Social Question

Disc2021's avatar

Why are introverts so frowned upon?

Asked by Disc2021 (4483 points ) March 31st, 2010

Okay, so I’m introvert. I’m not extremely shy or anything and it’s not like I avoid social attention at all costs. I’m really a nice guy (or at least in my opinion),I’m fairly friendly and I like making new friends. When it comes down to it, though, I’m not a huge socialite, I never need to be the life of the party and I’m definitely not a “people-pleaser”. I’m more comfortable with a handful of good friends than I am with a large web of good acquaintances. I give most people a fair chance but I’m very selective with who I let in 100%. I take time to open up and sometimes (or maybe a lot of the times), I just need my alone time.

I definitely see the merit to having a large network, but I dont understand why the term “introvert” carries such a negative connotation with it. It seems to imply that just because a person isn’t an expert at making new friends or doesn’t plaster themselves across town looking for new friends that they’re somehow “different” and should be avoided. Why is “extroverted” the inherent better or more preferred term?

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61 Answers

filmfann's avatar

People respect confidence, even when it is misplaced. Introverts may be quite capable, but display no real self-confidence.

DarkScribe's avatar

I have never frowned on an introvert for being an introvert. You would have to know them fairly well to discern whether they were introverted or not (they could be an extrovert having an introspective moment – we do sometimes) and by that stage – if you were inclined to frown at them, it would probably be for another reason entirely.

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t think that’s true at all, @filmfann. Do I not display self-confidence?

I don’t think introverts are frowned upon. But introverts do have to make an extra effort to reach out and connect. And we can train ourselves to do it without too much discomfort.

DominicX's avatar

It doesn’t carry a negative connotation for me and I’m not an introvert.

It carries a negative connotation for people who don’t understand it and think that introverts are anti-social and hate other people and such. Because extroverts may have a hard time relating to introverts or may feel offended when an introvert doesn’t want to hang out with them, it creates a negative image of it in their minds, but what the problem really is is that they don’t quite understand it fully. The more people understand anything, the less negatively it’s looked upon as.

ftp901's avatar

Everything you’ve said above describes me perfectly as well. All my life I’ve experienced this. I think it’s because extroverts are the ones doing all the talking so the definition that is out there of introverted/shy/quiet people has been defined by extroverts.

One piece of insight I’ve gotten from a very extroverted person I know is that they are suspicious of quiet people – as an extrovert, she finds it hard to trust introverts because they don’t know much about them.

boxing's avatar

Do you really think you are introvert? From what your description you don’t quite fit the definition of “introvert”.

(Psychology) a person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings.

You are just quiet, a bit shy and don’t social that much. Totally not introvert.

Jayy's avatar

I find introverts are usually more unique as they spend more time with themselves contemplating on how the world works. If anything should be placed higher than the sheepish extroverts. But then again humans are social animals.

ftp901's avatar

@filmfann – I have to disagree with you.

I’m an introvert and I’ve actually had many colleagues explicity tell me that they think I’m very knowlegeable, capable and they have alot of respect for me.

Also, I work with many introverted people whom I would consider very confident and that I respect very much. There are ways to express confidence other than talking about how great you are all the time.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Extroverts mistake this for being “stuck up”.

ftp901's avatar

Your description sounds like an introvert according to Myers-Briggs, especially “I take time to open up and sometimes (or maybe a lot of the times), I just need my alone time.”

Introverts do socialize and talk, they just need alone time to recharge.

Disc2021's avatar

@boxing No, that’s the funny thing. I think that’s just the category I’m placed in by most. More precisely, I dont think it’s nearly as black and white as “introvert” and “extrovert”.

Thought provoking responses so far though =D, keep em’ coming!

j0ey's avatar

I am an introvert….yet I am not shy/lack confidence….I’m a group fitness instructor.

The real difference between Introverts and Extroverts is that Intros get there energy from themselves, and are drained by social interaction, and thus are not as social as Extros who are energized by social interaction, and find them selves feeling “flat” if they dont get enough.

It doesn’t mean that your shy/lack confidence, or even that you dont like people. Its just you dont get the same buzz out of a crowded room.

