Introverts are shy

introvert-not-shyThis is the fourth in a weekly series debunking myths about introverts.  (See last week’s post.)  The basis of the 10 week series is the article written by Carl King.  I will show his thinking, add mine and then encourage all of you to contribute your thoughts on the subject.

Don’t know if you’re an introvert or an extrovert?  Take Susan Cain’s quiz.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.

Carl:  Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Chris:  Up until recently I was one of the thousands of people who thought Introvert = Shy.  I’m not shy, therefore I couldn’t be an introvert.  I continued to think that even after watching Susan Cain’s TED talk, nodding in agreement the whole way through.  Even after starting to read her book, Quiet.  It took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to finally break that old association and begin to allow myself to acknowledge the introvert I am.

Here’s a news flash for you:  EXTROVERTS CAN BE SHY!  Yes, indeed, it is true.  Remember that the definition for each is how you feel your energy depleted and renewed.  So anyone can be shy, extrovert, introvert and anywhere in between.  Being shy means you feel socially awkward, anxious, and self-conscious.  It’s an emotion.

I like that Carl said introverts need a reason to interact.  That’s what makes us seem so shy.  If I have a reason, I’m warm, sincere and personable.  I can make strangers feel instantly comfortable and many of them end up telling me the stories of their lives.  I recently mentioned that I’ve been worn out training people from India and having to be the extrovert at work for weeks in a row.  But for all of that, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know my Indian counterparts.  We shared many funny and heartwarming stories.  We had a common interest in the work we do, and I am fascinated with other cultures, so we had plenty to talk about.  I’m going to miss them when I move on to my next assignment.

I volunteer with The Dougy Center for Grieving Children and Families.  This is an organization that truly values its volunteers.  They throw a big appreciation dinner for us every year, held in a fancy hotel in downtown Portland.  Will you find me there?  Absolutely not.  Too many strangers in one space.  Eating with lots of people I don’t know.  Noisy.  Crowded.  Nope, not for me.  Even though we all have something in common, there is only so much conversation you can have about grief.  After that, there is only small talk.  We all know how introverts feel about small talk.  The Dougy Center make me feel valued in many other smaller ways, and that is just fine with me, thank you very much.

Now if you were to put me in a setting where I had to talk about The Dougy Center to a room filled with strangers, I would have absolutely no problem doing that.  It’s an organization that provides incredible value to families in need all over the world.  I’m proud of the work we do.  I would wade in, shake hands and talk people’s ears off.  Sure, I’d be exhausted at the end, and need some serious down time, but would I be shy?  Not in the least.

One more example:  if you were to invite me to something way outside of my comfort zone, let’s say to a dinner with the President at the White House, would I be shy?  You bet I would be.  Shy and introverted.  Feeling socially awkward and completely out of my league.  But I’d just ignore the President and talk to Michelle Obama and then I wouldn’t be shy any more.

So when I think about how I’ve come to understand the introverted = shy discussion, those are the examples from my life that helped me see the distinction.  What stories do you have to share?

Have a quiet day!

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Hi.  I’m Chris.  I’m an introvert.  Look for my ongoing series debunking the introvert myths (Sunday) and introvert cartoons (Wednesday), plus anything else interesting that I find in the meantime.  Come and share with like-minded introverts.  I also contribute to the new food blog Three’s Cooking, learning to cook from the heart, for the soul.

22 thoughts on “Introverts are shy

  1. *applause* What is it about human nature that demands absolutes? Of course, some introverts are that way BECAUSE they’re shy. Some are not shy at all, but appear that way because they avoid meaningless contact. Many the time I have seen a person who has been labelled as a complete introvert come into contact with a group of people who share a passion – then they become a completely different person, and sparkle!

  2. Hello, my name is Sid, and I too am an introvert. In group settings I am typically the quiet one observing from some location in the room that gives me the best vantage point. Or, as sometimes happens, my position in the room is designed to shut as many people out of my world as possible. Based on your definition of shyness, I suppose technically I’m shy? But I’m really not, you see. I simply develop anxiety over chaos caused by others (unless I’ve been drinking, in which case I might voluntarily interact), I do not feel the need to socialize just because someone decided I should, and if needed, I am perfectly capable of stepping in to diffuse a tense situation with powerful words and logical reasoning. I am not shy, per se, but rather a textbook INTP.

  3. I really love this post – people always assume that I am not an introvert because I am not shy. At all. But it’s nit about being shy or even how I am around people, it’s about what energizes me and how I react to my “people” times.

    • Hi, Jann. The psychiatrist Carl Jung defined introverts and extroverts by the way they regain energy, and that’s become the standard definition. Extroverts get charged up by being with people, and the more the merrier, whereas introverts lose energy by being in a large, active crowd. Introverts can be very sociable with groups of quality people. We all need human contact, but what type of contact is part of what defines intro- and extroverts, and all the flavors of -verts in between.

  4. The majority of us are “ambiverts.” Ambiverts can exhibit the characteristics of both personality types. They may find themselves to be the life of a dinner party one day and the next need to spend time alone at the beach reading. See the writings of social scientists from the 1920s…

  5. Enjoyed this post as I have all the others
    For me it’s a lot about in role or not in role. For work things I can do all sorts of things because I’m in role…. Socially that’s a whole different thing!

  6. As an introvert, I’ve been loving all your introvert themed posts. My boyfriend is an extrovert, even though we’re both shy, and the biggest different I notice between us is that he constantly craves the company of his friends. I like being social, but once a week is enough and any more than that I’m drained. As an extrovert however, all he ever wants to do is see friends and the longer he’s around them the more excited he gets. He feeds off of social events, and I would rather they are kept to an hour or two so I can go home for alone time.

  7. I agree with what you have said here, depending on the situation I can appear shy or in the right circumstances can appear quite extrovert.

    I was discussing this with my extrovert friend who agreed this was similar for her – extrovert who can be quiet and appear shy in some situations.

  8. Thank you for sharing this post. I seriously need couple of my friends to know the actual definition about an introvert and an extrovert. The unnecessary distinction of being ‘shy’ as many describe to an introvert.

  9. Pingback: Introverts don’t like people | 61 Musings

  10. I have had jobs where I needed to speak in public & I’ve had no problem doing it because I believed in the topic, but put me in a room where I don’t know a soul & you’ll find me in the corner with a drink in my hand, trying to examine the minute details of a nearby painting, so people won’t approach me.

  11. Thanks for your blog. As a fellow introvert (INFJ), I find this article fascinating and I can so relate (I’m reading, going, yes, exactly!). I’m beyond shy (I hate answer the door for delivery people!), but I’m also a performer. I have a hard time explaining the shyness factor to people. You give some great examples!

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