The Difference Between Being Shy And Being Introverted

” He was too diffident to do justice to himself; but when his natural shyness was overcome, his behaviour gave every indication of an open, affectionate heart.” β€”Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

In A Nutshell

Shyness and introversion are two types of personality characteristics that are very often written off as the same thing by those that don’t have to deal with one, the other, or both. Introversion is one of the pairs in the Myers-Briggs personality tests that is given a higher rating if the person recharges their energy by solitary activities such as reading, writing, and reflection. Shyness defines how a person deals with others and unfamiliar situations; those who are shy have a hard time talking to and meeting new people, and are often uncomfortable in new situations.

Note: It is always worth remembering that psychological definitions like this are not always completely agreed on. We simply offer two of the more popular definitions.

The Whole Bushel

We’ve all been to those parties; we’ve all seen that person that just looks like they really, really don’t want to be there. In some cases, we are that person. Whether we’re shy or introverted, we’re probably frustrated with those who aren’t familiar with the two very different types of personality characteristics brushing us off as one or the other, and not understanding quite what they are.

From the outside, a person who is introverted is viewed in much the same way as someone who is shy. (It’s not uncommon that the two characteristics exist in the same person.) They’re the new person at work who doesn’t make an effort to make a spot for themselves at the lunch table, they’re the ones who read a book in their car on their breaks. They’re the standoffish ones, the awkward ones. But that’s looking at it through the lens of an extrovert.

The introvert doesn’t feel the need to seek out social interaction. In fact, too much social interaction can be emotionally and physically exhausting for them. Strangely, a study by the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences suggest that there’s a very different way that the brain of an introvert registers the world around them. When studying the brain activity that went on in an introverted person, it was found that there was no more electrical activity happening when they were looking at another person compared to when they were looking at inanimate objects. This suggests there’s a biological reason that introverts don’t seek out social interaction—they’re just not stimulated by it.

Introversion is a biological and personality trait, and those that have it are usually fine with it.

Shyness, on the other hand, can become so severe and so crippling that it can actually be diagnosed as a mental health problem. Everyone can be shy in certain situations and there are definitely varying degrees of shyness. However, in extreme cases, those that suffer from it find themselves unable to function in certain situations, unable to ask a stranger for directions, or agonizing over the moments before getting to the front of a check-out line where human interaction is necessary.

While an introvert more likely chooses to stay home on a Friday night, someone suffering from severe shyness may not think they have any choice but to stay home—and wish they were out.

Introverts often have a small group of close friends. To those who know them, they’re often great listeners, can give thoughtful advice, and are extremely empathetic. A person who is severely shy may find it difficult to form close friendships like that, and can remain feeling awkward even around family and people they have known for their entire lives. An introvert can be fine with someone approaching them and beginning a conversation, but to someone who’s shy, that can be just as terrifying as the thought of starting a conversation themselves.

A big difference between the two is how the person feels about their lack of social interaction or desire for constant companionship. An introvert is fine with it: They really, really are. To an introvert, it’s not a problem to be alone with their thoughts or to have a quiet dinner with one or two close friends. For someone who’s shy, though, they tend to wish that it just wasn’t the case. They are the ones that long for a big group of friends, but just can’t bring themselves to reach out and put themselves into that situation.

Show Me The Proof

LiveScience: Brains of Introverts Reveal Why They Prefer Being Alone
Psychology Today: There’s More to Introversion than You Might Think
BBC News: Is being shy an illness?
Psychology Today: Understanding Shyness

  • I tend to get introvert around attractive women …

    • namemon

      Don’t spam videos, newb troll.

      • lbatfish

        LOL! YOU’RE calling ARJAN a “newb troll”? How totally amusing you are! πŸ™‚

      • Check

        You haven’t been here enough to know that Arjan is no newb. And, he’s only a troll when he wants to be, lol.

  • Nathaniel A.

    According to this I am textbook introvert. Not that this came as a shock to me, but I was surprised that I checked off every box.

    • Lisa 39

      Hi nathaniel, off topic, so i just watched the video of the mom who drove her van into the ocean, she had her evaluation and is now arrested and in deep shitake, her family said she was afraid of her abusive husband and that she went to florida to get away from him, i’m pretty disgusted, again, another mom trying to kill her kids, i’m glad she failed, if your husband is abusive you leave him, divorce him but never ever hurt your kids, i’m upset now and glad its friday because now i really need a drink πŸ™

      • Nathaniel A.

        I read that enroute to the surf, she told her kids; “Shut your eyes, I am going to take you to a better place.” Pretty horrific huh?

