More people have come to understand and appreciate introversion in recent years, largely thanks to the Internet. After all, the World Wide Web is the ultimate platform for introverts to find their voices and demonstrate their talents.
But still, misconceptions persist. Sometimes I meet people who insist they are not introverts because they are outgoing and friendly. Others claim to be introverts because they felt tired after a party.
Whether you are new to the concept of introverts and extroverts, or you just need a “refresher course,” here I try to clarify some common misunderstandings.
1. Being friendly and “liking people” isn’t a sign of an extrovert.
Many introverts are successful teachers, social workers, nurses, restaurant servers, therapists, and marketing experts. You can’t succeed at those jobs without a friendly, outgoing demeanor or a love for people.
The difference is that introverts may find those jobs as draining as they are rewarding. The introvert may need quiet, alone time to recharge their batteries–not unlike a professional athlete resting after a big game. That doesn’t mean they don’t like their jobs, can’t be successful, and can’t maintain a professional and friendly attitude.
I have a very outgoing side that emerges in the right environment. As a result, some people have flat-out refused to believe me when I say I’m an introvert!
Likewise, some extroverts can be cruel, rude, grouchy, and downright hateful in their behavior. But being extroverts, they may be more demonstrative about it (think Donald Trump).
2. A real, deep dislike of people is not a sign of introversion.
That’s called “misanthropy.” There’s a difference.
A misanthropic introvert may relish their time away from people. A misanthropic extrovert may yearn for the company of others, but hate them at the same time.
I will be the first to admit that I don’t like people in general. I don’t have a profound affection for the human race as a whole. Based on that alone, one might think I’m an antisocial misanthrope. But once I understand someone as an individual, then that person has my sympathy, affection, and even loyalty. Often it doesn’t seem like a relationship has really “switched on” until I have made that one-on-one connection. That is very much an introverted tendency.
3. Shyness does not = introvert.
The American Psychological Association defines shyness as a “tendency to feel awkward, worried or tense during social encounters, especially with unfamiliar people.” Although many introverts may experience these feelings (myself included), they are not exclusive to introverts.
As a rule, extroverts are energized and revived through social interactions, while introverts are drained and overstimulated. Shyness, or social anxiety, can occur in either personality type. An extrovert who needs to be around people can also fear their judgment, or feel unsure about how to act around them. An introvert may feel completely at ease around people, but not wish to interact with them at that particular moment.
4. Tired after socializing? You may not (necessarily) be an introvert.
My (now ex-) stepdad once claimed that he became “more introverted” because he was tired after a party. But I’m pretty sure that, in his case, it was just due to getting older and having less energy in general.
Simply “feeling tired” after social interactions doesn’t make an introvert. If you go home physically tired, but wishing you could stay at the gathering longer, that indicates extroversion. Your fatigue could be from a lack of sleep, your diet, or any number of other things.
However, if you leave a party feeling like you’ve “hit a wall” and have reached a limit on your socializing, that’s a sign of introversion. If you feel overstimulated and need some time to sort through your thoughts, that’s also indicative of an introvert.
5. Wanting to stay inside all day doesn’t make you an introvert.
The Internet is full of memes about the introvert who spends his entire weekend inside, leaving only when forced to do so by more persuasive friends. But this is far from an accurate picture.
Don’t get me wrong: I have spent more than one weekend inside, binge-watching YouTube videos and cooking single-serving meals. But I, an introvert, also love to spend my free time hiking, jogging in the park, and taking long walks on the beach. My closest extroverted friend enjoys going to museums and watching movies at home (in moderation).
The introversion/extroversion dynamic is more about how our brains function and respond to stimuli, and is less about external behaviors. Newer research suggests that the brains of introverts and extroverts really do act differently. This provides further evidence that we shouldn’t judge people based on a single interaction or event.
Has anyone ever “misclassified” you as an introvert or extrovert? Share below!