In the past year or so, I’ve seen a lot of articles floating around on the interwebz explaining introversion vs. extroversion. Most of these posts are very polarizing and chock-full of stereotypes: introverts are “passive” or “antisocial,” while extroverts are “loud-mouthed party animals.”
In general, people who are more extroverted gain “energy” from interacting with others and feel “drained” after prolonged solitude, while introverts need to “recharge” alone after prolonged socializing. Even that’s an over-simplification, since people don’t have batteries and everyone requires some amount of both alone-time and social interaction in order to function as healthy human beings. The reality is that introversion and extraversion aren’t dichotomous; they’re a spectrum and most people rate closer to the middle. Such people may choose to describe themselves as ambiverts.
I can’t speak for extraverts, but as an introvert, the amount of misinformation spread about us is a bit irritating, so allow me to share commonly held beliefs about introverts and offer my input.
Myth No. 1: “Introverts are Afraid of Social Interaction.” I found a really terrible article while browsing through Tumblr a while back called “How to Overcome Social-Awkwardness.” The article used the terms “introversion,” “social anxiety” and “socially awkward” interchangeably. These terms are not synonymous. There are plenty of introverts who are shy or suffer from social anxiety. I’m one of them, though being a reporter who has to interview strangers for my job has (I think) made me a little better at hiding it. There are also plenty of introverts who love being around people and are very outgoing. But, at the end of the day, they’re still introverts, because they need to go be by themselves for a while after being around other people for too long. As for Social Anxiety Disorder and “social awkwardness,” those things are not limited to a certain type of person.
Myth No. 2: “Introverts Can’t Make Good Public Speakers or Performers.” My grandmother thinks I can’t possibly be an introvert because I’m involved in music and theatre, despite the fact that I’m practically a hermit. It may sound like a daunting prospect especially for introverts to perform in front of a crowd of people—and for many it is!—but when you become more comfortable with it, each audience starts to feel like a single entity rather than a group of hundreds of individuals. Only when there are friends or family in the audience does it feel like individual people are watching you. Performing also requires adopting a persona that is different from your usual self and practice makes for a more confident delivery.
Myth No. 3: “Introverts are Rare Speshul Snowflakes.” With so many articles about “How to take care of your introvert” (we’re also not pets that need to be “taken care of,” thanks) and books on surviving as an introvert in an extroverts’ world, it’s easy to get the impression that introverts are really rare and everyone else around us is an extrovert. Actually, according to Myers Briggs statistics from 2014 (http://www.statisticbrain.com/myers-briggs-statistics/), 50.7% of people are introverts. It’s important to recognize that most Myers Briggs assessments have no middle ground between any of the traits measured, so some of the people polled may only have a marginal preference for introversion over extroversion, but the point is that introversion isn’t a rare trait that somehow separates us from the majority of the population.