        • Lisa 39

          Just because you can have babies doesn’t mean that you should, now i have a few (ish lol) beers in me and i’m really controlling my thumb, not my mouth, THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS, mom rant mode is on now, if any parent is having a problem they can call children and family services, the police, any doctor, suicide hotline and more, there is help available, if a woman starts talking about demons and drives off with her kids then yes, you call the police, her sister (i belive) did the right thing, kudos to her, i don’t know about any other countries but here in america that’s bullcrap, i’m done for now, but i’m still really po’d.

  • Hillyard

    What would a shy extrovert be called?

    • “Barbra”.

    • musalice41

      an ambivert

  • Brenda

    I’m a little shy, but mostly an introvert and honestly, I have a hard time hanging out with extrovert people. I have a few friends who are extroverts, but they drain my energy completely. I like them, I just can’t be with them every day.

    • Valdez

      Me too. I call them “small dose” people!

  • Amber

    I am both.

  • Scott

    I’m an introverted extrovert. I like interacting with people and I pretty much always get along great with people, but I rarely ever feel the need to do so. I’m the kind of guy that would much rather chill at home with a few good friends instead of going out to some ridiculous club or a bar full of annoying people. That’s why I broke up with my last girlfriend. She was the kind of person that wanted to go clubbing and party every night. It just was not fun at all. I’ll never understand how women can go get utterly obliterated, fight with their friends and cry all night long, and then wake up in the morning throwing up on their bed, and then claim that they had SOOOOO much fun last night. Seems retarded to me.

    • Lisa 39

      You need a better girlfriend πŸ™‚

      • Scott

        Ain’t it the truth?

    • Aldrin de Guzman

      your an ambivert then

    • Geert de Wilde

      According to what I read in the text above, you are just introvert I think and absolutely not shy. The perfect example of the difference between the two. πŸ™‚

    • Lala

      I would get along with you…but how do you define introverted extrovert, still? I am an introvert, large crowds depress me, they are tiring, i am fine with people that i know, like my family and friends, but after sometime they also wear me out, i’d want to be on my own and or just stay at home and do some productive or unproductive. The thing is little conversation about big or small things is pretty useless to me, that’s not haughtiness, just the truth, we all go our separate ways and we do nothing about those little conversation, same stuff over and over…tiring and boring

    • Lady Tam Li Hua

      I think not enjoying the “party” lifestyle is perfectly fine, and probably separate from shyness or introversion. That’s just a bunch of chaos, and I don’t like it either. πŸ™‚

      If it makes you feel better, I’ve never understood folks like your ex either. :/ Hangovers and drama just seem…exhausting and the opposite of entertaining and enriching.

    • Joe Semester

      LMAO. American women, in a nutshell.

    • Allegra21

      1. You’re an ambivert.
      2. Not all women are like that.

  • namemon

    Oh, good. Semantic nonsense.

  • Akarasakii

    I have never once considered these two words to be one of the same, which is why this misconception has baffled me, still, maybe that’s just me. I always thought “shy” means simply not used to talking to people, and “Introvert” being people who prefers more alone than not, at times.

  • John Watson

    This doesn’t help, i’ve felt both of these at different times. Matters my mood.

  • lbatfish

    Interesting — I just found out that I’m apparently an “introvert”, though nobody who knows me would ever describe me as shy.

    In “age of internet”, I wonder if there’s a word for a person that’s fairly outgoing online, but isn’t very interested in real-life partying more than one night a week (or some weeks, not at all)?

  • Christine

    Everyone always thinks that if you’re introverted you’re weird, but I think it’s weird that some people have such a need to be around other people and never stop talking all the time. I love being by myself, I love being in my own head. The only reason being extroverted is seen as a good thing over being introverted is because the extroverted people are the only one’s who never shut up and make a big cafuffle about it to other people while we introverts just idly enjoy life in our heads πŸ˜‰

  • Check

    According to this, it seems I am an extrovert that is shy in certain situations. I was painfully shy in my younger years, keeping to myself and avoiding conversations, but I did always want to be a part of it all. Thankfully, college life changed that for me, and now I am quite social and interact easily with total strangers. I still am shy in certain situations, like when there is too many people looking at me, I feel a twinge of panic, and I have to steady myself to function normally. This includes performing on stage, singing at the Karaoke, public speaking, and getting everyone’s attention in a crowd. For some reason, however, this is not the case in the classroom when I am teaching. It might be a peer thing.

  • TalishaRodrique

    There is not difference between Shy and Introverted .It has not related to each other.

