Piggyback Question: What Does Shy Mean to You?

Updated on May 03, 2012
T.V. asks from West Orange, NJ
11 answers

All righty ladies and gents. What does shy mean to you?

I'm not going to lie, when I'm referred to shy it gets under my skin. I think other introverts will agree. After reading another post, I've realized people tend to lump shy and reserved (or introverted) together, however, they are very different. For example, my husband is the extrovert of all extroverts. He loves to talk and be around people BUT is quite shy. He loves to socialize but gets a little frazzled by it at first; he has a touch of social anxiety and shyness. I like to socialize, but I can't as long as he can. In fact, in social situations I'm usually the ice breaker and he joins when he feels comfortable in the situation. A lot of the time I have to work him a little bit to get him out the door to meet new people, then he's working me to stay longer at the party. So basically I am an outgoing introvert, and he's a shy extrovert.

So when you think of a shy person, what type of person do you envision?

I'm wondering if it's a matter of semantics.

Yes, yes, I know. Labels, mabels, right? It doesn't matter what you're called, but that doesn't do much for curiosity ;-) Thanks for answering my question.

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answers from Minneapolis on

The difference between an Introvert and an Extrovert is where they get their energy. An introvert gets their energy internally, inside themselves. An extrovert gets energy from other people.

Shyness is a discomfort around people, a feeling of shame, or fear of making a mistake. Both introverts and extroverts can be shy.

An introvert can enjoy people, being around people, but at a point this will be energy draining for them. When an extrovert is around people, they are energized.

I am an introvert that faciliates classroom workshops for a job. I enjoy doing it, and I'm very good at it. I also come home drained after a full day workshop. I also enjoy socializing in most situations, but can only do it for so long.

When I need to recharge my energy, I need to be alone, or with close family. I run alone, read, or do other quiet things. I hate extra noise, like a TV or loud music in my house. I can freak out in crowded places like the mall. But mostly, I'm OK!

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answers from Seattle on


Outgoing Extrovert (rare)
Outging Introvert (rare)
Shy Extrovert (common)
Shy Introvert (rarest)

It's all about needs and desires.

Introverts NEED time by themselves to feel rested/ alert/ happy/ energetic/ recharged. Being around other people is exhausting to them.

Extroverts NEED time with others to feel rested/ alert/ happy/ energetic/ recharged. NOT being around other people is exhausting to them.

Outgoing folk have no fear of other people / desire time around other people.

Shy folk have a lot of fear surrounding people and situations / desire to be by themselves or in intimate/comfortable situations they're familiar with.

1) Outgoing extroverts are the "classic" extrovert, but they're actually very rare. They just assume that they're welcome, will always be welcome, if they're not welcome then they will be soon enough (although they rarely recognize not being welcome). These are the uber popular kids IF their likes coincide with the majority (they can also be specialized into certian 'fields') and the natural hosts as adults who bring people together by their very assumptions of being welcome, wanting people around them, and their need to be around other people and the energy they radiate. They, as a group, tend to hold a lot of emotional sway over other people. ((The even smaller group, natural leaders, TEND to come from outgoing extroverts... but not always)).

2) Outgoing introverts (rare) have the same sort of assumptions and dive right on on... but they take a lot of alone time... so they dive right on out, as well. They have no problems interacting in a group or with strangers, but have a need to be by themselves. Need to be alone, desire/readiness to be with others.

3) Shy extroverts (VERY common), probably make up the majority of people. They want to be a part of, but doubt their own 'right' to be a part of. Tends to have small groups of friends. Shy extroverts are one of the most common groups. These are people who have a NEED to be around other people, but can't quite join in. When they don't overcome their shyness these people are the classic Wall flowers. The loners who don't want to be. Those that hang around on the edge of the crowd, because they need to be around other people, but are too shy to just join in. NEED to be with others, desire to be alone.

4) Shy introverts don't give a rip. They both need and prefer to be by themselves. This is a very rare group.


MYSELF... I'm an outgoing introvert. I need a lot of time to myself, but very much enjoy other people, can talk to anyone, etc.


We're human. We taxonimize (name things). It's how we understand the world around us. Kingdom, phylla, genus, species... sound, tone, pitch, note... sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami... hardness scales... speeds... eros, amos, fillious... writing, fiction, nonfiction, genre... smile, grin, smirk,

That's what we DO. We name things and sort them into like groups with similar attributes.

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answers from San Diego on

As ever, I like Riley J's explanation. I'm the odd outgoing introvert.

Instead of calling someone this or that, I tend to couch it as feeling shy or feeling friendly.

To answer your questions, I have a particular person in mind (adult) who is very shy, not comfortable around people she doesn't know - at. all. - rarely speaks in a group, you can see her second guess herself when she does speak, she is quite funny when I read her FB comments or posts, she is bright, does not take compliments well, she tends to dress down.

