August 11, 2022

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Secret Indicators of an Introvert Persona

Introversion, as well as its opposite Extroversion, are personality traits that describe how individuals typically...

Introversion, as well as its opposite Extroversion, are personality traits that describe how individuals typically gather energy. People who are more introverted gather energy from their internal world, often by absorbing themselves in their personal feelings, ideas, or thoughts. On the other hand, those with Extroverted tendencies most frequently recharge by engaging with the outside world. While there is truth to the concept that introverts tend to be quieter and more reserved than their extroverted counterparts, social interaction can still be an essential part of many of their lives usually in smaller groups, one on one interactions, and with long term friends and family. Additionally, there are many introverts that become more social as they age and begin to use their less preferred function, extroversion.

To better understand the nuances of Introversion and what characterizes an Introvert, let us start at the beginning.

A Brief History of the Introvert Personality Type

The term Introvert can trace its origins to the work of a Swiss psychiatrist named Carl Jung in the early 20th century. In his seminal work, titled Psychological Types and published in 1921, Jung posited that different people perceive and organize information in different ways. He also observed that some people are energized by the external world while others glean the same benefit from their internal selves. These realizations, while revolutionary in psychological circles, were presented in such an esoteric manner that they were difficult for laypeople and practitioners to comprehend, let alone apply to improve their lives. A generation later, in the aftermath of World War II, the mother and daughter team Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, adapted Jung’s work and developed the Myers- Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®). Over the next several decades, millions of people around the world have used the MBTI® to identify their psychological type and apply that knowledge to choose careers, mend relationships, and so much more. Today, most people use the term introvert to refer to the Myers-Briggs Personality Type.

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Types of Introverts

An estimated 25-40% of the US population can be considered Myers-Briggs Introverts. As a result, there is significant variation in how introversion manifests in different people. For example, not all introverted personality types are shy. In fact, researchers have identified four categories of introverts. The most common type is Social Introverts, who simply prefer to interact in quiet environments and in small groups. Thinking Introverts are highly creative, introspective people who thrive in loosely-structured environments that cultivate their independence. Anxious Introverts often feel shy or uncomfortable around other people and tend to avoid social interaction because of that hesitation. Finally, Restrained Introverts tend to think carefully and systematically through every decision before acting.

Key Characteristics of Myers-Briggs® Introverts

Despite some variation, there are some general behavioral patterns that characterize the introvert personality type. Here are some of the signs that may suggest that an individual is introverted.

1.   Social Interaction Drains Introverts’ Energy

By definition, introverted personality types expend energy while they are surrounded by or interacting with larger groups of people. Therefore, they may need time alone to recharge after such interactions. As a result, introverts prefer to interact with a small, closely-knit inner circle of friends, who are more likely to understand their need to step away or disengage temporarily, rather than larger parties where personal interaction can be challenging.

2.   Introverts Enjoy Solitude

Myers-Briggs® Introvert recharge by spending time alone and therefore tend to enjoy it. For example, their hobbies may include reading, hiking, painting, or other individual activities, and they often make time for such pursuits to unwind after being social.

3.   Introverts Cultivate Deep Friendships

Contrary to popular stereotypes, people with introverted personalities are not recluses who shy away from any and all interaction with other people or the outside world. In fact, many introverts dedicate considerable time and effort to developing a small number of meaningful friendships. While they may have fewer friends than their extroverted peers, those that they do have often stand the test of time.

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4.   Busy Situations Feel Overwhelming

Myers-Briggs® Introverts can feel distracted or overwhelmed when they are overstimulated by their environments. They tend to prefer quieter contexts where there are fewer things to focus on. For example, an introvert might prefer to spend time with friends by hosting a small get-together at their home rather than going to a loud dance club.

5.   Introverts Are Self-Aware

Introverts take to heart the well-known claim that “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Introverts spend a significant amount of time reflecting on themselves, including what they could have done differently or better in a specific situation, or even just developing deeper insights into their own thoughts. They can typically predict what they would think or do, and they try to carve out time for activities and hobbies that interest them.

6.   Introverts Prefer Working Independently

Professions that involve extensive social interaction, such as real estate agents and salespeople, rarely appeal to introverts. Introverts typically find such careers stressful and draining because in addition to the normal demands of the job, they must also cope with the net expense of energy simply from being surrounded by constant interaction. On the other hand, introverts may find themselves drawn to careers that involve more independent work, such as technical writing, computer programming, and architecture.

Myths About Introverts

1.   Introverts are shy

While some introverted personality types may be shy, introversion and shyness are far from synonymous. Shyness implies discomfort or even fear during social interactions, while introverts are people for whom being social is a net expenditure of energy rather than a net gain, another way to think about it is to conceive introversion as a personality trait, while shyness is an emotion. Many can feel shy at various times and under different circumstances, and some people may be able to feel less shy with effort. However, as an innate preference that one is born with, introversion is an internal, natural way of being that is difficult to ignore.

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2.   Introverts cannot Lead

Leadership is about developing the right skill sets to inspire others. While leadership positions may be more strenuous for introverted personality types because of the social interaction they necessarily require, introverts are just as capable as extroverts of learning how to manage teams, elicit others’ ideas, actively mentor their employees, and provide ongoing support.

3.   Introverts Are Anxious

While some introverts may feel anxious in social situations, this is more likely because of other contributing factors than due to Myers-Briggs® introversion in and of itself.

4.   Introverts Are Always Creative

Some introverts are highly creative and use their time alone to pursue outlets in music, art, cooking, and more. Others use their alone time to read, hike, camp, fish, play video games, or dedicate themselves to any number of other activities. There is no evidence that Introversion equates to being more creative than Extroverts. 

5.   Introverts Just Need to Try Harder

In some ways, our society has normalized and finds extroversion more socially acceptable. People are expected to want to be social and constantly interact with others either in person or virtually. However, there is a value to introspection and self-reflection. Introverts do not need to “try harder” to become anything different from who they are. There is nothing wrong with being introverted, it is simply a different way that an individual prefers to go through life.

Takeaway

Each of the MBTI® features is a spectrum, and Introversion-Extroversion is no different. How someone recharges, whether they do so alone or in the company of others, is an inherent personality trait. There is nothing to “fix” and no need to try to alter this part of how you function. That said, it is still helpful for introverts to be aware of the fact that they may find social interaction draining, so they can make sure that they have the time they need to recharge. Equipped with these insights, introverts can make sure they allocate their time effectively so they can enjoy themselves and live a balanced life with people who are close to them.