What is a Social Introvert?
Simply typing someone as an introvert or an extrovert is oversimplifying a rich aspect of the personality. As exploration and research into personality psychology unfolds, multiple types of introverts have been discovered under the umbrella of the trait of introversion.
The dominant conception at present is a system that describes four distinct types of introversion, which can also be viewed as aspects of the introvert personality. Each of the types has different key characteristics, preferences, and self-care needs. A single introverted person may be dominant in one of the four aspects of introversion, or may hold aspects of multiple types.
In this article, we will dig into social introversion. Keep reading for a brief overview of all four types, a detailed description of social introversion, information on how to determine if you are a social introvert, and self-care tips specific to helping yourself be a happy and healthy social introvert.
Overview of the Four Types of Introverts
The four types of introverts, or aspects of introversion, are captured by the acronym STAR: social, thinking, anxious, and restrained. Some introverts can be easily sorted into one dominant type, but many of us are a hodge-podge of multiple types. This four-type system of types of introverts was developed by Jennifer Odessa Grimes, who was then a graduate student working under the supervision of Jonathan Cheek, a Wellesley psychologist. These two led large-scale survey research on groups of introverts with the help of other graduate assistants. Analyzing the survey results, four types of introverts emerged.
Boiled down, the four types of introverts can be parsed out by each of the following dominant traits. Social introverts find themselves exhausted after social events, but are not necessarily anxious or strongly avoidant of socializing. Thinking introverts have an inward direction of mental energy, preferring to introspect and analyze internally rather than bounce ideas off other people. Anxious introverts feel fear and anxiety when faced with the extrovert world. Restrained introverts are slow starters, needing extra time to ramp up to activities.
How to Find Out if You’re a Social Introvert
You may see aspects of yourself in all or some of the above descriptions of the four types of introverts. There are self tests available online to rank the four aspects of introversion within your own personality.
Here are five key questions you can ask yourself right now tp help determine if your dominant aspect is social introversion (adapted from Cheek’s Types of Introversion survey research). If you agree strongly with these statements, chances are that you rank high on social introversion.
- I prefer small gatherings for special events rather than big to-dos
- I structure my days so that I always have at least a little alone time
- When I spend a length of time around other people, I find I am eager to go off by myself
- Even if I’m around people I like doing things I enjoy, I find my energy is drained after socializing
- It’s more important to me to have one or two very close friends rather than a large circle of more shallow friendships
What is a Social Introvert?
In essence, a social introvert is someone who prefers the company of a few very close friends when socializing, values their alone time, and is exhausted by larger-scale social events. Social introverts don’t avoid socializing because it makes them especially anxious, or because they necessarily feel shy or awkward around others. They simply prefer lower-stimulation environments and require alone time to rejuvenate. In contrast to extroverts, introverts (and especially social introverts) are not energized and enlivened by interactions with other people. Interactions are a drain on their internal resources and they require time and space afterward to recuperate.
A social introvert may very well enjoy a variety of social events; it’s not that they are necessarily asocial people who dislike the company of their fellow humans. It’s just that they may need to bow out earlier than others and spend extra time recovering after the fact because interactions are mentally and emotionally draining for them. Even when the social introvert has had fun socializing with friends, family, or attending a larger event, they will invariably find that they need time to themselves afterward to recharge.
Under stress, some social introverts may find interactions so draining that they avoid making plans and attending events at all. They may be avoidant of getting to know new people or even of spending time with known and loved people. Others may give up on asking them to make plans because the social introvert may either say no outright, make excuses, or cancel plans at the last minute. This tends to be a self-feeding cycle of isolation that can become painful for the social introvert.
Being an introvert does not at all imply that you thrive in isolation. We all need social support from family and friends to be happy and healthy. We need to meet and mingle with new people to get new ideas and keep our thinking fresh. Being an introvert is all about finding that sweet spot between overdoing it and under-doing it.
Self-Care for the Social Introvert
As a social introvert, it’s important to practice boundary setting. Your social calendar will not and should not look like that of an extrovert. And that’s perfectly fine! However, it’s also important not to isolate yourself to the point that you get lost in your own head and forget what it’s like to have healthy, supportive interactions.
Here are several self-care tips to help you find that balance:
- Accept and embrace that your nature requires more quiet time than some others for you to stay sane and happy
- Don’t try to force yourself to be pretend extrovert all the time in order to fit in or to satisfy the needs of others
- Exhausting yourself isn’t doing anyone any favors
- Think of your energy as a resource at your disposal, and budget it accordingly
- If you have a high-energy event to attend, allocate downtime both before and afterward
- Do your best to find employment that suits your nature rather than becoming frazzled and burnt out in a profession that is overly extroverted
- Avoid allowing yourself to become isolated; make it a point to make and KEEP plans with a trusted friend or family member at least once a week
Just Because You Want to Join the Party Doesn’t Mean You Have to Stay All Night!
Give yourself permission to participate in social events on your own terms. As a social introvert, it’s likely that you DO enjoy the company of others in the right contexts, but you may not be into the high doses of said company in the same way as more extroverted souls.
It’s just fine to make an appearance, socialize for however long you’re still feeling it, then bow out when your inner sense is telling you it’s time. If you’re going to a social event that’s a bit outside of your comfort zone, it can work well to communicate with your companion(s) that you may need to do this. People that truly care about you and value your uniqueness as a person will get it!
Social Introvert: The Bottom Line
The social introvert type is happiest and healthiest with measured doses of supportive socializing. Too much and you will feel drained and overextended; too little and you will tend to feel isolated and lonely. It can be a struggle to find kindred spirits as a social introvert; the loneliness can be very real! Recognize that if there is an event you would like to attend or a person you are interested in getting to know better, it is completely within your rights to check it out on your own terms, without pressure!