Introverted versus Shy

A new book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
recently came out. USA Today had an article about this in January (1/24/12). As an introvert, I find this very interesting and could associate with a lot of the points in the article.

I’ve actually found the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to be very helpful in understanding my own behavior. I (like most introverts) can be extraverted for a period of time, but it is exhausting. If I don’t have time to recharge by being by myself, I will start to be very quiet…additionally as a thinker, I need to gather information and thoughts before talking too much. But, as the article points out, there is a difference between being shy and being introverted. [On the flipside, I’m a big believer in the IDEO model of ‘fail often to succeed sooner’ so I’ve learned not to overanalyze without acting.]

“Some shy people have social anxiety but are not really introverted, and plenty of introverts are not shy. Introversion has zero relationship with shyness.” Jonathan Cheek, a professor of personality psychology at Wellesley College

I think this list of attributes of an extrovert versus an introvert will help you understand which side of the equation you are more likely to fall on (source):


  • I am seen as “outgoing” or as a “people person.”
  • I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.
  • I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.
  • I sometimes jump too quickly into an activity and don’t allow enough time to think it over.
  • Before I start a project, I sometimes forget to stop and get clear on what I want to do and why.


  • I am seen as “reflective” or “reserved.”
  • I feel comfortable being alone and like things I can do on my own.
  • I prefer to know just a few people well.
  • I sometimes spend too much time reflecting and don’t move into action quickly enough.
  • I sometimes forget to check with the outside world to see if my ideas really fit the experience.

On the flipside, shyness (per Wikipedia) is defined as:

In humans, shyness (also called diffidence) is a social psychology term used to describe the feeling of apprehension, lack of comfort, or awkwardness experienced when a person is in proximity to, approaching, or being approached by other people, especially in new situations or with unfamiliar people. Shyness may come from genetic traits, the environment in which a person is raised and personal experiences. There are many degrees of shyness. Stronger forms are usually referred to as social anxiety or social phobia. Shyness may merely be a personality trait or can occur at certain stages of development in children. Shyness has also a strong cultural dimension.

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