Knowing and valuing introverts Knowing and valuing introverts

This type of personality is sometimes misunderstood, but it is important to understand its traits.

Advisors: Ana María Ospina, psychologist
Eduardo Vargas, psychotherapist

In her TED talk “The Power of Introverts,” based on her book in which her curiosity to understand herself led her to study this type of personality and highlight its values in a society that privileges extroverted behavior, Susan Cain states that about half of the population is introverted. Introverts are not very good at working in groups, but they can be good leaders because they let others be independent. They are not very communicative, but they know how to listen and enjoy solitude, something that can be useful in times of social distancing.

According to psychologist Ana María Ospina, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was the one who defined this personality. There is no one who is 100% introverted or extroverted. It is a spectrum or a tendency that shows itself differently in each individual. “Most only socialize with a few people and do so in measured doses to better control their environment so it is not stressful for them. They do not like to draw the group’s attention unless they are familiar with everyone. When interacting with a group of people, they usually listen quietly to others. However, even though their participation is low, this does not mean that they do not enjoy being at social events,” she says.

It is common for this personality type to be confused with shyness, but according to Ospina, shyness “is the result of a fear of social relationships that may be intrinsic to the person or may originate from a negative emotional event. Although it may not seem so, shyness can also occur in extroverts.”

Cain says that today’s society is very focused on the personality cult, which means that extroversion is very important. However, this does not mean that introverts should be forced to change themselves or not be given the opportunity to develop their personality, especially in social environments such as schools, which put a lot of emphasis on teamwork and class participation, something that introverts find difficult. They should have these abilities and use them, of course, but they would feel more comfortable and perform better if their personality was not considered a defect or a display of emotions such as sadness.

From childhood

Being a personality type, introversion can start to be seen at the age of three or four and becomes stronger in adolescence. It has three character manifestations which psychotherapist Eduardo Vargas explains as: greed and pathological detachment, envy and dissatisfaction, and lack of confidence.

Greed and pathological detachment are not necessarily related to money but to the impulse of not sharing with others. “There is a fear, which may be unconscious, that if they give what they have, they will be left with nothing, as if they were going to be diluted. They are interested in preserving their individuality, so that is why they isolate themselves. The world seems like a laboratory for them to observe, but not participate.”

The manifestation of envy and dissatisfaction is related to the habit of constant comparison, an exercise from which they are always badly liberated, so they prefer not to show themselves to others in order to prevent this from becoming evident. “Another possibility is that they do a lot of things for you to see.”

The third manifestation, the lack of confidence, is somewhat related to the second, but is due to the development of a structure in the individual that is called cowardice and accusation. “They are afraid of being accused of doing something wrong and being punished, so they do not show themselves much. When they are seen, however, they have to be doing the right thing.”

This can be reinforced later in life by traumatic events. If an introverted teenager suffers from bullying, he will want to take even more shelter in himself, even if he is grieving. “There is not one single pattern that leads us to establish conditions of isolation in teenagers, as this may be the result of multiple variables and dimensions. It is relevant in each case to identify which of the variables have combined to configure the isolation and address each particular case,” says Vargas.

Changes that attract attention

Introversion is not pathological unless the person definitely does not want to go out into the world and cannot handle his personality traits, which makes having a consultation necessary. On the other hand, “there are health issues that can cause isolation, such as acne, for example, or if the young person has a disability, a scar, or something that puts them at a disadvantage with their reference group,” states Vargas. If this reinforcement of isolation represents a change in personality, it may be a warning sign.

The extra time at home that some have because of current public health issues can be an opportunity for self-knowledge and getting closer to other family members, a useful process for recognizing when behaviors correspond to personality traits or when they may be a symptom of something else that should be addressed.

Introverts are happy in the world. “They can be oblivious to what is going on around them (for example, reading a book while their children are making a lot of noise). They close themselves off and are happy with this self-imposed isolation,” says Ospina. They are also more sensitive, which society sometimes points out as something negative, but can actually facilitate empathy and strengthen social relationships.

An introvert may have trouble developing relationships, but once he does, he maintains them for the rest of his life. “They have a small circle of close and trusted friends they would do anything for (even if they do not see them for years). They can also be uncommunicative non-verbally, but especially verbally. Their feelings are better served through letters, cards, or with gestures,” says Ospina.

This world is as rich as the world of those who love to express themselves and share with others; it is not about antipathy or boredom. The difference is that everyone can complement each other and contribute in their own way. The best gift that can be given is understanding and avoiding prejudices that allow the freedom to develop the best version of themselves. 

Introversion is an individual condition that focuses on the inner universe and is evidenced by being more reserved, says an article from the Open University of Catalonia.

The glass generation

They are the children of Generation X; their parents were born in the 70s and 80s. They greatly identify with technology, can spend hours on their electronic devices, but are quite unsocial in other ways. They are not necessarily introverted, but are influenced by cultural norms popularized through digital media. They know how to use technology, but they do not know how to create or interpret it, and their communities are more virtual than face-to-face. They prefer social relationships through a screen. They seem to be more sensitive, do not recognize limits very well, find it difficult to believe in strict authority, and are very lonely because their parents work. It is not a personality type – although some may be clearly introverted – but a cultural issue.