What It Means to Have an Introvert Personality
When I tell other people that I'm introverted, they often say that's impossible, because I am generally outgoing and genuinely enjoy the company of other people. In truth, I am an introvert—there is simply a common misconception that introverted people are always shy and do not like socializing with others.
Many people refer to themselves or other people as introverts without actually understanding what introversion means. Below I'll try to dispel the myths, and explain what it really means to have an introverted personality.
A Simple Explanation
The simplest way to explain introversion is this:
Think of a sport you really enjoy. Perhaps you love to run, or play soccer, or swim. You may be very good at it, and you may enjoy it a great deal, but how long can you keep playing it? After one hour, you may feel pumped; after two, you are a bit more fatigued - and after going at it for three hours, you'll be downright exhausted.
For introverts, social activities are much like sports - they may be very enjoyable, but they take up a lot of energy. For this reason, introverts need to rest after a certain amount of socializing. It's that simple!
A More Formal Explanation
The term "introversion," which is derived from the latin words intros (inside) and vertere (seek), was first coined by Carl Jung in his 1921 work Psychological Types. The formal definition of introversion is "the directing of interest inwards towards one's own thoughts and feelings rather than towards the external world or making social contacts."
Introverts derive energy from their inner selves and tend to recharge their batteries by being alone. Conversely, introverts lose energy when they spend time amongst others. They are known for being attentive listeners, thinking before taking action, speaking slowly, maintaining attention, and maintaining a smaller (but very close) circle of friends.
Introverts can be grouped into two types- one type is confident, self-sufficient, and hardworking though aloof, the other type has trouble communicating, is very shy, and wishes to be left alone. This latter type has become the introverted stereotype, however the former type is just as abundant and, though often assumed to be extroverted, needs just as much "alone time" to recharge as the former.
Introverts and Culture
Different cultures favor introverted and extroverted personalities in turn. While Central Europe and Japan are known for harboring more introverted cultures, the United States is known for being a very extroverted society, and this society can leave its introverted citizens at a bit of a disadvantage. Interestingly, some states in the U.S. are known for harboring more introverted cultures - they include Maryland, New Hampshire, Alaska, Washington, Vermont, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
The Benefits of an Introvert Personality
Being an introvert is by no means a bad thing - introverts are generally good listeners, and though they are known for having fewer friends, the friendships they do keep are typically very strong.
Introverts are also known for having better attention spans and focus, making them more effective at staying on task when working on involved projects. Some studies have also suggested that introverts have better long-term memory than their extroverted counterparts.
The Downsides of an Introverted Personality
Depending on the type of introvert one is, an introverted person may run into trouble with others for being shy, having poor communication skills, or seeming aloof and disinterested in others. Most of these problems can be overcome- once one gets to know an introvert and understands his or her personality, one will be less likely to take things personally- however these issues can make networking and socializing with strangers very difficult.
Perhaps the greatest downside to being an introvert is that several studies have shown that people with extroverted personalities tend to be happier. This is probably due to the fact that one of the greatest proven sources of happiness involves socialization and the development of strong relationships with others- something which introverts may have difficulty doing. Introverts can obviously overcome this obstacle, but it takes a lot of concerted effort.
Living With an Introvert
If you are an extrovert and live with an introvert, you might find yourself frustrated at times by your introverted relation's hesitancy to socialize. After all, you as an extrovert, gain energy from being around other people. Being alone gets you in the dumps, and you need to socialize.
If you have an introverted roomie, friend, family member, or significant other, try to understand that he or she gets tired out by social situations. If you go to a party together, consider how long you might be there and be considerate of the fact that your introverted buddy is going to lose energy with time. It might be smart to agree upon a set time of departure before leaving for social functions. You might also benefit form having some alternate, extroverted buddies you can call on when your introvert needs some alone time.
Most importantly, do not take your introverted relation's need to be alone personally. You are probably very important to him or her - your introverted friend does not likely have many other confidants in life, so you are all the more important!
Living With an Introverted Personality
If you are an introvert, the first thing you can do to improve your life is understand how introversion works (which, if you did not already understand, you do now). By knowing that social functions draw energy out of you, you can understand what is going on when you start to crash after a person-filled day.
To make sure that you get the most enjoyment possible out of social situations, plan ahead and pace yourself. Make sure that before or after social events, you have time alone to recuperate. Having fixed start and end times for social gatherings makes a big differences and helps you conserve energy.
Also, try to explain to people why you sometimes need to be alone. Many introverts inadvertently hurt others' feelings simply because they do not explain that their avoidance of other people at times is derived form internal exhaustion, not dislike. By explaining to others that you are an introvert, and breaking down what an introvert actually is, you will not only improve your own relationships, but also help the relationships your extroverted friends have with other introverts.
Spread the Word!
I hope you have learned something new from this explanation, and that you share your newfound knowledge with others. The more people understand how introverts work, the more introverts will be able to cultivate happy, healthy relationships. This is important, for as studies show, good relationships are one of the most important components of successful, satisfying lives!