What’s the Opposite of a “People Person”?

“I’m a people person!” she exclaimed.

I smiled at her glance before she turned her eyes back on the road.  “She holds a clear majority,”  I thought to myself.  “People people make up 75% of the population.”

As she talked on I wandered in my mind and stumbled onto a question.  Could anyone ever boast of being in the other 25%?  “Hello. I’m NOT a people person!”  Sounds wrong.   What phrase could they use to describe themselves?  Oh, yes, I remember, they are called “task oriented”.  Doesn’t have the same ring.  Who’d ever smile and exclaim like that –“I’m a task person!”?  Can you imagine the puzzled look? the air of embarrassed disdain?

There is, of course, no shame in being in either group.  Both groups need and enjoy interacting with other people.   They differ, however, in how much and how often they prefer these interactions. ” People people”  build energy through interacting with other people.  A “people person” may feel tired, but after talking to a friend suddenly finds she has been re-energized.  “Task people” lose energy through interacting with people. The more time they spend in social situations, the more likely they’ll feel drained.

Another name for a “people person” is Extrovert, or E for short.  Es tend to emerge themselves in outward activities.  Churches, clubs, cell phones, and Facebook provide avenues that indulge their preference.  Es tend to speak freely and openly, sharing personal information almost as soon as it happens.  They tolerate interruptions, crowds, and noisy environments easily.  They are always busy, requiring frequent scheduling of their calendars.  They get restless for company when they are alone for an hour or more at a time.

Es generally prefer verbal, face-to-face over written communication.  Phone calls are a welcome diversion.  They develop their thoughts through discussion. They tend to speak first, then think, then speak again.  Let me talk about it, then I’ll know what I’m thinking. They describe themselves as “friendly, outgoing, talkative, a real people lover.”

Another name for “task oriented people” is Introvert, or I for short.  Is need people too, but are happy knowing only a few.  Is avoid crowds and prefer small groups or one-to-one interaction.  Is keep their energy inside and do not reveal themselves outwardly, making it hard for others to get to know them.  They are cautious when meeting people and hesitate to share personal information.  Privacy is extremely important to them.

Is need to think through experiences internally before sharing it with others, and prefer written over verbal, face-to-face communication.  They tend to think first, then speak, then think again.  Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.  They need personal space and time alone to reflect, which is how they develop their energy.  Is entertain themselves quite well and can spend hours alone working on a project without feeling restless or bored. Interruptions are tolerated out of necessity but are rarely welcomed.  As long as they have a few people in their life (usually with one special person to focus their attention on) Is have all the interactions they need.  More than that demands too much time and can create stress and exhaustion.  Is don’t describe their true needs to others because they are keenly aware that their need for solitude appears unfriendly and is rejected by society in general.

Es and Is can develop complimentary associations.  Es love to communicate verbally and are often better talkers than Is whose need to “think it over before they speak” results in them being slower to jump in.  Their distaste for interruptions also hinders them from butting in, something Es do all the time without knowing it.  Is are usually more at ease when not having to carry the conversation, so they are happy to listen mostly.  This sharing of needs can provide a rewarding association for both parties.  The E believes she’s getting an attentive listener and the I feels connected without expending much energy.

Their different perspectives can cause Es and Is to view simple things quite differently.  An E, for example, may report that she’s made a new friend after a brief meeting with someone she just met.  An I is likely to consider her use of the term “friend” as being used too loosely.  Friends are numerous and wide in the E‘s mind, but the I requires a longer and deeper association to apply such a label.

Their differences can in certain situations result in very negative perceptions of one another.  Es may describe Is as being unfriendly, aloof, closed-off, boring, uncaring, or secretive.  Is may believe Es to be nosy “busy bodies”, “show-offs”, pushy,  superficial, phony, or “full of themselves”.

