Here’s a fun fact to pepper in at your next dinner party: Not all introverts are the same. Sure, we may share similarities, like feeling drained by social events and parties, but given that there are actually four specific types of introverts, we clearly have our own differences, as well. Generally what sets us apart are the guiding reasons for what makes us introverted in the first place.
We came to understand those reasons better as a result of the STAR model of introversion that psychologist and researcher Jonathan Cheek, PhD, developed in 2011 to explain the four introversion subgroups: social introversion, thinking introversion, anxious introversion, and restrained introversion. Each archetype is separated by varying motivations, pitfalls, and ability to thrive in social situations. Below, get a better understanding about what separates each of the four types of introverts.
1. Social introvert
The thought of a social introvert conjures someone who is really big on embracing JOMO as a lifestyle choice. This person isn’t necessarily shy, per se, they just prioritize alone time or streamlined social interactions. Social introverts tend to enjoy intimate gatherings above raging parties and one-on-one coffee catchups to bottomless brunches with a huge group.
“Social introverts prefer a small group setting and alone time. This can be a strength, as the well-grounded social introvert is often a quiet ‘rock’ in gatherings.” —psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD
“The social introvert tends to prefer a small group setting and alone time,” says clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD. “This can certainly be a strength, as the well-grounded social introvert is often a quiet ‘rock’ in gatherings. And, a social introvert can certainly be a comfort for those who are anxious or prefer to be in the background.”
2. Thinking introvert
Thinking introverts are quiet-genius types. They love hypothesizing, creating, ideating, and storytelling to such an extent that it dominates much of their mental space, thus de-prioritizing other people as an unintended effect. These introverts might come across as aloof or spacey to anyone who can’t hold their attention. When they do talk, though, people tend to cling to their every word.
“A thinking introvert can be an invaluable asset in regards to adding much-needed thoughtfulness and creativity to social settings,” Dr. Manly says. “Although quiet, the thinking introvert often has insights that are truly profound.”
3. Anxious introvert
An anxious introvert can feel genuinely unsettled in social gatherings and even when alone. An anxious introvert might genuinely suffer from social anxiety or a related anxiety disorder, but even if this is the case, these people do possess a quiet strength and power.
“The anxious introvert’s sensitivity can actually be powerfully helpful in creating subgroups in social gatherings that even out the general tempo,” says Dr. Manly. “For example, an anxious introvert may form a quieter group outside during a busy social gathering.”
These kind of shifts can create a greater balance in social gatherings. And if you fear being socially awkward, Dr. Manly suggests that you might find yourself more comfortable tending to tasks behind the scenes. So if your friend is hosting a huge party to celebrate their birthday, it might ease your nerves to get there early and help with setting up. “This is a necessary and often much-appreciated use of the anxious introvert’s energy,” says Dr. Manly.
4. Restrained introvert
The restrained introvert simply doesn’t show their cards upfront and is really guarded at first. But, once you get to know them, they’re happy to play open hands. Until popping out of that protective shell, though, a restrained introvert can be a truly grounding force among their peers.
“The restrained introvert often adds an element of common sense to discussions and activities,” says Dr. Manly. “Their generally high level of reserve lends itself to balance the often-impetuous natures of true extroverts.”
No matter what archetype (or archetypes) you identify with most, though, remember that being an introvert period wields many subdued strengths when it comes to genuinely connecting with people. You have value to contribute, whether that’s with your ideas, your sensitivity, or your expertly honed ability to set up a party.
All of this being true, there is a difference between being an introvert and being rude. And don’t worry, you can date while being an introvert without your personality feeling like a punishable crime.