YAY FOR INTROS

ftp901's avatar

@Captain_Fantasy – you are on to something there. I’ve experienced this when I was in public/high school. I would hear through the grapevine that people thought I was “stuck up” when the truth was I just didn’t want to

I think it all goes back to extroverts being mistrustful of introverts because they can’t get a handle on them – they can’t understand what makes the introvert tick and they don’t know what the introvert is thinking because the introverts doesn’t lay all their cards on the table. I’ve heard & experienced it all my life and I’m starting to come to this conclusion.

Your right, I think everyone is a mix of different amounts of introvert/extrovert. It isn’t either/or.

Vunessuh's avatar

@filmfann I couldn’t disagree with you more.

I think @Captain_Fantasy is on to something. Many people view introverts as being ‘too good for everyone else’ just because they don’t socialize as much.

DominicX's avatar

@Jayy

“the sheepish extroverts”

It’s this attitude that I really can’t stand at all and to me, is being “stuck up”. Sometimes I get the feeling that extroverts are misunderstood just as much as introverts are.

silverfly's avatar

I didn’t know this was such a big debate. Maybe the introvert / extrovert line is a little more blurry than we know. I think there’s just a quick reaction to judge and label anything, so there’s going to be negative connotations for everything we can’t relate to.

ftp901's avatar

This “negative connotation” business is addressed in this book:

http://www.theintrovertadvantage.com/advantage.html

ftp901's avatar

I don’t remember everything it says in the book but it says something like 75% of the world is extroverted so they are the ones who get all the limelight & rewards in school and work and the introvert is marginalized by them.

Trillian's avatar

I’ve never heard that it does any such thing. In fact, I feel like the fruit cake more often than not for speaking out in a crowd of strangers when I feel the topic warrants it.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

I think most of the problems lie with introverts not being well-understood by those who are not introverts. (@filmfann“s answer may be an example of this). People may confuse being introverted with not having confidence, being selfish, being stuck-up, or misanthropy. As an introvert myself, I’ve seen how people have misjudged me as such in the past. In reality, I just find comfort in partial solitude, and “recharge” better in the company of my own thoughts than with other people.

MissAnthrope's avatar

The difference between introverts and extroverts is that introverts understand how extroverts go through the world. It’s very plain because the extroverts make it quite obvious, lay it all out on the table, so to speak. Introverts are good at observing and making inferences. We also recognize that we’re different, but the world is run by extroverts, who don’t get us and think we’re weird. :P

On the other hand, extroverts simply cannot fathom the way that introverts go through the world. They just can’t seem to get that we need solitude because they can’t stand it. They don’t get certain things like that, like why we’d often prefer to stay at home, because they themselves don’t work that way.

rahm_sahriv's avatar

Because the rest of society thinks we are plotting something? :P

Kidding of course.

I think it might be more a case of others not understanding and thus being less tolerant and even afraid of what they don’t understand.

Do what feels natural and right to you. I certainly would rather have a few close friends than just have a whole bunch of people that I know but am not all that close with.

DominicX's avatar

@rahm_sahriv

For the record, extroverts do have close friends, they just have more friends in addition to those close friends and don’t necessarily restrict themselves to a small number of close friends.

MrsDufresne's avatar

Because they are mysterious, and people tend to fear (and rebuke) the unknown.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m not sure I would say that introverts are frowned on. Maybe in comparison.

Extroverts are seen as being more capable of success to a certain portion of society. Extroverts are good at sales and they may be good at rallying the troops and inspiring people. Certainly they can be the life of the party.

But most things can be done by introverts, too. You don’t have to be outgoing and gregarious to inspire troops. In fact, some troops are downright disinspired by such people. You can be an introvert and still be an excellent actor. I could go on and on. I hope you see the point.

I think these notions about introverts and extroverts are largely myth. From what I can tell, if you listen to people describing themselves, you’ll find out that only ten percent of the population are extroverts. Most people, I would hazard a guess, consider themselves to be introverts.

