Defining The Introvert Personality
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert is a central aspect of your personality, shedding light on how you gain energy, interact with other people, comport yourself in day to day life in the workplace and social settings…it can even help predict many of your preferred activities and life pursuits.
Boiled down to the essence, introverts are people who gain energy and “recharge their batteries” through quiet time spent reflecting or relaxing.
Introverts value solitude, time with nature and pets, and close relationships with a few close confidants. We tend to be reflective, dreamy, and are “thinkers”.
On the other hand, extroverts are people who gain energy in the opposite way: interacting with others in a more energetic, social setting. Extroverts’ energy is directed outward. They like socializing, meeting and chatting with a wide variety of new people, and may be described as “the life of the party”. They are the open book-type people who tend to be more impulsive and think before they speak.
Most sources agree that between one third to one half of all people are introverts; we are simply wired that way. Introversion is not a character flaw or a psychological issue. Instead, it is a way of relating to the outer world and the self that is different than what is worshiped in the mainstream. Introverts have amazing gifts and abilities that make them highly desirable as friends, mates, and colleagues. However, introverts also have certain challenges when interfacing with other humans and society as a whole, as our personalities are often undervalued in a culture that places so much emphasis on competition, charm, and showboating.
Contrasting Extrovert versus Introvert Personality
Neither introversion nor extroversion should be viewed as the superior way of being. It takes both types to make the world go ‘round, each side of the coin offering something valuable to the table. If you’re unsure of where you stand in terms of this trait, the most clear-cut difference between introverts and extroverts is that an introvert is energized by downtime while an extrovert is energized by social interactions. While extroverts may dread a night spent relaxing at home alone, introverts relish the prospect and look forward to curling up with a good book, working on a private project, or simply tuning out of outside stimulation.
Another way of saying this is that introverts need time alone away from the hustle and bustle of daily life to “recharge their batteries”, feeling drained by excessive social interactions or time spent in public places. Extroverts, on the other hand, enjoy all that stimulation and aren’t exhausted by it.
The Introvert Personality Spectrum
Introvert and extrovert personalities run along a continuum. The categories are not black and white, but rather shades of grey. It was well-said by Carl Jung, the psychologist who pioneered this personality typing system: “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”
So visualize a continuum: at one end lies the idea of an extreme introvert, who embodies a strict version of every aspect of the introvert personality without fault. At the other end lies the concept of an extreme extrovert, who fits every extrovert characteristic to a fault without a single exception. Directly in the middle is an ambivert. Yes, this a real term and real people fall into this category. An ambivert is someone who is 50/50 introvert and extrovert and does not strongly tend in one direction or the other.
In reality, we all fall somewhere along the continuum between introvert and extrovert, no one being 100 percent one way or the other. Some people are more introverted than others, more strongly embodying characteristics of the introvert personality a higher percentage of the time. The same is true of extroverts. The point is that we are all individuals with different tendencies and quirks; an introvert is not an introvert is not an introvert, so to speak. Use this personality typing system to help understand yourself and others in your life rather than stereotyping people or forcing them into boxes that are too small to encompass their various dimensions.
Introvert Personality Characteristics
People with an introvert personality tend to have specific characteristics that set us apart from extroverts. While not every introvert will possess each of these characteristics as strongly as the other characteristics or as strongly as another introvert, most of us have most of these traits at least to some degree. If you resonate strongly with most or all of this list, it’s quite likely that you possess an introvert personality.
You Enjoy Alone Time
Overall, an introvert will prefer time curled up with a good book or movie, out in nature, or working on a favorite hobby over parties, crowds, or situations where there is social pressure. Being out in the world among other people drains an introvert over time, and they need to retreat from the world to recharge their batteries before venturing out again.
Socially speaking, introverts tend to have one or a few close confidants rather than a larger group of acquaintances. Introverts prefer authentic connections rather than small talk. It’s not that introverts don’t like people; it’s that we prefer taking our time and space to really connect with people instead of flitting around like social butterflies from flower to flower. An introvert is actually one of the warmest, most loyal friends one could wish for.
You May Have Been Called Quiet or Shy
Viewed from the outside, others may experience you as quite a quiet person. Growing up, you may have been called “shy”. These two characteristics are often found in one with an introvert personality…especially if the introvert is feeling outcompeted by louder, more forceful types. Since our culture places little value on quiet reflection and looks down on shyness, an introvert may have some shame and self-judgment around being labeled as “shy” either historically or presently.
