Being Introverted Is a Good Thing! The Truth About Introversion.

introvert dream house

Does this house look like a great getaway to you? You might be an introvert!

[Updated 12/17/2016 because our understanding of introversion keeps evolving!]

I find in our Western culture, that both introverts and extroverts have a negative view of introversion. Or they confuse it with social anxiety disorder or shyness. Misunderstandings about introversion come up so often in my coaching work that I have to devote a page to it.

Introversion is not a judgment. It simply refers to a preferred style (like being left-handed or right-handed). And it’s a style that can be used to an advantage, once it’s understood. So what is it exactly?

What Is an Introvert?

Introversion and extroversion are about more than differences in socializing, although that’s where the differences seem most obvious. Introverts are more prone to overstimulation, and social situations are highly stimulating, so they tend to be careful about how they socialize. Both introverts and extroverts need and can enjoy socializing, but they experience it differently and have different needs.

As a result of being more prone to overstimulation, introverts often prefer recharging alone or with a trusted circle. Introverts tend to think through their ideas internally or with a significant other before expressing themselves to a larger group.

Whereas, extroverts tend to recharge around others and tend to prefer thinking while speaking with others. As a result, they are often quicker to speak up in groups.

For a fun metaphor to define the two types, I will borrow from the psychologist who wrote The Introvert Advantage:

Introverts are like a rechargeable battery. They need to stop expending energy and rest in order to recharge. Extroverts are like solar panels that need the sun to recharge. Extroverts need to be out and about to refuel.  ~Marti Olsen Laney

Social anxiety and shyness are not the same as introversion. They are fear-based experiences that can be overcome. Introversion is a preference or a temperament, not a problem. Introverts might be more prone to shyness but it’s not the same thing.

Brain Differences?

I believe one of the underlying differences between introverts and extroverts is how our brains process information.

According to MRI research, the introverted brain likes to think deeply and make many connections between various pieces of information. I believe this is why our brains get increasingly stimulated with more input and more people around us. The more people, the more the potential for overwhelm, and the more the need for downtime.

Thus we often prefer more time to integrate everything before we voice our ideas. It’s not for lack of anything to say!! In fact, when introverts speak, they often have a LOT to say, and the people around them can be quite surprised by the amount of insights that roll forth.

Prejudice Against Introverts

Notice there is no judgment in these definitions of introvert or extrovert. Each type has their own strengths and preferences.

Nevertheless, many introverts feel “less than” in our Western culture. (Not true in all cultures.)

This “less-than” idea is a misconception. You don’t have to wear an extrovert mask in order to thrive! (This is why there’s a growing Introvert Pride movement. Care to join in? Join The Introvert Clubhouse, a free and supportive group on Facebook.)

Unfortunately, the different styles that introverts and extroverts display in groups lead to a lot of misunderstanding and frustration.

Think of the typical work meeting where some speak up more than others. Extroverts tend to mistake introverts for being disinterested because the introverts aren’t jumping in as fast. Sometimes the topic has moved on before an introvert is ready to speak.

I can hear the introverts out there thinking (to themselves), “Yeh! Tell those extroverts to slow down and shut up!” Obviously, the frustration can go both ways.

Imagine what can get missed when a meeting moves ahead before the introverts have had a chance to voice their insights. This is one reason we all need to understand each others’ thinking styles, so that all voices can be heard. The best decisions are more when more voices are heard.

When I held a series of introvert discussion groups, some of my extroverted friends made jokes that it would be a quiet meeting. In fact, they were lively discussions, and everyone got to participate.

Take Advantage of Your Introvert Strengths

I used to be very down on myself for being quiet, and now I am a confident introvert who loves being social… in manageable doses. I still like being quiet too. When I learned about introversion, I finally saw it for what it was and stopped apologizing.

That awareness freed me up to expand on the strengths of being an introvert. I even enjoy networking now. Now I’m on a mission to help introverts tap into their unique strengths.

The first step to tap into your introvert strengths is to learn more about what introversion really is and isn’t. That will help you let go of the prejudice, and learn about specific introvert strengths that you might not have seen in yourself before. I’ve selected some reliable resources below.

Then it really helps to connect with other introverts and learn from each other how to pave your own way in an extrovert-dominant world, whether at school, at work, or beyond. (See Introvert Clubhouse options below.)

Learn More About Introversion

Recommended Books

Wanna Join the Introvert Clubhouse?

When you connect with your tribe and learn how to tap into your unique strengths, you’ll have more ease with bringing your voice to the world… and keep breathing in the process. Here are some free options I’ve created for you: The Introvert Clubhouse

Introvert Inspiration
Get access to the Introvert Clubhouse + Your Roadmap to More Ease and Confidence [Full details and tech support here]
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  • Kelli Allard

    I love the section about prejudices. It's so true, and I've seen it go both ways. Your blog entry gave me so much food for thought.

    I wonder if introverts and extroverts can get along best when both parties are confident in their preferences and respectful to each other.

    For instance, will a confident introvert express what he or she needs and make sure their views are heard, needs met and questions answered when dealing with a fast moving extrovert?

