Society often celebrates extroverted personality types while ignoring those who are more introverted. We know that introverts are equipped with a unique set of skills that often make them more qualified or suitable for specific tasks and careers. Furthermore, not all introverts are the same. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Ramani Durvasula explains four types of introverts you should know.
Transcript featuring Dr. Ramani
Hi everyone. I’m Dr. Ramani. And today I’m going to walk you through the four types of introverts you need to know.
Before we jump into the signs, I want to explain the difference between shyness and introversion. This is often an error people make, because we think of introversion, sort of our stereotypical vision of introversion is somebody who doesn’t want to be with other people, or is socially sort of unskilled or socially anxious. Shyness maps onto introversion a little bit, but not all. And also we have to remember about shyness is it’s also not social anxiety. I think that shyness is kind of its own little sort of subset. Obviously, these things are all correlated.
Social anxiety, introversion, and shyness are all correlated. Shyness does get at some level sort of a preference, but also there’s a restraint, if you will, to shyness in the sense of there’s like a slow to warm up. A person who’s shy initially, they may hold back, they may again be very restrained. They may take a moment to warm up in a social situation. We also have to account for in shyness part of this also may have to do with socialization in the sense that a person is told that you should not be putting yourself out in a situation. You should not be the one who is sort of grabbing all the attention. And if somebody hears that enough, and especially if that’s associated with sort of, for example, gendered roles or something like that, there can be sort of a holding back that a person has been told.
Like, if you do it this other way, it’s wrong, if you try to draw attention to yourself. And part of it is also likely a temperamental kind of a preference that we do see that shyness does tend to track over a lifetime. And that people who tend to be shy, they were often shy children, and that will go into adulthood. Introversion, on the other hand could be thought of more as a personality style. And because introversion… There’s so many different types and manifestations of it, shyness like I said, while highly correlated with introversion is not synonymous with it. So when we think about the four types of introverts, it’s such an important distinction for people to understand, because so many people think, oh, introvert. He doesn’t like to be with people or they don’t like to talk to people or they just want to stay home.
And it’s a real misnomer because at some level, especially if we use like a Jungian, almost Myers-Briggsian kind of taxonomy, introversion almost feels like sort of an energetic preference. It’s where a person draws their energy from. And they often draw more of their energy from time spent alone, from solitude. It’s not an aversion to other people. It’s not even an anxiety about other people, but it’s a style. It’s a way of going through the world. It’s a preference. Now the types of introversion then really show us how nuance to this quality is.
1. The Social Introvert
When we think of social introverts, in some ways that feels like an oxymoron, putting two words together that seem kind of the opposite, but they’re really not. Introverts, as an introvert myself, I actually like to think of we introverts as sort of curators or sommeliers who are very careful about what we sort of bring into our lives, but social introverts actually do enjoy social interaction.
They enjoy being with people. They enjoy talking with people. They’re not your big group, life of the party, look at me, draw the attention. They will often stick to a very time tested and true social network that they enjoy being with. They will, again, often may have even more successfully curated that network and not wander out of it. So the social introvert is not going to like a big party, but they will go to a big party. And if they go to a big party, they will find their people at that big party. So it might be that they’ll sit in a smaller area or in a quieter area with them, or they will talk to one or two people all evening and have really nice conversations. But what you won’t see them is sort of throwing themselves in the midst of the fray and the glad-handing and the meeting lots of people for very short interactions. That doesn’t tend to be the way of the social introvert.
Again, introverts can have actually rather robust social networks in the sense of their depth. There may be very close group of friends and an old close group of friends, people they’ve been close to for a long time, maybe close to family networks that they’ve cultivated relationships with, obviously over a lifetime and in those groups will be very gregarious. They don’t seem like they’re holding back. They’re really having a nice time. So that’s the social introvert. Again, it kind of flies in the face of what we think of with introverted individuals. It’s just sort of how they operate and use social environments and prefer to interact in those environments. Even for a social introvert, it’s quite likely though, at the end of a social day, a social evening, they will feel depleted. They’ll definitely need time to themselves.
