The terms “introvert” and “extrovert” have been used to describe people for over a century. The word “introvert” is often used to describe someone shy, quiet or reserved, while “extrovert” refers to someone more outgoing, talkative or assertive. In reality, the descriptions are not always so black and white, as many factors can affect an individual’s behaviour.
For example, introversion doesn’t necessarily mean that someone does not want friends or social interaction- it just means they need time to recharge alone after they have had too much stimulation from other people (often called “social recharge”).
First, what is introversion? Introversion is one of the two main categories used to describe how a person interacts with the world around them. This interaction can be physical (being physically engaged) or mental (thinking about and considering things).
Introverts are typically turned inward, meaning they prefer quiet reflection or solitary activities over socializing. It doesn’t mean they do not enjoy company; it just means they need some quiet time to recharge their batteries when they have been in an external environment for too long (the term is “social recharge”).
Introverts gain energy by spending time alone, and they typically find social situations such as parties or other large gatherings quite draining.
As an introvert, you may prefer writing a story or playing a game over attending a party- however that doesn’t mean you are anti-social. The desire for solitude does not equate to the need to avoid social contact altogether.
Many introverts enjoy being by themselves and find that they prefer one-on-one conversations to large gatherings. It does not mean they are shy or unfriendly if you happen to cross paths with them, but it does indicate the nature of their preference in the company (beyond a few close friends).
The opposite of introversion would be extroversion.
What is extroversion? Extroverts typically draw their energy from spending time with other people, often being the life of the party. They prefer external stimuli such as gatherings or games to confinement in solitude.
Unlike introverts, they gain more energy when surrounded by outside stimuli and like to organize get-togethers and other social activities. Extroverted people make up most of society; however, not just an ‘outgoing’ personality type falls under this category.
People who are extroverted draw their energy from external sources such as people or things they encounter daily (this would be “physical recharge”). In contrast, introverted people typically gain their energy within themselves rather than external sources such as social contact or activity. The opposite of extroversion would be introversion.
Psychologist Carl Jung was the first to discuss and describe these personality traits in his 1921 work Psychological Types (the work that introduced the now-popular Myers-Briggs personality test).
The terms introvert and extrovert are still popular today in describing people who take pleasure from either the internal world of reflection or external stimulus (physical activity/socializing).
Loner and Sociable
While some individuals lean more towards one side of the spectrum than others, people may also be a combination of introverted and extroverted behaviour. A common misconception is that people who prefer to stay at home alone or enjoy spending time by themselves are inherently introverts.
Still, in reality, many factors determine whether we feel comfortable being social and with others. It would be inaccurate to say an introvert would never enjoy a night out with friends as this may provide them with energy.
Likewise, it would be ridiculous to say that an extrovert who enjoys a night off doesn’t need time alone to “recharge” its batteries.
For example, you might enjoy spending time with your friends, but when they invite you to go out for the fourth time in one week, you find yourself using any excuse you can find to avoid going out. It doesn’t mean that you are anti-social or even shy- it just means you need time alone after being in an external environment for too long.
In the end, there is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Though some people lean more towards one side of the spectrum, they often have traits from the other side in varying degrees- and these traits can change depending on what part of their external or internal world they are interacting with.
Introversion and extroversion are typical personality traits that make us all unique- it is important to remember that neither one of these traits should be seen as unfavourable.
What is the difference between introverts and extroverts?
An introvert typically enjoys spending time alone, whereas an extrovert prefers the company of others. Some people may choose one over the other, while others may be comfortable with both. An introvert is recharged by being alone, and an extrovert is restored by social activity.
Where does this difference come from? Introverts gain their energy from within themselves- they are most likely to enjoy activities such as reading or writing that do not involve interaction with other people.
On the other hand, Extroverts gain their energy from external sources such as people or things they encounter in daily life (this would be “physical recharge”).
Introversion is often mistaken for being anti-social or shy, but this is not necessarily the case. Introverts may crave socializing, it just takes them a lot longer to recover from being around other people, and this can also mean they have lower energy levels in the first place.
Extroverts may enjoy spending time alone but, generally speaking, they find that this makes them less happy than interacting with others. The reason for this is that extroverts derive their happiness mainly from external sources.
When they are alone, they may start to miss being around other people so much that it makes them sad or displeased. Introverts, on the other hand, may find that their energy levels increase when they have some time to themselves away from all of the buzz of life- and this might make them feel happy in a way that is interacting with others might not.
How are they different from shy?
Introversion and extroversion have nothing to do with being shy. Sometimes, introverted people will start to feel like they want to avoid social situations because these situations have become overwhelming, but this doesn’t mean that introverts will always be anti-social or naturally shy.
It simply means that they need some time alone to recharge.
