Eight Things to Help You Understand Introverts

August 1, 2012

Over a year ago, I wrote an article on introverted leadership. Much to my surprise, many people wrote and affirmed the sentiments I expressed. Many of them were introverts who felt misunderstood and often relegated to lesser opportunities because of their reticent personalities.

I understand. I am an introvert.

In the article, I offered some suggestions to introverted leaders to help us navigate what we perceive to be a noisy and energy-draining world. Now I want to address those who are not introverts. You are the people who have to work with us, live with us, and interact with us. Perhaps you even get frustrated with us. And while we introverts can certainly do more on our part, I hope these eight statements will help you understand us a little bit better.

  1. Our aversion to small talk can make us appear rude. Okay, maybe we are rude. When someone asks us how we are doing, we really don’t believe most people want to know how we are doing. If someone tells us that they are so glad to see us, we have our doubts. As a result, our responses are often not warm or chatty.
  2. We value close friendships. We may do poorly connecting to tons of people, but we connect well to those we consider close friends. Indeed we tend to be extremely loyal. We introverts often process relationships mentally and emotionally. If we find a loyal friend, we treasure the relationship as a precious gift. If we perceive someone uses us or is disloyal to us, we struggle greatly with that person. Indeed some would say we have an “off switch” for those persons.
  3. We like to have a reason to talk. Some people are surprised to discover certain people are introverts because they have witnessed the introvert engaged in a lively conversation. When an introvert is truly engaged, he or she is talking about something that evokes his or her passion. It is a fallacy to say introverts don’t like to talk. We just like to have a meaningful purpose to our conversations.
  4. Meetings and public interaction don’t really bother us; long meetings and long public interaction do. Think of an introvert as an automobile with a tank of fuel. The longer we are in meetings or similar settings, the more fuel is depleted. At some point we run out of fuel and become almost non-functional. We can only get refueled and refreshed by moving to a more private setting.
  5. Don’t assume we introverts don’t like to have fun. Most of us do have fun. We typically enjoy cutting up with people we know and trust. And our idea of a fun place for relaxation or vacation is typically a quiet and out-of-the-way spot. I must admit that my love for college football is an exception to this pattern.
  6. We are not always quick to speak. Sometimes our reticence can make us look thoughtful; at other times we may appear to be clueless. We are often processing information and the environment of the moment. We tend to be especially aware of the feelings of others who may be present.
  7. We like written communication. We often tune out long-winded explanations and reports. Countless times in my life I have said, “Let me see that in writing.” That gives me the time to process the information and reflect upon it. By the way, we introverts really do like written affirmation in cards, letters, and emails. That tends to be one of our love languages.
  8. You can’t fix us introverts. Our introversion is not a disease that needs a cure. For the most part, we like our personalities and have no desire to be like the extrovert. Spouses who try to change introverts into extroverts have an uphill battle and a likely conflicted marriage.

Of course, all of this information is the perspective of an introvert to the rest of the world. I do not mean to imply that everyone should adjust to us. We have to make our own adjustments to communicate and function in this world.

Are you an introvert? Do you have to work or live with introverts? What do you think of my eight insights?

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61 Comments

  • That description really sounds like me. Frankly, I do not have a problem with my introversion. It is the extroverts who tend to have a problem with my reticence. I usually get the comment ” you are so serious” or “you are so stiff”. My advice to my fellow introverts is to be proud of who you are. God made you that way and God does not make junk. For my extrovert friends……Get over it.

  • Camie Beagan says on

    Wow…. Thanks for the insight.

    I am an outspoken extrovert that works with Engineers and Steel Detailers, who tend to be very quiet, introspective individuals. I have recently taken on a human development role in our firm. I very much struggle trying to understand where my coworkers are ‘coming from’ because they are so quiet. This article was very informative and helpful as I continue to find ways to effectively communicate with most of our staff. I know there is a lot of great things knocking around in their contemplative minds and am working hard draw them out and have their voices heard. Biggest lesson learned, introverts do not want to be extroverts and, perhaps, if the extroverts (I) just shut up they will be heard. – Thank You!

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