It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“While extraverts spend more time overall in social activities than introverts do, the two groups do not differ significantly on time spent with family members, romantic partners, or coworkers. Moreover, extraverts and introverts both report a mood boost from the company of others.” (“Revenge of the Introverts,” Psychology Today, Oct. 2010)
I am not an introvert. Officially, I know this because I took that Meyers-Briggs test recently and was deemed extroverted. But unofficially, I’ve always known—I like socializing too much.
For years I’ve misunderstood introversion. I thought being an introvert and being shy was the same thing. Introverts wouldn’t understand my search, I figured, because they didn’t understand the big deal about friendship in the first place.
I was wrong.
There’s a significant difference between being shy and being introverted. As Psychology Today explains, introverts spend time alone because they want to while shy folks would love to be social but don’t know how. “An introvert and a shy person might be standing against the wall at a party, but the introvert prefers to be there, while the shy individual has no choice.”
Also, introverts benefit from close friendship as much as extraverts do. Everyone gets the same jolt of energy from hanging with people we connect with on a deep level.
It’s a vital tidbit. When I started this quest I thought my friendship frustration was the curse of extroversion. If only I didn’t crave the company of others, I thought, I’d be so much happier. Turns out there’s no escaping it. Introverts need friendship too, they’d just rather have a thoughtful one-on-one than a dinner with a million people talking at once.
This should also serve as a reminder that introversion is not an excuse for giving up on friendship. A reader once left a comment saying she always bails on plans with her friends—specifically female friends—because she is an introvert and finds being a part of the female group dynamic draining. She didn’t understand the “high” of spending time with pals.
Being that I don’t identify as an introvert, I can’t purport to know what’s going on inside this reader’s head. But I would venture to guess that it’s not friendship that exhausts her, it’s the large groups. All the research I’ve read, and the majority of the anecdotal evidence I’ve heard, says introverts do feel a “high” from socializing. It’s just that an introvert’s idea of fun “socializing” is different from an extravert’s.
If you’re an introvert, don’t hide behind your preference for intimate activity and quiet time. That doesn’t mean you don’t need strong relationships. We all do.
Are you extraverted or introverted? Does that trait define what you want out of friendship?