When you warm up to someone or when you’re speaking about a topic you’re passionate about, you may have a lot to say and speak with passion! Introverts can actually be some of the most talkative, animated, and warm people when they are with someone they trust, and when their inner “battery” is charged.
You Have One or a Few Very Close Friends
The introvert’s social motto is “quality over quantity”. Some introverts are great at networking and meeting/charming new people, but mostly we prefer having a few deep relationships to a large circle of more shallow friends and acquaintances. And that’s okay! It’s easy for an introvert to feel down on him or herself for not winning the popularity contest, especially since the advent of social media, which thrives on a having a plethora of short and shallow interactions. We need to remember that the interactions to be valued and sought out are the ones that truly energize and support us, not necessarily those that look good on paper or on a computer screen.
Introverts are often valued and loved deeply by those close to them; the friendship of an introvert is a special treasure not casually bestowed. As it’s been said, “quiet people have the loudest minds”; an uncorked introvert is often an animated and entertaining conversation companion once they warm up.
You Think Before Your Speak
An introvert thinks things over before letting them out. Not one to pop off or run their mouths, introverts like to present fully formed ideas in conversation. You won’t generally find an introvert with their “foot in their mouth” very often.
This quality has both positive and negative aspects. Obviously, when thinking before speaking, the introvert’s contributions to conversations tend to be well-reasoned, thoughtful, considerate, and productive. In competitive situations, introverts may feel as if they can’t get a word in edgewise and may simply give up on trying to contribute, falling silent. Contributions of introverts may be overlooked for this reason.
The quality of reflectiveness is one of the reasons an introvert may appear quiet or shy to outside eyes; our minds are busy thinking things over from multiple angles before voicing our thoughts aloud. Through thorough self-reflection as well as detailed analysis of outer events and situations, introverts gain a deep and wise perspective often lacking in less-reflective types.
Introverts have a strong and rich inner life of the imagination, being the dreamers and idealists of the world. Our contributions make the world a more beautiful, interesting place. On the flip side, the outer world may seem dull, boring, or hopelessly ugly to an introvert. We may retreat into our own minds and get lost in our own thoughts. We may ruminate over things too much and become ineffectual. This can be frustrating for the introvert themselves and to those around them.
You are Focused and Passionate About Your Pursuits
Introverts are great at really digging into the subjects and activities which fascinate them. Introverts have an amazing access to “flow” states in which they are completely focused on the task at hand and the time seems to fly by.
Introverts prefer to work alone and uninterrupted. They will generally avoid group projects or settings that have an overwhelming amount of outside stimulation (if they can help it). Although their ability to focus on things that catch their interest is unparalleled, they may have trouble focusing on things they don’t really care about. In other words, some introverts may struggle to apply their focus to things that don’t hook them intellectually or artistically. It is important for introverts to find work that allows them to utilize their gifts and dig into their passions.
Famous People with an Introvert Personality
Although mainstream culture is dominated by the louder more extroverted personalities, some of the most successful people who have contributed the most to the outer world are actually introverts. Famous introverts include many artists, authors, musicians, scientists, social activists, even actors politicians. Some of the people on the following list of famous introverts may surprise you. If you doubt the ability of an introvert to impact the world, this list should change your mind.
- Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist who changed the way we view the universe
- Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement
- Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, world’s richest person
- Rosa Parks, key player in the US civil rights movement
- Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the US, humanitarian and teacher
- Abraham Lincoln, US president who set in motion the abolishment of slavery
- JK Rowling, author of the beloved Harry Potter series
- Meryl Streep, academy award-winning actress
- Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook
- Michael Jordan, one of the greatest athletes of all time
- Julia Roberts, academy award-winning actress
- Warren Buffet, billionaire investor
- Barack Obama, President of the United States
And this is only to name a few of the best-known introverts. In reality, the list goes on and on. Introverts are also often found in positions of power and success behind the scenes and out of the public eye in addition to being among the celebrated personalities of the world whose faces can be recognized. Never underestimate an introvert personality or doubt the power of an introverted person to change the world.
Introvert Personality: The Bottom Line
Introverts are everywhere, making up a third to a half of the human population. We have often have special gifts such as being reflective, thoughtful, idealistic, creative, and empathetic. We also may have certain challenges, such as being overly quiet, socially inhibited, or avoidant.
The key to a happy life as someone with an introvert personality is embracing our gifts and respecting our needs rather than trying to cram ourselves into a certain box. It’s OK to be a “pretend extrovert” from time to time when something of an extroverted nature simply must get done, but at the end of the day, we will need to return to our introverted roots to feel truly at home.