Introvert, Shy and Antisocial – Know the Difference

”To reclaim the power of introversion, we must first deconstruct the assumptions we make about who we are.”

Writes Laurie Helgoe in her book ‘Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength’

Laurie Helgoe is an American Psychologist and an author, having written several books on behavioral psychology. I recently started her book ‘Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength’ and would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand introversion better.

In the very first chapter of the book, titled Mistaken Identity, she points out that there are a few terms wrongly associated with introversion; people often call introverts antisocial and shy without even properly understanding what those terms mean. And it’s not only the extroverts but even introverts misunderstand themselves and feel like their introversion is a problem that needs to be fixed.

She asks in the book,

“Do you ever jokingly or apologetically admit to being antisocial, or view yourself as boring in relation to your chatty associates? Do you beat yourself up for not joining in? Do you worry that something is wrong with you; that you’re missing out; that who you are naturally is a problem needing correction?”

If, like me, you answered yes to these questions too, it’s time to clear these misconceptions, understand some terms better and reclaim our power of introversion.

Are introverts antisocial?

Well, no. Introverts are not antisocial. And when people use the word antisocial in this context, more often than not they are using the wrong word. Here’s the definition of antisocial from the book,

“The term “antisocial” actually refers to sociopathy (or antisocial personality disorder), a condition in which a person lacks a social conscience. This has nothing to do with introversion.”

This is how Wikipedia defines the term ‘antisocial’,

“Anti-social behaviours are actions that harm or lack consideration for the well-being of others. It has also been defined as any type of conduct that violates the basic rights of another person and any behaviour that is considered to be disruptive to others in society.”

So, you see, this does not have anything to do with introversion.
I guess when people say Introverts are antisocial they actually mean to say asocial, which raises another question.

Are introverts asocial?

It’s understandable why people get this confused with introversion because introverts do have a preference for solitary activities. But to say that they don’t ever want to engage in social interaction is completely wrong.

Laurie puts it accurately in her book,

“An introvert may feel asocial when pressured to go to a party that doesn’t interest her. Her social preference may be to stay home and reflect on a conversation with a friend, call that friend, and come to an understanding that is meaningful to her.”

While extroverts are comfortable with socializing in large groups, introverts converse better in small groups and preferably one-on-one conversations. And after they are done socializing (and lost energy while doing so), they like being alone for a while to recharge themselves again.

Difference between shyness and introversion

Healthline describes shyness as,

“Shyness is a feeling of fear or discomfort caused by other people, especially in new situations or among strangers. It’s an unpleasant feeling of self-consciousness — a fear of what some people believe others are thinking.”

A shy person might want to socialize but would avoid it out of fear.

While on the other hand, an introvert would avoid socializing out of choice because they feel drained and need to recharge. But why would they feel drained? Hans Eysenck knows why.Psychologist Hans Eysenck described extroverts and introverts by their base-line of arousal i.e. Introverts require less stimulus to feel satisfied as compared to extroverts. Hence, the amount of stimulus that feels normal to an extrovert becomes exhausting for an introvert. If you’re interested, there’s an asapSCIENCE video that briefly explains the science behind introverted and extroverted personalities.

Introverted vs Shy

Also, this does not mean that no introvert is ever shy. I am a shy introvert. I sometimes cancel plans not out of choice but out of fear. So shyness and introversion aren’t mutually exclusive.

But what I am trying to explain here is introversion itself isn’t shyness, and not all introverts are necessarily shy or asocial.
As Susan Cain says,

“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured… Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.”

Be yourself, Be awesome.

Good day!

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