The Plight of Introverts in an Extroverted World

Introverts get a bad rap in our society. Everything from hiring to relationships seems set up for extroverted personalities. These are often the people who become big shot politicians or movie stars. If you walk through a grade school, chances are you’ll find tons of motivational posters urging students to express themselves and be creative. While there’s nothing wrong with that kind of motivation, I can’t help but wonder if introverts are undeserving treated like they are less than worthy.

The dictionary defines introvert as a person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings. I found other sites around the web describing introverts as shy or self-centered. I’d bet most people would see those definitions and assume introverts aren’t any fun. In fact, some may even assume they’d be rude.

If you happen to know a few introverted people, you’ll know they’re not terrible people who only care for themselves. Just like anyone else, they crave a certain amount of socialization and self-expression.

I’ve known a number of introverted people in my life. Like any group of people, there are some sour apples. For the most part, though, they have been some of the kindest people. They just happen to communicate a little bit differently and take a bit longer to open up.

Most of my friends and high school and college were extroverts. We’d talk about every personal thing you can think of, from the intimate to the disgusting. These were the kinds of conversations I was used to having within the first week or two of meeting people. Then I met the man who would become the boyfriend I have today. He was my first experience getting to know an introvert.

There was an obvious attraction right off the bat, but I thought some things were odd. Why didn’t he want to talk about his previous sexual experiences? Why was he hesitant to share certain details of his childhood? Up until that point, I assumed all people would be forthcoming about their whole lives unless they had something to hide.  For a while, I thought this would be the thing that ended our relationship. My extroverted friends agreed that his unwillingness to speak on certain subjects was odd.

Eventually, I would find he was hesitant to tell me certain things due to the pain or embarrassment of the memory. The reality I eventually came to realize was that I was the rude one. What kind of person expects people to answer all those questions within even the first few months of knowing each other? This man wasn’t the willing subject of my latest journalism project. He had a right to keep whatever personal aspects of his life private until he felt he could trust me.

This photo, “Introverts and Social Media” is copyright (c) 2014 Leigh Blackall and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Since those experiences early in college, I have discovered that introverted people get the raw end of the stick more often than not. They have difficulties making friends, finding jobs and establishing relationships. I have spoken to people who express their disinterest in hiring certain candidates because they didn’t seem excited enough and, unfortunately, I have judged people in the past as being uninterested in friendship because they didn’t engage in conversations as much as my other friends.

I wonder if the world has always favored extroverts or if something about our fast paced society has generated this preference. Certainly introverts deserve just as much love, respect and opportunities as extroverts. Too often, though, they are made to feel bad for their differences.

My boyfriend has expressed sorrow at his inability to open up to people as fast as I can. Other introverted people I have met throughout my life have had similar thoughts. It’s such a shame because they have just as much to offer the world. Society needs diversity. Just as extroverts serve a purpose, so do introverts. In fact, introverts are perfect for some of the most critical jobs out there.

Celebrities might get all the attention, but introverts are perfect for editing the videos and films that make those celebrities famous. Extroverts may be rampant on social media with hundred of friends, but introverts make the best social media managers, working behind the scenes for big business social media accounts.

This photo, “Schmooze Bloggers (DBAs) 6 Year Olds” is copyright (c) 2014 ProgrammerHell and made available under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license

No one should feel inadequate just for being who they are. I worry introverts are being made to feel left out when they don’t have to be. On the superficial surface of our society, extroverts seem to have it all. They are in the limelight, often providing advice of how others can achieve the same success. However, introverts serve crucial roles as well. They can be just as successful using their introverted means and be just as important.

Are you introverted or extroverted? What do you think people tend to misunderstand about introverts? What sort of jobs would you imagine introverts being perfect for? Have you ever worried about a friend or family member because they didn’t seem extroverted enough? What advice would you give someone trying to get to know or open up an extroverted person?

Curious about career options for introverts? Forbes has a list of the 10 jobs introverts are most likely to enjoy.

