When you hear the word introvert, you might think of someone who's painfully shy and avoids human interaction at all costs. You might even immediately identify with the word because you prefer staying in with a good book rather than going out. But those associations tend to be a rather simplistic view of introversion.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung developed the concepts of introversion and extroversion in the early 1900s. According to him, one of the easiest ways to spot an introvert is by the way they recharge their social battery. Introverts, he said, prefer to be in minimally stimulating environments and tend to go inward to recharge, while extroverts are re-energized from interacting with others. Many researchers have since tried to clarify the definition of introversion. In 2011, research by psychologists Jennifer Grimes, Jonathan Cheek, and Julie Norem broke introversion into four main types: social introvert, thinking introvert, anxious introvert, and restrained introvert.
Social introverts value solitude more than most people. They like being alone but aren't opposed to the occasional gathering of close friends and family. "Social introverts are less interested in large gatherings or parties," Anthony Freire, LMHC, NCC, CCMHC, a licensed psychotherapist and the clinical director of The Soho Center for Mental Health Counseling in New York, tells mbg.
He also notes that it's easy to confuse a social introvert with someone who's dealing with social anxiety, but it's not the same thing: "A social introvert doesn't avoid crowds because of anxiety but rather [because of] their preference. Where they feel the most comfortable and happy is either in complete solitude or in small groups in more subdued places."
Common traits and habits:
- Prefer tiny intimate gatherings
- Will happily go on a solo date or vacation
- Require alone time to recharge, especially in a relationship
- Will accept social invitations with no intention to show up
Dating as a social introvert.
When it comes to dating, social introverts will do well with both online dating and in-person dating. And because they do well in small groups, they can even try speed dating. "Because introverts are very analytical, a social introvert should follow their intuition when they meet someone. They should focus on going to places they enjoy and skip the small talk," therapist Ibinye Osibodu-Onyali, LMFT, tells mbg.
"The thinking introvert is very cognitive by nature. Often intellectual, this type of introvert is often at peace when studying, reading, learning, researching, and investigating," clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., explained. The thinking introvert will often pause to cogitate before offering a response to a question. "Let me think about that" can be a very common response for the thinking-type introvert.
Manly says introverts of this type are prone to getting lost in their thoughts and may actually mentally "disappear" from conversations due to a retreat into the mental world.
Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Introvert Power, also notes that thinking introverts are sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they're such good listeners: "People may mistake the receptive attitude of these introverts as an invitation to talk more, when their silence may, in fact, be a pause to think," she says.
Common traits and habits:
- More introspective than the average introvert
- Will lean toward activities that provide a "mental haven" for thinking: studying, reading, researching, musical pursuits, or other creative activities
- Generally not reactive and will often pause to think before offering a response to a question
- Super self-aware
Dating as a thinking introvert.
When it comes to close relationships, Helgoe says, "It can be helpful for thinking introverts to 'narrate their introversion' by asking for time to think in response to a question, for example, or by being upfront about requiring alone time to refuel. Without making this known, others (especially extroverts) may misinterpret their silence or take it personally when the introvert takes time out from socializing."
The anxious introvert is often quiet and may appear on edge or nervous, says Manly. This type of introvert shrinks away from people and settings that may further stimulate anxiety. The "anxious" introvert can be highly avoidant and even seem rude, yet the "turning inward" behavior is simply a protective, sheltering defense mechanism at work.
You'll likely find anxious introverts at home because of nervousness or fear, usually catastrophizing events before they happen, which ultimately prevents them from stepping out of their comfort zones.
Common traits and habits:
- Typically appear at least mildly nervous in most situations
- May appear highly avoidant and rude
- Will avoid social interactions at all costs
Dating as an anxious introvert.
When it comes to dating, anxious introverts probably won't do well with speed dating and other social dating events, Osibodu-Onyali says. But dating as an anxious introvert isn't impossible: They tend to do well-being introduced by close friends or even with dating a close friend.
"When it's time to go out on dates, they should stick to what makes them comfortable," she recommends. "Pick dates that focus on you and your partner, make it enjoyable, and don't push yourself too far outside of your comfort zone."
The restrained introvert, also called the inhibited introvert, tends to be more reserved and can have their guards up around others until they get to know them. But rather than seeming shy or avoidant, they simply come off as thoughtful and grounded.
"The restrained introvert tends to be reflective and even plodding in nature. Often unemotional, this type of introvert is often very controlled and may have very grounded energy," Manly says. "This type of introvert is often steadfast and very rock-like in nature. The restrained-type introvert is often the quiet, dutiful person that others tend to rely on."
Common traits and habits:
- Move at a slower, more methodical pace in all things
- Tend to enjoy predictable activities
- Often unemotional
Dating as a restrained introvert.
When it comes to relationships, a restrained introvert will be on the more reserved side while getting to know a potential love interest. Manly says the restrained introvert will likely keep personal information close to their chest until they're more comfortable in the relationship, which may take longer than usual because of the sluggish approach. "The restrained introvert is likely to thrive in the realms of stability, thoughtfulness, and self-reflection," she says. "Although it may sound as if a person with this nature is boring, a restrained introvert can be extremely fun-loving and passionate."
What type of introvert are you?
If you're wondering what kind of introvert you are, take a moment to see how many of the above bulleted points apply to you. The type with the most bullet points you resonate with is likely the type that you are.
If you find yourself always needing to step away from the group chat to think about (or overthink) your next response, you could be a thinking introvert. If your most relaxed state is still filled with lingering anxiety and nervous energy? You could be more of an anxious introvert.
Now that you're more aware of the different types of introverts, hopefully you'll move a little bit closer to becoming your best self through self-awareness. There are many ways introverts can have a good social life, succeed in the workplace, and date successfully. Understanding how you show up in the world and what you require to recharge can only help you along the way.
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Stephanie Barnes is a freelance writer from Kingston, Jamaica. She studied Information Technology from the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean and spent several years as a front-end/iOS engineer. Her work has been featured at The Huffington Post, Healthline, The Lily, HelloGiggles, Business Insider, and more. She's passionate about all things mental health, technology, and binge-worthy television.