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23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert

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Photo; Flickr/Brian Guest

Photo: Brian Guest/Flickr

Think you can spot an introvert in a crowd? Think again. Although the stereotypical introvert may be the one at the party who’s hanging out alone by the food table fiddling with an iPhone, the “social butterfly” can just as easily have an introverted personality.

“Spotting the introvert can be harder than finding Waldo,” Sophia Dembling, author of “The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World,” tells The Huffington Post. “A lot of introverts can pass as extroverts.”

People are frequently unaware that they’re introverts -– especially if they’re not shy — because they may not realize that being an introvert is about more than just cultivating time alone. Instead, it can be more instructive to pay attention to whether they’re losing or gaining energy from being around others, even if the company of friends gives them pleasure.

“Introversion is a basic temperament, so the social aspect — which is what people focus on — is really a small part of being an introvert,” Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, psychotherapist and author of “The Introvert Advantage,” said in a Mensa discussion. “It affects everything in your life.”

Despite the growing conversation around introversion, it remains a frequently misunderstood personality trait. As recently as 2010, the American Psychiatric Association even considered classifying “introverted personality” as a disorder by listing it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), a manual used to diagnose mental illness.

But more and more introverts are speaking out about what it means to be a “quiet” type. Not sure if you’re an innie or an outie? See if any of these 23 telltale signs of introversion apply to you.

1. You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.

Introverts are notoriously small talk-phobic, as they find idle chatter to be a source of anxiety, or at least annoyance. For many quiet types, chitchat can feel disingenuous.

“Let’s clear one thing up: Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people,” Laurie Helgoe writes in “Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength.” “We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.”

2. You go to parties -– but not to meet people.

If you’re an introvert, you may sometimes enjoy going to parties, but chances are, you’re not going because you’re excited to meet new people. At a party, most introverts would rather spend time with people they already know and feel comfortable around. If you happen to meet a new person that you connect with, great — but meeting people is rarely the goal.

3. You often feel alone in a crowd.

Ever feel like an outsider in the middle of social gatherings and group activities, even with people you know?

“If you tend to find yourself feeling alone in a crowd, you might be an introvert,” says Dembling. “We might let friends or activities pick us, rather than extending our own invitations.”

4. Networking makes you feel like a phony.

Networking (read: small-talk with the end goal of advancing your career) can feel particularly disingenuous for introverts, who crave authenticity in their interactions.

“Networking is stressful if we do it in the ways that are stressful to us,” Dembling says, advising introverts to network in small, intimate groups rather than at large mixers.

5. You’ve been called “too intense.”

Do you have a penchant for philosophical conversations and a love of thought-provoking books and movies? If so, you’re a textbook introvert.

“Introverts like to jump into the deep end,” says Dembling.

6. You’re easily distracted.

While extroverts tend to get bored easily when they don’t have enough to do, introverts have the opposite problem — they get easily distracted and overwhelmed in environments with an excess of stimulation.

“Extroverts are commonly found to be more easily bored than introverts on monotonous tasks, probably because they require and thrive on high levels of stimulation,” Clark University researchers wrote in a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “In contrast, introverts are more easily distracted than extroverts and, hence, prefer relatively unstimulating environments.”

7. Downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you.

One of the most fundamental characteristics of introverts is that they need time alone to recharge their batteries. Whereas an extrovert might get bored or antsy spending a day at home alone with tea and a stack of magazines, this sort of down time feels necessary and satisfying to an introvert.

8. Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.

Introverts can be excellent leaders and public speakers — and although they’re stereotyped as being the shrinking violet, they don’t necessarily shy away from the spotlight. Performers like Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera and Emma Watson all identify as introverts, and an estimated 40 percent of CEOs have introverted personalities. Instead, an introvert might struggle more with meeting and greeting large groups of people on an individual basis.

9. When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench -– not in the middle.

Whenever possible, introverts tend to avoid being surrounded by people on all sides.

“We’re likely to sit in places where we can get away when we’re ready to — easily,” says Dembling. “When I go to the theatre, I want the aisle seat or the back seat.”

10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.

Do you start to get tired and unresponsive after you’ve been out and about for too long? It’s likely because you’re trying to conserve energy. Everything introverts do in the outside world causes them to expend energy, after which they’ll need to go back and replenish their stores in a quiet environment, says Dembling. Short of a quiet place to go, many introverts will resort to zoning out.

11. You’re in a relationship with an extrovert.

It’s true that opposites attract, and introverts frequently gravitate towards outgoing extroverts who encourage them to have fun and not take themselves too seriously.

