The Student Movement


The Scoop on Introverts: What Extroverts Need to Know

Isabelle Martinez

Photo by public domain

There are around 8 billion people in the world. And an estimated 25-40% of this number (according to verywellmind.com) are people who identify as introverts. I am one of them. Now, what are introverts, exactly? The Dictionary definition of the word “Introvert” is, “a shy, reticent person.” And throughout the years, this is what many extroverted people have come to believe of their introverted peers: shy, quiet people who huddle in the corner, out of the spotlight.

But the truth is, there is so much more to introverts than first meets the eye. However, it can be challenging as an introvert when the extroverted people around you don’t really understand what your experience is like. It can be especially difficult within the university setting, where the social environment is fitted to fulfill the needs of extroverts rather than introverts.

Speaking from my experience, it’s been hard trying to adjust to a new place as an introvert, especially with all the fun events on campus that can make me feel overwhelmed at times. For example, I ended up walking to Noche Latina (AULA’s evening celebration of Latin heritage and culture) two times, because I felt so uncomfortable going to a party with so many people by myself. I had a good time, but I felt a bit exhausted by the end. This may be a foreign concept to some extroverts, so here are three facts about introverts that extroverts should know:

1. There is more than one kind of an introvert
First, let’s get this out of the way. Just because someone is shy, it doesn’t automatically mean they are introverted. Shyness is an emotion; introversion is a personality type. And even within the personality type of being an introvert, there are many differences and nuances from person to person. In 2011, psychologist and researcher Jonathan Cheek (Ph.D.) developed the STAR model of introversion. He used this to dig deeper and to explain the four main types of introverts found in the world.
The first is “Social Introvert.” According to Cheek, a social introvert isn’t really shy, but they value alone time and simple social interactions. They prefer intimate gatherings as opposed to huge, loud events, and prefer a few close friends over a bunch of distant ones. These introverts can be a calming presence for those who suffer from social anxiety or prefer to be in the background.

The second type is the “Thinking Introvert.” In Cheek’s research, this kind of introvert is the kind of person who tends to be a bit quiet, but when they do say something, it’s profound. These people love to hypothesize, create, and tell stories and can (unintentionally) prioritize these things in their mental space over other people. Sometimes they may come off as distant or spacey, but when these introverts talk, people listen.

The third type of introvert is the “Anxious Introvert.” These people feel genuinely uncomfortable in large group settings, even when they’re by themselves. They may suffer from social anxiety or something similar, but this is not always the case. However, despite this, they possess a quiet strength. They find ways to help or interact behind the scenes. For example, if they’ve been invited to a party or event of some sort they might go early to help set up and prepare ahead of time. It also may be easier for them to arrive before too many people show up, because showing up when there is already a large group can be overwhelming and throw the individual off (speaking from experience). In this way, going early allows them to acclimate.

Cheek’s fourth type of introvert is a “Restrained Introvert.” A restrained introvert might have a wall up and seems guarded at the first meeting. Eventually, though, they’ll pop out of their shell and be more open. But before that happens, they can also be a grounding force for whatever group they’re in. They tend to be level-headed and use common sense.

Now, these four types are much more nuanced than just what is written, and many introverts may even identify with more than one. I personally see many traits from each of the four types in myself. And the end of it all though, introverts, like all human beings, are complex, nuanced people, and no amount of research or statistics or data can ever fully identify every trait in every person. And no two introverts are exactly the same. So, if you ever interact with introverts, don’t write them all off as the same. Treat them as an individual. Try to understand their characteristics and meet them where they are.

2. Introverts desire connection
One of the negative stereotypes about introverts is that they are anti-social. But in actuality, most introverts long to have friends. Now, they may not want a whole group of friends, but they do want a few close friends, whom they can connect with on an intimate level. Kyra Hamstra (freshman, pre-physical therapy), had this to say in relation to introverts wanting connection: “I wish people knew that even though introverts can be shy, they still want friendship just like extroverts.”

We were not made to be alone. Every human being desires connection, and community—introverts included. While it’s true that introverts value their alone time, many of them, including myself, hate the feeling of loneliness. We want to know that there are people out there who we can feel comfortable with, people who have our best interests at heart. That’s why college can be a difficult time for some people. Not only are you in a place with thousands of people, but you may also  not know anyone, so the feeling of loneliness can be crushing. Of course, introverts tend to have a harder time with small talk, preferring more meaningful conversations. This can make it difficult to start conversations with new people, especially for the more quiet introverts. Speaking from my own experience, I know I prefer when someone else starts and carries the conversation because it takes the pressure off of me to think of something to say. However, in other friend groups, the quieter introverts may feel like the extroverts take up all the oxygen and feel left out. This is also the case in other kinds of relationships. As a woman, I often feel that men tend to romantically pursue more extroverted women because they are the most “noticeable.” It can be difficult to feel unseen and looked over, especially when the want to be loved is a universally human experience. So notice the introverts. Talk to them, and form connections with them.

3. Introverts have a voice
In the previous section, I mentioned how sometimes introverts feel as if extroverts take up all of the oxygen in the room, and feel left out. This is something that many introverts deal with in many parts of their lives. Laralyn Kinard (freshman, animal science) had this to say in regard to introverts being ignored: “I wish people knew that just because I don’t talk a lot (it) doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say. And when I do they tend to not listen.”

This is a sentiment many introverts can relate to. Since many people pass off introverts as “quiet,” they sometimes don’t listen when they try to say something. I know myself there have been many times when I have tried to say something within a friend group that went on deaf ears. But we introverts have things to say too! We are reserved because that’s how we process, and as we process we develop our own thoughts and ideas. Yes, some introverts may be more inclined to stay silent than others, but they should all be given the chance to be heard when they decide to speak.Introverts also make great leaders! Just because we may not be as outgoing or loud as extroverts, it doesn't mean we can't lead. Introverts possess an inner strength that is unique to them. Many famous individuals, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, and Nelson Mandela, were introverts. And look how they impacted the world! Introverts can be leaders too, and we have a voice.

So, if you are an extrovert and have any introverted friends in your life,  I hope you will now see them in a different light and understand them better. They are so much more than being shy or quiet.  And college can be a difficult time for them, especially for my fellow freshmen introverts. So get to know them, and form connections with them. And don’t be offended when we need our alone time. It’s how we recharge our social batteries!

The Student Movement is the official student newspaper of Andrews University. Opinions expressed in the Student Movement are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, Andrews University or the Seventh-day Adventist church.