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Shy vs Reserved

Shyness is a personality trait that can be described as a reluctance to engage in social situations. This can result from mild social anxiety whereby an individual feels a little nervous in social situations. Such feelings are perfectly normal and are commonly felt by outgoing people and the shy alike. The difference with shy individuals is that they tend to retreat from this anxiety.
Reserved behavior is a character trait that involves only speaking when you have a good reason. This is very different from shyness. In some cultures, being reserved is considered admirable behavior that is associated with politeness, intelligence and thoughtfulness. For example, reserved behavior is an element of social norms in England, Japan and Germany. Cultures that lack a notion of reserved behavior may incorrectly perceive reserved people as shy.

The Difference

Shyness is mostly associated with childhood and young adults. In other words, people often grow out of it. Shyness is a retreat from social anxiety. Adults often develop the resilience not to retreat from things they want to do.
In contrast to shyness, reserved behavior is a mature character trait that is developed over time. As such, it is associated with adulthood. In cultures where reserved behavior is embraced as an ideal type of behavior, it is further associated with wealth and social status.
Both shy and reserved people typically have the ability to become incredibly social. When this occurs delineates the difference between these two character traits. The shy become social when they feel comfortable such as around friends. The reserved are social with friends and family but will also become highly social in the most challenging of situations. For example, the reserved may be avid public speakers and shine at social and business events.


Shyness should not be confused with introversion that is a preference for less social interaction. It is common to grow out of shyness but introversion can be a fundamental part of your personality. Modern theory suggests that all people have an introversion and extroversion side with one being dominant. Alternatively, this is viewed as a continuum from very introverted to very extroverted with many levels inbetween.
Shy vs Reserved
A reluctance to engage in social situations.
The discipline to only engage in social situations that are productive or meaningful.
Associated With
Avoidance of challenging social situations.
A phase of youth that often goes away with adulthood.
Avoidance of time wasting social situations such as idle gossip.
The ability to think quietly and develop valuable ideas that you can keep to yourself unless there is an opportune moment to share them.
Strategic communication that uses the power of silence. For example, the reserved are unlikely to say dumb things too often because they carefully consider their speech.
Commonly Confused With
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