An introvert is more likely to enjoy a quiet glass of wine with a close friend than a loud, raucous party full of strangers.

Susan Cain

If you’re thinking You had me at ‘glass of wine’, but you’re still not sure what an introvert is, then read on.

Below I’ve taken 8 quotes from the wonderful Susan Cain from a Scientific American interview and expanded them into 8 short, perhaps surprising, points about introverts.

1. Introverts are easily stimulated, and easily over-stimulated

Introverts prefer quiet, minimally stimulating environments, while extroverts need higher levels of stimulation to feel their best.

The difference between introverts and extraverts has a lot to do with the level of arousal that feels comfortable.

Whether introvert or extravert, how we choose to spend our time, where, and with whom, reflects how we seek that comfortable level of stimulation.

2. Introverts are not necessarily shy

Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is simply the preference for less stimulation. Shyness is inherently uncomfortable; introversion is not.

This surprises people. Although in common usage shy and introverted are synonyms, psychologically they overlap but are not the same at all.

For instance I’m at the extreme end of introversion but don’t consider myself shy. One of my close friends is shy but not at all introverted. If you’re picturing a Venn Diagram right now – I love you.

3. Introversion can be seen as undesirable

In our society, the ideal self is bold, gregarious, and comfortable in the spotlight. We… admire the type of individual who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.” Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts.

Our image of a successful person is often of an extravert because extraverts are the ones ‘out there’ for us to see.

We don’t see many successful introverts in the media because they’re probably off being nerdy somewhere quiet rather than giving a scintillating interview on TV.

4. Introverts can think there’s something wrong with them

Many introverts feel there’s something wrong with them, and try to pass as extroverts… Introverts are constantly going to parties and such when they’d really prefer to be home reading, studying, inventing, meditating, designing, thinking, cooking…

Square peg, anyone? I’m sure every introvert can relate to this idea of feeling like an outcast and faking the extravert thing to try and fit in.

I spent much of my life feeling like a major misfit and wondering what the hell my problem was. Not till I did a psych degree in my 30s did I understand: weirdness, they name is introversion. Huh.

5. Introverts are not a small minority

According to the latest research, one third to one half of us are introverts.

Not what you’d expect, right? Cain says it’s because so many of us act like pretend-extraverts, so our true identities are hidden. (Just like Superman. Only more quiet and probably more into puzzles. Also possibly less able to do cool superhero stuff.)

I guess extraverts are also more out-there, so perhaps we register them more.

6. Introverts who hate groupwork might be on to something

Most schools and workplaces now organize workers and students into groups, believing that creativity and productivity comes from a gregarious place. This is nonsense… From Darwin to Picasso to Dr. Seuss, our greatest thinkers have often worked in solitude.

Cain cites the pitfalls of groupwork, from mimicking others’ opinions instead of asserting one’s own to 40 years’ research showing brainstorming to be a poor path to creative ideas. (No wonder group projects are circle 4 of The Introvert’s 9 Circles Of Hell.)

Also, Cain says, introverts’ lack of interest in the spotlight means they can be excellent, non-ego-driven leaders. And their comfort being alone could be why they’re among the most creative in many fields.

7. That lone fruit fly might just be an introvert

The most surprising and fascinating thing I learned is that there are “introverts” and “extroverts” throughout the animal kingdom – all the way down to the level of fruit flies!

You’ve got your gregarious fruit flies having a ball together on the party watermelon and you’ve got your nerdy fruit flies on the sidelines doing their tiny little fruit fly crossword puzzles. (3-ACROSS: Not vegetable but–; 5 letters. 6-DOWN: Type of insect; 3 letters.)

See – exactly like humans.

8. Introverts have a secret strength

In our culture, snails are not considered valiant animals – we are constantly exhorting people to “come out of their shells” – but there’s a lot to be said for taking your home with you wherever you go.

The only time I hated being an introvert was before I knew I was one. Now, like Cain, I too feel it’s a tremendous strength.

And now that I know, I’m no longer bothered by people telling me to come out of my shell. If they knew how little boredom, how much enjoyment is in there, they may want to get in there with me.

And then I’d have to go out and find a new shell.

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How To Be An Introvert In An Extrovert World

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