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Scientific Explanation For Why Introverts Need Much More Alone Time Than Extroverts

Scientific Explanation For Why Introverts Need Much More Alone Time Than Extroverts

Picture this: You’re at a party. A few of the people you know fairly well, most are mild acquaintances and the rest you’ve never before. How do you interact?

The way you view and respond to social situations is the primary indicator on whether you are an introvert or an extrovert.

What is the difference between an introvert and an extrovert?

There are several popular misconceptions surrounding introversion and extroversion. And because of this, introverts, in particular, are often misunderstood. They are often branded as shy, aloof, and even antisocial. While extroverts are described as bubbly, friendly, charismatic, and fun.

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But it is important to understand that introversion and extroversion are not personality types in and of themselves — rather, they’re important pieces of the personality puzzle. They also aren’t the only two options — there’s a whole spectrum of introversion and extroversion, and almost no one is purely introverted or pure extroverted. In fact, science has coined a new term to describe those exhibiting an even mix of traits from both intro and extroverts; they are the ambivert.

intro-extrovert spectrum
    By: Joseph Bennington-Castro

    What are the causes of introversion and extroversion?

    Scientist believe that the causes of introversion and extroversion lie in the brain and how it responds to dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the brain’s pleasure and reward system. It enables us to recognize rewards and move towards them. It is part of the guidance system for our emotions.

    In social situations, the extroverted brain is stimulated. It views social interaction as rewarding and responds as such. The thought of positive social interaction floods the brain with dopamine and drives the extrovert towards interaction as it is seeking to be rewarded.

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    The pleasure center of an introvert brain functions the same way—but with one very distinct difference. Extroverts have a more active dopamine reward network than introverts—meaning extroverts need more dopamine to feel pleasure. When dopamine floods the introvert brain, introverts do experience the feeling of excitement but it is accompanied by the feeling of being overwhelmed.

    Dr. Marti Olsen Laney explains in her book The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World, “for introverts, too much of a good thing really is too much. They feel overstimulated when dopamine floods their brains.”

    The introvert brain is more responsive to the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Like dopamine, acetylcholine is also linked to the brain’s pleasure center. The difference is, acetylcholine makes us feel good when we turn inward. It powers our abilities to think deeply, reflect, and focus intensely on just one thing for a long period of time.

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    Research tells us that everyone’s nervous system has two modes: parasympathetic and sympathetic. When we use the parasympathetic side (nicknamed the “rest and digest” side), we feel calm and are focused inwardly. Our body conserves energy and withdraws from the environment; muscles relax, energy is stored, and our heart rate and blood pressure slow. The sympathetic side (a.k.a “full throttle”) puts us in a state of fight or flight. Our pressure and heart rate are elevated, we are alert and poised for action.

    Introverts thrive when they are operating in parasympathetic mode. This is the reason for the constant desire introverts have to be alone. Their desire and pension to engage in quiet, thoughtful activities away from others is not antisocial or moody behavior. It is a physiological need they have that is driven by their brain chemistry and function.

    When introverts are deprived of their alone time they can experience:

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    • Fatigue
    • Mental and physical exhaustion
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Irritability
    • Increased anxiety
    • Depression

    The causes of introversion and extroversion are directly linked to how our brains operate and respond to neurotransmitters. So the best thing you can do for the introvert that needs time by themselves is to leave them alone.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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