When I think of shy, I think of social anxiety. When I think of introvert, I think of innate characteristic. Given the choice, I can turn on the charm, but I'm drained and need a whole lot of time to recharge.

A bit of a rant: what bothers me is the lack of distinction and bias that comes with a boy, girl, man, woman who is introverted. Referring to someone who is shy - I think of lacking and pain. Whereas introverted, there is nothing lacking and only pained when socializing too long: ).

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answers from Columbia on

I test full scale introvert. Been called shy all my life.

It ticks me off - but hey, can't fix stupid, right?

Ok...here's how it was explained to me:

Extroverted people LOVE meeting new people. It charges them up! They feel invigorated and excited in a crowd of to-be-friends. Their "default" position is to meet new people, and be outgoing.

Introverted people can also dance on the tables and be the party animal - with people they know. Their "default" position is to stay within. Meeting strangers requires them to put on their social pants. We CAN do that, but it's draining our batteries. We recharge our batteries with non-interactive pursuits.

Now, that doesn't mean introverts aren't great in a crowd, but they just have to work to change their default in that situation (hence the draining the batteries).

The example I was told was to think of an icecube (or an iceberg). Once one end is above the water, it tends to stay there (your default of intro or extrovert). You can rotate it so that another corner is exposed, but that takes energy.

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answers from St. Louis on

Shy or introverted is defined as not me. I guess that is the beauty of being an extreme. My husband is introverted, using me as a measure. He is what other people call an introvert. I agree that they come in all shapes and sizes.

Like Troy will talk to anyone, has no fear, he just won't talk unless he sees a need for his words. I talk because I can't stand silence.

I know that people in general seem to value being extroverted more. I don't get it. I needed balance I find that in Troy.

I would have to say Sue is dead wrong about extroverts. I assure you I bring my energy with me. Around 80% of my good friends are introverts, why, well they say because around me they can be outgoing. Kind of sounds like they use my energy don't you think? Perhaps in the end this is not as clear cut as black and white, there are lots of shades of gray. Perhaps we shouldn't get hung up on simple labels.

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answers from New York on

I would say someone who is shy is frightened of meeting new people. Not someone who is willing to, but watches to get the lay of the land first. The shy person would not be there, and if they were they would not approach anyone.

A shy person would find it very very difficult to make connection with strangers, even when they are apporached.

Just my thoughts...

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answers from Raleigh on

JFF I looked up "introvert" in several dictionaries. Most define introvert as "a shy person". Perhaps the introverts of the world need to take it up with Merriam-Webster. lol

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answers from St. Cloud on

When I think "shy" I think of someone who for whatever reason can't speak up in a social situation. To me, a shy child won't speak when spoken to by anyone outside their immediate family and will spend more time hiding than playing in a social situation. I have a friend with 3 girls and I truly feel she has allowed them to be shy. She never encouraged them to say "Hi" or "Bye" even. You could ask a friendly question and they straight up ignore you because they know they can get away with it.

I am introverted and will speak up in a social situation, but often I'm last to respond after all the more outgoing people have had their say. I don't like being the center of attention, even with family. I blush easily so it's obvious I'm uncomfortable.

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answers from Washington DC on

i tend to think of 'shy' people as retiring, maybe timid, hiding their light under a bushel.
quite different from the introvert/extrovert thing.
but it's a paradigm that's been discussed a lot in recent years, so most of us have a chance to think about it some.
i used to think of myself as shy because i didn't have a better label. i'm really not, i'm just introverted. i'm comfortable meeting and talking to new people, and very comfortable doing public speaking. i just have a low threshold for how much time i can spend with other people. i need a LOT of alone time.


answers from Redding on

I hafta say that I dont know any "shy" adults.
The term shy to me makes me envision a little kid that's around the age 2 thru 7 that clamors to his mommys leg and hides when someone says hi.



answers from New York on

Hello, I know the post you are referring to.

Great question. I do believe there is a difference. A shy person, in my opinion, is someone that is hesitant to speak up and socialize in setting in which there is an opportunity to do so. An introvert is aware that he may or may not speak up in such a setting, but rather elects not to.

I guess, to make my point clearer, with shyness I associate some level of social anxiety, but with introversion I do not. Even better, I see shyness almost as more of an emotion, a type of anxiety even, whereas I see introversion as a personality trait.

For that reason, I would rather use the word introvert than shy. I consider myself an introvert most of the time, and sometimes I am both introverted and shy.

However, even with all that, I have chosen to no longer see the word "shy" as a negative term at all. To me, shyness can happen to anyone -- we all get anxious about things sometimes, we all get a little hesitant to talk to others, some of us more than others. It is human nature. There is nothing wrong with it to me, it is no different than any other emotion.

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