What’s the Difference Between Being Introverted and Rude?

What's the Difference Between Being Introverted and Rude

A timely follow up to this blog post and this Love U Podcast.

There’s a lot of talk among introverts about the strength and power of introversion. Far be it from me, as an extrovert, to question this wisdom. However, it holds a lot more weight when a fellow introvert asks what a lot of others are thinking:

What’s the difference between being introverted and rude if it presents the same way to strangers? Do your motives for being introverted exonerate you from any criticism  (“It’s  okay if I leave a party early without saying goodbye  or silently make everyone else feel awkward because I’m a nice person inside”)?

KJ Dell’Antonia of the New York Times explored this in a piece a few months back.  

“A  spate of articles and social media posts on the glories of staying home in one’s pj’s suggests that I am not the only one who went overboard once the “introvert” label came to imply a deep thinker with a rich inner life rather than a lone gunman.

Sometimes, says Ms. Cain, “you have to consider the other person’s point of view instead of getting wrapped up in your own discomfort.”

Society has a rich history of people seizing on social evolution as an excuse for bad manners. From the Romantic poets to the transcendentalists to the Summer of Love hippies, many have rejected a supposed facade of good behavior in favor of being true to their inner nature. Good manners are mere mannerisms, the argument goes, which serve only to put barriers in the way of deeper connections.

There’s another argument to be made, though, that those deeper connections are the easy ones. It’s the looser ties, the ones that have to be created or re-created at each meeting, that are tough. Life is largely lived among acquaintances and strangers. So many fall into problematic categories: some appear different or unapproachable, some we actively dislike, some we’ve failed to connect with in the past. What do we have to gain from even trying?

A lot, as it turns out. When I skip big gatherings of strangers, I’m not just being a little rude to the individual people around me, I’m being uncivil in a larger sense. The more we isolate ourselves from new people, the more isolated and segregated our society is likely to become. Those casual interactions in dog runs and at kids’ hockey games are the ones that are most likely to cross social and economic barriers. They expand my little world as well as the overlapping bubbles that create a society.

We can respect our own introversion, and embrace the “quiet” people among us, without abandoning every challenging interaction. When I asked Ms. Cain (while interviewing her about introversion in teenagers) if self-indulgent introverts risked crossing the line into antisocial behavior – if we might, in fact, just be being rude – she laughed, and agreed. Sometimes, she said, “you have to consider the other person’s point of view instead of getting wrapped up in your own discomfort.”

Change requires responsibility, vigilance and humility. Change is hard.

I think that’s a brilliant level of self-awareness and self-criticism. The same way readers routinely tell me that I should be more sensitive and tactful, this is another call to awareness for people who let themselves slide because they’d rather not change. Why? Because change requires responsibility, vigilance and humility. Change is hard. It’s much easier to say, “I’m an introvert/victim/woman/man. Don’t tell me what to do – even though what I’m doing isn’t really working all that well for me!”

Concludes the author:

“I may be naturally reserved, and more comfortable alone than I will ever be in a crowd, but I am not at the mercy of my nature. There are many excuses for failing to conduct ourselves with courtesy, for avoiding gatherings and conversations we don’t think we will enjoy, or for just putting on our pajamas and staying home. Too many of them boil down to just that one thing: We care more about ourselves than about the needs of others.

That’s not about introversion. It’s just an ordinary version of selfishness.”


Your thoughts, as always, are greatly appreciated below.

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  1. 1

    Lol it is what it is. I have become more introverted the older I get. I totally agree that being introverted is selfish. But it’s the type of selfish that I personally don’t feel bad for lol. I’m sorry (not!) but I enjoy  to do things at home. I don’t think anybody should apologize for being introverted just like an extrovert doesn’t need to apologize for being more social able. We all have moments of selfishness that we shouldn’t apologize for. However I do think there are areas or a time of our lives where being selfish was costly and that does need to be reevaluated. Do I think being introverted is challenging to ones love life. Absolutely. If your being a bit anti social and you want to meet someone well one is going to have to pick what do you want more? Be a homebody or find love? One would have to make a few adjustments if they want to find love. You have to get out the house and date eventually. And if your in a relationship it’s more beneficial to be easy going if they want to go somewhere and oblige and next time yall stay home. So I say do you boo lol. There’s a time to be selfish and the time to not be selfish and for the sake of a fulfilling life know when is that time.