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125 thoughts on “The Plight of Introverts in an Extroverted World”

  1. Interesting. I have been told many times I am an introvert, but I don’t feel like one. I find it relatively easy to (try and) make friends, but I often feel like others don’t really connect with me. I also don’t get embarrassed or worried by other people talking about overly extroverted subjects, and I’m not embarrassed to talk about myself in any particular way. But i have experienced things that you have mentioned, such as being told i’m not enthusiastic enough (job interviews) and also being thought of as uninterested in friendships. Obviously it isn’t black and white, but I definitely agree with your point about today’s society possibly favouring the fast, the loud and the external (I don’t mean that derogatorily.)
    Love the work.
    Peace.

    1. I can be flamboyant when it comes to my interests, but I often feel awkward in social situations. A lot of times, I’m quiet until someone engages me. Only then do I not stop talking. But then, I really enjoy my alone time. All my hobbies involve me being alone. Most people are probably a mixture of both and just lean one way. I think I’m more extroverted these days, but I used to be very introverted.

  2. A really interesting post, thanks for sharing. There are so many different forms of introverts and extroverts, it’s always good to get to know a person 🙂

      1. May I say that I really believe the main difference is where they get their energy; from being the social center of attention or reflection/meditation. Intros seem to value privacy more, such as not talking about sexual experiences with strangers, and don’t boast or crack jokes just to get people to like them. This turns most people away because they’re conditioned to befriend outgoing people. So, yeah it takes longer. Good read 😉

  3. I’m more of an introvert (borderline extrovert according to my last Myers-Briggs assessment), but most ppl would describe me as an extrovert because I’m also comfortable in social settings (parties, concerts, etc). But I’ve never believed in telling strangers my life story. I’m just getting comfortable with that. I had a difficult childhood. Why divulge negative events?

  4. Introversion can seem crippling in our society and that is sad. You are often made to feel as if you don’t belong anywhere at all. It took me a while to come to grips with who I am and not feel “inadequate” because I wasn’t an extrovert. It seemed that everything and everyone screams that there is something “wrong” with you if you cannot be extroverted, from our classrooms to our work places. We’re all different, and we should accept those differences instead of trying to make everyone adhere to a certain mold. I embrace my introversion and am lucky to have extrovert friends who can sometimes get me to push my comfort level, but who also understand and accept me as I accept them.

    1. It’s great you have friends who accept you. There’s a friend I met through meetup whose very introverted. He rarely speaks at all but is always game for hanging out. He’s really a great person and they fact he’s not as enthusiastic as me doesn’t matter. Before I would have thought that odd partially because most of my friends are extroverts and partially because society tells me that’s odd. But there’s nothing wrong with him. He’s great and has a successful life. I wish we had a way of reaching out to young introverts to show them they are just fine as they are.

  5. I love this post! I am an introvert to the core. We are often misunderstood only because we make up a portion of the world’s population. Plus, Freud did portray us as a bit more on the negative side. But, it’s okay, thanks to Carl Jung’s relentless research. And, for the record, asking us way too many times why we’re quiet doesn’t make it more comfortable. 🙂

    1. I feel like I’m a mix and become introverted in certain situations. If I have a big project to focus on, the rest of the world disappears. I consider this introverted because my workplace is very talkative. More than once I have been asked why I’m so quiet and it’s usually just because I’m focused. People just need to accept that some people don’t feel the need to say a lot,but that doesn’t make them any less worthy of friendship.

  6. No doubt it’s an extroverted world out there or at least it would seem so since extroverts attract the most attention. As you rightly point out introverts exert their influence from behind the scenes, editors is a perfect example. I have gotten to know many introverts online. The initial anonymity inherent in cyber relationships seems to help us engage with others more easily. However, we are still more reticent in the early stages of establishing a relationship which can be misinterpreted especially since there are no physical clues available. Many introverts are good with words but need a bit more time to organize them than some extroverts are willing to allow. I avoid all chat rooms, though I have some introverted friends who can discover their inner extrovert in chats and on twitter, again the anonymity is helpful. As for occupations…poet, programmer, painter, gardener. When you run into an introvert just be patient and maybe don’t talk so much/fast.

    1. I’ve met my share of introverts online. I find they usually don’t write blogs that share personal stories as much. Many write poetry. I was introverted as a child and poetry was a great way to express myself. Even introverted people need emotional outlets and friendships.

  7. I’m an extrovert. as is my oldest daughter. My husband, younger daughter and stepson are introverts. I think extroverts are more likely to share their successes and their skills with people, while introverts tend to be quieter about their abilities. Great post!