Since E‘s outnumber Is significantly, they receive lots of support from fellow Es to “never leave anyone out there alone.”  Though well-meaning, their insistance on frequent human interaction can be a nightmare for Is who require time alone to reflect and recharge their batteries.  E parents of an I child may worry that “he spends too much time alone in his room”.  An E friend of an I may lament, “I feel sorry for her.  She doesn’t seem to have that many friends.”  A bored E may complain to her spouse, “Oh, no, you’re reading again?”

Pocket watch, savonette-type.

Image via Wikipedia


Whichever preference your personality includes, you have a right to be proud of who you are.  Exclaim it loudly, if you choose.  Know yourself and hesitate before judging someone else.  I hope this tickles a desire to better understand one another. Being critical is easy. Being kind requires a glimpse at life through someone else’s eyes.


About Adnelg

Retired ... taking it slow and enjoying the simple things in life
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5 Responses to What’s the Opposite of a “People Person”?

  1. drfugawe says:

    If I may, I’ll add another definition to a non-people person, a misanthrope. Frankly, I think I must have a healthy streak of the misanthropic person running through me. I’ve often thought that I’d enjoy being a hermit – and my wife knows that every once in awhile, I need a day to myself. I have developed a lifelong habit of never wasting words when on the phone – but this came from my business need to talk to many people every day, so it was important to get right down to business, and then say Goodbye. My girls think this is hilarious, as I simply can’t make small talk on the phone – it’s a skill I missed along the way.

    But strangely, my life career was as an administrator, a job that literally forces one to be a people person in order to do the job – and so, for those purposes, I took on the role of a people person – but if pressed on the question, I’d have to admit, I didn’t enjoy it much. I guess some folks are mixes of the two, but probably are more comfortable in one camp or the other.

    Thanks for the interesting post.

    • adnelg says:

      Have to DISAGREE with your term, Doc, but am with you on everything else. Part of my hope in writing this article in the first place is to clear up common misconceptions. Seems I left out some important parts. Glad you brought it to my attention. Misanthrope comes from misein “to hate” and anthropos “man”. The definitions given in various dictionaries are all similar to the one I found in the World English dictionary: “a person who dislikes or distrusts other people or mankind in general”. Please don’t lay that on the Introvert! Either perference of E or I could potentially become a misanthrope. Introverts are NOT synonomous with that.

      An Introvert may love very deeply certain people. He may also care a great deal about people in general. He may get frustrated with people because there are always more Es than Is in the scheme of things. Extroverts do what comes most natural to them. The Introvert does what comes most natural to him. Conflict is by default built in. You are correct in that we all have some E and some I within us. The “preference” merely indicates a dominance of one or the other. Just like having two hands—one you use more often and naturally than the other— but you still use your less dominant hand as well. Say your dominant hand is the right one. If you are using your right hand to hold the phone and your secretary comes up and hands you a note, you reach out with your left to accept it. Its that way with personality preferences. Introverts sometimes look like Es in social situations. Es going through a rough spell or life crisis may require more than usual time to reflect. We all bring out that part of us we need given our particular circumstances. Its just that one comes more “naturally” than the other.

      Don’t be afraid of the terms. Extroverts have misused and treated the term INTROVERT like a “bad word” because of how they perceive Introverts (unfriendly, uncaring, the list goes on…) As a former administrator I am sure you are aware that it is the “perception” that gets spread more than reality. So, please, help me spread the word. Introverts are Not bad people, NOT people haters. They’re just a minority reaping the fallout of being smaller in number, less talkative, and easily misunderstood.

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  3. Carol says:

    It is truly a bad state of affairs to be older and be an introvert. I have many times during my life tried to conform and change to become more of an extrovert to no avail. Believe me when I say that people do view an introvert as boring and unfriendly. What people do not understand is that we are just not wired to be able to project our personal selves to others. We may wish we could with all our heart but just can not do it.

    • As an introvert myself I understand how you feel. Hopefully, getting “older” has also taught you to love yourself and to just be who you are with no apologies.

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