    1. 1.1

      There are many excuses for failing to conduct ourselves with courtesy, for avoiding gatherings and conversations we don’t think we will enjoy, or for just putting on our pajamas and staying home.

      Being discourteous is one thing. I agree that’s rude. But who does it hurt if we don’t go to gatherings we don’t think we’d enjoy or engage in conversations we don’t want to have? I can see it as being selfish to skip a party a good friend is having if you know it’s really important for her that you be there and the only reason you don’t go is because you just don’t feel like it. But just skipping a no-stakes party you don’t want to attend? What’s wrong with that? Same for staying home in p.j.’s. Who does that hurt?

  2. 2

    So, now we have to apologize and feel guilty for not going to some party and staying home in our pj? We doing it now? Ok then. File me under “selfish”. Why does this type of stuff pass as journalism these days ?

    1. 2.1
      Tron Swanson

      Amen to that. Ever since the advent of social media, there’s been this annoying, insistent idea that people have to be social, and if they aren’t, well, there must be something wrong with them. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

      Sometimes, introversion versus extroversion is also a matter of valuing individuality over belonging to a group. One of the most fascinating things that I’ve noticed on sites like this is how the desire for a relationship (or sexual fulfillment) can clash against the idea of a more individualistic type of happiness. For some people, there comes a point when the former interferes with the latter, and that’s a pretty radical new idea for society. It was always believed that relationships were the best/maybe only true source of happiness, but now, some people are realizing that trying to find relationships is only making them miserable. I believe we see this best in the cases where people say “relationships aren’t worth the stress” or “I won’t get into a relationship if it means compromising who I am.” As much as they want a relationship, they value their individual identity more. I can’t wait to see what this means for society.

      Finally, if “civility” is now being defined to mean “being forced to do social things that you don’t want to do,” then **** civility. I believe in being polite to people, but I’m not going to be guilt-tripped into doing crap that I don’t want to do.

  3. 3

    I’m an introvert but certainly not rude. There is a difference. As they point out, you also have to deal with people at some point so best find the skills to do so.

    However, I find there is rarely criticism of extroverts. I know some and frankly there are times I would love them to be quieter and not hog the Spotlight. But we live in an extroverted society where this is acceptable and even applauded.

    1. 3.1

      Of late there has been criticism of extroverts. It usually comes in the form of passive aggression from certain (not all) introverts (btw I’m an introvert myself so I’m not dissing anyone here). These critical introverts tend to claim that they don’t need to have a ton of shallow friendships with people, that they prefer meaningful deep relationships with only a couple people. Basically they imply that since extroverts like to spend time in crowds that they have superficial lesser relationships.   The other criticism is kind of like what you implied about hogging the spotlight. There’s an assumption that extroverts are selfish because they like being loud etc. But from what I can tell many extroverts just get excited about being out and spending time with people and that excitement manifests as loudness. It’s not that they want to be louder than everyone else or make everything all about them, even if it happens by accident.

      Honestly, it all seems so silly to me. Some people are extroverts, some are introverts, some are a little of both. No one is better or worse. As long as we are respectful of each other, all the rest of it shouldn’t matter. That being said I do acknowledge  we definitely live in a world that rewards outgoing behaviour, so it’s tough as introverts to feel like we belong.

  4. 4

    The more we isolate ourselves from new people, the more isolated and segregated our society is likely to become. Those casual interactions in dog runs and at kids’ hockey games are the ones that are most likely to cross social and economic barriers.

