There Are Different Ways to be an Introvert

This world is made up of introverts and extroverts. Yet the distinction of who is an introvert vs. who is an extrovert may be a bit more nuanced than is often portrayed in popular culture. In fact there may even be four different types of introverts, an expert told ATTN:.

A brief explanation.

“There’s no simple agreed-upon understanding of introversion and extroversion,” explained Jonathan Cheek, Ph.D., of Wellesley College, who’s studied the subject since the 1980’s.

“Originally, introvert just meant a tendency to turn your attention inward,” he said, “and extrovert meant turning your attention outward toward the world.”

Extroverts love a party

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, extroversion got bonus points. People began to associate it with being more comfortable in your skin, while introversion took a few body slams: It’s associated with shyness and coming across as cool and antisocial.

It's not necessarily so, says Cheek: “If you have a preference for solitude, you may just enjoy staying home to write or read, to recharge your batteries from the work week. You don’t wish you were out partying.” You're not necessarily envying how the other half lives.

A self-proclaimed “ambivert” — a mix of both introversion and extroversion — Cheek advocates revisiting early psychiatrist Carl Jung’s 1920’s writings on the subject, where introversion simply meant enjoying ones own company, or that of a few friends rather than large groups. Introverts naturally veer away from large, noisy gatherings, where extroverts thrive and get recharged.

“I enjoying interaction, but I also like to withdraw and get away by myself,” says Cheek, suggesting that lots of people are some where in the middle.

Not only that, but it turns out that there’s more than one way to be an introvert. Cheek’s studies found four different types:

1. Social Introverts

These folks might skip a night out altogether. Or if you did walk up to them at the party, they’d be calmly standing off to the side. They’d chat with you, if you wanted, but they would not be doing any hardcore networking with you. For their birthday they’d prefer a small gathering of friends — two or three that they know really well.

Lady at party.

2. Thinking Introverts

This is the absented-minded professor. They’re so interested in their inner world, they frequently tune out things happening right around them. If you came up to them at a party, they might not be so interested in what’s on your mind, but prefer to pull you into a conversation about exciting theory they can’t stop thinking about.

3. Anxious Introvert

If you ran into an anxious introvert at the party, they too might be standing off to the side, but instead of the calm social introvert, they might be fidgeting — feeling over stimulated. They might down a couple of drinks at the bar too loosen up and then worry that they’ll embarrass themselves by drinking too much. Introversion mixed with anxiousness can be similar to the experience of shyness.

Man at end of deck.

4. Restrained Introvert

You typically won’t find the restrained introvert bungee jumping, leaping out of a plane, or even speeding down the highway. These folks are not your risk takers. They slow down, plan every step, and proceed with caution. They never say, "I’ll try anything once," or say the first thing that comes into their head. They may seem less exciting to you, and even a little old before their time, but hey, that’s the way they like it. And some times they are the life of the party — when it’s a party of one.