Introversion is one of the major personality traits identified in many theories of personality. People who are introverted tend to be inward turning, or focused more on internal thoughts, feelings and moods rather than seeking out external stimulation. Introversion is generally viewed as existing as part of a continuum along with extraversion1. Introversion indicates one end of the scale, while extraversion represents the other end.
The terms introversion and extraversion were popularized through the work of Carl Jung and later became central parts of other prominent theories including the big 5 theory2 of personality. The introversion-extraversion dimension is also one of the four areas identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator3 (MBTI). According to many theories of personality, everyone has some degree of both introversion and extraversion. However, people often tend to lean one way or the other.
Introverts tend to be more quiet, reserved and introspective. Unlike extraverts who gain energy from social interaction, introverts have to expend energy in social situations. After attending a party or spending time in a large group of people, introverts often feel a need to "recharge" by spending a period of time alone.
Common Introversion Traits
Introversion is marked by a number of different sub-traits:
- Very self-aware
- Enjoys understanding details
- Interested in self-knowledge and self-understanding
- Tends to keep emotions private
- Quiet and reserved in large groups or around unfamiliar people
- More sociable and gregarious around people they know well
- Learns well through observation
Introversion and Behavior
How does introversion impact behavior? Researchers have found that people high in this trait tend to have a smaller group of friends. While extraverts generally have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, introverts typically choose their friends much more carefully. Their closest relationships tend to be profound and significant. They also prefer to interact with people on a one-on-one basis rather than in a large group setting.
It is important to note that introversion does not necessarily equate with shyness. In their book, The Development of Shyness and Social Withdrawal, authors Schmidt and Buss write, "Sociability refers to the motive, strong or weak, of wanting to be with others, whereas shyness refers to behavior when with others, inhibited or uninhibited, as well as feelings of tension and discomfort." Shyness indicates a fear of people or social situations. Introverts, on the other hand, simply do not like to spend lots of time interacting with other people. However, they do appreciate being around people to whom they are close. They find engaging in "small talk" tedious, but do enjoy having deep, meaningful conversations.
Introverts tend to think about things before talking. They want to have a full understanding of a concept before they voice an opinion or try to offer an explanation. While extraverts typically learning through trial and error, introverts learn best through observation.
In an excellent article4 in Atlantic Monthly, author Jonathan Rauch took on some of the common myths and misconceptions about introverts. While introverts are often labeled as shy, aloof and arrogant, Rauch explains that these perceptions results from the failure of extraverts to understand how introverts function. "Extr[a]verts have little or no grasp of introversion," Rauch suggests. "They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extr[a]verts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood."
According to estimates, extraverts outnumber introverts by about three to one. Introverts often find that other people try to change them or even suggest that there is something "wrong" with them. Nothing could be further from the truth. While introverts make up a smaller portion of the population, there is no right or wrong personality type. Instead, both introverts and extraverts should strive to understand each other's differences and similarities.
As you might imagine, jobs that require a great deal of social interaction usually hold little appeal to people high in introversion. On the other hand, careers that involve working independently are often a great choice for introverts. For example, an introvert my enjoy working as a writer, accountant, computer programmer, graphic designer, pharmacist or artist.