Social growth is a common topic around here, especially when it comes to Introverted personality types. For many people, building social skills and human connections is an important part of their personal journey. But everyone has a limit to how much social contact is enjoyable, and for some of us, that limit may be surprisingly low. Are you just not a “people person”? You’re not alone. One example can be seen in the research data below.
When it comes to collaboration, not all personality types like the same thing, apparently. Some of us may even find dealing with others to be bothersome, whether at work or in our personal lives. Sure, we have people we love and enjoy spending time with, but those relationships can feel like exceptions rather than the rule. So is it okay to, um, *whispers* basically not like being around people? The answer might be a yes with a but… Let’s consider some reasons why.
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3 Reasons for Being Unsociable
Investment vs. Reward
Dealing with people can take a lot of energy. If you happen to be the kind of person who doesn’t feel a lot of reward for that investment, it can seem like a waste. “What’s in it for me?” is a core part of everyone’s subconscious decision-making process. People who are very sociable, kind, warm, and generous may derive great fulfillment from social interactions – their sociableness isn’t necessarily selfless. In fact, social contact (and status) can fulfill a very primal need to belong.
If your personality isn’t wired to feel that same level of fulfillment from being sociable, it doesn’t make you a bad person. However, it can put you out of sync with common cultural expectations that regard group cohesion as ideal. But think of it this way – are you wrong for not wanting to invest your time and energy in making oatmeal cookies if you don’t like the way they taste? Of course not. Not only do you have the right to invest in what fulfills you but you also shouldn’t have to fake or suppress your preferences to suit external expectations.
Perhaps socializing seems less interesting to you than other pursuits, such as career advancement, learning, practicing skills, or throwing yourself into projects and hobbies. Hey, it’s your life, and there are only so many hours in the day. It’s not necessarily bad or weird if you’d rather focus on personal goals and interests than on social relationships. Everyone has different priorities in life, many of them dictated by necessity (e.g., working for money). Check this out.
The concept of seeking balance between life elements like work, socializing, recreation, and everyday responsibilities can lead you to success, but success is also subjective. “Balance” doesn’t have to mean equal amounts, and depending on your life goals and personality, social relationships might take a back seat to everything else. You get to define your priorities (for the most part), and they don’t need to look like everyone else’s to be healthy. The key is focusing on what makes you happy and feels important relative to your values and desires. If walking that path is easier done alone, so be it.
Sovereignty and Independence
Both obligations and benefits come with being sociable, and for some personality types, that sense of being intertwined can feel good. But for others, maintaining a sense of independence is one of the most important things in life. One aspect of that independence is self-reliance – you may measure your security, worth, or sense of fulfillment by your ability to act effectively in any given situation. Relying on others might seem to detract from your sense of self. Consider this data.
Some personalities like asking for help a lot less than others. Maintaining independence can also ensure that you can freely follow your preferences and needs. Basic decency compels most of us to be considerate of others, even if it means compromising on what we want. You might sincerely believe in being considerate yet feel hampered by the necessary compromise. If your solution is to maintain enough distance that you don’t have to sacrifice your needs or disregard the needs of others, that doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s actually a pretty moral, logical, and respectful approach to freedom.
Which Personalities Are Least Sociable?
There is no definite recipe for being unsociable (or sociable), but broadly speaking, certain personality traits often correlate with relatively low desire for social interaction, emotional bonding, and interpersonal reliance. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that people with those traits don’t value and embrace those things, just that compared to other personality types, those things are less likely to be a main focus in life. Let’s consider which personality traits relate to being less sociable and why.
It might be kind of obvious, but in many of our research surveys, Introverted personality types indicate that they have less tolerance and desire for social contact. But being less sociable doesn’t mean that Introverted personalities necessarily get less enjoyment from socializing when they do it. The vast majority of them enjoy socializing, but compared to Extraverts, the volume and duration of social interaction that they prefer tends to be less.
It’s often merely that social contact tires them out, causing them to be more likely to seek some quiet or alone time. Additionally, Introverts may be less likely than Extraverted personality types to enjoy high levels of sensory stimulation, meaning that they aren’t as likely to embrace very busy social environments or schedules. So, overall, Introverts are more likely to be unsociable, or at least less sociable, than Extraverts.
In our research surveys, personality types with a strong Thinking trait often report less sociable tendencies and preferences. That’s especially true for Thinking Introverts (as you may have noticed in some of the above charts). These personalities can be very kind and personable, but compared to Feeling personalities, they may show less overt warmth. Being sociable (or being perceived as sociable) often hinges heavily on emoting, but many Thinking personalities may simply not put forth much effort into expressing their feelings.