Again, as a first person reflection, I will tell you, I actually don’t mind being in groups of people, but now that the world is opening up, I’ve had to do two live events in the last few weeks and had to travel and be with groups. And I actually kind of dread if people want to have dinner at the end of that because I have to say at the end of the day that involves social interaction, I want to be alone for the evening or I want breaks during that day. I don’t do well if I have to be social, social, social, right through dinner. That leaves me actually quite tired. I want some alone time or time maybe with one person. So I think there’s still an exhaustion there.
2. The Thinking Introvert
With the second group, the thinking introverts, I actually have a magnificent graduate student I once worked with and now just work with her. She did her thesis on introversion and outcomes associated with introversion. What she found in her research was that those thinking introverts, they were the sort of the healthiest introverts. And when we think of thinking introverts, what we’re seeing there are people who are very much people like people of the mind. They introspect. They think a lot, they take in a situation, and they think on it in a good way. They actually I often would almost say a great example of a thinking introvert is someone who’s a really avowed people watcher. They’ll watch the people and sort of reflect on and muse on what are those people talking about and who are they and where are they from? They’ll spend time thinking about a problem.
They’ll watch something and think about what the show is about. So they’re in their heads, not in a bad way, but what that means is if you’re in your head, you’re not going to be chitchatting away, right. You’re sort of in your mind. Once again, as the introvert and a very much a thinking introvert, I could sit at a busy Plaza or boardwalk or something with a table and something to drink. And I could sit there for three hours watching people go by and wondering about them and what are they doing? Why are they talking like that? Where are they from? What is their home? If after I watch a movie, I’ll often want to sit alone for a while and think about what did I just see? I will immediately start researching the actors, the characters, the story. And so they are people who are very much in their mind. And what my student found was that she found that there were a lot of healthy outcomes, mental health outcomes, authenticity, all of that associated with thinking introverts above and beyond all other kinds of introverts.
So there’s something healthy about sort of being that ponderous, healthy person. But like I said, if you’re in here, it’s hard to be chit-chatting away. Before I move on to number three, I want to let you know that I have a full MedCircle series on introversion and mental health. It’s two hours of videos covering introversion versus depression, the strengths of being an introvert and how to leverage them, how to get treatment tailored to your personality style and more. Check it out at watch.medcircle.com.
3. The Anxious Introvert
The anxious introverts, this third type of introvert, these are folks who are probably going to ascribe more to what we look at as looking more socially anxious. These are people who might be uncomfortable with the potential scrutiny of a social situation. They may be afraid of looking foolish in a social situation. And not only are they naturally introverted that’s their personality style, but that there’s also that sort of anxiety associated with social situations, which sort of doubles down on their existing need or desire or drive to want to be alone.
And so the anxious introverts, unlike the social introverts will say, sure, I’ll go out to dinner with a small group of people. Then they’ll go out. They know the people. They’re fine. The anxious introvert may spend a fair amount of that evening wondering, did I say the wrong thing, or am I ordering the right thing? And you can imagine if you’re going through that kind of social scrutiny anxiety, social situations are going to be quite uncomfortable. And if you’re naturally an introvert, probably on any day of the week, you’d say I don’t even need to put myself in any of those situations and could sort of be on my own.
4. The Restrained or Inhibited Introvert
The fourth type of introversion are the restrained inhibited introverts. This overlaps with that third type a little bit, the anxious introverts, in that. And in fact, the restrained inhibited introverts probably are the ones that overlap most clearly with shyness.
These are people who in a new social situation may not be driven by anxiety. I’m so worried what these other people are going to think about me, but rather they just simply hold back. They’re what maybe you call reticent. They’re just again, restrained. They hold back. They’re not going to be the one who just sort of throws them in. They may be actually very much watching the proceedings around them and waiting and waiting. One of my favorite things about restrained introverts is when they finally say something, it’s often a mic drop moment. They’re just watching and paying attention. And they’re very aware of everything that’s going on. And somebody may actually pull that person out and say, hey, you haven’t said anything. Could we hear your thoughts? And it’ll be like, boom. And it’s just wisdom coming at you.
