What Is an Introvert? How to Tell If You’re an Introverted Person

What Is an Introvert? How to Tell If You’re an Introverted Person
Photo by Andrew Draper

I’m an introvert. I’ve always been this way.

When I was in school I was often called shy and asked to speak up in class. When I was in university I was consistently being encouraged to participate more in group discussions. And when I entered the workforce, I remember wanting nothing more than to go home after a long day at work, instead of “going for a quick one” at the pub.

This used to get to me. I didn’t think there was something wrong with me, or that it was bad to be an introvert per se, but I did envy my extroverted friends—look at their energy, their movement, their confidence! In the famed words of a Katz’s Deli patron in When Harry Met Sally: “I’ll have what she’s having.”

As time passed, being an introvert mattered to me less and less. In the last decade I have moved from working fast-paced retail jobs in London, to the slow pace of life of a just-getting-by writer in the Andalusian region of Spain, to San Francisco, where I married my wife and published my first book, on to New York City, where I’m working on multiple projects at once, including a corporate writing position.

While my career and physical location has varied dramatically over the last ten years, my personality type has not. I’m an introvert, but unlike throughout my teenage years and into my early twenties, I’m no longer afraid to admit it.

In this article, I’m going to dig into the difference between an introvert and an extrovert, focusing on the core characteristics of an introvert. I’m going to look into what causes someone to be an introverted person in the first place, as well as looking at seven signs that can tell you once and for all if you’re an introvert.

I truly believe that being an introvert is a gift. But before we get deep into specifics surrounding introversion, what is an introvert anyway?

What Is an Introvert?

An introvert is someone who enjoys spending time alone, or with a small group of close friends, as opposed to spending their time in busy social settings. Introverts typically find time spent alone to be rejuvenating, whereas time spent in a large group can be draining.

That’s a basic definition of an introvert. In reality, introverts sit on a spectrum. “There are four different types of introversion: social, thinking, anxious, and restrained,” notes Sarah Newman in an article for PsychCentral. “Nobody likes to be pigeon-holed and it’s a relief to me to see my introversion in a unique light. My combination of traits can’t be all that common.”

The difference between an introvert and an extrovert lies in the word “stimulation.” Introverts typically prefer a less stimulating environment, whereas extroverts tend to favor a more stimulating environment. While introverts often prefer to spend their time reading, practicing a solo hobby, or watching a television show with their significant other, extroverts tend to be more outgoing, enjoying meeting up with friends on the weekend, participating in group sports, and hosting dinner parties.

Introversion is a common personality (or character) trait, but it’s important to remember that very few of us are “extreme” introverts or “extreme” extroverts. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of a continuum.

What is an Introverted Person Like?

For an extrovert, an introverted person may be difficult to get to know at first. I once heard an example of a family who felt there was something wrong with one of their daughters because she was quieter than the rest of the family. It was clear to me that she was an introvert in a family of extroverts, yet this family, baffled as to why their daughter was so different from the rest of them, was considering sending her to a doctor to find out what was “wrong” with her!

When the idea of introversion vs. extroversion was explained to this family, a concept which they hadn’t previously been exposed to, their daughter suddenly made so much more sense to them. Rather than thinking there was something wrong with their child, they embraced her, and read up on everything they could on the difference between introverts and extroverts so they could better respond to their daughter’s needs going forward.

Is it Bad to Be an Introvert?

Absolutely not. While it can be frustrating to be labeled as shy, or anxious, or to generally find yourself having trouble making friends at school or work, it is not bad to be an introvert—far from it.

The characteristics of an introvert mean that we’re perfectly set up to achieve big things, if only we put our mind to it. We have the patience to read book after book to work towards bettering ourselves, or to take the time we need to dedicate ourselves to our goals or to figure out life’s purpose. Far from it being bad to be an introvert, we know that it is what makes us, us.

How to Tell If You’re an Introvert

If you’re not sure if you’re an introvert or extrovert, the below signs should help you figure out how far you are along the introversion vs. extroversion continuum.

Here are seven signs that you are an introvert:

1) You Prefer Staying In to Going Out

Introverts prefer staying in to going out. While we know that social engagement is important, nothing sounds more exciting to us than staying home and curling up with our current favorite book or television show.

2) You Prefer Writing to Talking

I’m a writer. I have written thousands of articles and other works over the years. Writing is my medium of choice; I much prefer writing to talking, and if you’re an introvert, there’s a good chance that this is true for you as well.

3) You’re Rarely Bored

In an article I wrote on what to do when you’re bored, I noted that when I was a kid I was often bored, but nowadays, I rarely suffer from boredom. This is often true of introverts—we can always find something to do in our spare moments, whether we’re cracking open a book, hitting the gym, or getting on the phone with a friend.

4) You Have a Small Group of Close Friends

Yes, you read that right. It is a common misconception that introverts struggle to make friends. While introverts may take some time to warm up to, many introverts have a small group of close friends that they keep for life. Instead of having a wide, shallow group of friends, introverts develop deep friendships that last a lifetime.

5) You Prefer to Work Alone

Being an introvert means that you prefer to work alone rather than in a large group. To be honest though, does anyone truly enjoy group work? (I’d bet that extroverts who claim credit during group work projects, despite doing very little work toward them, do, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

6) Your Ideal Weekend is Devoid of Plans

For an introvert, there are few things more exciting than looking out at your weekend on a Friday evening (an evening that, fingers crossed, you’re spending at home), to a weekend entirely devoid of plans. Sure, you may hit up a museum on Saturday afternoon, or wander over to the farmers’ market on Sunday morning, but neither of these activities are set in stone.

7) You (Almost Always) Think Before You Speak

Being an introvert means you spend a lot of time inside your head. Being mindful is an excellent character trait, and it comes in handy when it comes to thinking before you speak. Despite my introversion, this is something I wasn’t always great at, but time changed my ways, and I now, almost always, fully articulate in my mind what I’m going to say before I say it.

Being an introvert is a gift. If you’re an introverted person, embrace this personality type, and enjoy it for all it’s worth.

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Benjamin Spall

Benjamin Spall

Benjamin Spall is the co-author of My Morning Routine (Portfolio). He has written for outlets including the New York Times, New York Observer, Quartz, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, CNBC, and more.