What is an Introvert?
How do Introverts differ from Extraverts? And what does being Introverted mean for your self-development, life and career choices? In this page, we’ll be taking a deep dive into what it means to be an Introvert and some of the unique qualities that come with this personality type.
What is an Introvert?
Are you an Introvert? If so, you are in good company! Introverts make up around one-third of the population. So, even if you are not an Introvert yourself, there’s a high chance that you work with an Introvert or are friends with one. There are probably a few Introverts in your family, too – you might even be married to one!
But what exactly is an Introvert? How do they differ from Extraverts, and what does being Introverted mean for your self-development, life and career choices?
That’s what this guide is about. In this page, we’ll be taking a deep dive into what it means to be an Introvert and some of the unique qualities that come with this personality type.
What does it mean to be an Introvert?
In the Myers and Briggs personality system, Extraversion and Introversion are personality traits that explain how a person gets their energy.
An Introvert directs their energy inwards and recharges their batteries by spending time alone. They don’t need to go out partying or socializing to recharge and unwind; their own company refreshes them. Extraverts, by contrast, draw their energy from others.
This doesn’t mean that Introverts are loners or they don’t enjoy spending time with others – far from it. It’s just that socializing tires them out far faster than it would an Extravert and depletes their energy instead of replenishing it.
Of course, not all Introverts are the same. Some have a much higher tolerance for social time before they feel drained. They might even be the life of the party for a while, before they get overwhelmed and grumpy from too much people time.
Do other personality systems recognize Introversion?
As well as being central to the Myers and Briggs personality system, Extraversion is one of the five main personality dimensions of the Big 5 model of personality. Scoring low in Extraversion means you’re an Introvert, since Introversion and Extraversion are opposite ends of the scale.
The Big 5 system describes Introverts as being quieter and more reserved than Extraverts. They often need periods of solitude in order to regain energy and are fatigued by too much social interaction.
So, the definition of Introvert under both personality systems is the same.
As for how common Introverts are, well, the answer may surprise you. It seems Extraverts rule in modern society, but academic studies suggest that anywhere between 30 and 50 percent of the population is Introverted.
So even if you feel alone sometimes, you are not. Introversion is as normal and as common as Extraversion.
What are the common characteristics of Introverts?
Scientists don’t know for sure what causes Introversion or Extraversion. What they do know is that Introverts generally have less dopamine activity in the brain. This explains why they don’t feel energized from the same things that Extraverts do.
Dopamine, the reward-seeking neurotransmitter, propels people to seek out social, professional, and monetary rewards.
Since Introverts possess less of those receptors, they don’t get the nearly same boost from social activities, praise, accolades, or the acceptance of others. The result is that Introverts tend to share some common characteristics that set them apart from the Extraverted crowd:
- They feel worn out by too much socializing
- They need plenty of time for themselves
- They are happy staying out of the spotlight
- They dislike small talk and will try to avoid it
- They prefer to get to know people on a deeper level
- They prefer to have a small circle of close friends
- They are often ‘in their head’ and require time to reflect on their thoughts, feelings and observations
- They have a quiet, reserved and thoughtful demeanor
- They like to look before they leap
- Others may find it hard to get to know them
- They are self aware
Introvert vs. Extravert: How can you tell the difference?
The difference between an Introvert and an Extravert is all about how a person receives energy. An Extravert gains their energy by socializing and going out, while an Introvert needs alone time and quiet contemplation to recharge their batteries.
The last thing a tired Introvert wants to do is force themselves into a social situation, but a tired Extravert will more often head out with friends after a long day.
That’s the simple answer. However, it is not always easy to spot the differences between Introverts and Extraverts because the way in which people project themselves in social situations differs from person to person.
It’s easier to look at a few situations where Introverts and Extraverts may approach things differently:
At work – An Introvert may dislike group projects and typically will avoid volunteering to lead the group. Instead, they prefer to work solo because they’re independent and value their autonomy. Meanwhile, an Extravert is more outspoken and unafraid to volunteer for a leadership role. Even if they don’t necessarily want to take over, they’ll volunteer to lead the pack.
In social settings – An Introvert is generally more contemplative and soft-spoken in most situations. Most Introverts refrain from initiating conversations as Extraverts do and prefer to listen to what’s going on rather than taking over the conversation. You’ll also notice that an Introvert’s listening skills are top tier, so they’re some of the easiest friends to talk to and give inquisitive, well-thought-out responses to others.
