Introverts Are Not Shy: Setting the Record Straight

Written on by Mindy Haas

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my journey to embracing myself as an introvert.  (See Embrace Your Introverted Self)  I can’t tell you how many people said to me, “Really? I never thought you were an introvert!”  I think this stems from common misconceptions people have about introverts.  Let’s set the record straight, shall we?

FALSE: Introverts are anti-social
This is far from true; we really do enjoy socializing, especially after all that recharging in solitude. We can talk up a storm too, if it’s a topic that really interests us.  However, it requires a lot of energy to socialize, so we may slip off to a quiet spot for a bit.  Or, we may choose to decline an event if we have too many other activities going on.  This helps us manage our energy levels.

FALSE: Introverts are self-centered
When introverts have had too much external stimuli, we shut down for a bit.  This can make us appear disinterested and self-absorbed, but that’s not the case. We may need to process what we’ve experienced and recharge for a bit.  In fact, our ability to deeply reflect on situations helps us put ourselves in others shoes. So, we are more likely to be sympathetic than self-centered.

FALSE: Introverts are wallflowers
We tend to think of extroverts as the ones in the spotlight, but introverts have their place too.  Either we are doing work that is really meaningful to us, or we have a unique talent.  Some famous introverts include:  Diane Sawyer, Michael Jordan, Julia Roberts, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg.

FALSE: Introverts are shy
Introversion is not synonymous with shyness.  Shyness stems from social anxiety and lack of confidence in social situations.  Introverts simply prefer one-on-one conversations to group settings and they lose energy when in extended social situations (see Introverts are anti-social).  That’s not to say you can’t have a shy introvert, but that also means you can have a shy extrovert.

So what’s the truth about introverts then?

TRUE: Introverts make good leaders
Studies show that introverts are the best leaders of proactive, ‘go-get-em’ type personalities. Because we are 20% more likely to take suggestions from the team, we create an environment that builds morale and allows creativity to flourish.  Note: the studies also indicate that extroverts are better leaders for workers that require more motivation.

TRUE: Introverts work best alone
This can be tough in a society that values team work, which can stifle an introvert’s creativity.   Steve Wolzniak created Apple by working in solitude early in the morning before his job started and again late into the evening.   Our strong ability to concentrate allows us to fully flush out an idea and work out all the kinks.  Outside input simply breaks this concentration.  That’s not to say we can’t work in groups. When we must, we can.

TRUE: Introverts make good friends
Introverts are more likely to have a few close friends than to have a large number of acquaintances.  It’s because we value a deeper connection with people we can trust.

TRUE: Introverts are influencers on society
Consider this quote, taken from Leadership Development for the Gifted and Talented, “Leadership …. also occurs in more solitary situations such as developing new techniques in the arts, creating new philosophies, writing profound books and making scientific breakthroughs.”  Some examples:

Marie Curie: pioneered research on radioactivity
Mahatma Gandhi: lead the Indian civil rights movement
Rosa Parks: sparked the U.S. civil rights movement

Now that you have the facts, you can banish the thought that all introverts are unsocial and shy.  We are sociable, assertive, and opinionated.  We just need to slip off into the quiet sometimes to rejuvenate.

Check out these books:
The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.
Quiet by Susan Cain

Photo courtesy of Mohammad Bagher Adib Behrooz via Unsplash

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