Eight Things to Help You Understand Introverts

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?

Posted on August 1, 2012

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Thom Rainer says on

    IH –
    Thank you very much!

  • Irelandshope says on

    You totally nailed it, I thought you were describing me 🙂
    Love the blog, a real blessing, thanks.

  • Thom Rainer says on

    Sandee –
    Glad to help in some small way. Thanks for the comment.

  • Thom Rainer says on

    RK –
    Even college football huh? I need to pray for you!

  • Thom Rainer says on

    Joey –
    Thanks for the comment. Good to hear from you friend.

  • Thom Rainer says on

    Kiley –
    I am an INTJ. You are likely on to something in differentiating introverts. I appreciate your insights. You have me thinking even more!

  • Thom Rainer says on

    Thanks Emily. I hope your friends and co-workers appreciate you even more!

  • Sandee Wiggins says on

    Thanks for so clearly expressing the things that those who work with me need to understand. I’ve never been able to voice it so eloquently.

  • rkburns28 says on

    It’s scary how well you know me! Even the College Football exception! lol
    Thank you for this! It will help me and those who work with me!

  • Joey Rosas says on

    Thom, I am married to an introvert and one of my closest friends is an introver. Thank you for the “gentle” reminder. Joey

  • Dr. Rainer,
    Thanks for the thoughts. I am a pretty well-defined INTJ who started a fundraising coaching firm two years ago with a college friend who is an ISFJ. I have found that the Thinking vs. Feeling trait is more pronounced than the Introvert vs. Extrovert trait. I’m curious about whether you are T or F and if you find this trait showing up more than you think. My business partner is naturally an Introvert, but his Feeling trait drives him to connect with people, sympathize with them, and communicate effectively. However, as a fellow Introvert, my Thinking trait puts me square in the categories you describe above. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Wow! My history of relations has led me into extroverted women, or in the long run my partners’ tended to turn out extroverted. I am currently learning psychology and developing my social skills. It’s very interesting to hear of a type within a type; feeling or thinking within an introvert. Would like to hear more! This blog gave me excellent direction in regards to study and application.

  • Emily Terry says on

    You nailed it with this blog! I am already emailing some of my friends and co-workers so they can see a perfect description of me.
    From one introvert to another: thank you!

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