Handling stress and stimulation – Whereas Extraverts seek out noisy parties, gatherings, and people to reduce their stress, Introverts do the exact opposite. An Introvert finds external stimuli overwhelming, so a lot of noise, bright lights, and bustle makes them feel drained and stressed. Often this means an Introvert is enjoying a quiet night in to unwind, engaging in calming activities like self care, meditation, a movie or journaling.
Other ways to tell the difference?
- An Introvert faced with a problem will spend a lot of time analyzing each detail before discussing their plans.
- Introverts find it hard to open up to strangers and don’t like to share personal details until they know the person better.
- They’re often staring into space, lost in their thoughts.
If some of these points sound like you, but others don’t, that’s because being an Introvert isn’t all or nothing—it’s a spectrum. Some people are more Introverted than others. Others fall right in the middle of the scale. They're called ambiverts and they are social chameleons, able to flex between Introversion and Extraversion on demand.
Can an Introvert become an Extravert?
Although some Introverts might wonder if they can become an Extravert, the answer is no. Introversion is a part of who you are. It’s innate. Scientific studies on Introverts point to the conclusion that they have fewer dopamine receptors in their brains than Extraverted people, so changing the way you physically react to stimuli isn’t a conscious choice—and that’s okay!
So can you change, even a little? It’s possible but complicated. You can train your behaviors to become more Extraverted so that, from the outside, you look very similar to those of an Extravert.
But it doesn’t change who you are. You’re likely to get very tired, stressed and overstimulated if you try to ‘switch sides’ for a long time. In the end, you’re still an Introvert and you need time alone to recharge.
Of course, there may be situations where you want to act more like an Extravert for a short time, for example, if you have to stand in front of coworkers and lead a meeting. If you’re interested in learning how to incorporate some changes into your behavior, check out Truity’s blog post “Tips to help Introverts Become More Extraverted.”
But as for the longer term, why would you want to change who you are? Introverts have tons of amazing gifts — see the next section!
What are the benefits of being an Introvert?
Introverts have a wide variety of talents that make them unique. They’re an invaluable part of the population and should embrace their gifts.
Here is just a small selection of the outstanding gifts that Introverts possess:
- They are good listeners. The world needs people who carefully understand what people are trying to say before reacting, and Introverts help cut a lot of misunderstandings, confusion and conflicts that are common in conversations.
- They are compassionate leaders. Businesses appreciate having thoughtful, self-aware leaders who do not hog the spotlight and encourage others to shine in their roles.
- They think before they speak. The world needs people who gather all the information and formulate the best answer before they respond.
- They’re observant. The gift of observation helps Introverts see the situation from multiple perspectives and in new ways
- Their advice is well-thought-out. Through thinking deeply about problems and challenges, Introverts come up with smart solutions and often give good advice.
- They care to know others on a deep level. This is a type of empathy, and it can help Introverts communicate better with others and have better quality relationships.
Are there any myths about Introverts?
Unfortunately, some Extraverts don’t understand what it means to be an Introvert and have created a hodge-podge of false traits about them.
Here are the five worst stereotypes. Far from being true, they are the result of a failure to understand how Introverts function.
- Introverts are shy
Some Introverts are shy and some are not. Some Extraverts are shy and some are not. This is because shyness and Introversion/ Extraversion are two separate traits. Being shy means you get very anxious in social situations. Being Introverted simply means that social situations will (eventually) wear you out.
- Introverts don’t like people
Introverts prefer to build close relationships with a small circle of friends, and perhaps only one friend. This does not mean they don’t like people. It simply means they crave a meaningful connection with the important people in their lives.
- Introverts have social anxiety
As with shyness, social anxiety is a different trait than Introversion. Many famous actors and comedians are card-carrying Introverts, including Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Emma Watson and Amy Schumer. Performing is not a profession we normally associate with social anxiety!
- Introverts are aloof and arrogant
If an Introvert comes across as aloof and arrogant, it’s usually because their dislike of chit-chat has been misinterpreted. Or perhaps they’re simply out of energy after a long and hectic day.
- Introverts cannot be leaders
Good leadership comes in all shapes and sizes, and recently the world has been waking up to the fact that Introverts can be excellent leaders. Just look at Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, Beyoncé, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Are there different types of Introverts?
