Introverted: Understanding Introverts

introversion

noun \ˌin-trə-ˈvər-zhən, -shən\

Definition of INTROVERSION

2 : the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life

Like about half of the world’s population, I am an introvert. I always have been and always will be: just thinking about interacting with too many people makes me tired. On most days about half of my time is spent doing activities alone, and much of the other half is spent with one other person.

Also, like many introverts, I believe people do not understand introversion too well. This makes life harder for the introverted person, who is already trying to avoid life in the first place. So for the sake of all the introverts who would like to be understood and the extroverts who would like to understand, I will address some common misconceptions about introversion.

Introversion is not shynesslife-of-an-introvert

Introverts are not necessarily shy, although many introverts are shy. Introversion in itself is simply a state of being mainly concerned with one’s inner life. Unlike shy people, introverts don’t avoid social interaction because they are anxious or scared of others. Many introverts can be very sociable when they feel like being so, they just choose not to because social interaction drains their energy.

Many shy extroverts believe they are introverts. If you would rather interact with people, but you’re afraid to or don’t know how, then you are an extrovert. If you feel energized by interacting with the outside world of people or things, you are an extrovert. No matter how much time you spend alone.

Introverts are not lonely

Introverts may often be alone, but they are not lonely — they enjoy their own company more than they enjoy the company of others. Do not feel sorry for them, they are not sad. Do not ask them if they would like someone to hang out with. If they are strongly introverted, the answer will be no.

Introverts can not become extroverts

Sometimes more sociable, extrovert friends and family will encourage the introvert to interact more with others. They think the introvert just needs a little push, or some new friends, and they will be “cured” of their introversion. Introversion is not an illness that can be rid of by having a few fun nights out. A person is born an introvert and stays that way for life. Introverts are wired differently than extroverts: many studies have found differences in the brain activity and structure of introverts and extroverts.

Introverts do not hate people

Finally, introverts are not generally anti-social and they do not dislike people. They may love people (like I do), but they feel drained by too much social interaction; not having enough time alone can make them cranky or jittery. Give the introverted person enough space and you’ll find they can be a wonderful friend.

Are you introverted? What tips do you have for understanding introverts?

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38 thoughts on “Introverted: Understanding Introverts

  1. I believe I am an introvert who dresses up like an extrovert. Because while hanging out around people can be fun, I know I’m at my most relaxed while by myself/with my girlfriend bumming around the house.

    The key thing to understand other introverts I think would be… don’t assume we’re unhappy because we like being alone? Something like that.

  2. Zek, I dress up as an extrovert too, especially in new situations. But it’s not long before I settle into my usual cocoon.

    I think your last point relates to the second misconception: Introverts Are Not Lonely.

  3. Not sure what to say here. I am an introvert (as proved on several professional tests), but your post does raise some important questions.

    The thing is, I sometimes want to interact with people but I don’t know how. I have no idea if it’s natural for me to feel this way, or is it the way I was socialized. My mother always emphasized the importance of interacting with people, as if there’s something horribly wrong if you want to be left alone. So I think my wish for interaction with people is the way I was raised, not my inner need.

    That being said, I do have a strong need for having a few close friends and a parner. So I wouldn’t call myself one of those people who can be perfectly happy when they are alone.

    But, the thing is, I do feel drained by too much social interaction. I need to have my alone time in order to regain energy.

  4. Mira,

    “My mother always emphasized the importance of interacting with people, as if there’s something horribly wrong if you want to be left alone.”

    So did mine. She always used the word “normal” in reference to interacting with people. But she’s a clear extrovert, like most of my family.

    “That being said, I do have a strong need for having a few close friends and a parner.”

    I do too. I think most introverts want to have a few close friends and a partner. They are people, after all. It’s just big groups or constant interaction that they didn’t initate themselves that drains their energy.

  5. I am an introvert (according to tests) as well, and I didn’t get it until recently. I am involved in a lot of activities that require interacting with other people, but I only consider a very small number my friends, and I prefer to be either alone or with my boyfriend/a friend or two. I have held a lot of leadership positions, but I don’t tend to interact with the people in those organizations above and beyond what I need to do for the job.

    ITA that the thought of socializing for a long time is draining. My boyfriend can tell–after awhile I’ll give him a “get me out of here” look, especially during family gatherings.

    I was shy as a kid and much more introverted (all I did was read all day), but eventually I learned how to use perceived extroversion to my advantage.

  6. Jasmin,

    Family gatherings… oh no. Those are those worst.