    1. I once attended a church where they had a group for introverts. It was aimed at teaching them about their value and the unique skills they have. The message was that introverts are important to this world. That’s the only place I’ve seen that message. I wish I saw it more because, like you say, introverts tend to be quieter about their abilities. At the same time, they should know they don’t have to be extroverted to succeed.

  8. Fantastic post!! I think it is a huge misconception that introverts are self-centered, I actually think its usually the opposite. Of course, there are some bad apples, as the post says. Generally, introverts just have a harder time putting themselves out there and being the focus of attention.

    1. I never thought of them as self-centered until I saw that definition. I can think of some self-centered introverts I’ve known, but they didn’t have that quality because they were introverts. That seems like another misconception to me.

  9. That we are still making a distinction.
    What is wrong with keeping things private. Yes Introvert 😛
    Not everything has to become a sign out there on a billboard for people to talk about.And it is about what you say not about how much.

    In this world it is not being made extrovert. it is a world made by extrovert. It is all we get to see it is all that is shown.
    So as soonas you feel being a introvert you start feeling left out and just closing down more. that is how i felt it. Even now since I have a little network people seem to trust me less? Or not give a change at a job |I know i can do well.
    But being an individual makes up for that.

    Great thought.

    1. You could say it’s a world made by extroverts, but there are many introverts behind the scenes who are just as responsible for making the world go around. They just don’t feel the need to make their presence known as much. There’s also nothing wrong with privacy, but I think introverts are more likely to hold back information extroverts have no probably discussing.

      1. It is true that information is being withheld, or only shared enough to enter a discussion without revealing their lives.

        Well being on both ends of a the laughing stock discussing the wrong thing or to much can be quite painful.
        So I am all good being introvert LOL or finding balance.

        You got some great posts. and nice voice btw hehe.

  10. I’m not sure personally whether a person can be ‘an introvert’ or ‘an extrovert’ rather that people have qualities that lean towards one or the other. Also one individual may lean more towards introversion or extroversion for one given quality and entirely the other way for a different quality. As an example, I personally am not hugely comfortable in loud, busy social situations like parties, bars or clubs and am generally fairly quiet. At the same time, using your example above, I’m more than happy to divulge personal details about my life if people ask because I don’t feel in any way awkward or embarrassed to do so. Am I introverted or extroverted? Well.. neither really I’m just my particular blend of both! Interesting post, thanks 🙂

    1. I think we are very much alike. You just described me ^_^. I have a lot of introverted hobbies, like reading and gaming. I could read a book or play a game for 12 hours straight without ever missing social contact. While I don’t prefer to do that every day, I do often feel the need to have that time to myself at least once a week. At the same time, I’m very extroverted in small social situations. If more than 10 or so people are in my group, then I close up. I think you’re right that most people are a mix. I’m not sure which way I lean, though.

      1. Likewise, what you said there sounds very much familiar! I definitely need time to myself but then after a while will crave a little social contact so yes, sounds like we’re very similar. One of the best ways I’ve ever heard of describing the difference between more introverted or extroverted people is that those who are more introverted tend to ‘recharge’ their internal batteries by spending time alone and then ‘spend’ that energy on social interaction, whilst those who tend towards extroversion are the opposite, gaining energy from social interaction and draining it through alone time. As I said before I don’t think a blanket label is overly useful but that particular distinction certainly rings true with me personally (being more like the introvert in that scenario). Thought you might find that way of looking at it of interest 🙂

  11. I think the “guide” you posted on how to care for introverts is really just how not to be a jerk. I don’t care if you’re outgoing or quiet, nobody wants to be reprimanded or embarrassed publicly, everyone has a right to privacy of some kind, and interrupting someone is rude whether they talk a lot or a little.

    1. I think you are right, but that a lot of those rules are even important for introverts. For example, when I get together with highly extroverted friends, we’ll interrupt each other left and right. it’s just a part of the natural flow of our conversation. It just seems normal to us until an introvert enters the conversation. I’ve been working hard to avoid doing that these days. I don’t need to be that excited to share my two cents.

