By in Health & Fitness

Understanding the Difference Between Introverts and Extroverts

It's easy to spot an extrovert -- these are the people who thrive in the company of others, are outgoing and know lots of people. But did you know, that person may well be an introvert instead?

It's a common misconception that introverts are shy, retiring types of people. It's little wonder that we would think so, as a dictionary tells us that one of the definitions of an introvert is "shy." That may or may not be the case with many people who are introverted.

I recently found a resource that explains the difference between introverts and extroverts in terms of energy. Extroverts draw their energy from being with other people; conversely, introverts draw their energy from within.

This is why an introvert may well be a social person, enjoying time with friends and family and doing many of the things we generally attribute to an extrovert. The difference is, the introvert will find his/her mental and emotional energy drained from these interactions, where an extrovert will gain energy.

For an introvert to recharge that drained energy, s/he will need to have some quiet time, some personal space -- how often and how much is individualized.

Labels, even as general as introvert or extrovert, aid in the general understanding of oneself and others, but only if they are properly understood and applied.

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Image Credit » Leigh Blackall CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr

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bestwriter wrote on October 20, 2014, 9:38 AM

That extroverts get their energy from those around does not seem right to me. On the contrary an extrovert is the one who provides entertainment to those around and much more. Extroverts dare to do things that introverts hesitate to do. An introvert absorbs what is going on around - thanks to the extrovert and therefore benefits from it.

LoudMan wrote on October 20, 2014, 10:32 AM

Interesting. Another aspect of extroverts/introverts is in how they see the world. Do they see their life as how it affects others? Or, are they focused on how the world affects them? Everyone has at least some of both of these qualities.

Feisty56 wrote on October 20, 2014, 12:07 PM

Although the life of the party may be an extrovert, it is just as true that the person could be an introvert. I think some of the behaviors you are attributing to extrovert/introvert are more narrow classifications that may be true for some people on either side of the coin.

Feisty56 wrote on October 20, 2014, 12:10 PM

I imagine that most of us have some of both introvert and extrovert in our make-up. I'd guess that your habit of shying away from someone you don't like in a crowd has more to do with personal preference than whether you are an introvert or extrovert.

Feisty56 wrote on October 20, 2014, 12:17 PM

What you've explained is true, in part, to my understanding of these two basic labels. There is a difference between the popular use of the terms versus their meaning in psychology. I think there is where a lot of the misconceptions arise. If you're interested, here is some information further defining the characteristics of the two labels:

Ruby3881 wrote on October 20, 2014, 1:18 PM

I agree Deb. An introvert is just as capable of being the life of the party, but will need time alone afterwards to recover from that party. I'm extremely introverted and, although not a party person, I have given speeches before hundreds of people and have appeared on both TV and live radio. I have also derived great pleasure from teaching with a very dynamic style.

I can get quite a high from doing things that make many other people's blood run cold. But then I need to be alone, usually for a long time. It takes a great deal of energy to socialize, even under normal circumstances. Most definitely, the stereotype of the extrovert being the life of the party is a false one.

Ruby3881 wrote on October 20, 2014, 1:26 PM

It's not your avoidance of a specific person that determines whether you're introverted or extroverted, but you might get a clue from how you react to a crowd :)

Ruby3881 wrote on October 20, 2014, 1:31 PM

It is common for extroverts to misunderstand introverts, and as our society is organized for extroverts this misunderstanding is reinforced by both schools and workplaces. So it's no great wonder that so many people are uninformed, and simply write off the introvert as "shy" - or the extrovert as "the life of the party!"

Ruby3881 wrote on October 20, 2014, 1:33 PM

An interesting article on the science behind these two personality types can be found at

This article confirms what you say about the core traits of introverts and extroverts - that each group derives its energy differently. It also looks at studies that show the brains of introverts and extroverts are different.

Cherokee wrote on October 20, 2014, 2:13 PM

Wow! This describes me so well. I am an introvert for sure. I work with people all day long and when I get home, I am drained mentally. Most don't understand why I don't want to talk when I get home or demand some type of quiet time during the week. This is also why I hate winter so much. I go out on the deck to recharge in the quiet of nature and I can't do that when snow is flying.

MegL wrote on October 20, 2014, 4:49 PM

I definitely need some time to myself every day.

Feisty56 wrote on October 20, 2014, 7:31 PM

Thanks for this. I am going to read it here in a moment. : )

Feisty56 wrote on October 20, 2014, 7:35 PM

As a nurse and a social service worker, I worked with residents, clients and fellow staff without issue. Like you, I've spoken in public and served on some volunteer committees for the city. What I found was that although I enjoyed immensely what I did, it took an emotional toll on me --drained my energy.

Until recently, I didn't know the psych definition of these two terms, but now that I do, it explains much to me about myself.

AliCanary wrote on October 20, 2014, 7:36 PM

Yup, people may not realize that I am an introvert, because I am not at all shy and can be quite social. But I need a lot of alone time--sometimes the thought of being around other people makes me tired!

Feisty56 wrote on October 20, 2014, 7:36 PM

I was the same way when working with people for my livelihood. I couldn't explain why I would feel so drained after work, but there was no denying it. Now that I understand introversion and extroversion in terms of energy, it all makes perfect sense to me.

Feisty56 wrote on October 20, 2014, 7:42 PM

I think that when most of us outside the field of psychology or mental health think of introvert/extrovert, we are viewing the terms in the way society has come to define them. Psychology explains the labels in terms of how each gain their internal energy. Even though it is a simple explanation, it's a bit difficult to grasp at first because we have thought of introvert/extrovert so long in societal terms.

