Introversion and shyness are NOT the same thing!

I’m not just an introvert. I’m also shy.

I used to think that they were the same thing. But they’re not.

I recorded a video to explain the difference.

For those of you who don’t like video, there’s a short summary below.

(Can’t see the video? Click here.)

Introversion and Extroversion

In a nutshell:

  • Introverts spend energy in order to be social; they recharge by being alone.
  • Extroverts receive energy from social situations; they recharge with other people.
  • Introverts need to think before speaking; extroverts think by speaking

Introversion/extroversion isn’t an on/off black/white thing. It’s a continuum that runs between 2 extremes.

Introverts can have great social skills, be good conversationalists and be friendly with people.

Shyness/Social Anxiety/Fear of People

Worrying about what others might think. Lacking confidence. Feeling self-conscious. Nervous, panicky, palms sweating. Difficulty making eye contact.

This can be situational. Some people might feel no fear at all in attending a cocktail party, but might be nervous during a job interview.

And it’s also a continuum. From outright panic attacks to mild butterflies.

Both introverts AND extroverts can be shy.

Shyness tends to be associated with/confused with/lumped into the same category as introversion because the end result is that a person often chooses to spend time alone and to decline social opportunities. The difference is in the *reason* for this choice:

  • For introverts, being around people requires energy.
  • For shy people, being around people requires courage.

For people like me…who are both introverted AND shy…it’s a double whammy. To attend a social event, I first have to expend energy overcoming my nervousness. Then…once I arrive I am “rewarded” by having my energy drained even more.

22 thoughts on “Introversion and shyness are NOT the same thing!

  1. Great explanation, thanks! I’m an introvert who can sometimes be shy — it comes and goes. Most people are surprised when I say that, because I’m very comfortable with people I know, and I’m good at pretending I’m comfortable when I’m not.

    Also, thanks for writing about your experience with video. I’m going to start doing videos pretty soon, and I’m really nervous about it. You did great!

  2. So here are the comical things I took away from this:

    * The extroverts are the vampires and suck the life out of the introverts. They go out into the crowds to feed.

    * Extroverts like to hear themselves talk. Introverts prefer to listen to the voices in their heads.

    * Introverts just think about slapping the stupid person in the room. Extroverts talk about it, out loud.

    * Sometimes introverts stay home because they don’t want to be vampire bait. Shy vampires eat at home.

    On a more adult note, WOW! Patty, how far you have come? From being homebound because of fears, shyness, and introversion to putting yourself out there with public speaking and posting videos. You give me courage. I can sing and teach in public but speaking makes me nauseous.

    I am a trained counselor so I think of Myers-Briggs when I hear introvert and extrovert. But you’ve given me a different way of thinking about I’s and E’s.

    Great post.

  3. Fantastic, I loved this. It all makes sense now, I’m a fearless introvert. Well, mostly fearless, I do have shy moments.

  4. oh, wow this was great! I work with psychological type (eg: the Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and one of the huge misconceptions that exist is that introverts are shy. This was one myth-busting post! Thank you!

  5. If I had a nickel for every time somebody said “You’re not shy, you’re an extrovert.”, well, I wouldn’t be commenting on your blog, I’d be parking my 80 foot sailboat in the Victoria Harbor.

    I want everybody to read this blog post and think about it. I am shy and an extrovert, and none of this is easy!

  6. Great post, Patty! Wonderful explanation – and I love that you shared it with us through video. I’ll be sharing this on my Facebook page, and I’m really looking forward to interviewing you next week for my podcast!! You are an awesome voice of Introvert Power!

  7. I completely agree. I am also an introvert with good social skills and a shyness that comes and goes.

    I can talk myself into most rooms but often choose to just stay home if the outing is for “fun” rather than work, which is sad. I’ve been working on making the work outings easier (less energetically draining) so I can spend my energy on the fun outings…’cause they are fun once I’m there and comfortable. It’s just the getting there that’s a chore sometimes.

    Thanks for the post.

  8. Jeanne Story

    I have both shyness and introversion complicated by a medical condition where I cannot recognize faces…I have actually walked by my own children at the mall unless they are moving or call out to me. Talk about a major challenge! I hated being this way so badly that I went into real estate where I pretended I was Liz Taylor or Jackie Onassis or similar until I was able to do the physical cold-calling / door knocking.

  9. Patty K

    Wow, everyone – thanks so much for the positive feedback on the video. I really hesitated before posting it…now I’m glad I did!

    @LaVonnne – you are *my* hero for being brave enough to do that karaoke video!

    @Caileagh – LOL!! Never thought about it in terms of vampires.