    There is an advantage to at least appearing to be extroverted, but I can’t sustain it for too long. I still remember, this girl who I hung out with at my college orientation said to me later on in the semester, “Why aren’t you fun anymore? I want the old you back.” I’d gone back to my usual self, which is extremely introverted, and now I was boring. :/

  7. Alee,

    Zek’s dad always wants to watch movies, and I always groan inwardly because I know that’s another 2 hours we have to be over there.

    I’d rather be boring than stuck with people I don’t want to be around.

  8. I’m an introvert who had a pretty extroverted lifestyle (for an INTP) since kindergarten to about junior year in high school. Then by my 2nd year in college I had given into myself.

    I think kids often start off a bit more extroverted than they will eventually be. They’re more excited about new stimuli and have no pre-conceptions about the outside world yet.

  9. This is an interesting topic. Before reading it, I would have thought I was an introvert, but I’m never drained by social interaction. I think it’s just the opposite with me. The more I interact, the more energized I become. I can be very introspective sometimes. Sometimes, I’m shy. I guess I may be a shy extrovert, especially when I don’t feel like being bothered or when other people are not interesting to me.

  10. Jasmin, I try to find some way to have something else to do when people offer to watch a movie together. :)

    AJ, true, children tend to interact with their environment more than adults. I don’t think you can tell if a child is introverted or extroverted until they are a little older.

    jorbia, yes, you sound like a shy extrovert. Introverts do not become energized the more they interact; quite the opposite. Extroverts can be very introspective.

  11. Alee,

    They live in a small-ish house (and we always go there, they never drive up to SF), so I have perfected the furtive look/nudge.

    I think that’s his dad’s way of bonding–he’s not much for one-on-one conversations.

  12. i think i’m a cranky extrovert (although myers-briggs sees me as introvert). i don’t really get drained from interacting with large groups of people, but moreso from interacting w/large groups of shallow people. alone time is very important to me & i can stay in that place & not feel isolated for long stretches. maybe i’m an introvert in denial.

  13. Jasmin, bonding? Hmm… I guess I could let that slide. :)

    temple, I think most people dislike shallow people. You could be an introvert in denial, but if you don’t feel drain after interacting with large groups of people for long stretches of time, you’re probably an extrovert.

  14. 1st time commenter here! Nice blog!

    I, too, am an introvert, and it was something I struggled with at first. And that was despite having parents who were introverts. In my view, growing up in a small town in southwest Georgia wasn’t exactly conducive to introversion. Everyone knew everyone, it seemed, and you were expected to do the “Southern belle” thing.

    It’s interesting, as some of my co-workers seem to be baffled that I’m perfectly content spending much of my weekend alone. Especially my manager, who is a hard-core extrovert. Still, even other introverts seem confused that I’m not particularly interested in filling my weekends with social activities. I go out with co-workers with whom I’m friendly, twice a month or so, and I have my hobbies, but I’m not pressed to be out and about.

  15. Hi Daphne, welcome. Glad you like the blog. :)

    I know what you mean about the “Southern Belle” thing — I moved to the Southeast as an adult and it was awkward feeling as if I had to greet/chat with every person I met. In my New England hometown I was used to just passing by people, but in the South it was interpreted as rude.

    It does seem to baffle people that strong introverts never tire of doing things alone. They reason that even introverts need to socialize, but they don’t realize that the little socializing that an introvert does on a daily basis is enough stimulation for them.

  16. I know what you mean about the “Southern Belle” thing — I moved to the Southeast as an adult and it was awkward feeling as if I had to greet/chat with every person I met.

    I know! I’m a born and raised Georgia peach, and I don’t get this. I’ve been meaning to do some research on this cultural value and its history, because people can be truly offended by not greeting someone. I understand it somewhat from a black perspective, as I think it’s tied to the fallacy of black unity, or an “us vs them” mentality. But it seems to be primarily a Southern thing, and I’m not sure why.

  17. Daphne,

    “I understand it somewhat from a black perspective, as I think it’s tied to the fallacy of black unity, or an “us vs them” mentality.”

    Yes, I can see it from this angle.

    I remember a black woman getting so angry at me for not saying “Good Morning” to her as I passed by her small restaurant on the corner. It was like she’d never felt so insulted in her life. It makes sense though since she serves mainly soul food, plays jazz and soul music, and most of her customers are black, so she must feel a strong tie to blackness as a social construct.