On the other hand, shy people may be introverted, but not all introverts are shy and vice versa. Shyness is often a sign of low self-confidence and even anxiety. In contrast, introversion refers to how we gain energy from external or internal sources and factors such as how outgoing we are in social situations.
What if I’m an extrovert and I have to spend time alone?
An extroverted person shouldn’t feel like they need to avoid spending time by themselves (and vice versa). Spending some time alone can be a good way of “recharging”, but it is also important not to let yourself go too long without spending time with other people.
Having more energy when you have been around others and taking your mind off your problems is an excellent way of coping- even if the issues causing you stress aren’t necessarily personal ones.
Introverts should also make sure they get out and socialize from time to time so that they don’t feel isolated from others. They should also make sure that they are spending some time alone with themselves to “recharge”.
What about the times when I feel like I can’t stand people (when I’m an introvert)?
It is a familiar feeling for introverts, mainly if they have recently been around many people and feel their energy levels are almost zapped. However, it is essential to realize that “people” do not equal “introverts”. Just because you may prefer being alone doesn’t mean that you hate other people- it just means that your energy levels are lower after too much socializing and that spending time with people is draining.
Why do introverts get overwhelmed by being around other people?
Introverts have far higher levels of internal stimulation than extroverts, which means they might end up feeling overwhelmed if they are in a highly stimulating environment for too long.
An example would be when someone who is very introverted goes to a successful music event. They will probably feel overwhelmed and exhausted because it has taken a lot of energy to take in what is going on around them.
Someone introverted may feel overwhelmed by other people when they feel like their space is being invaded or are not getting enough time to themselves.
This may leave them feeling agitated and anxious in social situations- because they have been forced to take in too much information- or it could also leave them exhausted because of the amount of energy used to deal with everything.
What is an introvert’s mind like? What about an extrovert’s mind?
An introvert’s mind is constantly active. They might think about many different things, have an extremely active imagination or go over past conversations in their head. They often also daydream and may find it hard to focus on the present moment for too long. An introvert’s mind is likely to be very stimulated if they spend time alone, which soothes and calms them.
An extrovert’s mind will often switch off when alone because their brains do not crave as much stimulation as an introvert does.
They may prefer to focus on something practical or concrete rather than on many internal thoughts and emotions. Extroverts’ minds are also likely to be very present-focused, and they may find it hard to imagine many things as this takes up too much energy.
In what ways do introverts need time to themselves?
Introverts often have incredibly active minds which need time and space to think, process information etc. Suppose someone is constantly bombarded with external stimuli (exceptionally social stimuli). In that case, they will become exhausted very quickly- this is why introverts often need to take time out in a quiet, peaceful and calm environment.
An introvert may also find that spending time alone helps them process their emotions more quickly- especially if they have been around other people for a while, as it can be hard to put your feelings into words when there is someone else present.
What’s the difference between being an introvert and having social anxiety?
Introvert is not necessarily anxious about being in social situations- they need time to recharge alone after being around people. However, introverts might be nervous if they fear that spending time with other people will leave them feeling drained and exhausted.
Introverts may also feel anxious if they have to be in social situations for extended periods even if they are not draining- this is because the introvert’s mind is active. It can get tired from too much stimulation (even positive stimuli such as being around friends). An extrovert might not find this a problem- they may enjoy being around other people for hours on end without needing to spend time alone.
On the other hand, someone who has social anxiety will often find it extremely difficult to go into any social situation. They may have specific fears about how they will be perceived in these situations and whether or not people will like them. They may also be worried about talking in front of a group or have anxiety about being around people they don’t know.
How can you tell if someone isn’t an introvert?
It’s possible to tell if someone isn’t an introvert through their behaviour, comments and actions. For example, an extrovert might be very talkative and have many friends, whereas an introvert will often start conversations but only know a few people well.
An extrovert may also enjoy being in social situations where there is loud music or lots of noise- this would make them feel energized and stimulated. In contrast, introverts may find that their energy levels drop or feel overwhelmed in this kind of environment.
Introvert takes pleasure in their thoughts, especially about topics that have nothing to do with other people. An introvert usually prefers solitary activities and can be drained by social interactions- an introvert may also enjoy spending time with people on their terms rather than in a group.
While other people energize extroverts, they may feel very alone and bored when spending too much time in isolation. Extroverts enjoy taking part in social activities and doing practical or solitary things- this is why extroverts usually have a lot of friends and acquaintances they like to meet up with regularly.
An extrovert may also find that spending time alone is challenging as they will feel very restless and extremely bored- this is because their minds are not stimulated in the same way as introverts’ minds are. Introverts would usually choose to spend time alone over socializing (though there are exceptions to this).