The reason what introverts are frowned upon, if, indeed, they are, is because people have a lot of misconceptions about the realities of human personality. Labels, basically, are nonsense, and yet they influence our ideas of ourselves far too strongly. It’s hogwash! Ignore it!

zophu's avatar

Lone wolves become so, usually because they’re rejected, often at a young age. Most are weak and any pity spared by the pack would be a waste, so they are ignored and then snarled at when they beg for attention. Those that aren’t so week often steal food from the pack to survive and so they are marked as thieves, killed on sight.

The very few who survive and find unique strength on their own may use that unsuspected strength to take down the pack leader and gain control of the pack, leading it in a new direction—exposing it to new dangers and new possibilities.

The fabled misfits, who disconnect from their kind so completely, but still find means to survive; and then go beyond those means of basic survival, following a purpose greater than the pack’s—harnessing that purpose and bringing it back. That is ascension, and it is only possible because of the dangerous, mostly useless misfits. So, healthy societies tolerate those that turn away from them in pursuit of something greater; but they are weary as well.

Introverts may just be people who’s personality doesn’t appreciate general society and so they turn away a little. While other people who love joy and see the best in people can accept lots of people into their circles of friends and get along just fine. Everybody’s special and all that. . . Or maybe “introvert” is just a term used to lable people who suffer the effects of being more aware of the fact that all humanity’s proclivity is left unsatisfied by general society, and those who are well adapted to it are the fools dooming us all to fall under the weight of their unsustainable world. Whichever.

Jeruba's avatar

I can’t agree with your take, either, @MissAnthrope. I do not understand how extroverts go through the world. I used to think they were just better at concealing their misery than I was. I have a friend who likes to fill up her datebook from morning to night every day of the week, and I cannot imagine how she stands it. When I look at my calendar and see a whole month with nothing written on any of the weekends, I am in bliss. If I have to go out too many nights in a row (like two), I start to feel agitated. Make it three and I can feel myself getting painfully off kilter.

There’s a question on some standardized text such as Myers-Briggs that goes something like this: “Do social events recharge your batteries or drain your batteries?” Reading that question was a revelation to me. I didn’t know they recharged anyone’s batteries. I was well past 40 when it dawned on me for the first time that people who plan group events such as parties, company picnics, etc., must actually like them. They must not see them as torture. (I always wondered why anyone insisted on holding those things, thinking everybody must hate them as much as I do.)

It is enough for me to understand that outgoing people interact differently with the world. I cannot begin to comprehend how they do it.

[Edit] It would also be a mistake to think that an extrovert cannot be deep or subtle. The friend I mentioned above, for instance, is very much both. It is just that she thrives on interaction and I thrive on solitude. We get together about once every two months. In between, she may have fifty social engagements and I may have three.

janbb's avatar

Because they won’t talk back to you?

Seriously, I think people can be uncomfortable if they can’t get a “read” on you. I’m not sure I’d call it being “frowned” on but I did encounter that somewhat in my younger and shyer days. It also bothered me when my younger son was applying to colleges. He is a great person but on the quiet side and wasn’t the student leader that all the top colleges seemed to want. It pissed me off that they wanted him to fit a mold and didn’t see the bright, quirky sweet person he really was. (He ended up just fine at NYU with a merit scholarship.)

Dog's avatar

I am an introvert.
I am completely confident and fully functioning.
I do not hide away in my house nor am I anti-social.
I am wired differently than an extrovert but this in no way makes me lacking.

The difference is that social interaction is a drain on me while it energizes my (extrovert) spouse. This just means that after every social event I need time without stimulation to recharge.

Even though we are different my spouse and I understand and respect one another.

zophu's avatar

@Dog

You believe you’re truly just a different breed? Do you think it’s “just because” that you’re drained by social interaction rather than energized? It might be, but I fail to see how people who are able to get along with others and not suffer at least some strain can be sane. Empathy alone is a burden. The faces you’re seeing, the voices your hearing, they come from people who live and die. That demands energy. I think this super-social behavior is a new development in human evolution. Overpopulation and all that. It isn’t good for the individual, just the collective. Maybe there is a balance, and that’s why we have the classifications “extrovert” and “introvert.”

zophu's avatar

@MissAnthrope

extroverts might run the world the way gasoline runs a car, but it’s an introvert behind the wheel.