  12. I am so glad that you asked; I am a blazing introvert — a sort of contradiction, in that I am the sort of person who likes to be creative and unique, and yet does not like attracting a lot of attention.

    Says the guy with the mohawk.

    90% of the time my thoughts are wrapped up in my own pursuits, and I blog in a sort of active mode I call “hyperthreading” while I’m at work. I’m sure that those who don’t work in close proximity think I’m a snob, but I just prefer not to start conversations with people that I don’t know, although I welcome all comers.

    That list of rules is more like a wish list; the world just doesn’t work that way for introverts, and recently I had to take yet another one of these personality tests they design to vet potential candidates for employment. I must have passed though, because I got a call back.

    The secret? Answer them as though you’re afraid of being alone, working independently, or making decisions without assistance.

    It’s a fact that introverts are subjected to oppression by our society.

    I’d like to reblog this post if you’re alright with that. Congratulations on making episode 1 of Kenny & Kylie!

    1. Yeah! I’m always happy to see my posts reblogged ^_^

      I like the term blazing introvert. It’s just proof that introverts don’t lack the need to be creative or social, they just do those things differently than introverts. Like anything else in this world, I think balance between introverts and extroverts would only benefit a business atmosphere. People just need to learn the difference between uninterested and introverted.

        1. I like to think there is a difference between being socially challenged and introverted. Introverts still understand how to act in public spaces even if they aren’t as expressive around groups of people. I think those who are socially challenged have a hard time knowing how to act in social situations. They aren’t necessarily introverts.

  13. I tend to think of introverts as kind of ‘deeper’ individuals. Deeper thinkers and feelers, and possibly melancholic at times. But then again, that would also depend on the individual. I read once that introverts are generally more energized in being alone, and that extroverts are more energized in being around others. I think that professions such as accounting and book editors are generally professions that introverts would have, more so than extroverts.
    As for me, I used to be an extreme extrovert, but over time I think I’ve somewhat balanced out. I used to be an open book. Now I’m a little careful and cautious as to what I’ll share with who and when. Also, I love being alone and involved in my things now, whereas in the past I needed to be around others. I’m still energized around others, but I’m also energized in being alone. 🙂

    1. Yes, bingo, stacilys– I think the analogy of where someone gets their energy from is a much better distinction between introversion and extroversion. I’ve introverted myself and find social encounters draining. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the company of people, it’s that I need alone time to recharge, and I prefer the company of few close friends in small groups rather than many acquaintances in large groups.

      1. I’m just like that too. People wouldn’t think that of me though, because I am hyperactive. When I lived in Hong Kong (in a HK village close to the mainland China border), sometimes I would go into the big city on my day off. Oh my goodness, I was so drained and exhausted by the time I got back home, all because of so many people and so much busyness all around.
        🙂

    2. I’m going through the opposite transition. I used to be extremely introverted and have become more extroverted as I grow. I still keep some of my introverted tendencies, though. I like my alone time.

  14. Very nice post. I’m introverted for the most part which is an odd thing to say because I am also totally random in that I will start making people laugh at check out lines. But that could be due to the concussion, not really sure. But I think being a blogger and writer are good jobs for an introvert. 🙂 Just saying.

    1. I test INFP on Meyers-Briggs, and I’ve been married to an ENFP for a little over 15 years. One thing that really seemed to help us was that she allows me to hang back a little bit when meeting new people so that I have time to warm up to them and be comfortable. It probably helps that she came from a family of strongly introverted people, and that there were at least a few strongly extroverted people in my family.

    2. That’s kind of how I feel. I’ve become more and more extroverted through the years but my boyfriend is extremely introverted. It’s been a learning experience.

  15. Love this piece, I can identify with it so much. I was going to describe myself as a recovering introvert, but that does not sound good at all. I suppose these days I’m an extroverted introvert, which you could either call balanced or a complete contradiction, both of which fit just fine 🙂

    1. An extroverted introvert? You’re the first commenters to say that and I like it. I used to be more introverted but have since become more extroverted. However, this extroversion tends to be related to introverted activities. I started a book club in high school, for example, that was full of introverts. I, however, loved (and still love) to gush about the books I read. Maybe extroverted introversion is a good way to describe myself as well…

      1. Glad I’m not the only one. I still find that introverted traits are ones I more readily associate with. Yet having worked through enough of my junk to be comfortable with just being me; the fear of outwardly expressing myself is gone which may appear more extroverted. Mostly I just don’t think about being defined by a label, I’m way too inconsistent for labels lol

        1. I think I ended up a mix because I forced it on myself. I wasn’t thinking in the context of introvert and extrovert, but often in my youth I felt I was stepped on and bullied because I was so quiet. When I started high school, I forced myself to do things that scared me, like solo singing contests. In this way, I forced myself to be more extroverted, but my true loves all remained introverted qualities. I don’t know that I fit in either box at the moment.

