Friday, August 1, 2008

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 it's 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?  Shy introverts? 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

Have a stellar weekend, friends!  And to those of you at SCBWI Nationals, you lucky things, have a blast.  And, don't forget to P-A-C-E yourselves.  Be kind to your introvert, okay?

Lastly, I do want to take a moment to acknowledge the closing of our Adventures for Kids Children's Bookstore this past weekend in Ventura, California.  Thank you, Jody and Barbara, and all the marvelous team there for your decades of extraordinary work and support of children's literature.  You will be missed.  May your good works return to you each a hundred-fold.

Salud, dear friends!

Mary Hershey

(Original Shy vs. Introverted Post March 2007)


tanita✿davis said...

People who meet me rarely consider me shy -- I'm not always. But I do get ...anxiety from too many people. I don't gather energy from them, and sometimes, they outright make me need to flee. I hate being in the limelight. So... I'm not sure what I am. If things are low-key, I'm okay with twenty or thirty people -- sometimes too few people can be just as daunting.

Hm. You know what? I'm going to think about this some more before I answer! I think I might actually be shy.

Patricia Weber said...

In my report for introverts who sell, I'll quote myself (a lttle absurd isn't it?)

"Bernardo Carducci, psychology professor and director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany uses a party scenario to illustrate the difference between an introvert and a shy person. The introvert isn't afraid to talk to people but might go to a corner or head to the restroom to take a break from the crowd. The shy person stands in the corner because he feels he has no choice.

Carducci's research shows there are far more SHY people than introverts. Actually, more than 40 percent of Americans are shy! It may well be the same in other cultures."

Even with Carducci’s illustration, it may still not be clear. As relates to business networking, an extroverted sanctioned event for certain, if you find your self-talk laden with words like, “silly small talk ,” or “I'm ready to take a break ,” it’s likely you’re introverted and you only need to tap your strategic planning nature to help with a few energy boosters during such an event.

Patricia Weber
Sales Accelerator Coach
For Introverts, Shy and Reluctant

Barbara O'Connor said...

I would definitely consider myself a non-shy introvert but not shy. I don't mind schmoozing when necessary (although I don't particularly enjoy it) or even speaking in front of large groups. But I sure need and relish ALONE time. That's where I harness my energy.

Barbara O'Connor said...

...."a non-shy introvert but not shy"? Guess I need an editor. Ha!

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I'm both shy and introverted. But one thing that helps me in crowds is telling myself half the people there are feeling just as shy as I am. Makes it easier to break the ice.

Shari Green said...

I'm way introverted, but only a little shy.

Anonymous said...

I'm another non-shy introvert. I have my anti-social times (which I call "feeling shy", not "being shy"), and I also have times when I crave company. But on the whole, while I have no problem going into strange situations and meeting new people, talking in front of groups, etc., my idea of a good time usually involves a book, a musical instrument, or possibly my dog.

SAVanVleck said...

I am a shy extrovert. On a personal side, I try to camouflage into the wall. I have no idea what to say or how to go up to a person to start a conversation and I would soooo much rather be at home, alone.

On the professional side, I can comfortably stand up and talk to a group of people. I have worked as an adjunct, teaching art, and in many other teaching situations. I am comfortable because I know my subject matter. I know what I am saying and I know how to answer the questions.

I think it also gives me validation. If the reception is for me, I am comfortable. If I'm in the crowd, I'm outside my comfort zone.

Mary Hershey said...

Thanks for all the great comments you've left here and howdy-do to some of you that haven't posted before.
:-) We love hearing from all you!

What an interesting mix of creatures we are!
When I'm way past my comfort zone in a social setting, I always try to remember that there are probably several shy and/or introvert souls within arm's reach. I work at finding them and then try to create a mini-haven for both of us.

More to come on this topic in future posts!
Mary Hershey
Mary Hershey

Anonymous said...

It is strange, but from this definition, it seems my husband is an introvert! He is the absolute opposite of shy-- fearless to the point of tactless, no problem talking to people whatsoever. I am very shy, so we've always complemented each other. But we also both would rather spend an evening reading books than going out on the town. And when it comes to going to family get-togethers, he's always the one who just goes along to humor me! I don't MINGLE, but I DO like to people-watch....

Jen Robinson said...

I'm definitely a not particularly shy introvert. I can speak in front of a crowd, and I can be entertaining in a group. I can even enjoy those things sometimes, at least for a few minutes. But both wipe me out completely, and leave me wanting my alone time to recharge. Can I just add, Mary and Robin, that UNDERSTANDING why I get wiped out has helped me a lot since I started reading your blog. Thanks!

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Count me as a not-shy introvert (though I was very shy as a teen). When I do my school talks or teach workshops, people frequently comment on my energy and say that I'm lucky to be so extroverted. Ha! Double ha! What they don't know is that I go home after a two day workshop and sleep for 16 hours to recover.

Anonymous said...

What I am just beginning to realize (as in, just realized today) is that I'm a shy (unfortunately insecure) extrovert. I always assumed I was introverted because I found it so hard to interact with others. However, I've spent the morning googling introvert vs. shy and have begun to see that I'm not actually introverted. I feel drained when I spend time with other people, but only because I feel so much anxiety when I attempt to talk to others. I wouldn't say I like big crowds, but I go batty when I'm alone for too long and I long for company. I really appreciate your entry here - it certainly helped! ~Jennifer

Molly said...

I am a very shy extrovert. It's torturous, let me tell you. I become depressed and miserable when I spend more than a little time alone, but my extreme shyness and social anxiety makes it next to impossible to meet and interact with new people. I say I hate parties, but the truth is I've just never really been to them. I am a possible drama major, and I love being on stage and with fellow actors, but I rarely audition out of sheer fright of rejection. I need to stay in touch with people, but hate using the phone. It's a cursed mix of contradictions.