Definition: Contrary to what most people think, an introvert is not simply a person who is shy. In fact, being shy has little to do with being an introvert! Shyness has an element of apprehension, nervousness and anxiety, and while an introvert may also be shy, introversion itself is not shyness. Basically, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people.
Introverts are more concerned with the inner world of the mind. They enjoy thinking, exploring their thoughts and feelings. They often avoid social situations because being around people drains their energy. This is true even if they have good social skills. After being with people for any length of time, such as at a party, they need time alone to "recharge."
When introverts want to be alone, it is not, by itself, a sign of depression. It means that they either need to regain their energy from being around people or that they simply want the time to be with their own thoughts. Being with people, even people they like and are comfortable with, can prevent them from their desire to be quietly introspective.
Being introspective, though, does not mean that an introvert never has conversations. However, those conversations are generally about ideas and concepts, not about what they consider the trivial matters of social small talk.
Introverts make up about 60% of the gifted population but only about 25-40% of the general population.
If a crowded cocktail party feels like a holding cell to you, even as you gamely keep up your end of the chatter, chances are you're an introvert. Introverts are drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits. Their disposition is frequently misconstrued as shyness, social phobia or even avoidant personality disorder, but many introverts socialize easily; they just strongly prefer not to. In fact, the self-styled introvert can be more empathic and interpersonally connected than his or her outgoing counterparts. The line between introversion and lonely loners gets blurry, however, as some introverts do wish they could break out of their shell.
- Has only a few close friends
- Does more listening than talking
- Talks to family members, but not to strangers
- Likes solitary activities, like reading, or activities with only a few people
- Likes to spend time in own room with the door closed.
- Watches a game or activity before joining in
- Likes creative or imaginative play
- May get crabby after spending a lot of time around other people
- Does not share feelings easily
- Becomes deeply humiliated after making a mistake in public
This list is quite brief, but it can give you an idea of whether your child is an introvert or not.
People don’t outgrow introversion, so the introverted adult was once an introverted child. What is true of one is true of both. Contrary to popular opinion, introverts are not asocial, nor are they friendless loners who lack social skills. They simply have different social needs and preferences.
It is not easy for introverts to make new friends because getting to know someone takes so much energy. However, introverts don’t need a wide circle of friends. They prefer one or two close friends, even though they may know many people and have a large number of acquaintances. In spite of this preference, introverts are frequently criticized for not making an effort to make more friends and are often seen to be lacking social skills.
Introverts need a lot of personal space. They like being in a room alone with the door closed and those who don’t understand introverts believe this desire to be alone is a sign of depression. However, for introverts this behavior is normal; it is not a sign of withdrawing from life. Being around others is tiring for them so they need time alone in order to regain some of their energy. Being alone also gives them a chance to think and figure things out uninterrupted. Introverts don’t enjoy large parties and if they have to attend one, prefer to spend their time with just one or two others, talking about what they all know a lot about. Introverted children may prefer to play on the side with one or two other children.
Introverts enjoy activities they can do alone or with just a few others. It’s not surprising, then, that so many introverted gifted children love to read. They also tend to prefer activities that allow for creative expression, like creative writing, music, and art. Introverted children also enjoy quiet and imaginative play. When presented with an opportunity to participate in a group activity or game, introverts prefer to hang back and watch before they join in. Many people see this as shyness, but it’s not. They feel more comfortable with situations that are familiar to them and they are simply trying to become familiar with the activity before they join in.
Introverts tend to be quiet and subdued. They dislike being the center of attention, even if the attention is positive. It’s not surprising, then, that introverts don’t brag about their achievements or knowledge. In fact, they may know more than they’ll admit. It may be the introverted gifted children who are more at risk for “dumbing down” since they would be more likely to want to hide their abilities.When introverts are tired, in a large group, or if too much is going on, they may show little animation, with little facial expression or body movement. Introverts also have two distinct personalities: a private one and a public one. That can explain why they can be talkative in comfortable settings, like home, and quiet elsewhere.
While introverts may appear to lack social skills or be antisocial, neither is true. Their style of social interaction is simply different from that of extroverts. They tend to listen more than they talk and are excellent listeners. They are attentive and will make eye contact with the person they are listening to and rarely interrupt. When they do talk, introverts tend to say what they mean and may look away from the person they’re talking to. They dislike small talk and would rather say nothing than something they feel is insignificant. Although introverts are quiet, they will talk incessantly if they’re interested in the topic. They also dislike being interrupted when they talk, or when they’re working on some project.
If given a choice, introverts would rather express their ideas in writing than in speech. When they do speak, they need time to think before answering a question. Sometimes they even feel the need to mentally rehearse what they want to say before they say it. The need to think before speaking often results in the introvert being slow to respond to questions or comments. When they talk, they may also pause quite often and even have problems finding the right word.
Emotions and Emotional Responses
Introverts become emotionally drained after spending time with others, particularly strangers. They don’t like crowded places and introverted children can even become grouchy and irritable if they’ve been around too many people for too long. Even when introverts enjoyed a party or activity, they can feel drained afterwards. Parents often sign their introverted children up for numerous activities to help them improve their social skills, but an activity-filled schedule is overwhelming for these children. Introverts are also rather territorial. They dislike sharing space with others for too long and may find houseguests intrusive. Introverts also have a hard time sharing their feelings and feel deeply embarrassed by public mistakes.
Other Traits and Preferences
Introverts can concentrate intensely on a book or project for a long time if they find it interesting and like to explore subjects deeply and thoroughly. That may be why introverts don’t like to be bothered when they are reading or working on a project. Introverts are highly aware of their inner world of perceptions, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and feelings. They are also highly aware of their surroundings, noticing details that others don’t see. However, they are not quick to discuss their thoughts or observations. They may, for example, wait days or weeks to talk about events. Introverts also favor consistency over change, and cope with change best when they know ahead of time what to expect and have enough time to prepare for it.