The Truth About Introverts

by JAMIE SHIN

 

Have you ever been to a social event where the ice breaker question, “What is your Myers Briggs?” pops up? Myers Briggs personality tests have recently become popular tools for determining personalities. References to the difference between extroverts and introverts can be easily found on popular websites such as Buzzfeed and Facebook. Introverts are often portrayed as shy, quiet, and even anti-social individuals who would much rather skip the fun to be alone. Humorous posts such as memes and quizzes encourage negative ideas of introversion. It’s time to finally dig into these social myths and uncover the truth about introverts!

 

What is it?

Introversion is loosely defined as the tendency to be more interested in one’s own mental life rather than the external environment. More specifically, according to the Myers Briggs Foundation, introversion is defined as receiving energy from being alone. [1] Easily put, this means that introverted people need time alone to recharge. For example, when making important decisions, introverts need their personal space to reflect. Introverts are most often misunderstood as being quiet people who avoid social situations. We will be discussing three most popular myths that surround introverts.

 

3 Popular Myths

“Introverts are not good leaders.”

Contrary to the belief that introverts are not good leaders, the majority of CEO’s are introverts. Companies with introverted CEO’s tend to outperform the companies run by extroverted CEO’s. [2] It’s true that charisma and public speaking abilities strengthen leadership, but introverts may be even stronger leaders with their listening skills and creativity. Studies such as the one published in the Journal of Leadership Studies in 2016 suggest that introverts are more creative than extroverts because of their tendency to be better listeners.  [3] They prefer innovative approaches rather than using existing frameworks. For example, during group projects, do you notice that your introvert friends thrive when brainstorming is done individually instead of when people are shouting aloud their ideas?

Not only are introverts are good listeners and innovators, but they are also good at bringing out the best in other people. Introverted leaders are more receptive to ideas that their teams bring, especially if the team members are proactive and eager.  [4] Imagine doing a group project for a class. When ideas are being thrown in the air without someone to organize and build on them, your introverted teammate is most likely to step in and bring the group together.

“Introverts are not social.”

It is true that many introverts may appear shy at first. However, it is not true that all shy people are introverted and all introverts are shy. In general, introverts tend to prefer being in small group settings over large groups because they find small talk uncomfortable. [5] That is why standing amongst strangers in a crowded party may be awkward. They may feel that their energy is being drained every time they attempt to start a conversation with a stranger about something generic like how hot the room is or the song that’s playing at the moment. They would much rather be having a worthwhile conversation with a couple of their friends instead. Just like this, introverts thrive in deep conversations which is why they prefer one-on-one interactions in comparison to large group settings. [5]

Many introverts enjoy being in the presence of other people, but they need to balance out the time spent socializing with the time spent alone. [6] They enjoy solitude and being with a smaller circle of friends, as long as they have time to set aside just for themselves to recharge. [6]

“There is only one type of introvert.”

People tend to bunch all introverts into one stereotype but there are many types of introverts. Introversion, according to the STAR Introversion Scale, can be seen in four different domains: social, thinking, anxious, and restrained introversion. [7] Introversion can be divided into these four domains rather than the black and white division of introversion and extraversion. For example, you and your best friend may have the same Myers Briggs results but depending on the level for each domain, you and your friend will be different types of introverts. Both of you avoid going to parties but for different reasons. You, the social introvert, don’t like parties because you feel exhausted when you socialize in big groups. Your friend, on the other hand, is a thinking introvert who finds no joy in small talk and would much rather have deeper, more reflective conversations. Just because you two share the quality of introversion does not mean that you two are the same people!

 

There are many misleading social myths about introverts that portray them as depressed, lonely people. However, introverts simply socialize differently from their extroverted peers. Assuming that there are only two types of people, introverts and extroverts, is oversimplifying the complexity of human personality. Next time the ice breaker question,  “What is your Myers Briggs?” pops up, remember that there is much more to someone’s personality than his or her introversion and extroversion!

 

References ▾

  1. “Extroversion or Introversion.” myersbriggs.org.
  2. “The Surprising Truth About Introverts: They’re Great Leaders!” thinkgrowth.org. (2016).
  3. "If You Want Creativity in Your Organizations, Seek Out the Introvert." J Leadership Studies. (2016).
  4. "Introverts: The best leaders for proactive employees." Harvard Business School Working Knowledge. (2010).
  5. "The Strong Silent Type: The Inward Life of the Introvert." (2010).
  6. ”6 Myths About Introverts To Stop Believing.” huffingtonpost.com. (2015).
  7. “Personality Scales for Four Domains of Introversion: Social, Thinking, Anxious, and Restrained Introversion.” (2014).