steven Spielberg, Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jordon, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Mahatma Gandhi, and Dr. Seuss.
There are many more you can look up if you’re interested.
Now extroverts, we’ll describe you next week and offer some resources you may like!
That’s all for today!
Have a great week!
All my best,
P. S. Suggested reading: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking