If you’ve taken any sort of personality quiz, you likely know if you’re either an introvert who loves a quiet night at home or an extrovert who thrives when they are surrounded by a lot of people. The introvert/extrovert divide, however, isn’t so black and white. Some people will fall somewhere in the middle (we’re looking at you, ambiverts), but there are also some subtypes of each including the often misunderstood shy extroverts.
Many people assume that all shy people are introverts and all extroverts are social butterflies. While that might be the case for some people, it’s not a universal. Why? Because being shy and being introverted are two different traits.
“When psychologists talk about introversion and extroversion, we're focused on how people are energized,” says Heather Z. Lyons, PhD, licensed psychologist and owner of the Baltimore Therapy Group. “Extroverts are energized by social environments. On the other hand, introverts are drained by social experiences and are energized, instead, by alone time.”
Therefore, “shy extroverts are those who crave social time but might lack the skills to socialize more effectively or even become avoidant in social situations despite the fact that they need their quality social time," she says.
Still not sure where you land on the extrovert spectrum? Keep reading to learn some of the signs of being a shy extrovert and pro tips on how to cope with it.
Signs you’re a shy extrovert:
1. You dread social gatherings, but you also really love them
As a shy extrovert, there is a part of you that deeply craves and desires to be around groups of people. There’s no denying that. But, that desire also comes along with a twinge of dread, insecurity, and some serious butterflies in your tummy. Dara Bushman, licensed clinical psychologist, describes being a shy extrovert as “showing up for the world with a smile and quiet energy that lights up the room, but feeling like your insides are curled in a tight ball.” Given this major inner conflict around socializing, it might take shy extroverts a lot of self convincing to get themselves out of the house and into a social setting. But once they’re there, Dr. Lyons says, they absolutely love it.
2. You don’t like being the center of attention
Although shy extroverts love being around big groups people (you know, once the fear dissipates), they never want all eyes on them. Dr. Bushman says shy extroverts instead enjoy people watching and are totally cool with silence. They don’t feel the need to be constantly talking to fill up space which allows other people to take up the conversation.
Luckily for them, this actually makes them more likable because it means they're great listeners. “People in conversations rate their impressions of others more favorably when they themselves do most of the talking,” Dr. Lyons says. “You can keep a conversation going by using eye contact, head nods, and open-ended questions.” Plus, shifting the focus onto other people will help shy extroverts ease some of the tension they might be feeling.
3. You need self-care to recharge but not too much
Because the dread that comes along with impending social settings can take a lot out of them, shy extroverts do need time to recharge like introverts do. But because the actual socializing fuels your energy, they don’t need too much of it. Once your battery is juiced up again, Dr. Bushman says, you're ready to hit up another gathering in no time.
How to cope with being a shy extrovert
1. Reframe how you see shyness
Shyness, Dr. Bushman says, is not the problem. “It’s the self-judgement and how you are thinking about the shyness that is the culprit," she says. So if you start to see shyness as a protective layer versus a bad thing, things can start to shift. She also recommends not being afraid to be transparent about being shy. “Talk about your uneasiness. Be human,” she continues. “The vulnerability of our humanness creates connection.” The more you reframe the shyness and expose it, the less and less true being shy becomes.
2. Practice your social skills
If shyness is a characteristic that you feel is holding you back, you can change it. “Being shy can be dispositional but that doesn't mean that we can't train ourselves out of it with practice,” Dr. Lyons says. “Practice not only teaches us which skills are the right fit for us personally but also helps train our nervous system that we can get through anxiety provoking situations.”
So even if you really don’t feel like going to that event or gathering, Dr. Bushman recommends remembering how good it’s going to make you feel afterwards and show up anyway again and again.
3. Set boundaries for yourself
Because as a shy extrovert you will likely need time to decompress after being social, Dara suggests making sure you set some clear limits with yourself about how long you’ll stay out. Maybe swinging by a party for an hour or two feels better than staying out all night. Listen to your needs and be selective about the events you attend.
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