Instead, they often focus on more technical or pragmatic aspects of life, possibly subconsciously de-emphasizing emotion in favor of a detached, rational attitude. And since that’s what Thinking personality types value, they may also be less likely to enjoy robust emotional expressions from others. A relative lack of desire to express or be around vibrant emotions can make Thinking personalities seem unsociable – at least to personality types who do prioritize those qualities.
An Assertive Identity often comes with a core of self-confidence. That can make personality types on the less socially inclined end of the spectrum, like Introverts, even less likely to need human contact to be happy. They may seek it and enjoy it yet be pretty much okay on their own. The benefits that they reap from social contact don’t tend to hinge on other people, meaning that they’re generated by the Assertive person more than by others. That can all lead to a “take it or leave it” approach to socializing, depending on the individual’s other personality traits.
Conversely, people with a Turbulent Identity tend to be much more concerned with the perceptions of other people. They commonly seek external approval, which often leads them to invest more effort in making a positive social impression. That desire to be accepted can make them relatively sociable, although because of the emotional stakes involved, they may also react more strongly to perceived rejection. In some cases (especially among Introverts), that can lead to being unsociable, not as a core personality preference but as a defense mechanism. More on that in a bit.
The “But”: Consequences and Concerns
Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with being generally unsociable, but there are downsides (as with everything). Given cultural norms, your choice to not invest much time and energy in personal relationships may trouble the other people you inevitably meet in life. Especially if they want a lot of close social interaction, your lack of that same need might not make sense to them. Consequently, their perceptions of you may include some unpleasant assumptions.
When you’re unsociable, people may think it means that you dislike them personally or that you lack the ability to connect with others. Ironically, either of those assumptions may cause them to focus more attention on you as they try to win you over or “fix” what they see as your flaws. (“A loner? We’ll cure that with togetherness!”) And if they can’t accomplish those things, they may decide that you make them uncomfortable, and they may view you somewhat negatively as a result.
Another potential consequence of being unsociable is that by minimizing your close relationships, you cut yourself off from support if you ever need it. Friends and family tend to help one another, but the willingness and degree of help often scale with the strength of the relationship. When you choose distance and independence, you might also be isolating yourself from the care that other people can offer.
None of the above potentials mean that you should be ashamed of your social preferences. But it can be useful to question why you’re unsociable, if only to make sure that it’s for the right reasons. Sometimes we seek distance from others for less worthy reasons than our core personality type preferences. Sometimes it’s due to insecurity or questionable methods of emotional self-preservation. Being close to other people has risks, and it can be hard to trust that we’ll be treated properly.
Again, we see different responses from different personality types. If you avoid getting close to people because you’re afraid that they’ll hurt you, you may benefit from adjusting your approach. Being unsociable due to insecurity isn’t the same as freely exercising a personality preference – it’s more like being prevented from freely making that choice. Working on your sense of confidence and security can help you choose how sociable you are based on what inspires joy rather than worry.
When it comes to your social life, it’s very important to get in touch with what truly makes you happy, regardless of your personality type. If you find yourself yearning for human contact, you should try to meet that need, even if becoming more sociable seems like a difficult, risky, or confusing path. But if you’re truly happy without much social connection, you can embrace an unsociable lifestyle without shame. It’s possible to be unsociable and have a happy social life.
Being Your Best Unsociable Self
So what’s the right move when you don’t much like people yet live among them? Most of us unsociable personality types don’t want to be outcasts, because there’s a big difference between social distance and social discord. Being mostly unsociable can still leave room for liking people, having good relationships, and being well regarded by those with whom you do choose to spend time. It can be a tricky lifestyle balance to maintain – but healthy and joyful if you get it right.
Most unsociable personalities have learned a tool kit of social behaviors that they can employ when needed. If you’re not very socially inclined, you probably know what I mean. It’s kind of similar to stepping into a certain persona for work – except that unsociable people have to whip out their social tools almost every time they encounter someone. Often, using those tools feels good, because in truth, most unsociable people enjoy a little bit of socializing. But sometimes it can feel artificial or forced, which isn’t as pleasant.
But there are ways to be socially successful as an unsociable person. One approach is to be extremely attentive to your social interactions, even if they’re relatively infrequent. If you don’t much favor spending time with other people, it could be argued that it’s even more important to maximize that time to be as fulfilling as possible, for both you and the people in your life. Here are some ideas for strategies to do that as well as to minimize the downsides of being unsociable that we mentioned earlier.
