The Hard Facts: Shyness and Introversion

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“The overall incidence of shyness and introversion is…40 percent of the population for shyness, according to the psychology professor Jonathan Cheek, and 50 percent for introversion.” (NY Times, “Shyness: Evolutionary Tactic” by Susan Cain 6/26/2011)

I am not an introvert. And yet I’ve found that introverts often enjoy this blog because their very nature is keep to themselves, thus making it tough to find friends.

So I was especially excited to read this piece on how shyness and introversion differ. “Shy people fear negative judgment; introverts simply prefer quiet, minimally stimulating environments,” author Susan Cain writes. Given this definition, I would imagine that a friend search is much harder for a shy gal than it is for an introvert. The fear of negative judgments can be pretty substantial, after all.

According to this article, there are plenty advantages to being an introvert. However, public perception is not of them. “Studies show that we rank fast and frequent talkers as more competent, likable and even smarter than slow ones. ”

So my question on this unusually short Research Wednesday: Have you introverts ever felt your friend-search struggling simply because you weren’t stimulated by loud, people-filled environments? Do you feel you “lose out” to the fast and frequent talkers? And do any of you self-identify as shy rather than introverted? How has that affected your friending?


Filed under The Search

8 responses to “The Hard Facts: Shyness and Introversion

  1. I do consider myself a little bit of both – shy and an introvert. I mean, I’m definitely an introvert (and a homebody, which in my opinion falls more with introverts than extroverts, although I enjoy occasional nights out). And I am definitely more shy around new people – which is not always the best way to make new friends easily.

    The other thing for me is that when I am out someplace – at a bar, someplace with too much background noise or loud music or such – I have issues hearing people well enough and so I tend to just nod and not engage in too much conversation because I don’t want the person to have to keep repeating themselves. Again not very conducive to friending.

    Maybe I just need to find different places to friend people and take the plunge and go on some girl dates where the atmosphere is more conducive to friending.

  2. I think I’m a little bit of both — I value my alone time, get “people’d out” quickly, and do fear negative feedback sometimes in new situations (that high school mean-girls “No one likes you!” trauma dies hard!)

    In the past, I tried social organizations and meet-new-friends groups here in the city but I’d get overwhelmed. The group (invariably mostly extroverts) would want to go from loud restaurant to crowded bar to more-crowded-bar to some other party atmosphere event and usually sometime around bar #1 I’d be thinking, “for god’s sake, enough already!” It wasn’t a reflection on the specific people I was with, so much as the fact that I was surrounded by loud people for a long time. And feeling exhausted and overwhelmed is not conducive to making new friends!

    I do better one on one, but the challenge seems to be finding other women who would also rather socialize one on one rather than getting stupid en masse in a loud bar!

    • Laurie Lee

      I’m not an introvert. Actually I’m pretty outgoing but I don’t like noisy venues either. Have you considered a book club, taking a class, or a regular exercise class?

  3. For the most part, I tend to gravitate towards other introverts. (Although I married an extrovert!) I find that when I’m in the company of someone like me, or making a friend with someone like me, it’s fine. It’s easy and perfect. But sometimes with an extrovert, I wonder if I’m enough. They have so much spunk and seem to be able to laugh endlessly. While I like a good time, that’s not me. I have a new friend who I adore, but she’s outgoing, the life of the party. And it is a bit intimidating.

    While I think the side of me that likes quiet is perfect for my writing and my personality, I do sometimes wish I was a bit more gregarious. I tend to decline invitations to things out of fear. Not always, but it does happen.

    Also, for all you extroverts out there, here is a humorous article on “Caring for your Introvert” –

  4. I’m an introvert who’s also a little shy – a double whammy, I suppose. I found that NYTimes piece fascinating, though it wasn’t super hopeful for folks like me.

    And yes, sometimes it can be tough to reach out to people, or to push on with the friend search when I really don’t want to face either rejection or indifference. Great post, Rachel.

  5. God, yes. When I was younger, I used to self-identify as shy. Now I’ve realized I’m actually introverted — or I’ve just made steps to overcome that shyness. I notice three things that get in my way when I try to meet new people.

    First, it’s really easy for people to interrupt or talk over me. I’m not sure if it’s because I tend to be a little quieter or more deliberate in my speech, or if I just surround myself with extroverts who are so much more eager to speak up, but it happens quite a bit. And after this happens a few times, my usual reaction to give up and sit silently.

    Second, I hate, hate, hate meeting people in bars or at parties. It’s loud, people are drunk, they aren’t being themselves, most people I talk to aren’t likely to remember our conversation the next day. I’d much rather go to a quieter bar or pub to have a few drinks with people who are already friends, rather than find new ones. I do try to find other events or venues to meet people, but it’s easier said than done sometimes!

    Also, I’m not an “open book” who will tell my life story to anyone and everyone (like my boyfriend) — so just reaching the point where I feel comfortable talking to someone as a friend takes awhile.

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