There are a lot of myths that come with being an introvert. And there are plenty of things that introverts would love for others to know, just to make things clearer. So Reddit user Velvetxily asked their fellow internet introverts to share one thing they’d wish that extroverts would understand about them in a viral thread. Scroll down, upvote the responses that you agree with, and let us know whether you think you’re an introvert or an extrovert in the comments, dear Pandas.
Bored Panda reached out to Velvetxily and spoke to her about her viral thread, the inspiration behind it, and what she thinks about the dynamic between introverts and extroverts. "I myself an introvert," she admitted, adding that she created the thread to understand how all the other introverts feel about the myths that surround them. "The greatest myth is that introverts are shy and extroverts are not shy. I think it's not about shyness. Introverts gain energy by being alone and extroverts gain energy by being with others."
We also spoke to Dr. Andrew Spark from the Queensland University of Technology, who has done research about the link between introversion and leadership. “It is clear that introverts think about social interaction differently to extraverts, which may result in introverts choosing not to engage in the behaviors that may assist them into leadership roles (despite being perfectly capable of engaging in such behaviors).” Read on for Dr. Spark’s insightful and detailed analysis, as well as his take on the myths surrounding introversion.
“My research on introversion and leadership focuses on how introverts and extroverts think and feel about the behaviors required of leaders in leadership situations. Leadership roles typically require one to act in ways that are generally better suited to extroverts (e.g., to be assertive, social, bold, etc.). For many decades, we have known that extroverts tend to perform better in leadership roles and are selected into leadership roles more often, however, more recent scientific work has been exploring how and why this happens,” Dr. Spark from QUT told Bored Panda.
“In my own work, my colleagues and I found that one of the reasons introverts are not seen to be as ‘leaderlike’ by others is because they think that leadership situations are going to be unpleasant. The technical name for this is ‘affective forecasting.’ Affective forecasting refers to the expectation we have of our future emotions, which is to say that we make a prediction about how we will feel in a future situation.”
He continued: “Introverts are known to underpredict how good they will feel in future social interactions if they forecast themselves acting extroverted (because, perhaps surprisingly, acting extroverted is actually quite enjoyable, even for introverts). Given leadership situations require extroverted behavior, we expected that introverts’ propensity to forecast more negative affect would probably help to explain why they do not rise into leadership positions as much as extroverts. This is indeed what we found.”
Dr. Spark told us that the question now is whether we can change how introverts think about social interaction so that they could have a better chance of rising into leadership positions. He added that this can be important because, in some situations, introverts can be more effective than extroverts. “We simply don’t know the answer to this yet, though, so more research is needed.”
The researcher told Bored Panda that one of the biggest myths surrounding introversion and extroversion is that they’re common. “Because extroversion is a continuum, most people actually fall somewhere around the middle of the continuum. These people are sometimes called ‘ambiverts.’”
Dr. Spark continued: “Also, there is no official cut-off on someone’s score before they are said to be an extrovert or an introvert, however, as a very rough rule of thumb (assuming you really want to divide people up into categories) it would not be unreasonable to say that 15-20% of the population are noticeably extroverted and 15-20% of the population are noticeably introverted. The remaining 60-70% of the population are probably more difficult to pigeon hole and hence may be better thought of as ambiverts.”
According to Dr. Spark, another myth is that introverts can’t be extroverted. “A large body of evidence shows that introverted people actually engage in quite a number of extroverted behaviors in their daily lives as the specific situation demands, despite having a preference to be quiet and reserved. Equally, extroverted people engage in quite a number of introverted behaviors in their daily lives. That said, it is interesting that extroverted people have been shown to sometimes struggle when having to act introverted (e.g., in this study, they experienced a decline in their cognitive ability).”
Bored Panda was also interested to hear Dr. Spark’s thoughts about the link between introversion and having to ‘recharge’ more often from social interactions.
“It is a common assumption that introverts need to recharge more after social interaction. However, the research on this issue is mixed. For example, in this study, scientists found that both introverts and extroverts experienced mental depletion after interacting with others and that this depletion occurred approximately 3 hours after the interaction,” he went into detail.
“It didn’t make any difference if the person was introverted or extroverted. Then again, this study found that introverts experience slightly more negative emotion, tiredness and more feelings of inauthenticity when acting extroverted, despite also experiencing more positive emotion (note that positive and negative emotion are actually different processes rather than being polar opposites, so it is possible to be high on both). The jury is still out on this issue, which might come as a surprise to many!”
Dr. Spark added: “A lot more research needs to be done to understand how and why introverts think differently and whether we can uncover ways to encourage introverts into leadership positions given that they are quite capable of effective leadership in certain situations.”
Velvetxily, who created the original Reddit thread, told us that, in their opinion, the line between introverts and extroverts is this: "[People] feeling happiness and satisfaction with being with themselves are introverts. [People] feeling happiness and satisfaction with being with others are extroverts."
The redditor shared that they live in a suburban area in a developing country where there's a lot of pressure to speak up, have many friends, and to be more social. "Some of them don't even about a term 'introvert.' They always ask 'Why are you so quiet? Why don't you speak freely like others?." I hope that this stigma get removed. I wish that being introvert should be accepted as normal thing in the society."
Velvetxily’s thread was wildly successful. Not only did they get over 15.8k upvotes and a handful of Reddit awards, but their post also started a massive discussion with more than 5.5k comments! That just shows how many misconceptions extroverts might have about their introverted pals.
Myths like the idea that introverts are shy and hate socializing with people end up confusing us. Dr. Juli Fraga told Healthline that introversion and extroversion are personality characteristics that are influenced by nature and nurture. They’re deal more with how we recharge, less with how we act.
“Extroversion and introversion refer to where people receive energy from. Extroverts are energized by socializing in larger groups of people, having many friends, instead of a few intimate ones while introverts are energized by spending time alone or with a smaller group of friends,” the psychologist explained.
Dr. Fraga pointed out that introverts aren’t anti-social or anything like that. They enjoy building relationships and socializing with others just as much as extroverts. However, one thing that’s different is their “tolerance level” for how much socializing they’re comfortable with.
If you’re at a party that goes on for a week straight, you’ll eventually find that you have a limit for how much you can socialize, too, even if you’re the biggest extrovert around. Introverts simply need more breaks from socializing so that they can be fully invested when they’re hanging out with the people that they care about.
Another myth that needs to be busted is that introverts supposedly take fewer risks than extroverts. According to Dr. Fraga, our fears and desires are distinct from being intro- and extroverted.
She also pointed out that people tend to mix confidence and being an extrovert together which creates misconceptions about introverts supposedly being shy. Dr. Fraga said that confidence isn’t about being social all the time and having a huge number of friends; confidence is all about knowing what’s best for you and following through.