11 Things You Didn't Know About Introverts

"Just because introverts are quiet, it doesn't mean they are shy."

Woman laughing
JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

While introverts make up an estimated 40 percent of the population, people with this personality type often report that others do not seem to understand them. Some of our introverted readers shared what they believe are some of the biggest myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings about what it means to be an introvert.

People sometimes make the mistake of thinking that just because a person is quiet, that it also means they are shy. However, it is important to realize that there is a big difference between introversion, shyness, and social anxiety.

Introverted people are not necessarily apprehensive about talking to others, although some introverted people certainly do experience shyness or social anxiety.

Instead, introverts simply tend to be more reserved and inward-turning. They like to get to know a person more before engaging in a lot of conversation. They prefer to think before they speak. They typically don't enjoy a lot of chit-chat or small talk. So the next time you notice someone who is quiet and reserved, don't assume that they are shy or afraid of talking to others.

"I'm not angry or depressed; I just need to be alone for a while."

Thoughtful woman
JGI/Jamie Grill / Blend Images / Getty Images

When an introvert feels overwhelmed by too much socializing, they often need a little quiet time and solitude to recharge. Unfortunately, people sometimes misinterpret this desire to be alone as a negative emotion, such as being angry, depressed, sullen, or anxious.

If you are an introvert, you might recall being told by parents or other adults to "come out of your room and stop sulking," when you were really just trying to have a little quiet-time. Many introverts might be surprised to find that other people interpret this need to be alone as rude or dismissive.

"I'm having fun in my own idiosyncratic way."

Introverted woman with camera
PeopleImages.com / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Introverts are not party-poopers. While they might be quiet at a loud and crowded social gathering, it doesn't mean they are not having fun.

In many cases, the introverts in the room are content to sit back and observe, taking in all the interesting sights, sounds and conversations. They are curious and want to learn more about the world and the people around them. ​While extroverts might accomplish this by asking questions and starting conversations, introverts prefer to listen and reflect.

"Introverts are not rude."

People talking at party
Sofie Delauw / Cultura / Getty Images

I once had a very extroverted friend who confided that introverts sometimes baffled her. "I thought you were so rude when I first met you," she explained. "You are always quiet, so I never know what you are thinking."  

Rather than interpreting this initial reserve as rudeness, it is important to understand that an introvert might simply need to get to know you better before he or she feels comfortable and willing to open up.

"Introverts are not weird."

Happy woman hiding her face
Lily Roadstones / Taxi / Getty Images

According to some estimates, as much as 40 percent or more of the population identifies themselves as introverted. Based on those figures alone, introversion certainly is not something weird, odd or even eccentric.

Introverts are sometimes unfairly pegged as strange. Perhaps this is because introverts tend to follow their own interests rather than paying much attention to what is popular or trendy.

"Introverts don't want to be alone all the time."

Couple chatting in park
redheadpictures / Cultura Exclusive / Getty Images

While introverts might need to have some time alone each day to gain back their energy, it certainly does not mean that they want to be alone all the time.

Introverts actually do like spending time with people that they know well. It's just that they periodically need quiet time to decompress and regain the energy that they expend while socializing.

"Introverts are not agoraphobic."

Woman spending time alone
Hero Images / Getty Images

Just because introverts are quiet and enjoy periods of solitude does not mean that they suffer from agoraphobia. Certainly, some individuals are both introverted and agoraphobic, but one is not an indicator of the other.

Many introverts do describe themselves as "homebodies," or people who enjoy hanging out at home and enjoying their family and hobbies. This does not mean that they are afraid of public spaces.

"Introverts don't have low self-esteem."

Confident woman smiling
Colin Hawkins / Stone / Getty Images

Another common misconception about introverts is that they are quiet and reserved because they have low self-esteem or lack self-confidence.

This can be particularly problematic for introverted kids who are constantly pushed into situations by adults who think that socializing is the way to "fix" kids that they perceive as being shy and insecure. Kids who receive constant feedback from adults and peers that there is something fundamentally wrong with their personality just might, however, start to question themselves as a result.

Tip: Don't assume that a reserved kid lacks confidence.

"Introverts don't hate people."

Man and woman talking
Tara Moore / Taxi / Getty Images

People who are introverted are not misanthropic. In fact, introverts are typically very interested in people; they simply feel exhausted by lots of talking and socializing. ​Particularly lots of needless talking.

Small talk is something that makes most introverts cringe. What they need is a reason to talk. Start an interesting conversation about something the introvert cares about and you just might find that they can be the most talkative person in the room.

"Introverts are not broken and don't need to be fixed."

Woman laughing
Adrianko / Cultura / Getty Images

Introversion is often treated as something that needs to be overcome.

Many introverts report that teachers and other adults often forced them into situations where they felt uncomfortable or overwhelmed – making a quiet student take over as the leader of a group, assigning a reserved child the lead role in the class play, and pairing quiet kids with the most extroverted kids in class for group assignments, for example. Such actions are often accompanied with one simple (but woefully misinformed) explanation: "You're too quiet and getting you out there more will help you get over it!"

But introversion isn't something to "get over." Extreme shyness and social anxiety are certainly problems that need to be addressed, particularly if they result in significant distress or impairment in daily life. But these things should be dealt with in a compassionate and professional way. Forcing a shy or anxious child into social situations where they feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable is not the most appropriate way to deal with it.

As noted earlier, being quiet and being shy are not the same thing. Introverts don't need to be broken down and remolded into extroverts.

"Being told that 'you're too quiet' is both rude and insensitive."

Woman with bag over head
Tara Moore / Stone / Getty Images

Introverts are not the only personality types that are misunderstood at times. Extroverts are often accused by those who don't understand them as being loud and overly talkative.

As one reader explains, for an introvert, constantly being told that "you're quiet" is a lot like telling an extrovert that they "never shut up." It's unnecessarily rude and comes with the implication that there is something wrong with the individual.

Both personality types need to make an effort to understand those who differ from them. Introverts have their own needs and quirks, just as extroverts do.

Most importantly, not all introverts (or extroverts) are the same. Painting each personality type with broad strokes misses all the nuances and details that make each person a unique individual. But learning more about how people with these personality types tend to think, act and feel can certainly improve your understanding of people who are different from you.

Special thanks to all of my readers who were willing to share their thoughts and experiences for this piece.