Introvert Social Needs and Preferences

People don’t outgrow introversion, so the introverted adult was once an introverted child. What is true of one is true of both. Contrary to popular opinion, introverts are not asocial, nor are they friendless loners who lack social skills. They simply have different social needs and preferences.


Young Girl Reading a Book in Bed
Sebastian Pfuetze/Taxi/Getty Images

It can be difficult for introverts to make new friends because getting to know someone takes so much energy. However, introverts don’t need a wide circle of friends.

They prefer one or two close friends, even though they may know many people and have many acquaintances. Despite this preference, introverts are often criticized for not attempting to make more friends, and are often viewed as lacking social skills.

Social Preferences

Introverts need a lot of personal space. They like being in a room alone with the door closed and those who don’t understand introverts believe this desire to be alone is a sign of depression. However, for introverts, this behavior is normal; it is not a sign of withdrawing from life. Because being around others is tiring for them, they need time alone in order to regain some of their energy.

Being alone also gives them a chance to think and figure things out uninterrupted. Introverts don’t enjoy large parties and if they have to attend one, they prefer to spend their time with just one or two others, talking about what they all know a lot about. Introverted children may prefer to play on the side with one or two other children.

Preferred Activities

Introverts enjoy activities they can do alone or with just a few others. So, it’s not surprising that so many introverted, gifted children love to read. They also tend to prefer activities that allow for creative expression, like creative writing, music, and art. Introverted children also enjoy quiet and imaginative play.

When presented with an opportunity to take part in a group activity or game, introverts prefer to hang back and watch before they join in. Many people see this as shyness, but it’s not. They feel more comfortable with situations that are familiar to them and they are simply trying to become familiar with the activity before they join in.

Social Behavior

Introverts tend to be quiet and subdued. They dislike being the center of attention, even if the attention is positive. It’s not surprising that introverts don’t brag about their achievements or knowledge. In fact, they may know more than they’ll admit.

It may be the introverted gifted children who are more at risk for "dumbing down" since they are more likely to hide their abilities. When introverts are tired, in a large group, or if too much is going on, they may show little animation, with little facial expression or body movement.

Introverts tend to have two distinct personalities: a private one and a public one, which is why they can be talkative in comfortable settings, like home, and quiet elsewhere.

Social Interaction

While introverts may appear to lack social skills or be antisocial, neither is true. Their style of social interaction is simply different from that of extroverts. They tend to listen more than they talk and are excellent listeners. They are attentive and will make eye contact with the person they are listening to and rarely interrupt.

When they do talk, introverts say what they mean and may look away from the person they’re talking to. They dislike small talk and would rather say nothing than something they feel is insignificant. Although introverts are quiet, they will talk incessantly if they’re interested in the topic. They also dislike being interrupted when they talk, or when they’re working on some project.

Verbal Expression

If given a choice, introverts would rather express their ideas in writing than in speech. When they do speak, they need time to think before answering a question. Sometimes they even feel the need to mentally rehearse what they want to say before they say it.

The need to think before speaking often results in the introvert being slow to respond to questions or comments. When they talk, they may also pause quite often and even have problems finding the right word.

Emotions and Emotional Responses

Introverts become emotionally drained after spending time with others, particularly strangers. They don’t like crowded places and introverted children can even become grouchy and irritable if they’ve been around too many people for too long. Even when introverts enjoyed a party or activity, they can feel drained afterward.

Parents often sign their introverted children up for numerous activities to help them improve their social skills, but an activity-filled schedule is overwhelming for these children.

They dislike sharing space with others for too long and may find house guests intrusive. Introverts also have a hard time sharing their feelings and feel deeply embarrassed by public mistakes.

Other Traits and Preferences

Introverts can concentrate intensely on a book or project for a long time if they find it interesting and like to explore subjects deeply and thoroughly. That may be why introverts don’t like to be bothered when they are reading or working on a project. Introverts are acutely aware of their inner world of perceptions, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and feelings.

They are also highly aware of their surroundings, noticing little details that others don’t see. However, they are not quick to discuss their thoughts or observations. They may, for example, wait days or weeks to talk about events. Introverts also favor consistency over change and cope with change best when they know ahead of time what to expect and have enough time to prepare for it.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cabello R, Fernandez-Berrocal P. Under which conditions can introverts achieve happiness? Mediation and moderation effects of the quality of social relationships and emotion regulation ability on happinessPeerJ. 2015;3:e1300. doi:10.7717/peerj.1300

By Carol Bainbridge
Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.