The Secret Life of the Introvert

The Myth

Are you the life of the party? The center of attention wherever you go? Then, clearly you are an extrovert, right? Not necessarily. Traits like being outgoing, friendly and confident tend to be more closely associated with extroverts than with introverts based on public knowledge of these terms, but these are not the real tell-tale signs. If we take a closer look at the essence of an introvert, we might find some hidden introverts among the class of outgoing attention-getters.

The Science

According to researcher Jonathan Cheek, there are actually four different types of introverts. His STAR model includes social, thinking, anxious and restrained. The first type, social, more closely fits the common understanding of introvert. This describes someone who is not timid but avoids the crowd and would prefer to stay home alone than party with friends. The thinker is a type who is described as imaginative and introspective rather than nonsocial. Those who are considered the anxious type are, like the social type, more socially averse. Their dislike of the crowd is due more to fear than personal preference. Finally, the restrained type is simply slower to get moving. These introverts tend to take their time processing information, thinking deeply before responding to a situation. But that does not mean that once they get going, they shy away from a social situation.

Scott Barry Kaufmann finds that there are thinkers and restrained types that still score highly for in enthusiasm and assertiveness, traits people usually associate with being extroverted. Kaufman even stated that the social- and anxious-introvert may have an inward aversion to crowds but still have a desire to be highly social that causes them to move past their apprehensions. You might actually know (or be) an introvert who pushes herself to be a social butterfly.

So the science shows that determining the introvert is not quite as simple as comparing wallflowers to superstars. People are typically on a spectrum somewhere between introversion and extroversion. And introversion, itself, is a mixture of factors, such as introspection and level of sensitivity to the environment, that go beyond sociability.

The Point

Who really cares? You may wonder what the importance is of understanding introversion as a trait. Self-awareness and understanding those in your circle are key to properly caring for your own needs and knowing how to interact positively with others. Comprehending the tendencies of an introvert can help you identify when to give yourself or others space to re-energize. Knowing that you or a loved one may operate differently can lead to a greater sense of acceptance that nurtures positive relationship, either with yourself or the introvert in your life.

The Test

Do you think you are an introvert? Take this short test to see if you are and where you fit:

Contributed by

Shani Bell, MAAT, LPC-Intern

Supervised by Dr. Amy Fuller, PhD, LMFT-S, LPC-S

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