May 5, 2014

Introvert vs. Shy

Recently someone asked me to describe myself and I included the word introvert. She responded by saying "yes, you're shy" and I got offended. Of course I didn't tell her I was offended because I don't like confrontation, but I was reminded of that interaction tonight at foster care class. We had a panel of speakers come so there were almost as many new people as familiar ones. This didn't bother me, but another woman (who I've now gone to 25 hours of class with) pointed out how many new people there were and said she was feeling shy all over again. We did an ice breaker activity and that woman was nervous about it, but I found it comfortable because it was one of those person bingo sheets. If you tell me to go chat with people I don't know, I'm not going to strike up a conversation. But if you give me something to do (and make it a bit competitive) then I'm happy to participate. 

If I were a good blogger I'd link to a post on The Introvert's Corner about this, but it's late and I'm tired and I'm only posting this tonight because I'm competing (with myself?) to post daily for 30 days. So if someone finds the post please link it in the comments. 

Going from memory:
The definition of introvert is someone who gains energy from quiet. Socializing with groups is draining, alone time or best friend time is restoring. 

The definition of shy is someone who is anxious about social situations. 

For me, and I think for many introverts, I'm totally comfortable sitting back and listening. This evening I was content to munch on my brownie and listen to people talk about flight costs to Florida. I didn't have anything to add to that conversation so I was happy to listen. Then when the conversation turned to it being a big deal for even young kids to miss school, I jumped in because I cared about the topic and had something to contribute. I think the difference is that someone who is shy would want to speak up, but wouldn't because of anxiety. Anyone who's talked to me about teaching could easily mistake me for an extrovert, but the difference is that I come home and need to recharge, where an extrovert would be charged up from that experience. There are shy extroverts and completely non-anxious introverts and everything in between. 

I'm curious how many teachers are introverts vs. how many teachers online are introverts. Socializing on my own terms from my couch is this introvert's dream. Thanks for being there whenever I'm interested in having conversations and for letting me only participate in the ones I care about without calling me awkward (at least not to my face!).


  1. Totally with you on needing to recharge alone (or with very close friends).
    The hoosband has been working through The Introvert Advantage and telling me about it. It has lots of good thoughts on introvert/extrovert relationships (both partner-wise and parent-wise). I'm hoping to dig into it this summer.

  2. We noticed at our school that an unusually high percentage (like 80% or more) of the teachers were in the Meyers-Brigg category of INFP, only 1 out of 16 possible categories. Isn't that bizzare?

    Also, I much prefer to have something to do, such as a board game, when in company with friends/acquaintances. I just don't enjoy making small-talk or just shooting the breeze or whatever you call it. Perhaps that's why I didn't enjoy going to bars when I was just out of college (or even now).

  3. I've never been sure where I fall. I love being social and around other people, but I also VERY much need alone time in my routine. When I get home from an evening out, I can't go to bed right away, even if it's the wee hours, because I'm all hyped up. After a while of sitting quietly, browsing online, watching TV, reading, etc, I can go right to sleep.

    On the other hand, I am extremely quiet in groups until I know everybody quite well. As you described, I'm quite content to sit and listen for some time, and only jump in when I feel I have something to contribute. After I've been a member of a group for a while, they can't get me to shut up!

  4. Funny post. I am definitely extroverted and can sympathize with the person who thought shy and introverted were the same. I see the difference now though. Thanks for being so honest!

  5. Jonathan, really interesting that so many teachers are INFPs. I am as well. I actually get different comments -- I present as talkative and outgoing when I'm with people who make me feel comfortable and am engaged in the conversation, and then put off people when I become quiet and withdrawn. I'm most comfortable either with my students or walking alone. Seems like a weird combination, but somehow it led me to teaching.

  6. Ashli - that book looks interesting, added to wishlist on amazon for later.

    Wow, Jonathan. We should survey the twitterverse!

    Laura - introversion/extroversion is a continuum, you can easily fall somewhere in the middle.

    fivetwelvethirteen - many people wonder how introverts end up as teachers, but I think it's perfect. I get to control the conversation - we jump right into talking about something I'm passionate about and skip the small talk. Teaching isn't social in the same way a party is. I appreciate the common focus and knowledge that our conversations have a goal (learning math).

  7. Oh dam! I totally agree with this, I would consider myself more introvert than extrovert and social situations tend to be very draining for me. Good one!