“Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe” ― Susan Cain
Do you know someone who prefers reading a book or working on their laptop at home over noisy and overcrowded places? Who has a deep appreciation for equally deep conversation but finds idle chitchat shallow and unfulfilling? Someone who screens their calls or pushes them through to voicemail and only returns them after they’ve had time to recharge? Or, do you know someone who dreads the idea of spending their Saturday at a house party surrounded by dozens of people and needs the rest of the weekend to recoup…alone?
These situations can be enough to make any introvert want to jump in a hole and pull the hole in with them. Most introverts value quiet reflection and our time alone. We are much more sensitive to noise and high energy than our extrovert counterparts, and because of these traits, many people mistakenly believe that if we’re quiet, we must be antisocial.
I think every introvert has heard these at least once:
- “You’re so quiet. You should talk more.”
- “Why don’t you like going out and partying?”
- “Are you antisocial?”
I mean, I get it. I think when someone uses the word “antisocial” with regard to an introvert, they’re probably using it in its literal context thinking that we just don’t like socializing. Most of us are pretty selective with whom we expend our time and energy. However, words like “antisocial” have a negative connotation and mislabel an introvert as disliking people, breaking rules, or being in the habit of violating others’ basic rights for their own sense of entitlement.
There are distinct differences between someone who is introverted and selectively social and someone who qualifies for a Cluster B diagnosis. The most obvious distinctions of someone who is antisocial are that they tend to bore easily, are thrill-seeking, and usually fall on the far end of the extroversion spectrum.
Contrarily, those who are selectively social can be perfectly content in the most boring of situations, tend to dodge anything too emotionally or mentally exhausting, and fall on the far end of the introversion spectrum.; they’re polar opposites.
Introverts are not antisocial; they’re selectively social.
The words introversion and extroversion were first coined by Carl Jung to differentiate between a person who tends to direct their energy as either outward towards people, actions, and their environment, etc. (extroversion); or, inward towards thoughts, ideas, and perceptions, etc. (introversion). Years later, the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was introduced that incorporated Jung’s theory.
According to the MBTI, introverts are summarized as being more reflective, preferring a few close and intimate relationships over casual or impersonal ones, and are often highly intuitive and sensitive. According to Dr. Elaine Aron, there is a significant overlap between Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP) and introversion, with as many as 70% of HSP’s identifying as introverts.
The MBTI further distinguishes slight differences between introversion types by how we organize our worldview, and our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. However, caution should be used when using the MBTI as there’s a mixed bag on its validity and reliability. Ultimately you are your own best judge on your level of introversion or extroversion.
Introversion vs. Antisocial
Introverts value their time alone to recharge and we need to recharge often. Those who are sensitive “feelers” or “intuitive” often tire easily from absorbing others’ energy. Antisocial, on the other hand, tends to fall on the far end of thrill-seeking behavior, always seeking an adrenaline rush and always on the proverbial, go. Because of this, they typically have a low threshold for boredom.
Introverts tend to prefer spending their free time in nature to recharge, indoors in a book, or writing on their laptop and value their alone-time. Antisocial surrounds themselves with others and are often seen as the life of the party, where their free time is centered around physical adrenaline activities.
Introverts are deep thinkers, excellent listeners, and can be great conversationalists in intimate gatherings. On the flip-side, antisocial is identified as being impulsive and often acting before thinking. They thrive in a superficial, non-intimate conversation where manipulative tactics are used to gain an upper hand.
Introverts tend to shut down or become passive-aggressive when angry, and can be seen as rude or indifferent if their boundaries are overstepped. Antisocial can be verbally aggressive, has to have the last word, are prone to physical violence, and routinely overstep people’s personal space and boundaries.
Introverts value their intimate relationships and often look for a partner and a few close friends who share similar values, ideas, and an appreciation for quiet togetherness, deep conversation, and loyalty. Contrarily, antisocial sees others as an opportunity, relationships as self-motivated, and partners as expendable after they’ve served their use.
These are a few of the key differences between the two. It’s relatable to want to use the word Antisocial to label an introvert as in the literal sense - Anti Social. But, introverts aren’t against socializing or anti-people. They’re against overstimulation. They’re opposed to casual chitchat. They couldn’t really care less about being the life of the party - they’re happiest blending into the background. Introverts love socializing - in intimate conversations about obscure topics; and in equally intimate groups.
Quality over quantity . . . Introverts are selectively social.
Aron, E. N., & Aron, A. (1997). Sensory-processing sensitivity and its relation to introversion and emotionality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 345 - 368.
Aron, E. N. (1996b). The highly sensitive person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you. New York, NY: Carol Publishing Group.
Jung, C. G. (1971). The collected works of C. G. Jung: Vol. 6. Psychological types. Princeton University Press.
This post was originally published on Medium.
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