  • I’m an introvert with shy tendencies. Sometimes I just want to be alone, other times I don’t and I’m nervous to be around people. Not always though but sometimes…

  • Here’s a thought that crossed my mind. An introvert is a person who is absolutely cozy and comfortable within his permanent shell. A shy person is a person who has his temporary shell which he would love to lose at any given moment…

  • Osama Zaghloul

    Introverts are not always quiet nor happy to be alone. It doesn’t bother me to be alone, but I do need friends. The problem is finding practical friends that you enjoy being around, I am not afraid of social scenes at all. I just need stimulating conversations and intimate encounters not mass entertainment all the time

    • Lala

      you’re an extrovert! πŸ™‚

  • I want to give my thoughts out, but I think Shyness takes a big part into some introvert people. I my self may be an Introvert, but I think shyness is a big part of me.. I honestly don’t want to be told to never be shy again because I think being Shy is a huge part of me, and it caused me to be alone, BUT not in a crappy way, it caused me to think very freely and it made me happy.

    Honestly Shy and Introvert may not be the same it’s self, but sometimes they are for certain people, and I will say. There is NOTHING wrong with being shy. Shyness is not a disease (Sure it can have problems sometimes) but blaming it all is yet, another reason as to why I really dislike the way Society has been acting.

    Once again, while some introverts may want to be social in another way. SOME introverts are more different than that (e.g. Doesn’t want to social) and I think society NEEDS to learn to respect that.

  • Sarah Iseminger

    this whole time I’ve been calling myself an introvert and I’m just really shy. I’d actually rather be out doing something most of the time than staying home reading a book. Well, I guess when I’m tired and messy looking, I’d turn down an invite to do something, but I’d rather be out and about. It’s just the social interaction that comes along with that that bothers me.

  • lea

    i’m an introvert and it’s annoying when people mistake it for being shy cause deep down i know i’m not shy but i just don’t see the need to talk to others i do not know and thank God i saw this cause if not i wouldn’t have felt better.

    • Mik

      Extroverts label introverts as shy, because the extroverts can’t imagine
      that there’s someone who does not enjoy their company.

      It’s unfortunate that extroversion and arrogance often come together.
      Extroverts have to like the sound of their own voice, otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

  • AudriRose

    I’m extremely shy, I have to wait for people to talk to me, but there are times where I just don’t want to be around anyone. There are times I wish I could go out of my way to make new friends and enjoy my time spent but then, If I had plans made my mood just descend and I would think “God I hope they cancel” . My thoughts and what not go back and fourth. I want to go out but then I don’t because it’s sooo much work and I just don’t want to go to them and have “fun” because I do enjoy time being at home and cooking, I have stacks of books that I like to read on my own time, I dont really know what you would classify me as because I hear im introverted yet also extremely shy, so I think they do go hand in hand because everytime I go to a party, unless i drink a large amount I refuse to talk to anyone, noone catches my eye, I Just want to sit outside and think and look at the stars and daydream like I always do xD

    • emmanuellelamothe

      I’m shy person growing not much friends my parent friend that has kids but i didnt mingle I was not allowed to have friend outside the circle sow i’m alway shy
      Hardly had friends dowing school i picture my parent no friend if we didnt attend school with there parents am like that until this day. I have a friend her mom introduce us because she know am not easy person to make friend so this makes it ten years we friend.I have a kid she makes friend i try my best to talk to the parents but am shy they approach me first ask me my name,at a parent meeting my sister attend i don’t do conversation. I dont know what to do my family always make decision for me. I get shy approaching people i have a young face my age is close to fourdy they still ask me for i.d or ask my sister is she my mom we only three years appart.

  • musalice41

    see im an introvert with shy tendencies but its not that bad

  • Kalif Kasaba

    I’m not shy at all. I could talk with a group, a few people or one – even strangers on the street. However, I choose not to. Why? I believe that people become victimized simply by sharing themselves with others. Must of us have heard the term, familiarity breeds contempt, this phrase is the basis of my reasoning. The more you take the time to give of your self to a person or people, they will inherently utilize whatever they know of you to become your cross to bear. Why give them that strength? The little they know, the best you will ultimately be. As any reply which follow my post will display.

  • ubik

    Just leave me alone, in peace and quiet.
    I would like to think deeper and the world is getting more intrusive and distracting.
    Desert Island Discs, ready for my close up.

  • Brock Griffin

    I think the difference between being shy and being introverted is, being shy pretty much means that you may have a hard time interacting with people and or you may be very anxious in social situations. Being introverted means to be reserved and thoughtful and to enjoy seclusion and of course their is probably a whole spectrum of these things of varying levels and degrees. I myself have always been quite introverted but people tend to misread me this is probably why I don’t like groups that much but just because I don’t talk much they assume I’m shy. I think that is one reason I tend to enjoy my alone time more that being around a huge group of people is because at least in my case people seem to be very judgmental.