Introverted Does Not Mean Shy

A lot of people have this misconception that introversion means shy. They often say that introverted people need to come out of their shell and socialise with others at parties. Well, take a look at this video. It’s called Body Language for Introverts. You’ll notice that I have the top comment at the moment (if you go to the YouTube page for the video). I love how one person goes on a rant about how North Americans are all extroverts, and that’s what makes North America so great and powerful.  Too bad for him many major business leaders and actors are introverts.

The video gets off to a really bad start. It equates introversion to people who have social anxieties, always having trouble figuring out what to say, or a lack of confidence.  Wrong!

I was once a shy person. Being shy means the above three things. I am not shy now. I’m still introverted, though. What introversion means is that you gain energy by doing more solitary activities, while being in a social situation drains us of energy. We need more solitary time to recharge our batteries, basically.

Let’s look at these three points Vanessa Van Edwards brings up. First, we have social anxieties. Not really, no. That’s what a shy person has. I have no problem being at a social gathering with many people around me. I just prefer to talk to people I know. I’m not nervous at all.  If I’m sitting at the side being quiet, people immediately assume there’s a problem and ask me what’s wrong. Nothing’s wrong, I’m just observing. Think of it as information gathering. I’m also studying people’s behaviour, which is extremely useful when speaking to them. I use this information to adapt how I speak with them. Extroverts tend to speak to everyone the same way. Introverts learn to adapt to different people’s behaviour, and I feel we become better communicators in deep conversation.

Second, she says introverts have trouble figuring out what to say.  Well, that hesitation that introverts have at the beginning of a conversation is usually something called “thinking.” We’d rather start off saying something that’s not inane or unimportant. We’d rather not do small talk, you see.  It’s just talking about the same thing over and over again with different people. We’ve done that conversation, so let’s move on to an actual conversation, please. When we’re in a conversation that is actually about something of substance, we don’t shut up.  Really! Take this example. When doing small talk, people will often bring up the weather.  Last night, a typhoon passed by.  In regular small talk, they might say, “Be careful tonight. There’s a typhoon coming.” “Oh, it’ll be so windy and rainy. You be careful, too.” It’s not really communicating any information that’s useful. There’s nothing being said other than acknowledging that they know the same information.  But, put me into the equation, and I say, “Yes, it should be here around 6 pm this evening. The rain is supposed to be the heaviest around midnight, but not so bad. It actually won’t be a typhoon at that time. It’ll be a tropical depression.” That then goes into a rather detailed discussion on both sides about typhoons, hurricanes, tropical storms, etc. What would have normally been a rather meaningless exchange on something we already knew turned into an information exchange that was far more meaningful.  That is how introverts like to talk. And we do talk a lot.

The third point is that she says we’re not confident.  That is complete BS.  Shy people are not confident by definition. Introverts are quite confident, especially my personality type, INTJ. We’re known for being straightforward and often a bit too blunt in what we say. We’re honest, we say what we think, and we’re confident about it. We just say it in a way that has a lot of thought behind it, rather than blurting out something that we might regret.

So, people, don’t confuse introversion with shyness. They are not the same thing. Vanessa Van Edwards does not know what an introvert is.  Take this from a real introvert: we are not shy. Quiet, yes. Shy, not all of us.

14 thoughts on “Introverted Does Not Mean Shy”

  1. What gives people fits when they deal with me is that I am introverted and so I will pause if the thought needs a millisecond or two to form properly … they interrupt and I turn right around and cut them off. I use some of the tricks she talks about. I too am not blunt so much as I strip away all the frivolity of ‘gabbing’ when there is information to be shared. I focus on the task not their feelings or holding their hands explaining simple stuff to them and I’m not even close to political about it. I build systems and solve problems. If you’re trying to talk to me about something else in a meeting, you picked the wrong day.

    I have to tone it back when speaking with customers. They clearly do NOT know how to deal with someone who is not from there company but is focused like a laser on fixing their problem for them. They want to be made to feel important before I fix the issue. Their own ego is more important than fixing the problem. I just don’t give a damn about their egos LOL

    1. You should see my YouTube videos when I’m just talking to the camera. I pause so damn much. But then, I find talking to a camera to be a bit awkward, especially in public.

  2. I once read something about introverted extroverts and extroverted introverts, which can happen (if I recall correctly) when you are not true to your own nature.
    I myself are more of an extrovert (I think) but I do also at times need to find my inner peace and retract myself at those moments. But if I have an introverted behaviour for too long then I am not well as I am not true to myself. Oh and even if I am an extrovert, I can be shy, really shy even. My fiancé is an introvert, but this has given him great observation and communication skills.
    I think that if we are true to our real self, introverted or extrovert or a mixture (can that exist?) then we can be strong and it won’t really matter if we are introverted or extroverted.

    1. I just heard that introverts and extroverts have physiologically different brains. It’s not merely a personality difference, but a physical difference. Anyway, there’s a range that people can be. I’d say there are outgoing introverts (people who have no trouble making a speech or talking to a lot of people, but feel drained from it), and shy extroverts (that seems a bit unusual to me, but I’m not an extrovert, so I don’t quite get how that happens).

      Honestly, it’s quite difficult to tell if some people are introverted or extroverted.

        1. Although I don’t work in the science field, I’m a scientist by education (physics and astronomy), and I always find it frustrating talking to someone who understands very little about science, yet speaks as if they know everything. I want to correct everything they say, but they don’t even try to understand.

  3. Awesome post and well said. I’m not shy, I’m quiet. Give me a few seconds to think and I’ll join the conversation. But I can see how others can get them confused.

  4. I think my shyness is at least partly a result of my introversion. Maybe it’s not like this for everyone, but I was very introverted already as a child, so if I had a choice between socializing and not socializing, I’d generally opt for the latter. Hence, I don’t have a lot of practice in social situations, and now I’m painfully shy.

    In addition, I have no patience for small talk, which I think a lot of people find a little unnerving. Some my friends have told me that I intimidated them a little before they got to know me, which I find kind of funny, because I was probably a lot more scared of them than they were of me.

    1. I was the opposite. I was very shy when I was a kid. But now I’m not. However, I am still introverted. I don’t think a person can change that anyway, because it seems that introversion and extroversion result in different brain structures. Shyness can be changed.

      I think a lot of people find introverts a bit cold and impersonal, but we’re really not. We’re just thinking or observing 🙂

  5. I am introverted. I can also be shy, especially in large groups of strangers. I do like one-on-one or very small group conversations, although not confrontation. I realize that some people are thrown when I pause to think before speaking. It’s very important for me to gather my thoughts before giving them voice. I don’t know if folks that don’t understand have brains that work faster than mine or they just don’t bother with thinking before they speak. 😉

    1. I sometimes think some extroverts, especially those whose decisions are based on emotion rather than thought, speak before they think 🙂

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