    It is in general a Southern thing. That Southern hospitality. But I believe it’s only on the surface… they can be rude as any as soon as they finish saying “How ya’ll doing?” :)

  18. Well, not only am I an introvert, but I’m an INTJ. I know when I get absorbed in something, I really get cranky when someone interrupts me to socialize. They’re taking me out of my happy zone and usually get the “WTF do YOU want?” face from me. I also have long periods where I just need to be left alone. There are even times when my husband pays me too much attention, at least in my opinion. I know I should be grateful but at times, it’s jarring and too much. The thing is, he’s an introvert too. He thinks he’s an INTJ but I know he’s not. He’s way more “feelings” than me.

  19. Witchsistah,

    “Well, not only am I an introvert, but I’m an INTJ.”

    Uh oh. ;)

    I’ve known a variety of INTJs, some more feeler-ish, some less “judging”, etc, so your husband could be an INTJ. His thinking may not be as strong as yours. Then again he could be INFJ masquerading as INTJ.

    INTJs are probably the least social, in general, out of all the introverts. And I would not bother an INTJ who is busy…

  20. They’re taking me out of my happy zone and usually get the “WTF do YOU want?” face from me.
    Heh. But don’t you see, Witchsistah, your happy zone is supposed to be when interacting with others. Get it right, now. ;)

    But seriously, it’s been a couple of years since I last took the MBTI, and I think I was ISTP (although I think I’m middle of the road with P or J, so could go either way).

    I often hear about opposites attracting, but I’ve found I prefer other introverts or a moderate as romantic partners. Has that been anyone else’s experience?

  21. Daphne, I prefer other introverts too. Not that extroverts are bad: I’ve dated some and it’s turned out well; some are fun and can get me to do things I’m glad I did later. But introverts are cozy and I feel less pressured with them. They also understand my introversion better; I don’t need to explain anything. We just kick back and relax. :)

  22. I would also have considered myself an introvert, but reading this, I would say that people can give me energy at times: if I LIKE them / are close to them, and they are able to listen to me … But large groups can be draining. However, if I am in a large group with one other friend , and if that group talks about something relateable, then I can enjoy it. It is kind of like the large group is just an occurence in our friendship that is based on much more (how we met, through whom, our common interests.) My belief is really that, the more occurences (positive) happen to you and your friend together, the closer you can become, even if it seems to spur bad things.
    All this being said, it seems that everyone needs close friends and most people thrive better with them.
    I mention this because I know that I thrive better with close friends, and family… Than with just a lot of not-so-close friends. That seems to be an introverted person’s characteristic. However, I am 50/50 for being drained by other people and wanting to be alone. Which is why, weird as it is for someone who was definitely the most reserved and quiet student at most of elementary school, I would consider myself a shy extrovert. I remember appreciating having some social interaction in the day, but mostly only if it pertained to my interests. If guys were to speak to me, and be awed by something I said about me, I would not like it, and find that draining, but if it was a friend talking about something I liked, I liked it! I also liked to be socially active in high school but was just much too shy to really do anything about it…

  23. Hi Fernica,

    Yes, you sound like a shy extrovert. :)

    But introverts can also like hanging out with one close friend, and not be too drained from that.

  24. Hi! I think i am an introvert. i am drained with so much noise. i appreciate on-line chatting than talking personally. some people think that i am wasting my freetime for nothing but the truth is i need to recharge, and listen to almost 30 songs in my playlist to bring my battery back. when too much action takes in i would see myself daydreaming or filling boxes in my graphing paper to stay out in this world. i find it interesting talking to another introvert because she knows what i feel than an extravert who would change the topic right away…i hate shifting topics i would rather concentrate in one idea and if that idea thrills me that wouldn’t disappear for weeks or months. i have hard time talking especially to strangers but if i am obliged to i would talk and its awkward because i take time thinking about what i am going to say and my thoughts were wandering..i couldn’t even understand what i am talking. i hate public speaking and rehearse well before the big scene…but when i am in front i am in difficulty hitting the right word no matter how prepared i am… i am concern of what people might think of me and i believe the let go of words could make difference so i formulate each word that will come out to my mind and sort it out just to avoid hurting others. Once my extraverted bestfriend said that “Introversion was just a product of a traumatic past” like broken families or too much criticism…so to stop it from bothering me to wonder what truly i am i finally concluded that “Introverts are born and die as themselves” and you can’t change them….people criticize me for not speaking out loud for judging me i sometimes wonder with this idea “people criticize me then i became an introvert” OR “i am an introvert so people criticize me….for me the second thought gives a lot of sense right now…..for introverts! GLORY FOR THOSE WHO LISTENS FOR THEY UNDERSTAND MORE!!

