Introverts get a bad rap. Popular stereotypes tend to be downright offensive. Some people believe introverts are awkward and have trouble relating with others. Others believe being an introvert means being a loner or antisocial.
All of these assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth, and there is one huge clarification that needs to be made: Being an introvert is not the same thing as being antisocial, says Dr. Arnie Kozak, psychotherapist, clinical assistant professor in psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and author of The Awakened Introvert.
Dr. Kozak is a self-proclaimed introvert, and his book focuses on empowering introverts to use mindfulness and meditation as a means of learning how to use their strengths. Talking with SheKnows, he not only clarified the main difference between being an introvert and being antisocial, but he also gave a snapshot of how introverts function in social situations.
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1. Being antisocial is a clinical condition; being introverted is a personality trait.
“A person who is antisocial is basically someone who is a psychopath; it is a clinical condition that has a genetic component,” explained Dr. Kozak.
This is compared to introverts, who are perfectly capable of relating to others in a healthy manner. Being introverted is merely a personality trait, not a clinical condition, and a single component of what makes a person unique.
2. Introverts are equipped with the skills needed to be social and build relationships; antisocial individuals are unable to relate to others in a healthy way.
“An antisocial person is technically someone who is against society, who lacks empathy for others,” said Dr. Kozak. “Most introverts are very social people. They have friends, they enjoy spending time with people and they have the capacity for empathy.”
Instead, introverts are more selective about their social life. Certain situations can be especially draining for introverts, and so they may need more time to recharge in order to feel refreshed after a particularly exhausting social situation.
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3. An antisocial person can be extroverted and very outgoing.
“Some antisocial people are serial killers, like Ted Bundy, and he was very social,” said Dr. Kozak. Ted Bundy is one of the most notorious American serial killers. When he was executed in 1989, he was proven to be responsible for 36 murders and many believed he was actually connected to over 100 murders. Ted had a reputation for being incredibly active both socially and politically, and was so confident and outgoing that the people who knew him were shocked to learn of his murderous rampage.
“They would still have other personality traits. You can be an extroverted antisocial person or an introverted antisocial person,” Kozak elaborated.
4. Introverts enjoy deep connections with the people they are close to, while antisocial individuals are unable to feel empathy.
Introverts typically enjoy small get-togethers — they have social skills and they feel a deep connection with those they are close to. Introverts are simply more selective about how they socialize, and need periods of solitude in order to best care for themselves, according to Kozak.
This is compared to people who are antisocial: They are unable to connect or feel empathy and will sometimes act out in a manner that is destructive or goes against societal norms.
When we spoke, Kozak also shared another common misconception about introverts. He shared that many confuse being introverted and asocial. While all asocial people are introverts, only a very small percentage of introverts are asocial. A person who is asocial, like an introvert, has the skills necessary to socialize with others — they simply choose not to. An asocial person will choose not to socialize, and would be best described as a loner.
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5. Introverts don’t need to be fixed or taught to be different.
Not only is there nothing wrong with being an introvert, but also there are many strengths only introverts can offer the world. It is important to understand that introverts don’t need to be fixed, or to learn to behave like an extrovert. Instead, introverts should honor who they are, being selective about the social situations they engage in and spending plenty of time in solitude caring for themselves.
So, whether you are an introvert yourself or you are close with an introvert, know this — being an introvert is nothing like being antisocial. Embrace the introverts in your life and celebrate this personality trait that gives them a unique outlook on the world.
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