If you've read the comments on this blog, you probably noticed that there are 1,001 ways to be introverted.
We can talk about introversion all we want, but the fact is, researchers haven't definitively pinned the word down. It's a broad concept and still a bit slippery, as yet more easily defined by pop psychology than research psychologists, So in this blog over time, we'll both chatter about the pop psychology side and our own experiences, and consider the research that's out there.
Recently I spoke with psychologist Jonathan Cheek, who teaches personality psychology at Wellesley College and studies shyness, self-concept, and identity orientations. He immediately plunged me into introversion's gray area by using the term "shyness" instead.
Are they the same thing? Maybe sorta. Cheek says that while some psychologists think the words are synonymous, others do not. "A lot of it is, do you want to call this thing a table or a chair?" he asks. Well, I don't have the authority to declare it either table or chair, so we'll set aside that debate for now and, like Cheek, call it shyness. But that label is far from one-size-fits-all.
While many people self-identify as shy, whether this is problematic or not depends on their need to socialize—an important distinction, says Cheek. His research identifies four subcategories of shyness.
Of course, this is just one way of analyzing introversion—we'll have lots more to cover. There's also the energy model (the idea of being drained of energy by interactions); thinking introversion vs. social introversion; the biological aspects; the question of narcissism (or not); the large group vs. small group question; and more. But this research provides some good fodder for discussion. Which type are you?
My book, The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, is available for pre-order on Amazon. It will be released December 4, 2012, just in time for party/festive/family-togetherness season. You know you need it.
Copyright 2009 Sophia Dembling