9 ways introverts are commonly misunderstood by society, according to psychology

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

If I tell you to picture an introvert, what’s the first image that pops into your head?

Someone grumpy, quiet, socially awkward, probably with their head inside a book?

While that happens to describe me to a T, it’s a stereotype that doesn’t fit *all* introverts.

In fact, there are a lot of misconceptions about them floating around.

On that note, here are 9 ways introverts are commonly misunderstood by society, according to psychology.

Don’t judge someone’s hidden depths by their reserved exterior.

1) Introverts don’t like people

A common belief about introverts is that they don’t like other people.

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, an introvert, why I hated people over the course of my lifetime, I would be able to afford my very own Fortress of Solitude.

Truth is, introverts have nothing against other people.

According to psychology, they simply prefer to have a few close friends over a big social circle.

They value deep connections and meaningful conversations.

Moreover, they care about their relationships and even enjoy being with others.

I have only two close friends, but I love them with all my heart. I like to go out. I like to meet new people, as long as the setting isn’t overwhelming.

Since being around too many folks is draining, it’s not one of my top five activities.  

But I also don’t isolate myself 24/7.

That brings us to the next point on the list.

2) Introverts always want to be alone

Despite popular belief, introverts do get lonely.

It started to happen to me over the last few years.

The feeling was foreign at first because I’ve always been fine on my own, so it took me a while to identify it.

I live alone and work from home. The loneliness crept up on me during the pandemic, when I had fewer opportunities to leave the house, and it’s been hard to shake off since.

As a result, I now go out more and try to be among people whenever being couped up inside becomes too much.

Psychologists point out that introverts have different thresholds for solitude and socializing, and that these can change based on circumstances.

They also vary depending on the individual.

Something to keep in mind.

3) Introverts are shy

Introversion itself is not synonymous with shyness.

Being an introvert means you get overstimulated when you’re around others and recharge best when you’re by yourself.

Shyness, meanwhile, involves fear of negative evaluation.

According to psychology, the two share some similarities but are not the same.

For instance, I don’t have a problem approaching someone or talking to new people.

I prefer one-on-one conversations over group chats, but I can be outgoing when in a good mood.  

We all contain multitudes.

4) Introverts are antisocial

Another common misconception about introverts is that they are antisocial.

Introverts tend to prefer smaller social gatherings or solitary activities over large, bustling events.

However, this preference for solitude and quieter social interactions doesn’t mean that we’re antisocial.

Psychologists define being antisocial as “having a blatant disregard for the feelings or well-being of others.”

Antisocial people are rare and share a few traits:

  • They may be cruel toward other people or animals
  • They may disregard societal norms
  • They may find it difficult to maintain relationships
  • They may view themselves as superior to others
  • They may lack compassion

While I’m sure it’s possible to be both antisocial and introverted, the two terms aren’t interchangeable.

Far from it.

5) Introverts make bad leaders

Introverts may be reluctant to lead because they don’t enjoy the spotlight.

That said, they don’t make bad leaders.  

Introverts often have traits that make them excellent managers, like deep thinking and active listening.

Also, studies have shown that they can outperform extroverts under certain circumstances – for instance, if they lead proactive teams.

Generally speaking, introverts value input from others, consider multiple perspectives, and take the time to understand different viewpoints.

This makes them empathetic leaders who understand the needs and concerns of their underlings.

They can be more effective when it comes to helping a team grow.

Introverts are also good at planning.

They carefully consider details, anticipate potential challenges, and develop strategies to address them.

You see how this ability can ensure successful leadership, right?

6) Introverts are boring

Calling an introvert “boring” means you have a limited understanding of introverted traits and behaviors.

Oh, and that an introvert was never comfortable enough around you to show you their true colors.

Sorry!

In reality, introverts have rich inner lives filled with creativity and introspection.

Since they spend a lot of time alone, they also tend to enjoy solitary activities such as reading, writing, painting, or engaging in hobbies that allow them to explore their interests.

Their ability to immerse themselves in their passions can lead to fascinating insights, so talking to them is anything but boring.

I once had a colleague who was even more introverted than I am and rarely spoke up during work hours.

I walked home with her once, however, and I brought up sci-fi books.

She proceeded to talk my ear off about her sci-fi-related interests, with so much passion I couldn’t help but be in awe.

Still waters run deep, as the saying goes.

7) Introverts lack confidence

Introverts exhibit a more reserved demeanor in social situations, but this doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of confidence.

It’s easy to see how this misconception came to be, as introverts and people with low confidence have things in common.

Both avoid being the center of attention and dread socializing in big groups. Both also prefer to be left alone on occasion.

Even so, introversion and confidence are different things, according to psychology.

Introverts frequently possess a strong sense of self-assurance and conviction in their abilities and values.

They express their confidence inward rather than outwardly, relying on their judgment and capabilities to navigate challenges and pursue their goals.

More often than not, introverts have no problem believing in themselves.

After all, they do enjoy their own company.

8) Introverts can’t stand up for themselves

Assertiveness is independent of introversion or extroversion.

While extroverts express assertiveness more overtly, introverts can demonstrate assertiveness through written communication or thoughtful conversation.

In other words, they have no problem standing up for themselves when the situation calls for it.

They may take time to form an opinion, consider their response carefully, and strategize how to assert themselves effectively.

I plan entire conversations in my head before they happen, especially if I anticipate that they will degenerate into conflict.

Additionally, introverts can be selective about when and how they assert themselves.

From experience, we prefer to prioritize issues that have a significant impact, at least in our eyes.

Fighting just for the sake of fighting is a foreign concept for us.

9) Introverts need to be “fixed”

Finally, it can be tempting to think that introverts should “fix” themselves.

The world is designed for extroverts – for people who socialize easily, are comfortable in large groups, thrive in stimulating environments.

Open office plans and networking events remain a testament to that.

Which is why I’ve heard a variation of these phrases ever since I was little:

  • Stop being so quiet.
  • You should speak up more.
  • You should come out of your shell more.
  • You’re too serious/distant/detached.
  • Stop overthinking everything.
  • You need to be more assertive.
  • You should go out more.

But introversion isn’t something you must work on. Psychologists agree.

You don’t have to mold yourself into someone louder and more approachable.

You don’t have to smile excessively or make painful small talk in the elevator or befriend everyone at work.

There are plenty of benefits to being an introvert.

As long as you’re happy with your life, you’re golden.

Final thoughts

Generalizations do more harm than good.

Some introverts may be shy, anti-social, boring, and struggling with self-esteem.

But most lead active social lives, enjoy group activities, and thrive in both social and professional settings.

They just need to be comfortable and able to strategically retreat and recharge when needed.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

7 signs a man hasn’t emotionally grown up yet, according to psychology

9 non-obvious signs that someone is highly attracted to you, according to psychology