In general, shyness and introversion have been assumed to be almost one and the same trait, in terms of personality. Often an individual is referred to as being shy or introverted, effectively, reinforcing the taken for granted, interrelationship of these two words. However, an interesting article issue throws a different light on the topic.
Rather than repeating the points here, a short excerpt of the said article has been included below. Readers will want to follow the links to ensure they get the whole story, so without further ado, interested parties are invited to review the document as referenced and linked below.
The July 8, 2012 edition of the New York Times included an article entitled, “The Spotlight Dims and Shyness Sets In” which states:
The terms “shy” and “introvert” are used almost interchangeably and without distinction in the common parlance. “Psychologists debate about the overlap,” said Susan Cain, author of the recent book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” which extols the power of those who prefer listening to speaking, or reading to socializing. “Shyness is fear of social judgment, a consuming worry about how people view you. Introversion is more about a preference for environments that are less stimulating: someone who’d rather have a glass of wine with a close friend than go to a cocktail party.”
I was unhappy to see this paragraph because I believe it leads readers to believe it’s OK to use the terms “shy” and “introvert” interchangeably. And yet, per the experts on introversion (The Myers Briggs Foundation, whose work is “to continue the pioneering work of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers in the field of psychological type, especially the ethical and accurate use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument”), shyness and introversion are not related and not to be confused.
Why the danger? Because like it or not, others judge us by the labels we place on ourselves. And because I believe this article overgeneralizes and casts an unfair and inaccurate light on introversion, with ramifications for introverts in the world of business and leadership.
From a personal viewpoint, after having read the above article I am convinced there is a definite difference between the two traits and suspect that I may personally fall under the label of introvert rather than being shy. Irrespective of personal opinons however, there is much food for thought contained within the discussion. Furthermore, it does lead one to conclude that introversion should be seen a personality type; whereas shyness might be viewed as something of a personality affliction, as the individual has no control over his/her fearful feelings.
These are just my personal views on the subject and are not to be taken as definitive facts. Each individual will draw his/her own conclusions after digesting the information above. Hopefully, they will also gain some personal benefit and have a clearer understanding of the difference between shyness and introversion.