“Introverts are sometimes drawn to extroverts because they like being able to ride their ‘fun bubble,'” Dembling says.

12. You’d rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.

The dominant brain pathways introverts use is one that allows you to focus and think about things for a while, so they’re geared toward intense study and developing expertise, according to Olsen Laney.

13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.

Because really, is anything more terrifying?

14. You screen all your calls — even from friends.

You may not pick up your phone even from people you like, but you’ll call them back as soon as you’re mentally prepared and have gathered the energy for the conversation.

“To me, a ringing phone is like having somebody jump out of a closet and go ‘BOO!,'” says Dembling. “I do like having a long, nice phone call with a friend — as long as it’s not jumping out of the sky at me.”

15. You notice details that others don’t.

The upside of being overwhelmed by too much stimuli is that introverts often have a keen eye for detail, noticing things that may escape others around them. Research has found that introverts exhibit increased brain activity when processing visual information, as compared to extroverts.

16. You have a constantly running interior monologue.

“Extroverts don’t have the same internal talking as we do,” says Olsen Laney. “Most introverts need to think first and talk later.”

17. You have low blood pressure.

A 2006 Japanese study found that introverts tend to have lower blood pressure than their extroverted counterparts.

18. You’ve been called an “old soul” -– since your 20s.

Introverts observe and take in a lot of information, and they think before they speak, leading them to appear wise to others.

“Introverts tend to think hard and be analytical,” says Dembling. “That can make them seem wise.”

19. You don’t feel “high” from your surroundings

Neurochemically speaking, things like huge parties just aren’t your thing. Extroverts and introverts differ significantly in how their brains process experiences through “reward” centers.

Researchers demonstrated this phenomenon by giving Ritalin — the ADHD drug that stimulates dopamine production in the brain — to introverted and extroverted college students. They found that extroverts were more likely to associate the feeling of euphoria achieved by the rush of dopamine with the environment they were in. Introverts, by contrast, did not connect the feeling of reward to their surroundings. The study “suggests that introverts have a fundamental difference in how strongly they process rewards from their environment, with the brains of introverts weighing internal cues more strongly than external motivational and reward cues,” explained LiveScience’s Tia Ghose.

20. You look at the big picture.

When describing the way that introverts think, Jung explained that they’re more interested in ideas and the big picture rather than facts and details. Of course, many introverts excel in detail-oriented tasks — but they often have a mind for more abstract concepts as well.

“Introverts do really enjoy abstract discussion,” says Dembling.

21. You’ve been told to “come out of your shell.”

Many introverted children come to believe that there’s something “wrong” with them if they’re naturally less outspoken and assertive than their peers. Introverted adults often say that as children, they were told to come out of their shells or participate more in class.

22. You’re a writer.

Introverts are often better at communicating in writing than in person, and many are drawn to the solitary, creative profession of writing. Most introverts — like “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling — say that they feel most creatively charged when they have time to be alone with their thoughts.

23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity.

Introverts can move around their introverted “set point” which determines how they need to balance solitude with social activity. But when they move too much — possibly by over-exerting themselves with too much socializing and busyness — they get stressed and need to come back to themselves, according Olsen Laney. This may manifest as going through periods of heightened social activity, and then balancing it out with a period of inwardness and solitude.

“There’s a recovery point that seems to be correlated with how much interaction you’ve done,” says Dembling. “We all have our own private cycles.”

~ Carolyn Gregoire

15 Responses

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  1. Honest to goodness – I’m sitting here laughing because I just finished reading The Hidden Damages of the List-Making Trend . What you’ve posted here is very interesting, and what the other author has to say is intriguing – but taken together, they’re really thought-provoking.

    Thanks for a smile and a good read. Clearly, I’ve been coming out of my shell the past couple of decades. I used to be terribly shy. Now? Not so much, even though I tend to be quiet.


    August 31, 2013 at 10:11 am

  2. Glad that this post made you smile. :-)

    Same here, Linda. I use to be very shy too, especially during my teens – finding it very difficult to relate to people in social situations. But since then I’ve learned to get out of my shell. (Although Jojang says that she knew I was shy when we first met. But I was fortunate, because she said to me later that she gets attracted to shy men! :-)) I remember during that time buying books on how to overcome shyness, how to hold a conversation, how to be assertive, etc.! I’d like to think now that I’ve overcome my shyness, but I’ll still probably remain an introvert throughout my life since I’m reenergized not when I’m with people, but when I’m alone by myself. Also, I found in myself 90% of the personality traits of introverts mentioned in the article!