And this is one of my biggest frustrations about introversion is that because introverts tend to be a little more quiet, a little more restrained, they tend to hold back. They’re not the life of the party. We often paint introverted people with a brush that’s actually, we view them as socially unskilled. We might view them as less qualified. We may even view them as less intelligent, which is a very, very risky mistake to make. In fact, oftentimes… What’s the old saying? Shallow brooks are noisy. The people making all the noise often are the people who don’t have anything to say, or shouldn’t be saying anything. Introverts can actually be very, very careful, but we are an extroversion favoring society. That student’s thesis project, I thought her head was going to explode with frustration because she really wanted the introverts to be good.
And the extroversion was consistently associated with all of the good outcomes. And she was so frustrated. I’m like, listen, the data tells a story, but I think the story it tells us is also a story of society. That how society differentiate values people who are more sort of naturally attention seeking, especially in an era of things like social media, where we sort of overvalue attention seeking behavior. But introversion is not conflated with being mentally unwell. I would say for the anxious introverts, it might be that they’re struggling with that anxiety. And it comes up against the introversion, and they don’t mind being alone. To be an anxious extrovert actually would be in some ways a harder line to toe because they’re going to be afraid of what people think of them, but they desperately want to be with other people.
So to be an anxious introvert might be like, well, I’m happy being alone. The place that could hold someone back is that their anxiety means that they may not put themselves out in situations where they should because they are afraid of being scrutinized. It could negatively impact things like networking, dating, situations that could sort of be important to them in other ways. In my own clinical practice, I have worked with a lot of introverted people. And when I think that for them, when I kind of… I’m a humanistic in my practice. So I’m very open and honest about what I am about. And that I say, I’m introverted. They’re always shocked at saying, you’re on YouTube. You’re out here. You’re speaking there. How can you be introverted? Because that’s the mistake people make that an introverted person couldn’t be somebody who is sort of a big public speaker or in the media.
In fact, more people in the media are introverted than you know. It is really that sort of that functionality of sociology for a person but it’s also a personality style in terms of sort of preference. And I will explain to them since I was a little kid, I was the kid who would read. I was the kid who want to play a game alone. I was the kid who’d wander off in the backyard and sort of daydream for two hours, always. Because it’s a personality style, we tend to see these patterns over the lifetime. But what I try to do in my clinical practice is try to kind of take that dark cloud over introversion and say own your introversion. Just because everyone’s telling you that somehow there’s a message that it’s better to be extroverted. That to be introverted doesn’t mean you can’t be gregarious. To be introverted doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy other people. And to help them sort of tease some of that out because I actually believe some of the anxiety we see in introverts is because society doesn’t give them permission to just be their fabulous, introverted selves.
That there’s something wrong with you because you’re so introverted. Well, somebody’s telling you there’s something not right about you, that’s going to drive an anxiety. But if people are saying lean into that introversion, it’s you, it’s okay. Pace yourself. I give myself permission it’s okay to say no to the dinner invitation at the end of the long day. It’s okay that you just want to put your feet up in the hotel room and watch a little TV and play a game on your phone or read a book. That’s okay. For the longest time I even found myself judging myself for that.
What’s wrong with you? There’s nothing wrong with you. You were around people all day. That wipes you out. And so I think in my own clinical practice, it’s taking that pathologization of introversion away, allowing people to understand this is who you are. And yes, society doesn’t embrace it. You don’t need to make this a negative aspect of yourself, but find that balance and be okay with this being who you are. So I be an introversion lover. I love my introverts. And I have one introverted child and one extroverted child. So it’s actually really, really interesting to see how the extroverted child, the pandemic was harder on her. Now that the world has opened up, she’s doing so much better. My introverted child on the other hand is I watch her sort of judge her introversion negatively, but I can also see how she’s very content sometimes just hanging out, doing her own thing.
And so you can see those different kinds of styles even within the same family. But you could imagine the extroverted child really gets on the introverted child’s nerves because it’s always trying to pull that one out, and she doesn’t want to be pulled. And so I think that if we can sort of meet introverts where they’re at and catch ourselves and stop giving extroversion, always giving extroverts the good brand. I think we could all learn a lot. And like I said, for those of us who are introverted, give ourselves permission, pace ourselves, and be okay with it because once we’re okay with ourselves, we’re often our best selves. Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to check out my full series at watch.medcircle.com.