I had an interesting conversation with someone recently about introversion where I mentioned that I am very introverted. The person I was talking too sounded quite shocked, and their reaction was, “You speak at loads of conferences on stage, surely you are not shy?”. I found this interesting that the concept of being shy is perceived to be a trait of being introverted.

The differences between introverts and extroverts
The differences between introverts and extroverts

I don’t consider myself shy at all. I will quite happily get up on stage in front of several hundred or a thousand people to deliver a technical talk. I will also mingle and talk with people at social gatherings, but when I do, I find this exhausting, and all I want to do afterward is hideaway by myself for several hours and recharge. This is especially true after delivering a talk; I want to be alone afterward when I have packed up and finished answering questions. The thing that makes me an introvert is that I require solitude to recharge my batteries whereas extroverts recharge in the presence of others.

This all got me thinking, and I decided to research the topic a little more. I hope you find this post interesting.

Everyone is Different

Everyone is different—some people like spending their nights at home and with a book in hand, while others prefer a night out and being the center of attention. If you’re the type of person who values alone time and who finds comfort in being alone, then you must be an introvert.

On the other hand, an extrovert would often enjoy the company of other people and would usually be very friendly and outgoing. These two groups of people are often compared to each other to see which is better.

While society has stereotypical definitions of what introverts and extroverts are, the debate is still on about whether they are all that different from each other. Many people classify introverts as people who are weird, shy, and who usually fear interaction.

Extroverts, conversely, are almost always branded as people who are loud and who love to be the center of attention. These descriptions aren’t always true though, because these are misconceptions about these two personality types.

Distinguishing Introverts and Extroverts

What a person does during their free time does not determine whether he or she is an introvert or an extrovert. Introverts aren’t the only people who can stay at home on a Friday night—extroverts can do that too if they want to. It is what they do to recharge when they run out of ‘batteries’ that tells you what their personality types are. It’s what gives them the power that they need to get back to optimal functioning that distinguishes introverts from extroverts.

Introverts require solitude to recharge their batteries.
Introverts require solitude to recharge their batteries.

Introverts like to recharge alone. Their batteries drain when they’re in the company of too many people. To recharge, introverts like being all alone or being in quiet environments. Extroverts, on the other hand, feel low when they’re all alone. Unlike introverts, these people are recharged when they’re in the company of others.

How Introverts Think and Behave Differently

The brains of introverts and extroverts act differently, because of a particular chemical called dopamine. This chemical is the reason why people can feel happiness and other good emotions. Each person receives dopamine in varied amounts. Extroverts receive more when they’re active, while introverts are the exact opposite.

Extroverts want large amounts of social stimulation from different people all the time. This makes them different from introverts because introverts feel that they’re most comfortable when they’re in quieter and more peaceful environments.

Behaviourally, extroverts tend to experience more and reflect less, while introverts experience less but reflect more. In a way, one could say that an introvert’s biggest fear is losing his or her hearing because then they wouldn’t be able to listen. An extrovert, on the other hand, would be losing their tongue, because then they wouldn’t be able to speak.

For an extrovert, the real world is out there. An extrovert sees the world as something tangible. For them, it’s something that everyone can see and can have an emotional interaction with. Thoughts are but a second layer of the real world.

Unlike introverts, extroverts don’t have the time to reflect on things before actually doing them. They’ll do the exact thing they want at the time they want it to be done, with no questions asked.

An introvert thinks and believes that the world is all in their mind. They live in a world of ideas and is so absorbed in the analysis of their thoughts. Introverts value reflecting so much that processing all their thoughts often takes time. It is because of this that people often generalize and label them as awkward and shy although it may not necessarily be true all the time.

Going Social

An extrovert will go into a room and immediately talk to a group of people. They’ll always have something to say and will always have the energy to keep things going. If someone asks them a question, they’ll think of a response before you can even think of a follow-up question.

Introverts are thought of as shy in social situations. But, shyness is incorrectly thought of as the same as introversion. Both introverts and extroverts can be shy and can fear judgment in social interactions.

Psychology experts came up with a model that plots the combination of social anxiety levels and personality types in four quadrants. This model identified resulting characteristics in calm introverts, anxious extroverts, calm introverts, and anxious introverts.

Social Introverts

There are a lot of introverts who are good at socializing and who aren’t afraid to speak up. In fact, a lot of famous leaders were introverts, like Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and Eleanor Roosevelt, to name a few. These self-described quiet and soft-spoken people took the spotlight at some point in their lives when they felt that their voices needed to be heard.

You can find social introverts in a lot of social gatherings. These people are usually guests who are simply present in the event without calling attention to themselves. They find other people interesting, yet ultimately draining at the same time. An introvert can make conversation and form a bond with anyone but will feel drained at the end of the day.

Introverts need to take breaks after every social interaction to have the energy for their next interaction. It’s common for social introverts to seek out and enjoy social gatherings, but it’s also common for them to want to have some alone time right after. They understand that approaching new people can take up so much energy, but they do it anyway.

Introverts almost always have difficulties starting a conversation especially when they are meeting new people. They often want to skip the pleasantries and small talk and get on with the more serious stuff, but they simply have no idea how.

Introverts also love making friends with extroverts, but a lot of times, they end up being overshadowed by their extroverted friend’s presence. They’ll gladly tag along beside them and will even make conversation with strangers. When their social energy runs out, they’ll soon end up being the tag-along friend.

Shy Extroverts

Extroverts tend to gain their energy from being around other people and from being the center of attention. There are shy extroverts who could be around tons of people all the time, but they’ll always secretly be afraid of being judged. They won’t attend a party unless they know who’s going to be there. If their friends aren’t going to be there, they might as well stay at home for the night.

They’ll also get drained if they’re left alone for too long especially for a party or social gathering. They crave constant interaction yet they worry about what the people they are socializing with will think about them. These worries cause them to feel nervous and anxious eventually and consequently become awkward in their behavior towards others.

Shy extroverts do want to build meaningful relationships, but they could struggle with finding the right people to interact with. They have trouble finding the right people with who they can truly connect with, and who can make them feel energized and excited.

Switching Personalities

There are ways to switch from being an extrovert to being an introvert and vice versa. You can alter the way your brain sees things by conditioning your mind to do things that it is not used to doing.

For example, if you’re an extrovert and you want to be a bit more introverted, you can start any activity that will keep you away from people and distractions. For extroverts who want to switch to being introverts, they will first have to start being comfortable with being alone.

If you’re an introverted person who wants to be an extrovert, you’ll need to do the exact opposite. You’ll need to seek the presence of other people. You’ll also need to learn to be comfortable with having other people around. Seeking the company of close friends and family could be a great help for you to begin speaking your mind.

In the presence of other people, you can practice being mindful of your actions. You will have to train your mind always to be aware of everything that’s happening. If you’re fully aware of what you’re doing, you won’t have to keep backtracking through conversations to check if you said or did something bad.

Combining Differences

There are indeed differences in these two personality types, but certain characteristics and qualities are present in both. These characteristics, such as shyness, combine with their personality traits and are applied to their circumstances in different ways. Understanding how these combine and interact would be beneficial to both introverts and extroverts.

Whether you are an introverted person or an extrovert who wants to switch things up a bit, you will be a bit uncomfortable at first as you experience the opposite of what you are used to. As you start to get the hang of things, you won’t feel any discomfort anymore. When you get used to switching personalities as demanded by your current situation, you will be able to harness the advantages of both personality types.

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