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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  • THMoller says on

    Can I add one? See if this resonates.
    As introverts we are surprised at how much we desire to be around other people. We do desire to have friends in our homes. When we have many friends gathered at our home our first inclination is to find a corner, sit and watch and enjoy the activity, without speaking a word. Usually we don’t do that because, after all, this is at our home so we find things to do to serve our friends rather than engage in conversation. With so many people milling around deep conversations are hard to sustain. So we make ourselves busy so we don’t have to engage in small talk and answer the question, “What have you been up to?”. We man the barbecue or clean up after our guests. This busy service masks our lack of wanting to small-talk with the others we invited to our home. Introverts love irony.

  • Candi Gimroth says on

    THANK YOU so very much for sharing this! It is encouraging and brings a sense of freedom to really be who I was created to be…and ACCEPT it! I know from the inner most part of my being that God, my Heavenly Father loves me and understands me but so much of the time I have not loved or accepted me. I will be reading more on this…thank you!

  • L Johnson says on

    A must “must read,” and then re-read again at different times in your life, is Spirit-Controlled Temperament by Dr. Tim LaHaye.

  • We need more recognition and understanding. Thank you. There is a great book called The Introvert Advantage that I found very empowering. We may only make up about 25% of the population, but then, rubies wouldn’t be worth so much if you could find them on every corner would they? 😉

  • I am an introverted female pastor. Triple wammy. I agree with much of what you said, although for me, there are nuances to how I engage with the length of meetings. As long as I know the purpose for the meeting, and I can see that it is progressing in that direction, the length of time in a meeting doesn’t matter. There have been many times in which I’ve seen my extroverted colleagues fidget more; rather than being drained per se, their energy forces a need to “escape” as soon as the meeting begins to wind down.
    For me, worse is a short meeting from which I leave feeling like nothing has been accomplished. I then have to further “extrovert myself” to find out the info I need in order to do my job. That’s not to say that I’m only task-oriented: It’s helpful for me to know if a brainstorming/dreaming meeting is such, versus a planning-for-this-week, versus trouble-shooting a particular issue that has arisen, versus a “How’re we all doing, for real?” meeting. I am able to then prepare and process my introverted expectations for the appropriate setting.

  • Kristina says on

    I agrer with kiley. It seems as though it could be a t vs. f distinction.

  • Paige Szajnuk says on

    Yes; yes; yes. I am an introvert and this is exactly how I feel, act, respond, etc. One thing I hear consistently, even from my own family members who have known me for years, is this: “You’re so serious all the time; why don’t you relax and enjoy life more?” I honestly don’t know why they ask this and/or how they expect me to respond. These are people who have seen me laugh and genuinely enjoy life at times. Anyone else deal with this??

  • Jamie Harris says on

    Wow, that describes me so exactly. It was a nice feeling to have someone “get it” and explain it in such great terms. Thank you!

  • Thom Rainer says on

    Thank you Ron. I am humbled that I made a contribution to your life.

    • Dr. Rainer,

      Thank you for this post. I look forward to reading more of your works. Accepting myself as an introvert and undoing the inadvertent damage from extroverted instruction has been life-changing. Articles like this help me explain it to others who are put of by the term “Introvert.” Seems to me it is widely misunderstood. This article helped me communicate to someone who is in his 60’s the enlightenment I received now at 26. I thought I was late discovering and embracing this about myself – but now I am learning there are multitudes of other’s who are still confused as I was. Thank you for using your talent for others. God bless.


  • Thank you! I have been a pastor for 23 years and my introversion has been a hindrance often by being misunderstood. I came to several of the same conclusions and helps you have, but you added a few good ones.
    These were very helpful! I forwarded both articles to some key people in my life.

  • Thom Rainer says on

    Thanks Tom. Good input and add to the blog.

  • You got it right Dr. Rainer! I might add that introverts gain energy in our time alone in contemplative time or alone. Interaction with others especially in a crowd tends to drain the introvert. On the other hand, extroverts tend to gain energy from a group or crowd of people.