FutureMemory's avatar

With all this talk about introverts/extroverts, Myers-Briggs etc., I went and found this personality test . Apparently I’m the INJF type. After reading the description I’m shocked at how accurate it is.

zophu's avatar

tests like this always make me uncomfortable. if that’s one of the questions towards the end, I’ll be twice as uncomfortable.

Mariah's avatar

I am very much an introvert. My sister is very extroverted. My sister is bored to actual tears if she doesn’t have plans with friends for a weekend. I cry when I don’t have a moment to myself over a weekend. It’s just a matter of how we like to spend our time, and as @j0ey said, what we draw our energy from. I know that I feel very worn down when I go for a long time without adequate “me time.” I have a lot of solitary hobbies that I enjoy doing. It’s just how I prefer to spend my time.

I do feel that I get looked down upon by some people for this. I get the feeling that my parents think my introversion is a form of immaturity that I will grow out of. And I couldn’t tell you how often I hear the sentences, “You’re seventeen years old! You’re supposed to be out having fun with friends!” Is that really what I’m supposed to be doing? Is there something wrong with me if that’s not what I want to be doing? I don’t think that there is, but some people may beg to differ…

Dog's avatar

@zophu Different breed no. Wired different yes.

My spouse could party till sun up and loves making casual conversation with strangers.
I would rather hang out on the sidelines and observe. If I am interacting after a couple of hours I am eying the exit and feeling like a caged animal. I prefer the company of just a few rather than a crowd. I would rather roll naked in broken glass than spend a day at the mall right before Christmas. My spouse loves the hustle and bustle. I would rather shop online than have to deal with it.

Regarding your interesting idea about hyper-socialization are you referring to the FB/texting/twitter culture or actual face to face socialization? I am finding the electronic socialization interesting to watch.

zophu's avatar

Face to face was what I was thinking of; but both, I guess.

zophu's avatar

INFP is my type according to that test, but the more I read about this test and what it supposedly means, the more I think it might be just a more complicated version of a horror scope.

DominicX's avatar

@Mariah

See, in many ways I think it’s just an inverse. Neither preference for spending time is “inferior” to the other and it’s that false belief that leads to problems and arises out of misunderstanding. As long as you’re happy, then there’s no different way you “should” be spending your time. I probably wouldn’t cry if I didn’t have plans for the weekend and I do like to spend time alone listening to music and Fluthering and such, but if I don’t hang out with friends on the weekend it does get me down a bit. My boyfriend is the same way and he is shy and used to be a lot more shy. A shy extrovert might not make much sense, but that’s what he was. He craved social situations, but was so shy that they weren’t happening enough for him and he was not very happy.

lonelydragon's avatar

I think it’s because people associate introversion with unfriendliness. They assume that introverts are misanthropic, shunning human contact, but that’s not true. We just don’t go out of the way to get it.

ratboy's avatar

Loud, nosy gasbags somehow discern the disdain and contempt that we experience in their presence.

Coloma's avatar

Everyone has a certain style, in my case as an extroverted woman, I have found my relationships with the more self contained types to be frusterating.

I have several more introverted girlf friends and we blend just fine.
Men however, that are too distanced, silent, need too much space, days at a time, not a blend.

FarewellStockholm's avatar

I am wondering a few things.
Why do you feel the need to label yourself introvert or extrovert? It is not the title that people would judge it would be the person’s behavior.

Also, based on your description you do not sound all that introverted. An introvert does not enjoy being around others as much and would not enjoy many of the things you mentioned. (Ex: making friends, being with a small group)

jeanmay's avatar

I guess it depends what you mean by the term introvert. I don’t think introverts as you and many others here would define them are frowned upon in general, but I do feel people become quickly exasperated with those who refuse to deal with the basic life tasks or alienate other because they’re shy etc. We all have to endeavour to communicate with one another in order to function as human beings, and silence is an indulgence not afforded by everyone.