Just like there’s a spectrum of Introversion, with some people being more Introverted than others, there’s also evidence that different subtypes of Introverts exist. One study shows that most Introverts will display a preference for one of four types of Introversion, although it’s possible to be a combination of all four subtypes:
- Social introverts
- Thinking introverts
- Anxious introverts
- Inhibited introverts
These subtypes, represented by the acronym ‘STAR,’ focus on a different prominent aspect of an Introvert’s nature. To understand the differences, take a look at their common traits and habits below.
Social Introverts are the ‘classic’ type of Introvert. You may have a strong need for social contact and would feel very empty without the important people in your life. However, you are not outgoing like an Extravert. You love your solitude and prefer to be by yourself than with others most of the time. When you hang out with people, you like to keep a select few people in your social circle, so it’s small.
Because social Introverts prefer small and intimate gatherings with close friends, others might view them as a mystery, a loner, or somewhat unusual. But that doesn’t so much faze the Social Introvert because their rich inner world makes up for the misconceptions of others.
Social Introverts love to spend their free time in their home or out in nature, with people they already know or even with no one else around.
A Thinking Introvert can be found doing what they do best: thinking. If you’re a Thinking Introvert, you enjoy reflecting on life’s mysteries and engaging in contemplative activities. This subtype has a habit of getting lost in thought and a penchant for creative hobbies that help them understand more about the world, themselves, and humanity.
You might find a Thinking Introvert reading, writing, painting, or studying a niche subject that interests them. These intellectual hobbies are their way of relieving stress and reenergizing.
While Thinking Introverts may be more or less social than Social Introverts, they still prefer to look inward to find answers, inspiration, and solace. So, if you can’t get enough of abstract thoughts and theories and find these intellectual pursuits a way to destress and relax, you may be a Thinking Introvert.
If you avoid social activities and groups at all costs, you may be an Anxious Introvert. This Introvert subtype feels uncomfortable around others, and their self-conscious nature makes it challenging to enjoy going out. Anxious Introverts are most comfortable in their own environment, though they may also experience discomfort when they’re alone because they are worried about how others perceive them. This anxiety is also present when they plan to attend a future social engagement. As they are nervous, they worry that they will appear awkward or strange around others.
When in a social situation, an Anxious Introvert will be so uncomfortable they may even retreat into themselves to get through it, appearing aloof and avoidant to others.
Sometimes referred to as Restrained Introverts, Inhibited Introverts need time to prepare for everything. If you’re an Inhibited Introvert, you won’t spring up out of bed ready for the day’s tasks. Instead, you prefer to move at a slower pace than others and require time to warm up to a social situation. These types dislike fast-paced jobs or gatherings that feel too demanding, but they aren’t afraid of spending time with others. When going out, an Inhibited Introvert likes to stay in their comfort zone and doesn’t adjust so well to spontaneous, unpredictable outings. Since they dislike feeling rushed, a small, pre-planned group outing is their preference when going out.
An Inhibited Introvert’s calm, methodical nature may make them appear unemotional to others. Though they take time to warm up to strangers, they’re grounded and steadfast friends.
What are the best jobs for Introverts?
When considering a career path, you may wonder what an Introvert should look for in a career. The answer isn’t one-size-fits-all but a list of guidelines that can help you search for your ideal job. Generally, it’s less about the job and more about the environment you have to work in every day.
Introverts do best in a career that gives them some level of autonomy since they need time alone. With independence a top priority, team jobs are less appealing and more detrimental to the energy levels of Introverts.
The best jobs for Introverts will play off your strengths, including your listening skills, written communication skills, creativity, discipline, and observational skills.
Some of the best jobs for Introverts include:
- Content Creator
- Data Entry Specialist
- Dog Trainer
- Landscape Designer
- Park Ranger
- Research Scientist
- School counselor
- SEO Manager
- Social Media Marketer or Manager
Ready to thrive as an Introvert?
If you’re an introvert, congratulations! You have a unique set of strengths that can help you thrive in life, relationships and in certain careers. And if you’re not sure whether or not you are an Introvert, don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to find out.
Start by taking the free TypeFinder personality test to learn more about your type, then head over to our blog. Here, you’ll find lots of great resources about how to make the most of your Introverted personality type. So what are you waiting for? Start exploring and thriving as the amazing Introvert you are!