Stereotypes About Less-Social People

Everyone who's not as naturally social (i.e., they like spending time alone, they don't need as many friends, they'd rather have a quiet dinner with two buddies than mingle all night at a club, etc.) knows that many other people don't 'get' them. Throughout their lives they've been subjected to some hurtful stereotypes and misconceptions, which I'll cover in this article.

Most people who prefer to spend less time around others are totally healthy and normal. The problem with stereotypes is that they do apply to some people, and that keeps them going. For many of the points below, some less-sociable people fit into them. However, the point is that not every last less-sociable person does. Not that it matters. Just because two traits overlap doesn't mean one causes the other.

Less-social people are shy

This is one of the classic misconceptions. It goes that if someone doesn't want to spend time with others, it's because they're too inhibited or insecure to do so. They'd never choose to be that way. I have no doubt that plenty of less-sociable people are shy as well, but many aren't nervous at all when they do choose to socialize. Conversely, some social, gregarious people will tell you they're actually inwardly shy. Shyness is simply a common trait.

Less-social people have poor interpersonal skills

Consciously choosing not to spend time with people isn't the same thing as not being able to function around them if you want to. Many people who like their alone time do just fine in their social interactions. However, some less-sociable people definitely are ill-at-ease in social situations, with a lack of practice being a contributor.

Less-social people are misanthropes

You know how it is, Susan hardly ever wants to come out for drinks after work, and it's not like she's busy or anything, so that means she hates humanity, right?... Uh, that or she has nothing at all against her co-workers, but going to a pub after a long day just isn't her thing.

I have come across my share of people who match the bitter loner stereotype. The twisted irony is that they sometimes have a negative attitude about people because they've been misunderstood and rejected too often. If more people had just accepted their nature and given them space to eat lunch alone or stay home on Saturday nights without making some big thing out of it, they'd be a lot more positive and cheerful.

Less-social people are mentally ill

Some people believe not wanting to spend a ton of time around others is unhealthy enough on its own to be considered a mental health problem. Others don't believe that, but assume that if someone is less-social, it's possibly a side effect of some other mental health issue they're struggling with. That's not even close to true, of course.

Mental health problems can sometimes lead to social isolation, so it is a little understandable where this misconception comes from. Some with a more severe mental illness may be rejected and ostracized and involuntarily end up alone. Their symptoms may cause them to isolate themselves or be suspicious of everyone. Their condition may also make it harder for them to communicate effectively and read and respond to social cues. Besides from mental health problems, developmental differences such as autism or learning disabilities may lead to similar outcomes.

Less-social people must like socializing deep down

The idea here is that no one really doesn't like socializing. They just think they feel that way. If someone believes they're not that into spending time with people, it's because they have baggage around it, they're scared of it, they've just never had a good experience with it, or they just need more practice to appreciate it. That assessment is valid for some. However, there are many less-social people who are baggage-free, and who're able to have fun in social settings, but it's just not something they want to do constantly.

A somewhat related idea is that if someone seems like they're not social, then what they really need is for other people to draw them out and show them the error of their ways. Sure, some of us do benefit from being gently pulled out of our comfort zone, but other people are going to be annoyed by it, or feel patronized.

Less-social people never do anything with their time

It's not always the case, but sometimes less-social people also have more solitary, low key interests. They don't need tons of excitement, novelty, and stimulation to feel fulfilled, and may be content to spend a weekend at home reading a book, or working on a crafts project. People who have more Go, Go, Go personalities may interpret this as them being boring lumps who do nothing all day. They reason if they're not out of the house doing something new and exciting with their friends, then how else could they possibly be spending their time?

Less-social people are ticking time bombs

Uh... so a discussion of serial killers and mass murderers is pretty low on the list of things I want on my site, but I guess I have to do it. This stereotype is perhaps the most hurtful and ignorant and says that less-social people are all potential Jeffrey Dahmers or clock tower snipers. Just in terms of sheer numbers it's easy to see how this is false. Multiple murderers are extremely rare, but there are millions and millions of less-social people in the world.

The other knock against it is that many people have this idea that the profile of a typical killer is that of a socially maladjusted loner. However, from what I've read people who commit these crimes fit into a range of types. Yes, some are loners, but others worked in pairs or groups. There's also the totally opposite stereotype, of the super-smooth, charming Ted Bundy or Patrick Bateman type. Though weirdly enough, if someone's really charismatic, our mind never seems to jump to, "He's way too likable. He must secretly be a psychopathic murderer." But if someone is quiet and looks like they'd rather be somewhere else at the company golf tournament? Totally going to come into work with an Uzi one day.