As for me, I love to spend time alone reading; writing; knitting; creating, but I need people around to keep my creative juices flowing.

thriftymaid's avatar

I don’t frown upon them.

YARNLADY's avatar

People who have nothing better to do than sit around wondering why people look down on them are probably thought of as not contributing their fair share. I don’t categorize people as introverted or extroverted, but I notice when someone just sits around and lets everyone else do all the work.

filmfann's avatar

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities and others:
I am an introvert as well (as evidenced by the time I spend online as opposed to talking to people I am around). I am not saying that they lack confidence. I am saying they appear to lack confidence. People normally like confident people, and if they perceive someone as not being confident, they might frown upon them.

meagan's avatar

Other people don’t like introverts because extroverts don’t benefit from introverts as often?

ftp901's avatar

“Other people don’t like introverts because extroverts don’t benefit from introverts as often?”

I completely disagree, extroverts benefits all day long from introverts. Most extroverts would not be able to function (at least in a work environment) if they didn’t have introverts researching, doing, and feeding information to them. Introverts are known for having an extraordinary ability to focus and problem solve (because they don’t need external stimulation and waste their time talking to people) so without them, nothing would get accomplished (other than a party).

DarkScribe's avatar

I am not always an extrovert, in fact there are often hours at a time when I am not in the least bit extroverted. Then the alarm goes off.

DominicX's avatar

@ftp901

Yeah, sure, because all extroverts do is party and they have no ability to get any work done.

False. Completely false. Some of the hardest working and highest achieving students I know are extroverts. Being an extrovert doesn’t mean you have no work ethic and can’t focus on a task. Also, talking to people is not a “waste of time”. Talking to people is part of life. It’s how things get done. You can’t avoid it. Ever heard of a “team effort”? A “group project”?

I love how it’s acceptable to stereotype the shit out of extroverts, but when you do it do it to introverts, it’s a crime against nature. I’m sorry, but I’m not just going to sit back and take this shit. I get it, the internet is a huge support group for introverts. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any extroverts here and you can bitch about how “misunderstood” you are, but the more you misunderstand and stereotype extroverts, the more your case is weakened.

You think you’re misunderstood and you just have extroverts all figured out, but really, you understand much about them at all. :\

mattbrowne's avatar

Maybe they are frowned upon by overconfident extroverts. Confident introverts shouldn’t take this too seriously.

zophu's avatar

Maybe we’re making too strict of a classification here? Is it really so A and B? I’m not sure the introvert/extrovert thing is so much a natural psychological type as it is a specific tendency towards the social atmosphere around a person.

Someone who calls themself an introvert: can you not imagine a community that you could be very active and social in?

“Extrovert,” can you not imagine being stuck in a community in which you would want avoid social interaction whenever possible?

Put someone in one situation or the other long enough and they’ll become an “introvert” or “extrovert” based on their inclination towards the community.

Let’s not be foolish with the labeling. Always wanting to label things. Make them simpler, easier to deal with. Even if those things are people. Even if you, yourself, are one of those people. Labels aren’t meant to stay for lone, use them sparingly.

Not to say there aren’t natural psychological tendencies towards being an extrovert or introvert, but these are probably much rarer than is being suggested here.

Disc2021's avatar

Thanks for all of the replies everyone – they’ve given me much to think about.

@YARNLADY It’s interesting that you and a few others are thinking of this in a sort of work contribution context.

Really, I dont see a correlation between work productivity and type introvert/extrovert personality – I think both can actually contribute a fair amount of productivity. I’ve known some very introverted people that are actually very meticulous, precise and efficient when it comes to work ethic and I could probably say the same about extroverts I’ve known. Sure, both have their own styles but I dont think either has that big of an impact at the end of the day of work.

@FarewellStockholm I dont feel the need to label myself as anything other than my birth given name – I’m responding to the way most of the world sees me. I do like making friends and I do like socializing – I just have a hard time doing it. If I dont feel a very strong connection between me and another person or if I dont get the feedback I’m looking for – I begin to feel as if trying any further is more energy than it’s worth and I tend to just “give up”. I’m also not very good at “putting myself out there” so I’m often very selective about when I do it. Like some of the others suggested, I feel as if it costs me energy on doing these things rather than revitalizes it.