    Will a confident extrovert understand that different people have different communication styles and make sure that even the “quiet seeming people” get to have their say in discussions?

    Are building self – confidence and raising awareness of the need to be respectful two of the building blocks that will help break some of tension between introverts and extroverts?

    • Thanks for these thoughtful questions Kelli. Raising awareness definitely seems like a good step. The more everyone is aware of their tendencies, the more they can notice how it affects people around them, which makes it easier to speak up.

      Part of that education has to come in the form of people speaking up about what they experience and notice, in a non-judgmental way. It's so hard for people to see themselves as others see them unless someone takes time to reflect it back to them. Not easy to do at work or anywhere, but can be done tactfully.

      Thanks again.

  • gpgma@verizon.net

    Count me in for the Introvert Pride movement. Geoff Grant

    • Hi Geoff. The Introvert Pride movement has begun then. Yea!

  • Cyndie

    Wow! I just happened upon this… I'm so glad. Here's a blog I wrote about the very same thing… so misunderstood.

    • Hi Cyndie, Thanks for commenting. I'd love to see your post but it says I don't have permission. Must be your FB privacy settings. Sent a friend request to you. Thanks.

  • Teachers, coaches and parents, bosses – learn how to reframe thinking about introversion as an unattractive quality.

    • Hi Liz, Thanks for commenting and tweeting it too. Thanks for spreading the word that introverts are great!

  • You are so right that we ALL have strengths and advantages. Sometimes I find introverts in particular focus on – “what do I need to change?” or “How can I be more extroverted?” All of this is just silly. We indeed have numerous strengths to bring to the world. One of my recent eBooks for introverts has gathered much of the research and some of my own 30 years in sales and sales management anecdotal evidence to debunk some of the introvert myths.

    Thanks for pointing out that shy and introvert ARE different. I believe this one myth may be one of the major myths.

    • Hi Pat, So glad you found my website. I have visited yours and I follow you on Twitter. Love what you're doing to overcome introvert myths and help everyone be more empowered just as they are.

  • Nice post… thanks, Val! I like to think of myself as a gregarious introvert.

    It also makes me wonder about the spectrum between reflective and action-oriented people — I wonder if introverted folks tend more toward reflection/contemplation, which is another undervalued quality in our society.

    • Hi Maia, thanks for stopping in and commenting. I'm a very social introvert too.

      Yes, I think there is a connection to reflection/contemplation. I think it is more and more valued, at least in theory. But Americans still value speed quite a bit!

      The downside of this contemplation tendency for introverts is that it puts us more at risk of analysis paralysis, so we need to learn tricks to move into speaking and acting even before the thoughts are “perfect.”

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  • Pia Cindy

    You will realize and say to yourself “it’s me , the real me.

  • The Shytrovert

    I am an introvert and I am also a shy person.  I believe I became shy because I was labeled as such during childhood for my quiet, introverted ways.  I also have ADD, so I’m spacey and don’t necessarily possess all the supposed strengths of introversion.  I must say, that I get upset when people label shyness as a problem.  How is modesty and a quiet, mild manner a problem?  Turn on any reality TV program and it becomes apparent that the real problem is over the top extroversion and exhibitionism.  Introversion isn’t shyness, but there also is nothing the matter with shyness unless and until it becomes social anxiety disorder.

    • Hi Shytrovert,
      Thanks for commenting.
      I agree that being modest, quiet, and mild mannered are not a problem. Embrace it!

      But if you look up shyness in the dictionary, that’s something else. Shyness is about letting fear hold yourself back from things you might want.

      I think you’re referring to introversion when you describe those traits.

      I understand that ADD adds its own twist on things. Spaciness can definitely interfere with socializing and connecting. When I help introverts, there is not one prescription for everyone. It’s about finding what works for each individual, because (luckily) we are all unique.

  • NganTran

    Thank you so much for such an encouraging writing!
    It was recent that I realized I was introvert. This gave me a reason and stopped me being hard to myself when comparing to others who were extrovert. 
    However, I can’t stop envying them and sometimes wish if I could be an extrovert. One of the main cause is extroverts seem to be smarter, more active so they tend to be more successful.
    Yes, I will practice to be comfortable with my temperament!

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  • happy introvert

    A little late to the discussion, but wanted to thank you for this article – I tick so many boxes, I’m only just becoming fully aware of my introversion.
    I have been encouraged by a couple of good colleagues to value my traits, which I’m thankful for. I do have a tendency to feel those more extraverted are more skilled, but looking at it analytically I can see they just have different skill sets. In the workplace I have been praised for my analytical skills, thoroughness, diligence, but realise at the same time those aspects can be over-done to my own detriment, I can be very self-critical.
    Socially I wish I didn’t get so drained by busy social events, I need to retreat much as I like people and enjoy others company. I’m going to read up some more with the links and reflect on those – I’m good at reflecting.

    • Hi happy introvert. Never too late. People visit this page every day. I’m so glad you are valuing your natural traits. I hope you find the links helpful. I’m creating some more guides for introverts, to be announced via my newsletter. You can subscribe here: http://www.valnelson.com/subscribe Thanks.