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This is a great book on the subject: http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Power-Introverts-World-Talking/d...

Introversion and extroversion have nothing to do with shyness or how outgoing you are. It has to do with where you derive energy and I disagree with the author of the linked article that introverts just need to practice social interaction. As the book points out, introversion and extroversion can be determined very early in life, she mentions a study where infants who were more reactive to stimulus turned out to be introverts and infants who were chill turned out to be extroverts:


“The four-month-olds who thrashed their arms like punk rockers did so not because they were extroverts in the making, but because their little bodies reacted strongly—they were “high-reactive”—to new sights, sounds, and smells,” Cain writes. “The quiet infants were silent not because they were future introverts—just the opposite—but because they had nervous systems that were unmoved by novelty.” These “high-reactive” babies grow up to be children who need a lot of time to decompress after school, need time alone to be creative and explore. They are introverts, not anti-social, Cain explains. There is a big difference.


I don't know who came up with the "where they derive energy" explanation, but I see it mentioned as the correct answer all over the place, and I can't relate to this at all.

I derive my energy from food and sleep ... Jokes aside, I have no clue what people are talking about when they say this. I don't feel energized by talking to people, and I don't feel energized by doing alone-time activities. I don't even see what energy has anything to do with having or not having interaction.

I also don't think "deriving energy" is anywhere near being a measurable scientific event but rather an ill-defined handwavy concept.

Let me give you a significant and relevant to HN personal example. In the early '90s I worked for a small company where the VP of sales, who was our "closer" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closing_(sales) and I would together make critical sales calls. I'd be wearing my normal casual clothes, Oxford shirt, black jeans, New Balance 99x running shoes (grey back then, but always understated), in part for verisimilitude, and would answer all the technical questions, perhaps make a presentation of the system we were proposing to build for them. Basically convince them that we had the technical chops to get the job done, and this approach was quite successful.

I might be mistaken for the non-energy model of an extrovert during one of these sessions, obviously being e.g. shy or retiring wouldn't work, nor is that in my nature.

The difference I perceived between my extroverted salesmen partners and myself was that I wasn't good for much of anything the next day, as I "recharged my batteries" or whatever you want to call it; call it an "ill-defined handwavy concept" not particularly "a measurable scientific event", but I know my productivity, how it works and doesn't, going back to long before I became a programmer. So I firmly believe this phenomena exists, even if you yourself are in-between both of these "types".

After spending a full afternoon at a dinner party with colleagues, do you feel a) happy, refreshed, and ready to do it again tomorrow or b) drained, tired and wanting to just be alone for a while to recuperate? I'm the latter, which is traditionally classified as introverted. To flip it around, the extrovert would feel drained, tired, and wanting of some social interaction after spending an afternoon sitting in front of a computer (my wife is like this).

Energy is a metaphor for the "stress level," of the individual for lack of a better term.

I'm the same and did not discover this until about the 5th time I took the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. My initial tests had me almost exactly between extroversion and introversion.

On my last test, the facilitator explained the energy/stress aspect with a number of examples like your dinner party. She also mentioned people are naturally one or the other, not 50/50.

I realized that my natural inclination was introversion. I believe that what I perceived as my extroverted side was learned through a social upbringing to engage others, which is beneficial. There are a number of social/extroverted things that I sincerely enjoy but I walk away exhausted.

"Energy" is a metaphor to which most people relate so it gets used a lot. Stress level might be a good thing to examine on the other side. If I spend too much time in traditionally extroverted activities I start to get fuzzy-headed and show signs of fatigue, then irritability and stress. There's a balance point where I'm at my best, and that point is when I'm getting lots of uninterrupted solitude but having daily interaction with my core group of people (family, close friends). For other people the balance point is very different. Being far away from your balance point for extended periods leaves one feeling out of sorts, stressed, and maybe even a bit desperate.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's not so much that one side is a source of energy. It's just normal. It's more that the opposite side is draining.


Extraverts are described as being "higher energy" rather than getting energy from X rather than Y.

As I understand it, the big five is one of the better regarded personality measures among personality psychologists, and "Extraversion" (sic.) is one of the measures. Psychological measures are generally better regarded if they produce more repeatable results (Briggs-Meyers, which despite being discredited is still popular, also uses a -- somewhat different -- extroversion scale).

I think that the "introverts just need energy for social interaction" is a recent innovation created by non-specialists, and the word "introvert" used to mean just that - the opposite of extrovert.