  25. Hi Hannah,

    …i am drained with so much noise. i appreciate on-line chatting than talking personally… i formulate each word that will come out to my mind and sort it out just to avoid hurting others.”

    The whole first portion of your comment sounds much like me… Yes, I’d say you’re an introvert.

    “Once my extraverted bestfriend said that “Introversion was just a product of a traumatic past” like broken families or too much criticism…”

    So what about all the extraverts who have a “traumatic past”? *eyeroll*

    All these armchair psychologists… they try to pin everything about a person on their upbringing or past experiences. When the reality is so much of a person has nothing to do with their upbringing but is just their personality.

  26. I am a Introverted Intuitive (recently realized… feels like a “coming out” ) who has projected a Extroverted Thinking style to cope.
    First, with a stressful childhood home, and then, with the horror of entering school with all those dynamics bombarding at once and no space to be in!

    I understand the distinction between Extroversion and Introversion being based in how we Resource Ourselves. How we gather energy, gain insight, inspiration, process information/input and reference the world around us.

    Many of us have developed strategies for suriviving in this predominantly Extroverted Thinking/Producing world that are contrary to our in-born natures.
    Sometimes we can even believe we Are this projection! Especially if we adapted a style at a very young age and were fairly success using it.

    I really appreciate this Blog for providing an outlet and a dialogue for coming to understand ourselves and each other better!! Thank You!

    -Christine

  27. Hi Christine, I’m an introverted intuitive too. I understand about your coping mechanisms; I do that as well, in certain settings.

    “I really appreciate this Blog for providing an outlet and a dialogue for coming to understand ourselves and each other better!! Thank You!”

    You’re welcome. :)

  28. Alee, Hi, also… I meant to say, “Do you think all this that I articulated above is fairly accurate?
    I didn’t mean to come across like some kind of expert.
    I imagine the “passing” for an extrovert may be a fairly common phenomena?
    I have just recently come to terms with how I have denied who I truly am. Thus cutting myself off from my creative source. Intrepreting natural introverted tendencies as “sad”, “depressed” “something wrong with me” etc. Instead embracing and Enjoying them!

    anyway, thanks again!
    -Christine

  29. Be aware that introversion and extroversion exist on a continuum. There will be different gradations of these personalities. So sometimes it may be difficult to discern what a particular person may be. Some may be outliers and be extremely extroverted and introverted while others will be in the middle. This is why you may typically feel like an introvert, but at certain time you may display the attributes of an introvert.

  30. Hi Christine,

    “Alee, Hi, also… I meant to say, “Do you think all this that I articulated above is fairly accurate?”

    I would say so. Introversion and extraversion is about how our mind is oriented — inwardly or outwardly.

    “I imagine the “passing” for an extrovert may be a fairly common phenomena?”

    It’s probably fairly common in societies which value extraversion, like most North American societies. As you said, it’s a coping mechanism, in order to present oneself as “normal”.

    Froggie,

    “sometimes it may be difficult to discern what a particular person may be.”

    To me it’s usually pretty simple. Some people might be confused which they are because many people think it’s a matter of behavior, i.e. if you spend a lot of time alone then you must be an introvert. But it’s not about behavior, really, although it may manifest itself that way.

  31. Alee,

    I don’t feel as if its possible to simply group people into either being introverted or extroverted. What is was saying is that some people will be more introverted and some less, while others will be more extroverted and some less so. Then you have the rest of the population. These people will fall somewhere in between as it is a continuum.

  32. Froggie,

    I know what you were saying. I just don’t agree. :)

    I don’t see introversion/extraversion that way. It’s like being pregnant — you either are or you aren’t. And just like you can be 2 months or 6 months pregnant, you can be more or less introverted or extraverted but you’re still there!

  33. So some people can’t display aspects of both personalities? So if you’re less of one then you’re not more of the other? Maybe I am just mistaken as to what a continuum is.

  34. Seems like you both have valid perspectives here. And I think they fit together.
    That there is a contiuum as to How Extroverted or Introverted a person may be.
    And that a person is either wired one way or the other essentially.
    Like I am definitely an Introvert …who can be Extroverted (But it wears me out to be this way)

  35. Christine,

    Yes, that’s more or less what I was trying to convey. :)

    One study showed that introverts have more activity in a certain portion of the brain. This is likely the cause of why they need less outer stimulation, and one can need more or less depending on this.

  36. That’s interesting. This whole topic is very interesting.
    I just wish there was more discussion “out there” to bring more understanding and awareness.
    I bet a lot of childhood conflicts, both within families and in school dynamics are due to misunderstanding ‘Introversion’…. including some cases of “bullying”.

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