    ~ Matt


    August 31, 2013 at 10:41 am

  3. I find a lot of people are surprised by #8, being able to speak in front of a crowd, but not mingle one-on-one. I always chalked that up to my shyness, not the introversion. Maybe I need to review that, particularly based on how I interact with people on a regular basis both professionally and personally.


    August 31, 2013 at 9:33 pm

  4. Senojeiram, before I was aware of it, I was also very much surprised by #8. As a former missionary, one of the things that I used to do was give talks to groups of people, sometimes in the hundreds or even in the thousands – in conferences, seminars, retreats etc. I would tell my wife, Jojang, that it’s kinda weird that I find it much more comfortable talking to large groups of people – in fact, the larger the better – than relate to people one-on-one. Now, I realize that I’m not weird after all, that this is just another personality trait of an introvert. Glad that books and articles on introversion like these are being written. As a certified introvert, it really helps me understand myself…

    ~ Matt


    September 1, 2013 at 8:45 am

  5. I used to think I was an extrovert until my late 20s, when I really started to crave for some alone time. I then started to think that maybe I was an introvert all along and I just didn’t know it. But reading this list makes me feel like I’m both. Is it actually possible to be both an intro and an extrovert??


    September 1, 2013 at 3:49 am

  6. A lot people are like you, Mamajad. Actually, introversion and shyness are two different things. Most people confuse them to be the same. This what the article points out:

    “People are frequently unaware that they’re introverts -– especially if they’re not shy — because they may not realize that being an introvert is about more than just cultivating time alone. Instead, it can be more instructive to pay attention to whether they’re losing or gaining energy from being around others, even if the company of friends gives them pleasure.”

    As to your question whether it is possible to be both an introvert and an extrovert, the answer is yes. In fact, my wife, Jojang is 50% introvert and 50% extrovert! We found this out by taking this short quiz –Quiet Quiz: Are You An Introvert Or An Extrovert. The quiz is taken from Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” I, for my part, wasn’t surprised that the results of the quiz showed that I’m a 100% certified introvert!

    ~ Matt


    September 1, 2013 at 9:04 am

  7. herdevillips

    October 8, 2013 at 3:08 am

  8. It’s like someone just opened me up and did an analysis! Man, Science rocks! :)


    November 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm

  9. Exactly, Sanzie! I felt the same way. Quite liberating to accept one’s personality type and come out in the open as an introvert. Glad to know, too, that there are a lot of introverts like us out there…



    November 7, 2013 at 8:44 am

  10. These are some of the most accurate “signs” of introversion that I have read. They seem to be supported by research in the field of psychological personality traits.


    May 27, 2015 at 8:47 pm

  11. I agree, tjramage74. I’m glad that lately there are quite a number of books and articles coming out discussing introversion, especially its positive aspects. For so long now, in our extroverted-oriented world, where oftentimes introverts are considered too self-absorbed and dysfunctional, it has helped me embrace who I really am and appreciate my gifts as an introvert…



    May 28, 2015 at 9:25 am

  12. It is really very accurate. Most of the signs apply to me personally. For example, being in the tram. Either I sit at the end of the bench, or I do not sit at all because sitting too close to other people interferes with my personal space. Also # 14 I can identify with. At first, when I hear the phone ringing it feels like an alarm bell making me very uncomfortable because I do not know who is calling and if it is a stranger I really need to mentally prepare for answering the phone call. So if I do not feel ready I leave it and call back later. Before I knew I was an introvert, I asked myself why it was so stressful and hard for me because it is just a simple everyday life situtation everyone does and no one ever seemed to have a problem with it. I still struggle with it, but I can reflect on it from another perspective and that helps a lot. Now I know much better what I need and what I should avoid in order to handle those situations.

    Ana Salsbury

    June 28, 2015 at 5:34 pm

  13. I, too, Ana, could totally relate to the article. Even before reading this, especially after reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I realized that I was an introvert.

    As to answering phones, I thought I was strange or weird because I really hated answering phone calls. It was a great relief when I found out that I wasn’t alone; many introverts feel this way.

    It is indeed liberating to find out that there’s nothing wrong us. In fact, as introverts, we need to embrace who we are and live our lives the way we were created, and not against it…



    June 29, 2015 at 8:54 am

  14. I’m absolutely with you. We should try to use the resources we have and not try to conform at any price.

    Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet’ was actually my next project. I’m really looking forward to reading it. Seems to offer some great insight.

    Ana Salsbury

    June 30, 2015 at 3:41 am

  15. Ana, reading Susan Cain’s “Quiet” was a life-changing event for me! It was the book that made me embrace my introverted personality. And that was a liberating experience for me…



    July 1, 2015 at 8:26 am

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