    Please. Socio-economic segregation is shaped and formed through fiscal and zoning  policies at the state and national level, as well as labour market variables, and has nothing to do with introversion. An extrovert who lives in a suburb in a posh area isn’t going to be crossing “economic and social barriers” by going to a kid’s hockey game in his neighborhood or by attending a party within his larger social circle. I doubt such an extrovert would  have much contact with people of a different ethnicity, let alone people  from a different socio-economic class.

    I’ll be the first to admit that, when it comes to dating, introverts need to overcome their  natural shyness and discomfort in order to meet new people and do better on actual dates.   It’s something I had to work on. However, no one should feel shamed for not attending a social gathering of no consequence, or because they’d rather be alone than going to a  party thrown by an acquaintance. Extroverts don’t do such things out of ‘courtesy,’ they do it, largely, because it feels right to them, which is fine.

    1. 4.1

      Well said! And excellent observation about extroverts not always pushing their own barriers as being social with their tribe is already pretty easy for them.

      As an introvert, I try to balance myself out a little more and not feel guilty when I choose not to go to a party. My knee jerk first reaaction is pretty much always, “I rather be home with my dog watching downtown Abby.” But I do force myself to attend events at times because I realize how easily I can Infact be a hermit. And most of the time, I have a good time and I make memories even if I still rather be home. And I think that’s the key. I don’t feel bad about being an introvert. But I know I must push myself to get out of that confront  zone. And if we do want to meet someone, well you got to do it. Honestly, I rather find a partner who is a extrovert. Not because being an extrovert is better or because I feel bad about being an introvert,   but because I realize my own natural tendency to avoid social situations and I know my life will be richer with someone who forces me out of my comfort zone…and I can be the one that gives him a grounding place at home. I know when other people in my life force me into fun social things, I am always happy I did and it…and then I am really happy to be home again. It is always about balance. Good article, Evan.

  5. 5

    Eh. She’s trying too hard to make a theme out of this. There’s nothing inherently rude about introversion or polite about extroversion. The rudeness comes in when you ignore or trample over other people’s needs to get your own met. Like the social butterfly in line in front of me who took 10 minutes to get through the process of paying for her groceries because she kept seeing people she knew and had to stop and catch up with them (IN THE LINE!) Or the coworker who hijacks half an hour of a staff meeting to vent about the crap hotel she stayed in on vacation and causes me to have to stay late to catch up on my actual work. Or the creep who keeps trying to chat me up on the plane even though I have my book and headphones and my lack of interest in him is visible from space.

    You do you, extries; your sociability is often a gift. All I’m saying is there’s a time and a place, y’all.

    1. 5.1

      lmao this post cracked me up.

  6. 6

    I should also point out introversion is not a natural shyness. Introversion means enjoying your inner life. I’m an introvert and love working with people. I teach, do public speaking, a radio show and so on. But introverts need down time to recharge. When people say shy they often imply slow, nervous, and not very bright.

    the author says she’s not at the mercy of her nature. Very true. But it also works for extroverts. If introverts can learn to join the party, extroverts can learn not to dominate it.

    1. 6.1

      “If introverts can learn to join the party, extroverts can learn not to dominate it.” this!

      I don’t think there isn’t wrong with being an introvert or an extrovert. I think its the specific behaviors or what you do that becomes wrong, selfish, inconsiderate, etc.

  7. 7

    Wow!   This article has incited many more comments than I expected for an article on introverts :P.

