I think it’s easy to discount the differences between introverts and extroverts, but the differences are truly night and day. Psychologists have nailed down some of the clear differences that introverts display.
“Shyness is about fear of social judgment,” Said Susan Cain in her 2012 TED Talk, The Power Of Introverts. “Introversion is more about how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. So extroverts really crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched on and their most capable when they are in quieter, more low-key environments.”
For starters, introverts simply shut down when they get their alone time. Introverts have a breaking point when it comes to stimulation. Social interactions are taxing to the overall energy levels of the introvert. Introverts are happy to see the people they love, but when they reach that breaking point, they need their alone time. Don’t take it personally.
Interestingly enough, introverts hate talking on the phone. This is something we have in common. Introverts tend to screen their calls. Introverts also tend to avoid small talk, which is a rather notorious portion of having a phone conversation. Often, introverts will simply call you back when they have the energy to deal with talking to you on the phone.
For an introvert, their moods have nothing to do with their environment. Have you ever found yourself surrounded by angry people and begin feeling angry yourself? Introverts don’t tend to feel that way according to a study published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience. Introverts don’t experience rushes of dopamine like extraverts do, which makes them generally impervious to their surrounding emotions.
Introverts tend to think through what they have to say before they say it. Introverts have a reputation for being good at listening. They take their time before they say anything, often reflecting on what’s being said instead of talking about it out loud. They may seem shy, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Introverts hang out close to exits when it large, crowded places. They can feel physically uncomfortable in crowded places, but are often able to remedy that discomfort by being on the periphery of a crowd.
Introverts are naturally more creative and detail-oriented than their extroverted counterparts. They spend time alone or in small groups devoted to small tasks, like creative motivations and solving problems. They’re great in work environments for that reason. Hiring an introvert onto your team is often a good idea.
Introverts may get distracted easily, but they’re often dedicated to projects and routinely aren’t bored. Introverts are dedicated to tasks but their attention span can be compromised by overstimulation (see: phone calls). They’re often sensitive to their surroundings and can get overwhelmed in larger crowds.
But being overwhelmed by a crowd doesn’t mean introverts can’t be performers. Introverts are often able to succeed on stage, in political roles, and as musicians, but they tend to fall short when it comes to one on one chit chatting afterward. Being on stage removes introverts from the crowd itself and is a more comfortable place for them than not.
Understanding that there’s more to introverts than meets the eye is critical in learning how to work with one, be friends with one, or be in a relationship with one. It’s not all bad, but you should be sensitive.
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