If Distant, Be Caring
You may not often be around the people in your life, but you can be there when it counts. Social media makes it easier than ever to keep tabs on what’s going on in the lives of your friends and family, and it doesn’t take much effort to keep an eye on them. When something goes wrong (or very right), you can swoop in and make your presence felt. If they need help, give them emotional and hands-on support. If they deserve congratulations, cheer them on.
Even if you’re known as a somewhat distant figure to the people in your life, they’ll notice and appreciate that you give them time and attention during life’s most important moments. And reconnecting with people during those notable times may be more fulfilling for you than during mundane, everyday activities. It can feel amazing to be someone’s solace in hard times and to share in life’s best moments. Affirming your bonds with people at the right times can sustain relationships otherwise marked by remoteness.
Show Your Joy
Sometimes people who know you may be concerned about why you don’t like to spend much time with others. They may see it as abnormal or unhealthy and worry about your mental and emotional state. But if you’re truly happy in your unsociableness, you can relieve the concerns of well-wishers – and possibly keep them from bugging you – by showing it. Being a bright presence will help people understand that you’re fine, even if your social habits seem odd to them.
So when you are around people, mention all the great things that you’ve been doing and how fulfilled they make you. That can be satisfying in its own right. Let people see how engaged you are with positive life pursuits, and they’ll be less likely to worry about you or feel that they need to influence your social trajectory. If you share your joyful attitude when you spend time with people, it can not only reassure them but also help ensure that they welcome the time that they have with you.
It can make people feel special to know that you enjoy their company, especially when you’re an unsociable person. But simply spending time with them isn’t enough to adequately communicate that feeling – you’ve got to be direct about it. Nothing makes people happier than to feel valued, and the few people with whom you willingly choose to socialize deserve to know how much they mean to you. All you have to do is tell them, in your own sincere words, whenever you do see them.
Or, if you’re not comfortable with that level of communication, you can send them a message after the fact saying how much you enjoyed your time together and how much you appreciate having them in your life. An after-the-fact text or phone call full of warm affirmation can make a surprising impact if it’s unexpected. However you do it, just make sure that the people in your life know that they’re important to you.
Honor Your Needs
It can be hard for unsociable personality types to preserve the space that they need to be happy when the people in their life want or expect more togetherness than is comfortable. When it comes to major life milestones (weddings, etc.), of course, unsociable personalities may need to compromise and step up their social effort, no matter how uncomfortable it is. But most of the time, you’ll be able to choose your level of social engagement.
That doesn’t mean that the choice will be easy. Declining invitations isn’t usually fun, especially if they come from people you care about. You may not feel like socializing, but it’s always worth asking yourself if that’s truly how you feel or if you’re just being habit-bound. Sometimes socializing ends up being much more fun than it sounds – if you are open to that enjoyment on a deeper level. So, yes, respect your needs, but try to keep an open mind and not get locked into automatic decision-making.
Dip Your Toes
Simply put, you can get a lot of social credit, and possibly have some real fun, just by showing up for social events or invitations for a brief period. Unsociable people often just don’t want to spend as much time in a particular social environment as other personalities do, but they can still appreciate them. You’re allowed to socialize in your own way, and for the most part, people would probably rather see you briefly than not at all.
The “briefly” approach is also a great way to empirically answer your own internal questions about what you feel like doing and what you will truly enjoy. It’s all too common that unsociable personality types assume that a given social activity won’t be fun – but you don’t really know until you try it. Past experiences aren’t a perfect guide, and you might enjoyably rewrite your assumptions simply by sampling the social options that await you in life.
Conclusion: Confessions of an Unsociable
I’ll admit my bias in closing: I’m not a very social person (if you hadn’t already guessed), and I rarely invest the energy to deeply connect with people. Yet some of my favorite moments in life have been social ones, and I treasure the people I’m close to. And when I try, I can get along well with most people, so I probably don’t seem as unsociable as I feel.
Anecdotally, I’ve observed a lot of people, mostly (but not all) Introverts, grappling with some form of conflict between their social preferences and the demands of society around them. I thought it might be nice to explore how and why it can be healthy and totally okay to be unsociable, to help others feel…normal. But I also think it’s very important to pay close attention to what drives our unsociable tendencies.
There are times when our choices stem more from avoidance than desire, and that’s not always healthy. So I ask you, my fellow unsociable personalities, to be aware of what’s behind your habits and to actively experiment with social opportunities to find what truly makes you happy. It’s likely that your social life – at whatever scale you prefer – can be a source of incomparable joy and comfort.
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