    @Kirsty – Yay for fearless introverts!

    @Bridget – I kinda had you pegged as a fearless introvert – because of your blog post about networking. Your approach just sounded so perfectly “doable” for introverts.

    @Beth – thanks! Looking forward to it!

    @Candrina – yeah. That energy management thing can be a challenge – and it would totally suck to use it all up on work stuff.

    @Jeanne – that must be tough, not being able to recognize faces. Pretending to be famous sounds like kind of a fun way to cope – and yay you for making real estate work for you…I failed miserably at it!

  10. Still trying to figure out where I fit on the introvert-extrovert scale. I know that I need a ton of time alone, but I also come to life when I’m with people. It sort of depends on who the people are, though. I dare you to make a chart with a Z axis, showing the continuum between agape and misanthropy. :)

    Shy? Yes, I am that, but again, only in certain situations (like your story of meeting the Biznik folks in the coffee shop and not seeing them right away).

  11. Patty K

    @Sue – hee hee…yeah that third axis would make things interesting! Interesting how you say that you come to life when you’re around *some* people. I’m like that too…sometimes to the point where I wonder if I’m really one of those shy extroverts. Until the time comes (and it always does) when, no matter how much fun I’m having…I can’t take it one. minute. more. I need to get away and be alone to recharge.

  12. Patty – this was extraordinary! I’m introverted and learned I have about a 3 hour time limit when I’m in crowds or even with a group of friends and I have to leave to recharge myself. I’m also shy in a lot of ways until I get to know people. It may be a lack of self-confidence, fear I’ll come across as a bumbling idiot, or something equally frightening but even when my self-confidence is high and I’m not shy but interacting, I still have that time limit where I have to get out of dodge.

    I have found over the years that there are a lot of misconceptions about shy people. Aloof and arrogant come to mind. Lots of folks out there aren’t comfortable with shy people just as we’re not comfortable with them. It can be a cold world sometimes.

    Thank you for a great post. I’m going to send some of my introverted and shy friends over here (including my extroverted mother who never “got” me). ♥

  13. Melinda

    I’m so glad I found your blog! Thanks for writing this post. As an introvert, I often have a hard time meeting new people. People who are close to me are shocked when I tell them I’m not good with people.

    I think discovering the difference between introvert/extrovert was one of the most impactful things in my life. I’m not really shy, but sometimes I don’t have the energy to deal with people or meet new people. But when I’m “recharged”, I can talk to anyone!

    Another funny one is that awesome and funny comeback that I don’t think of until 2 days later. Always thought I didn’t have a good sense of humor, but realized that it is my introvert brain thinking through everything before coming up with an answer!

    I’m an ISTJ, and only 16% of us are women. In the business world, a lot of people are put off by my personality because it fits more of the sterotype of a man. This revelation is what I’m dealing with now in my late 30s.

    Thanks again for the post!

  14. Informative essay.

    I agree, introversion and shyness are two radically different things! Introverted people tend to prefer solitude, but are able to interact fine with others.

    Shyness, in contrast, involves anxiety around other people, coupled with not being able to think of things to say or knowing how to participate in the interaction.

    You can be an introvert and not shy or shy but not an introvert.

    Shyness definitely makes it harder to succeed in business, or any other area of life, since practically everything we do in all fields relies on human interaction.

  15. Patty,

    I think you did great on the video! Great presence and voice – trust me, that’s 2 years of experience in Toastmasters speaking! Lol.

    I really enjoyed this post. I’ve researched a lot about introversion lately and this is one of the clearest ways I’ve heard it described. I too am an introvert and for the longest time I was also very shy. I agree with the distinction between needing energy and courage. Lucky for us there’s ways to build up courage, huh! Again, thanks for the post – very well thought out.

  16. @Patty
    Being an introvert myself, I can say that very different methods need to be employed in order to achieve the same results as the extrovert. But, it is possible to succeed, in spite of the common stereotype given to the introvert. We definitely have our strong points. We just need to know how to recognize them and learn how to use them. Social skills will become more natural if you are persistent at practicing them. Then, when we are all done with that extrovert stuff, we can comfortably crawl back under our respective rocks. No, we don’t really change. I also found some other good information on this subject at:

    • Patty K

      Jerry – I agree: it’s definitely possible to succeed as introverts – and social skills become better with practice. The key, like you mentioned, is to honour our introvert selves and take the “crawl back under the rock” time when we need it. Thanks for your comment.

  17. In response to the videos clarification of this confusion. “I used to be an extravert then I overcame my hubris.” 😀

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