Wikipedia states that the 'energy explanation' is a characterization by a few popular writers: "Some popular writers have characterized introverts as people whose energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction." - Wikipedia (Introvert)

I've seen the 'energy explanation' repeated in social media like hundreds of times. They start by saying that everyone who belives that introversion is the opposite of extroversion is false, even though they're themselves focusing on a theory fully supported only by popular writers.

Perhaps in 10 years the classical definition of the word 'introvert' is lost and the 'energy explanation' wins, because for some reason it spreads like wildfire in social media. My own gut-feeling is that 'introvertism' has been high-status social quality in certain social circles (e.g. 'nerds'), and now some people feel like they want to attribute it to themselves.

I can relate to the energy theory.

If I spend a day with people outside my close friends and family, I definitely need some "quiet time" to recover. For instance, on work trips to another office you invariably get invited out for dinner/drinks after the working day, and I'd much rather sit in my hotel room eating roomservice.

It is incredibly important when looking at these kinds of measures to realize it is not a simple yes/no. Introvert/Extrovert. It is a range of possibilities. For instance many people are very near the center, and find both kinds of activities equally enjoyable.

They don't get particularly "recharged" in that vague sense, but they never get discharged by the opposite either.

Someone who's born small and skinny can still become strong later on. I was "the quiet kid" until I consciously worked to improve my social skills. Now when I tell people I was "the quiet kid" they laugh until they realize I'm serious.

I'm an introvert, and I also learned to be more outgoing. I love talking with people, going out, etc., but then I need lots of "alone time" between those kinds of activities. I'm still an introvert.

Same for me. I enjoy social activities and have learned good social skills, but I still need my recharge time alone.

Quiet != introverted. For example, I'm an introvert (need alone time) but I'm not quiet (I was the class clown).

Spot on. Also, introverted != shy. I've known plenty of introverts who are very capable of working a room if they need to, they just prefer not to.

I think this is generally true, but only up to a point. Someone who is weak can become stronger, but our maximal fitness levels are largely genetic.

This is, of course, not a useful thing to point out to someone who is weak (or an introvert). I am a firm believer in two things: Carol Dweck's idea of the "growth mindset", and that our energy is best spent on things we can control and not on things we cannot. Introverts can train themselves to have social interactions drain them less. They may never be loquacious, but good enough is good enough.

I don't find any value in training myself to fake the sorts of social interactions other people enjoy. Some people like to talk about football games. I find that to be tedious and useless. I am perfectly willing to participate in non-football discussion, but since that seems to be the lowest conversational denominator around here, I don't often find myself speaking about any subject in gatherings larger than a certain size.

At a certain level, it feels like there is a social bloc with a plurality, who pressures all other groups to conform for its convenience. I don't feel the need to do that. Expecting me to act like them makes about as much sense as me expecting them to learn to juggle on a unicycle, or fly model aircraft, or play a particular game, or read books by a certain author, or practice hobby gunsmithing, or perform amateur stand-up comedy.

Why? Why would anyone expect an "introvert" to pretend to be more like "extroverts"? What they should be doing is socializing in a non-painful way with people who share their interests.

That's true, I didn't mean to imply practicing was worthless. But if you're born small and skinny and grow up to be 5'5" you're probably not going to be an NFL linebacker. That doesn't mean you shouldn't still exercise, just that you might not be suited for some things.

That has nothing to do with the subject though. Being shy and being an introvert are not the same thing. I am not shy, I am not "the quiet guy". I am an introvert. There is nothing to fix or improve.

I remember reading about a study that determined there was a biological difference in terms of how "introverts" and "extroverts" (using your definitions) processed information. The nervous system of the introverts processed information along a slower pathway, and through a different route, but more thoroughly. If I can manage to track down that URL, I will update my comment.

"Introverted" and "extroverted" refer to the external behavioral differences that one can use to categorize people. "Introvert" and "extrovert" are different terms and more refer to people's mental focus, or Jung's explanation of where they get their mental energy. But you can't conflate the two. The most talkative person I've known classified himself as a introvert. I, on the other hand, can be extroverted, but I don't particularly like people nor do I get so much out of interacting with them that I feel compelled to be extroverted. In other words, "introverted extroverts" are the shy people - "introverted introverts" don't really give a damn.

But the OP's article is certainly useful; I'd say he just needs to be more precise about the terms he uses and how it's primarily about the behavioral aspects of interacting with people. The idea that it is "draining" to use underdeveloped skills made sense to me.

> > They are introverts, not anti-social, Cain explains. There is a big difference.

And might as well mention that asocial is a more fitting word than anti-social if the intent is to describe lack of willingness to participate in social environments. "Anti-social" is better if one is describing behaviour that is socially destructive, like violence.

<insert "but languages evolve" reply here>

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