    I find the article bizarre.   I completely agree that using one’s introversion as an excuse for avoiding people is counter-productive from a love-life and overall life perspective.   However, claiming that such behaviour is selfish is just strange.   By this same argument, one can say that extraverts are selfish for wanting to socialise with introverts who would rather stay home.   How dare they put their needs first by organising big gatherings when some of the guests might not be comfortable or enjoy themselves 😛

    An earlier commentor mentioned the recent trend of extravert bashing.   I’ve sort of seen it too though in my experience, it’s mostly introverts who post articles confirming their consummate coolness as a result of their introversion.   I feel it’s less to do with denigrating extraverts and more of a (pathetic) “LOOK, I’M COOL, TOO” statement.   I’m a dyed-in-the-wool introvert and over the years, I have become comfortable in my own skin.   I now enjoy the fact that I really like my own company.   It wasn’t always this way and there have been times when I’ve yelled at myself for not being more extraverted.   It took time to get here.   Funnily enough, as I’ve overcome my shyness, I’ve begun to enjoy the company of people (even strangers)more and as a result, I display less introverted behaviour when out in public.   BUT, I now firmly control the amount of time I spend alone without feeling bad about it.   So in conclusion, it took becoming comfortable with my introversion to really conquer it.   When I felt bad about being an introvert, I inadvertently forced myself to display more introverted qualities by putting myself in situations which made me uncomfortable.   Once I became okay with enjoying alone time guilt-free, I was actually   more open to spending time with other people.

  8. 8
    Yet Another Guy

    According to Myers-Briggs, I too am an introvert. I do not believe that being an introvert is an excuse for being rude; however, I know what it is like to need to exit a crowded room because it is sucking the life out of me. I always attempt to at least put in a cameo appearance when invited to an event. I usually isolate a few people out on a deck or a veranda, so that I do not have to deal with the over stimulation that occurs in a large group or crowd.

  9. 9
    Robyn Kingsfield

    I too am an introvert but never rude.   Yet, I know some that are not only rude but ungrateful for kindnesses shown to them.   Introversion seems to be a crutch some use to avoid great loyal friends.

  10. 10

    I often find the accusation that introverts are selfish ironic, because introverts tend to be considerate of the boundaries of others, whilst extroverts will sometimes overstep the boundaries of introverts, get a negative response and then retort that the introvert is “too touchy” or “rude” or some such like. Perfect example: in a block of apartments, the extroverts may not mind music being played so that others can hear it. An introvert who does mind, and complains, will often be regarded as the troublemaker, rather than the the person who played the music a little too loudly. Or the family member who constantly tries to guilt trip you into spending more time with them than you have the energy for. These are the sorts of situations introverts have to contend with all the time – more extroverted people being too pushy for our taste and then blaming us for being difficult and antisocial.


    I’m all for respecting differences – but how about realising that introverts are just that – not rude or selfish, just different. If someone doesn’t want to make conversation at a party? Guess what, just leave them be. If they want to stay home in their pyjamas, who is that hurting? If introverts want company, they WILL go looking for it. Meanwhile, no one is forcing the rest of the world to try and bring introverts out of their shell. I really wish, instead of blaming a particular group of people for being a particular way, we could all rather just live and let live and accept people as they are. If you find introverts too aloof, then avoid them. If you think they’re crap friends, don’t be friends with them. They’ll soon either learn to socialize a bit more or find someone who is more like them or more understanding of them. Don’t understand why we all have to play the moral police to other people’s behavior. Introverts have many wonderful qualities and so do extroverts, There’s a lid for every pot.

  11. 11

    Introverts are typically better at one-on-one conversations. Isn’t that what a date is?

    1. 11.1

      No. They’re not. Why woul you assume that?

  12. 12

    Introverts don’t dislike people. They prefer smaller groups of people, not big noisy crowds.

  13. 13

    You cannot change introversion.   Please read: https://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Power-Introverts-World-Talking/dp/0307352153/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492525991&sr=8-1&keywords=quiet+the+power+of+introverts+in+a+world+that+can%27t+stop+talking

    Neither is it a character flaw.

    As for rudeness, I personally find it rude when extroverts try to change me into a more outgoing person, try to convince me to be more extroverted or try to tell me that I am rude just because I am an introvert.

    I do become rude when extroverts overstep my politely imposed boundaries, which they tend to do.


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