@Jeruba I wouldn’t say I’m the same way but I’m very similiar. One of my friends always HAS to be doing something – whether it’s activities, clubs/sports, meeting friends, partying, going somewhere, etc. every day of the week, every week of the month. Taking a walk/run in the park, reading a book at the bookstore or just “taking it easy” is not very typical for him.

I wouldn’t say I’m the polar opposite; I like doing a lot of those things and It’s not like I like to just sit around and do “nothing” but I can’t understand how someone can constantly keep their datebook filled – it would really drive me nuts. I do need a few days out of the month to just sit around and relax.

@Dog I’m also very similiar to you – I’d much rather a small get together than a large crowd, even if I knew most of the people. The best conversations I have are usually one-on-one with a person.

It’s beautiful that you’ve found someone who is your opposite and yet you both understand/respect each other! That’s a personal favorite dynamic of a relationship that I completely adore – differences.

@janbb I agree – maybe it is just that introverts are less understood by the majority. The stereotype seems to be that they must hate the world and hate people. It’s quite the opposite, from my perspective at least.

That’s a shame that your son had to experience that but excellent that he found his place – with a scholarship at that.

FarewellStockholm's avatar

Disc- It’s great to hear your feedback. Based on your response, I am wondering if maybe you just need some practice and a boost in your self-esteem. I am an analyzer so forgive me if I read WAY into your response (which I tend to do:) ) but it sounds like maybe if you do not get the validation, acceptance, or response from someone that is when you “give up.” Could you be afraid of rejection or being misunderstood?

Disc2021's avatar

@FarewellStockholm More or less misunderstood. I “give up” because I often dont get that validation or acceptance and most of the time I’m not really willing to work for it. I like myself just the way I am and when a person is too lazy to figure me out, I figure, why go out of my way to try and make them understand? Why try to change, alter or adjust myself to anyone’s liking if I’m content with who I am – just for another acquaintance?

I feel like most people have no problem changing their opinions, playing the part and being who everyone wants them to be. I just couldn’t do that. I’m not really afraid of not “fitting in” but I certainly like fitting in or finding a person or group of people that I could truly sync, identify and connect with. It really, really doesn’t mean that I dont like people or that I’m afraid of people (rejection, etc.) – it’s that I dont like being misjudged and if people are judgmental enough to write me off before they even know me, I dont see the point in trying to change their opinions.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Disc2021 I my experience, when working in a group or team context, the introvert just sits there, never contributes to the conversation, never comes up with an idea and just watches everyone else do the work. In some situations, such a private project, where interaction is not required, I’m sure the introvert would do just as well as anyone else.

Jabe73's avatar

Well in all fairness there are so many variables in peoples’ personality and life in general that attacking either “extraverts” or “introverts” is silly. I am very very introverted but there are introverts i don’t get along with and extraverts i do get along with. I’ve worked with introverts who are too shy to accomplish anything or stand up for themselves but at the same time i’ve worked with extraverts who took the credit for the hard work an introvert really did behind the scenes.

There are no absolutes here but extraverts are generally more business, management or sales oriented and introverts are usually more science, mechanical or artistic inclined. Confidence itself can be very deceptive, i’ve seen socially confident people fall apart when put in very stressful situations when they had to work alone. A TRULEY confident person (whether an introvert or extravert) actually respects other peoples’ differences and doesn’t need to attack them or call them names.

Some people are confident with themselves for very lame reasons and others hold themselves to very high standards. Some people accomplish very little yet think they are the s—t and some people have great reason to be proud of themselves and yet never are or at least show it. God made us all different for a reason and we should all embrace our differences rather than do what everyone else wants us to do, which to me is really weak.

Response moderated (Spam)
josie's avatar

Human nature is what it is. Shyness is interpreted as indecisiveness or weakness. Human beings react negatively at best, or with hostility at worst, to such displays. Can’t fight human nature, no matter how hard you try. Too many people fail to learn this.

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