I’m not a big fan of labels. For one, labeling someone as “that” indicates that they’re a one-sided creature. For example, a person with 100% that and 0% this. There are very few scenarios where such a conclusion can be considered valid. The labels we assign to introverts is no exception.
The same thing applies to the psychologytopics of introversion and extroversion. Those who ‘belong’ to the former are labeled introverts; to the latter, extroverts.
For now, the specifics of each personality type doesn’t matter. Suffice to say that it’s scarce to find a 100% this and 0% that (or 0% that and 100% this – okay, you get the point!) There’s a term for people who ‘fall’ somewhere along the middle of the continuum: ‘ambivert.’ More on this later.
So, please know that we’re not trying to put you into a box.
Definition of Introverts
For the purpose of brevity and conciseness, we’re going to define introverts as “individuals who are predominantly concerned with their internal world.” As such, extroverts are more focused on the external – things with which they can tangibly engage using their senses. Introverts tend to be more cerebral; tuned into their inner lives.
That said, the contemporary stance of psychologists – including those from the fields of contemplative psychology (e.g., Buddhist psychology), positive psychology, and modern psychology – is that there’s something to the whole ‘introvert v. extrovert’ thing.
The purpose of this article will be to “correct” some of the common misconceptions – and misgivings – of introverts. Indeed, such a report is necessary given the day-to-day discrimination that many introverts face – a contentious topic we’ll wrap up with in the ‘Final Thoughts’ section.
We’ll also discuss the differences between introverts and extroverts, the ‘pros and cons’ of each. And finally, we will look at five traits that most people think introverts have.
Introversion and Extroversion
“Each person seems to be energized more by either the external world (extraversion) or the internal world (introversion).” ~ Carl Jung (src)
“A prototypical extrovert can be defined as talkative, outgoing, prefers taking charge, expresses positive emotion, and enjoys seeking out new experiences … a prototypical introvert is quiet, emotionally, reserved, less energetic, and harder to get to know.” ~ Wilmot, M.P., et al. (src)
Attributes of Extraverts vs. Introverts
The terms ‘introversion’ and ‘extroversion’ are thought to have first been coined by the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung. The differences between the two personality types are many, and include:
|Thinking Style||Impulsive; faster||Deliberate; slower|
|Effects of Social Interaction||Gains energy; desires further interaction||Loses energy; desires solitude to ‘recharge.’|
|Stimulation Needs||High||Moderate to low|
|Preferred style of Communication||Large group-oriented||Small group-oriented, one-on-one|
|Energy levels||High||Moderate to low|
In day-to-day life, each personality type enjoys certain advantages over the other. For example:
- Feel more comfortable in social situations, permitting them a more vibrant social life.
- Are more comfortable stepping into leadership roles, which may help explain why they earn more money than introverts on average.
- Outnumber introverts, giving them majority advantage in multiple areas, including the workplace.
- Have more energy to expend on the things that interest them.
- May enjoy stronger personal relationships due to their reflective nature and excellent listening ability.
- Tend to perform better at complex tasks – a nod to their raw processing abilities.
- May communicate more thoughtfully; this is likely a byproduct of the thorough approach in which introverts observe and process information.
5 Traits That Introverts Don’t Have (That Most People Think They Do)
While there exists a bias towards extroversion in multiple places, the corporate world is one institution where this bias is most evident.
However, Adam Grant, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, insists that introverts are becoming more accepted, albeit slower than he’d like. Grant writes:
“‘Raise your hand if you’re an introvert.’ … I made this request to more than 200 MBA students at Wharton. In 2011, only a few students raised their hands. In 2013, more than a third [did].” Grant attributes these additions to the introvert family to his students being “more willing to admit it publicly now.”
And like many others who’ve studied introversion, Grant recognizes the extravert bias that still exists in the West. As a professor of business, Grant is acutely aware of the significant gap between introverts and extroverts in positions of responsibility.
