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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  • Thanks Thom for your insights. I am amazed whenever a Christian spouse says that God won’t be able to use him/her unless the spouse becomes more extroveted. I also appreciated your mention of the dark side of these characteristics…whether introverted or extroverted we can hide there instead of being in true intimate relationship.

  • holy smokes … that’s me.

  • I think this article hits home for me. I’ve scored 98% introverted on an ocean test and it isn’t that I can’t participate in the “party” or even be the life of the party at times but when I am it’s usually in a smaller group or a group of trusted friends. Although I have to throw in my two cents and say that I don’t think written affirmation is the tendency of an introvert’s love language but it is definitely one of the few options. I think introverts are, to make a more basic assumption, more often limited to non-oral love languages. (I.E. acts of service, physical contact, and written affirmation)

  • Casey Walker says on

    As I read these, I could not keep the tears from falling from my eyes. I have always thought something was wrong with me in how I am with people, why I always felt drained after being in a crowd, or even painfully shy sometimes in a crowded room.
    I guess the big one is processing. I didn’t understand it but for years, it seemed that while in a discussion with someone they would give me this look, “are you not tracking what I am saying,” when all the while I was thinking what they had said. Or I tell people close to me that it just takes me more time to process things, and I get, “oh no you dont your smarter than that.”
    I am still processing what you wrote here and am thankful that this may have opened up a new life in the Lord for me in seeing myself, maybe for the first time.

    • Casey,

      I am 26 and I just discovered (or I should say *accepted*) that I am an introvert. I just wanted to reach out to you and say there is nothing wrong with you – and I know what it feels like to think something is wrong or different about yourself.

      Think about this – God LOVES when we spend quiet time with him – I think being an introvert is a HUGE plus in this area (likely *the* most important area) in that we aren’t uncomfortable unplugging and sitting alone with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Introversion is a HUGE strength 🙂

      God made introverts and extroverts – we just gave it the names. God doesn’t make junk – he gives us all specific strengths and weaknesses.

      Birds have wings to fly – but they don’t have hands and their wings can get heavy. There are limitations to every gift.

      *HUGS* <– Or no hug if you don't like them haha 🙂

  • I am an introvert (INTJ). And, I have 3 children who are introverts at varying points on the scale. One thing that I’ve noticed lately is that introverts, because they need to think before they talk will often lose the opportunity to add to a conversation. The extroverts, rather than giving the introvert a little time will jump in and sqelch the introvert and the introvert loses the opportunity to contribute and the group loses the contribution that an introvert could have made.

  • hit the nail on the head! also, pretty sure college football is a love language as well 🙂 Go Dawgs!

  • Carl Nicely says on

    AMEN.. needed to be said,but I am about 3 notches to the left.. a bit on the extreme side. and it has been a hard path to walk. Anyone for an introvert club? it would be nice and quiet for most of the time. 🙂

  • This post is excellent. Kudos.

  • Thank you for this understanding article! You described both my husband and I! And by God’s grace, we’ve been married for 36 years. As a retired Navy Chief, I was told over the years that it would not be possible to be “me” and lead as an introvert. I believe that through abiding in Christ, that was proved incorrect. I truly hope and pray that others become acquainted with your book and articles to understand and appreciate the strengths of introverts. I have a ton of weaknesses, but it’s nice to be encouraged now and then 🙂

  • Wow. Nailed it! Especially the written communication part! When there’s a confrontation of sorts between my husband and I, I REALLY prefer to write it out and for him as well. It’s SO hard for me to “think on demand”, if you will, and get across what I’m trying to say the way I mean it. Did you follow that? Ha.
    This is a great article! Sending it to my husband, because he still has a hard time understanding me after 10 years… 🙂 a little refresher.

  • Kristina says on

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