Monday, March 12, 2007

The Shy vs. Introverted Question

Robin and I have been chatting off-line a bit with one of one of our very cool readers who has posted the intriguing question: Are introverts always shy? And conversely-- are shy people always introverts?

And the answer is a resounding ... not necessarily! But possibly! I know, that's about as helpful as hairspray in a hurricane.
Introversion is defined by the way in which a person gathers energy for themselves-- either in solitude or in the company of others. To put it in more practical terms, after a demanding day, what is your favorite way to unwind? By yourself or with friends? Would we be more likely to find you headed out for a walk by yourself, or to a packed kick boxing class at your gym?
Introverts crave and need time alone to reconnect to their power source. An extrovert needs the energy of others to recharge.

The term shy is used in a number of different ways, but it is really a behavior you can observe. You can see 'shy'. We all know what it looks like, right? But when people use it as an adjective, or a trait to describe someone, it is most often because they have observed that person behaving that way, perhaps over a period of time. We are what we repeatedly do, or so it is said.

I've been called shy all my life, and I suppose that was true when I was younger. I think that its introversion now that really fuels my social shrinking behavior. It's not that I feel apprehensive or nervous about engaging with someone or a group (not too often anyway), it's just that I know that it will drain my energy. So, I've become much more selective about my activities.

We'd love to hear from some of you on this! Any un-shy introverts out there? Or shy extroverts?

And, if we haven't already said this, Robin and I welcome private posts for any of you that don't feel comfortable addressing the whole group. Feel free to email me at or Robin at


Terry P. said...

Hi Mary and Robin,

Thanks for posting this. What hit home for me was your question, "...what's your favorite way to unwind?" This totally puts it into perspective. I understand now why I'm so wiped out after a conference (or even a visit from my son and daughter-in-law, for Pete's sake!), when I look forward to those things so very, very much.

And here's a little tip for other introverts like me: I always take a headset and CD of calming music to overnight writing events so I can "lose" myself in my own little world when I'm feeling totally exhausted. It really does help to energize me (I'll be the one at the summer conference toting the crate of CDs :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, I guess I am an introvert in the way that I gather energy. I definitely must have “alone time” to rejuvenate. I spend hours every day, before and after work, in my home office. I actually wake up between 3:30 and 4:00 each morning just for this purpose. And I can tell you, I totally enjoyed driving twelve hours each way on a recent trip to Miami. It was glorious! Just me, my music, and time to think. But maybe that part of me stems from the fact that I am an only child. Anyway, I do fit the introvert profile in that social gatherings wear me out, and I am usually one of the first persons to leave an event. So what can I do to charge myself up, or at least head off this melt down without actually bolting for the exit door? Thanks in advance, and sorry to be such a bother.

Kimberly Lynn

R.L. LaFevers said...

First of all, Kimberly Lynn, do not apologize! You're NOT being a bother! At all! This is exactly why we started this blog, so we could have a place to talk about this stuff. So thank you for asking an important question.

Actually, the whole issue of when and how to recharge is worthy of its own blog entry (or two or four)!

I think it's important to recognize you'll have to leave sooner than others, and just be sure and prioritize your schmoozing or mingling so you make sure you see the people you want to see. Then, don't feel guilty about leaving. You came, you participated, that's all that's required.

As for recharging, well, I know that I will always have Conference Exhaustion Syndrome after attending any conference, even my beloved writers' conferences. However, the motivational benefits and the chance to be around so many other writers and learn new things always outweighs that, so it's definitely worthwhile for me. But I know that I have to allow a good three or four days of total decompression time afterwards. Usually I expect very little of myself for the week after a conference, and I make no social commitments whatsoever.

Another Conference Strategy I adopt (and we'll have a whole post on Conference Strategies for Introverts later) is that I always schedule in down time during the conference. I might retreat to my room to read or just sit and stare at the wall while I process all that I've learned, although usually I take a nap. (I adore naps and fit them in whenever I can.) Yes, I might miss a great luncheon speaker or terrific workshop, but if I don't schedule in the down time, I short circuit and can't take anything in. So again, it's a matter of prioritizing. I know Mary always takes any yoga classes offered at conferences as a way to unwind, and Terry had a great suggestion about taking music that you can lose yourself into and regroup that way.

So those are some starters!

Anonymous said...

Robin, you sure know your stuff!

Thanks for making me feel less crazy. After reading your response to my question, I can see where I've gone terribly wrong in the past. I usually cut it right down to the wire when attending events because I don't want to take time off from work, and/or pay an additional night's stay at the hotel. So what ends up happening, is that I begin the event exhausted. Maybe another strategy could be arriving a day earlier next time. Thanks for all your wise suggestions.

Kimberly Lynn