It is a question I regularly get as a coach: are you born an introvert, or is introversion something you develop along the way? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think.

Psychologist Marti Olsen Laney provides an extensive answer to the question of nature versus nurture in her book The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child: Helping Your Child Thrive in an Extroverted World. She describes it as follows:

Children are born with an innate preference. And parents are vital to how that preference is developed. The degree to which you are introverted or extroverted is influenced by your genes. Of all the personality traits studied, introversion/ extraversion is one of the most heritable. Yet there are also many environmental factors that influence this, such as how you were raised.

Children have a more introverted or extraverted preference from the moment they are born. Introverts' brains are less focused on constantly seeking dopamine than extroverts. In fact, introverts are much more likely to be over-stimulated by this. This explains why introverts prefer to be alone now and then and why extroverts constantly seek out interaction.


However, as a child you can learn to be more introverted or outgoing. This often happens because of your environment or experiences. An introverted child who has positive experiences with social contact will find it easier to push the boundaries later in life than a child who has had more negative experiences.

In addition, no one is one hundred percent introverted or extroverted. The Big Five mentions a percentage for both properties, where you usually have (just) a little more of one than the other. Introversion is normally distributed, which means that most people are somewhere in the middle. These so-called ambiverts will be a bit more introverted one moment and more extroverted the next. This depends entirely on the situation.

You will notice where your own preference lies by looking at your energy level. Non-natural behavior requires more energy than your natural behavior. If you notice that you get less energy from certain behavior, then you are showing learned behavior at that moment. Only by going back to your natural behavior will you be able to recharge your energy.

Do you want to know more about introversion and its power? In my book Introverted Leadership you can read all about it.