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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  • Michelle says on

    I enjoyed your article. I really want to understand the way an introvert thinks and acts. Your article helped me a lot.

    What I’d really like help understanding, is HOW to build a relationship with an introvert. One of my children married an introvert, and I would like to develop a good relationship with my child’s spouse. Most of the time I feel like my attempts at showing love and developing a friendship actually cause harm instead. I’ve read a lot of articles about understanding introverts, but can’t find much about connecting with introverts.

    (If it isn’t too much trouble, please reply, and if your reply doesn’t automatically send an email, please send an email so that I can come back and read your advice.)


    • I have a suggestion for forming a relationship with an introvert. It is great to assume that connection will build over time – doing things together can be good – not asking for opinions but being happy to hear any that are given – generally being a quiet appreciator of their strengths – feeling comfortable to be with them and not know them very well for ages – these work well. Appreciation and respect are the key – and not putting the emerging relationship into the spotlight. I’m an extrovert with introvert children and these tips give them the privacy and warmth they need.

  • the link to your original article was broken. I googled and found it here.

    Good stuff;l= thanks

  • Enlightened says on

    Wow. Perfect description.

    I am a 26 year old female, and have only discovered (OR shall I say *accepted*) I am an introvert this year. I thought to be successful I must be an extroverted person – and yet I find myself feeling like an actor around anyone other than my husband – as I am quite uncomfortable in certain situations where people who don’t know me well would assume I am a fish in water. Thank you for this post, it was well explained. I have a friend who is in his 60s, who I have identified with as a fellow introvert.

    Introvert has such a negative connotation associated with it – as he quickly refuted my ‘diagnosis’ – but after explaining to him it’s not what we are taught (shy and neurotic) – he said he felt so enlightened and inspired. I know the freedom he feels, because I recently discovered it myself.

    Some of us as introverts are taught our entire lives there is something fundamentally wrong with who we are and we are taught that our inability to love small talk is rude and sour, and that we should enjoy being at large, loud parties – or we are not living life. I write best when I have had time to spend with myself. Painting, drawing and music-making are all a byproduct of my alone time. Why would I want to give that up? I thank God I married a fellow introvert – as we are comfortable sitting with one another in silence. We support one another – and he was brought up loving himself – where I was unsupported and asked to change.
    There is a beautiful thing that happens when introverts are encouraged to love their nature and see there is nothing wrong with it. Every gift has it’s limitations. Birds have wings to fly – but they have no hands and their wings are a heavy burden at times. Innies and outties are the same way. We each have a set of gifts, as well as a set of burdens.

    I believe being an introvert is such a sweet thing with my One True Love – The Holy Trinity of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. I think it’s a blessing to be introverted – in that I have a deep connection and enjoy spending time alone with God. I know extroverts who struggle with this. That fact alone makes me thankful for my sweet disposition. It’s not a curse – it’s a God-given personality trait that can be used for good in ANY situation and in any way – and for your enjoyment!

    Love to my fellow introverts. There is nothing wrong with you. <3

    – B

  • I can’t find the article on introverted leadership. I NEED to read it!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      The article is on May 12, 2011. You can find any of the articles with the search function in the top right of the home page. Thanks.

  • What a marvelous article!! I found it (thanks to my husband) in this quarter’s adult teacher book for Life Lessons and looked up the link on your blog so I could post it to FB (as an introvert, I adore social media). GREAT stuff — describes me to a “T”! It helped me understand me better, if that makes any sense — or at least how to better *explain* me. 🙂

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Welcome to introverts on social media Denise. We should enjoy not speaking to each other. : )

  • Virginia Lopez Grandjean says on

    Hello Dr. Rainer, I am the Spanish translator of Bible Studies for Life. I enjoyed so much translating this piece as part of the Summer 2014 series. I am an introvert myself, you see, and I can say Amen to all you said! Thanks!

  • Dorcas says on

    When ever am on an assingment I could look so serious and everyone arround me conclude saying why am I so angry, all I say is but you heard me singing am not angry but it never ends there cause they always feel I have been offened.

  • At Catalyst last October someone spoke on leading introverts and a light bulb went on…my 3 1/2 year old daughter is an introvert! That’s why this extremely extroverted dad can’t figure her out!!!!
    I appreciate this. You are helping a father understand his daughter from an early age and I pray it helps our relationship for years to come. Ultimately I hope my relationship with her reflects God’s fatherly love so you are providing quite a service here. Thanks!

  • My favorite line:
    “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. ”

    I’ve always found it interesting that people will say, “Well, it’s just something you have to get over.” I’ve been told by some that introverts can’t be good pastors. In my experiences, the men whom I consider the wisest and most loving shepherds to their flocks have been introverted.

    • Hello, I found this all so interesting, As I am a “introvert” My partner said, ‘I need help because of this. “But, I don’t see it that way. I just like to make my own way. In early years he.( My partner) would push is friend’s wife’s on to me to be friends. I hated that. I like to read and learn, I am not crazy, I just want to be me, and not be hassle all the time about socializing…