On this point, statistics estimate that introverts make up just around 2 percent of upper management positions. Perhaps more disconcerting: at the ‘supervisor’ level only one step up from the general workforce, introverts make up just 12 percent.
Introverts Are Outnumbered
In spite of the fact that introverts comprise up to 50 percent of the population (the actual number is likely closer to 25 to 40 percent.)
The inconvenient fact is that discrimination against introverts is widespread; just as it is with multiple other minority groups – African-Americans, Asian-Americans, LGTBQ, pregnant women, disabled and disabled persons, the elderly, and so forth.
It is the responsibility of those in the minority, and conscientious and informed citizens, to cast a spotlight on misconceptions. Doing so helps to ensure that these misconceptions do not become a rationale for further discrimination – thereby perpetuating the problem.
On that note, and in that spirit, let’s identify and inform. Here are five misconceptions of introverts:
Introverts are shy (introversion = shyness)
We can put this one to bed by comparing and contrasting the definitions of the two words.
Shyness is defined as “the feeling of apprehension, lack of comfort, or awkwardness, especially when a person is around other people.” Introversion is defined as: “orientation toward the internal private world of one’s self and inner thoughts and feelings, rather than toward the outer world…”
So shyness and introversion are by no means mutually exclusive, and the presence of one trait in no way indicates that of the other.
Introverts are anti-social
Definition time, part Deux. Anti-social: “contrary [in opposition to] the laws and customs of society; devoid of or antagonistic to sociable instincts or practices.” The casual but still inaccurate and crude definition of the word – “like a hermit” – is still extreme.
Introversion has must less to do with proactively avoiding people than it does the behavior following extended periods of social interaction. Most introverts get along fine with people and enjoy social interaction, but usually to a much lesser degree than their extravert counterparts.
Introverts are not good leaders
This is another socially acceptable and entirely ignorant viewpoint. Only in the West do we equal good leadership with volatile expression and overt displays of personal energy. And nevermind that these traits have little to nothing to do with effective management, never mind leadership.
One professional role that demands elite leadership qualities is that of a professional or collegiate coach. On that note, have you ever heard of Mike Krzyzewski? “Coach K” is the beloved head basketball coach of the Duke Blue Devils, one of the most storied college basketball teams in history.
He also happens to hold the record for most wins of any coach in basketball history – and he’s a huge introvert. Research also happens to show that introverts may end up being better leaders, anyways.
Introverts can’t connect with people like extroverts
This depends on how you define the word “connect.” Are we talking about the sheer number of social connections? If so, then extroverts do connect with people better.
Now, if you’re referring to the depth of connection, then the opposite is often exact. For most, the extent of connection is what springs to mind when the words “connect with,” and “people” are used. The quality of a relationship between two people is often determined by one or both persons listening ability. On this note, studies continuously demonstrate that introverts score better on tasks requiring critical listening skills.
Introverts are “slow.”
Yeah, there are people who think introverts are mentally “slower” than extraverts.
Once again, there’s no evidence to suggest that this is true. There is, however, one ‘caveat’: extraverts may score higher than introverts in tasks that measure cognitive processing speed. But even in this case, we’re talking about milliseconds.
In other words: a reserved demeanor has absolutely no correlation with thinking abilities. You heard it here first.
Final Thoughts: Curbing Personality Discrimination
Quieter and more thoughtful people have a harder time getting along in societies that prefer extraverted personalities. That’s why we see this as early as grade school, where the quiet types are often targeted for being “weird.” Unfortunately, bullies target them for their traits.
The fact that this hostility and ignorance apparently carries into the adult workplace should be considered both abominable and entirely unacceptable.
The fact that introverted kids might be denied entry into their college of choice for low scores on some arbitrary “Personality Test” is despicable – and may indeed be criminal.
Discrimination against anyone, for any reason – skin color, gender, age, personality – is beneath us as the human race of which we are all a part.