It’s one of those things I have to qualify to people. I’m not just an introvert, I’m a shy introvert. Worse, I’m a shy, socially awkward, introvert. But those things don’t necessarily go together. My boss is an off-the-charts introvert, like me, but you’d never guess it in your interactions with her, if you were looking for any level of shyness. Shy she definitely isn’t.
Actually, the fact that I’m an introvert probably makes my shyness less painful. Less painful for me, at least. My social awkwardness has the potential to be painful for me and everyone around me. 😉
For clarity, introversion and extroversion have a lot more to do with how a given personality type gets their energy, than with any level of social comfort or behavior. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that one group likes or does not like people.
Here’s an illustration of what I mean:
Imagine that you are about to spend the whole day alone. Everyone you know, everyone you might live with, talk to, call, email or chat with is … elsewhere. For the sake of the example (and to take any emotional matter out of the equation) they are all perfectly safe and well, they are just completely unreachable. For this day, you are completely and entirely on your own; no external contacts at all. The only person you will interact with is… you.
How do you feel about that? How will you feel about it at the end of the day?
For an extreme introvert, all that quiet time, left to ones own thoughts and self-entertainment, is refreshing.
For an extreme extrovert, so much time left to oneself is positively draining.
Again, that’s not to say that the introvert is a loner who is happier alone while the extrovert enjoys people more. In the example above, upon the return of the loved ones that have been absent all day, the introvert is now fully charged and happily ready to interact with everyone they love. The extrovert is completely drained from the day alone, and cannot wait to interact with everyone they love, to get themselves back on track. Both are happy to have their loved ones back with them… but their energy levels about it vary.
I am an introvert. On the Myers Briggs test, I score right around the middle for all of the other letters, but for the energy scale from E to I, you have to imagine it this way: There’s a chart. There’s an “E” for Extrovert at one end. Then there’s a little space, and the scale itself. (Most people fall somewhere in the middle, not at one end or the other.) Then there’s a space and the letter “I” for Introvert, then there’s a margin, and the edge of the paper, and then a little bit beyond that, there’s where my mark should be. 😉
In a mix and mingle situation, I’m not just going to be visibly uncomfortable (ie socially awkward, though this is true in my case). Because I’m an introvert, within a very short time in a crowd I am going to be tired. All that interaction is exhausting for me and I need alone time, however brief, to regather myself. This is true even when I’m surrounded by all the people I love best in the world – though I can go much longer without needing a “break” as the group gets smaller and more familiar.
That’s just how it looks on me. Your results may vary.
By comparison, my sister is an extrovert, and nothing energizes her nearly so much as interacting with people. All the stuff that I find exhausting, she finds uplifting. I envy this in her, but we are each wired to be who we are.
So… when you think about where your energy comes from, where do you think you tend to fall on the Introversion-Extroversion scale? (Or, if you’re very much on the middle of the scale, which do you tend to be more of the time, and in what situations?)
And if there are any shy extroverts out there (since they are not the same thing), I would love to understand how that plays out for you.
PS If you liked this topic, you may be entertained by this article. (Thanks for forwarding, Boochen Sundance!)