Personally, I think interacting on the Internet with other people is neither introversion or extroversion. I say this because commenting as we do here doesn't require interpersonal interaction in the same way an in-person conversation does. How do you feel about this? Ruby3881 , I wonder if you'd agree or disagree with my conclusion about Internet communication.

Feisty56 wrote on October 20, 2014, 7:43 PM

I am the same way. I enjoy my alone time. I don't want all my time to be alone, but I do want some space to myself each day.

Feisty56 wrote on October 20, 2014, 7:45 PM

Yes, I would say more often than not when I am invited somewhere, it will be my sense of feeling tired just considering the invitation that will cause me to turn it down.

SLGarcia wrote on October 20, 2014, 8:05 PM

Your definitions here are spot-on. I consider myself to be an introvert. I thrive on having a good deal of "alone time".

BNelson wrote on October 20, 2014, 9:57 PM

I am a bit of both, sometimes I find people draining, sometimes not, but mostly I prefer to be with animals in general.

Feisty56 wrote on October 20, 2014, 9:59 PM

Most interesting. As much as I can identify with the energy theory of introvert/extrovert, I can also relate to the stimuli theory. Noise, heavy traffic, even driving more than 50 mph all seem too much to me at times, like it is more than I can process at a time.

Thanks for providing this link. I have long thought something was wrong with my mind because of what I consider to be an over-reaction to what seems to be normal stimulation for others, but I never spoke to anyone about it.

Feisty56 wrote on October 20, 2014, 10:10 PM

If you want further information still, please check out the link Ruby3881 provided above. It explains some of the other theories about introversion/extroversion from a scientific point of view.

Feisty56 wrote on October 20, 2014, 10:11 PM

Being around animals makes me smile and just generally feel free and easy. There aren't a lot of humans about whom I can say the same.

paigea wrote on October 20, 2014, 10:38 PM

that is a very great explanation. I love people, but I need time alone to replenish my energy

BarbRad wrote on October 21, 2014, 12:49 AM

I'm an ambivert, with a little of each. I seem to be getting more introverted lately, though.

OldRoadsOnceTraveled wrote on October 21, 2014, 1:17 AM

I am definitely an introvert. I have absolutely got to have my alone time. I go wacky when I don't get it.

frenchtoast78 wrote on October 21, 2014, 6:41 AM

This is a great info. I guess I am an introvert then. I enjoy time with my family and friends and I love going out, but when I'm going through some tough times, I prefer to be alone.

Feisty56 wrote on October 21, 2014, 10:03 AM

Until I read the information in the link provided by Ruby3881 in one of her comments above, I thought that introverts were a small percentage of people. It turns out that introverts are likely to be up to one-half of the population.

I am not surprised to find out that many folks who enjoy writing identify as being introverts. Writing is by nature a solitary endeavor. It would seem to me to be a natural outlet for those of us who replenish our energy by turning mentally inward.

Feisty56 wrote on October 21, 2014, 10:06 AM

When I am among those closest to me emotionally, such as family and close friends, I find that I draw energy from them. In most every other situation, I feel as if I am expending emotional energy.

Feisty56 wrote on October 21, 2014, 10:08 AM

It's rather reassuring, to me at least, to know and understand that there is an explanation for the way my mind works -- and to realize I am neither odd nor alone by any means.

Feisty56 wrote on October 21, 2014, 10:10 AM

Perhaps you are one of those people who fall more into the ambivert category -- someone with both introvert and extrovert tendencies. I don't imagine that many of us are at the extreme of being only one or the other, but fall somewhere between the two.

Linda-From-US wrote on October 21, 2014, 12:31 PM

Interesting. I am shy. But I also like spending time with other people and I am outgoing with people I am comfortable with such as family and close friends. For this reason, I wonder if a person can be both an introvert and an extrovert or a mixture of the two.

Feisty56 wrote on October 21, 2014, 3:05 PM

From my understanding of the difference between introversion/extroversion in the psychological definition, introversion really has nothing to do with shyness. That is a layman's way of seeing introversion -- equating it with shyness. Also, introversion and extroversion are on a continuum, with people falling into various places between the two extremes, with what is termed an ambivert right in the middle.

BarbRad wrote on October 21, 2014, 5:33 PM

This is also true of me.

Ruby3881 wrote on October 22, 2014, 6:08 PM

Indeed, any sort of solitary work is likely to attract introverts. Web writing is a great choice for introverts because it affords us the opportunity to interact and express ourselves in a less draining fashion.

Ruby3881 wrote on October 22, 2014, 6:11 PM

I relate strongly to the stimulation theory too. I am very heavily impacted by visuals and auditory input in my environment, and I have been known to "over-react" to things like proximity of another person on some occasions.

Feisty56 wrote on October 22, 2014, 10:07 PM

Oh my gosh yes! I am easily startled and have been since I was a young teen.

momathome wrote on October 23, 2014, 3:11 PM

I would definitely say I was an introvert, while I do know a lot of people and tend to be friendly even with strangers, dealing with a lot of people does "drain me" so I often return from events, gatherings, or parties in desperate need of some alone time.

Feisty56 wrote on October 23, 2014, 9:03 PM

Until I began reading more about introversion/extroversion, I would have thought that introverts were a small percentage of the population. It turns out that one-third to one-half of all of us are introverts, so we have plenty of company.

I just had an idea for a T-shirt -- Introverts Unite! (In your own homes, please) What do you think?

momathome wrote on October 23, 2014, 9:26 PM

Feisty56 I LOVE it! I think that would make a great teeshirt and I'd definitely buy one!