The Social Introvert and How They Form Relationships

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Quiet: The Power of Introverts" by Susan Cain. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is a social introvert? Does that kind of person exist or is it a contradiction?

While it may seem counterintuitive, introverts can be very social but their socializing looks different than an extrovert. A social introvert focuses on a few close friends and meaningful interactions.

Read on for more about the social introvert and what that means.

Socializing and Personality

People often wrongly believe that introverts are anti-social and extroverts are highly sociable. In fact, the two personality types both have a need for connection but they’re differently social.

A social introvert prefers to socialize with a few close friends and have meaningful, in-depth conversations. Extroverts need to be surrounded by a lot of people to feel as though they’re having a social impact. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert determines how many friends you have, but not whether you’re a good friend. Researchers have found that introverts and extroverts are equally likely to be agreeable and friendly to other people—in other words, introverts aren’t anti-social.

A Social Introvert Is Just “Differently Social

For introverts, participating in a social event takes a significant mental toll; it’s difficult for them to process information from multiple people simultaneously without feeling distracted and stressed. By contrast, extroverts are good at handling competing demands on their attention and therefore aren’t overwhelmed by the stimulation of a social event.

An interaction in a social setting involves many tasks, including:

  • Interpreting what someone is saying
  • Reading their facial expressions and body language
  • Talking, listening, and responding
  • Determining whether you’re being understood and well-received and if not, determining how to extricate yourself

Because of the mental demands, introverts tend to be quiet observers at parties or engage one-on-one. In individual conversations, introverts tend to talk about a problem and assume an advisor role, while extroverts talk about more light-hearted topics. This can result in a productive conversation—introverts appreciate extroverts’ focus on less-mentally taxing topics and

extroverts appreciate the fact that introverts listen closely and ask questions.

For Emily and Greg, this means it’s natural for Emily to feel overwhelmed by social events, but she can enjoy conversations one-on-one. So they resolved their impasse by changing the format of their Friday get-togethers from sit-down dinners to buffets with people eating and conversing in small groups. They also agreed to host two parties a month instead of four.

The Social Introvert and How They Form Relationships

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Here's what you'll find in our full Quiet: The Power of Introverts summary :

  • How society overvalues extroverts
  • Why introverts' overlooked strengths are the key to greater success in work, school, and society
  • How extroversion caused the fall of Enron

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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