          1. Fascinating, I found that my time being bullied in high school drove me into a shell that took my slightly introverted qualities and made them much more prominent. Then for years I faked extroversion when I felt I needed to. Life is so much easier now, just being me without the weight of all that pulling me back down. Its a long story … 🙂

            1. I’m not sure if my bullies pushed me into introversion or if I was bullied because of that. I didn’t talk a lot in my younger school years and my classmates took advantage of that… it’s a long story for me as well. I’d never want to go back to those grade school days.

  16. Lovely, sensitive, thoughtful post. I used to be an introvert, because I struggled with a conviction that no-one really wanted me around, and I was afraid of being a burden by loading my experiences and feelings onto other people (weird, huh?) I would say I am now in the middle. I like to connect and share experiences, but if I am stressed I tend to retreat and sit back. My experience of changing the way I am calls me to question whether defining people as introvert or extrovert makes sense. But certainly people who demonstrate introverted characteristics can get a raw deal, as you note.

    1. Your first sentence reminds me of who I was in elementary and middle school. I felt exactly like that.

      When it comes to labeling people as one or the other, I’m not sure if it’s good for society or not. We humans like to put people in boxes. We like to recognize patters. Maybe labeling isn’t so much the problem. We might just need a few more boxes.

  17. I’m an introvert who is comfortable with speaking only when i’m reasonably certain what i’m saying is fact. Pairing that with a slow memory and a lot of self doubt usually leads me to say little or nothing at all.

    I rely a lot on the other person to carry conversations so i function better in groups, ironically, where usually someone else will be able to continue it long enough for me to chime in. Direct interaction with me tends to get silent pretty quickly, which makes most people uncomfortable; friends tend to last for only as long as the groups last. On the flip side i’m capable of maintaining friendships with minimal interaction, with those that understand this.

    Not sure if this is common at all for other introverts. Then again the introvert/extrovert labels are a bit restrictive, people usually have a mix of both in different aspects. Anyway, hope this wasn’t TMI.

    1. What you describe seems to lean more towards introversion to me. I do agree that the labels may be a bit restrictive. Human kind has survived so far largely due to our ability to recognize patterns and separate the world into boxes. Personality may be a bit like sexuality. We can keep our boxes, but we need to have more than two. Maybe broadening the ideas of introversion and extroversion would help people with more introverted tendencies feel accepted.

      1. Agreed. I do think labels are necessary, and i do identify as an introvert, but they should be seen as a starting point rather than a definition, if that makes sense.

        1. I just think the boxes of introvert and extrovert are too few. There are more boxes than that and we may travel between those boxes throughout our lives.

          1. I’m not sure the box analogy works that well because personality is very dependent on context. One might lean towards introversion socially and extroversion professionally, or be introverted with other introverts and extroverted with other extroverts, or be extroverted in a group until that group gets too large, etc, etc. And all of those may change throughout one’s life, or only a few… there are too many variables to fit on boxes, plentiful as they might be.

            Of course this is just me thinking out loud though, i have no actual evidence to back it up, nor do i really have any alternative to propose…

            1. I guess that’s why I think it does work. There’s just a lot more boxes than people think they are. And people move from box to box throughout their lives. Boxes are important because humans have survived by recognizing patterns and organizing our world into compartments. We can’t help but do that. Maybe there are 20 boxes. Maybe we have to admit there are boxes that exist which we don’t know about. Either way, it allows us the comfort of compartmentalization.

  18. As primarily an introvert, I am comfortable having a conversation in a small group, but when you get into social gatherings it just seems so much of what goes on is thoughtless and clichéd behavior. I know there is nothing wrong with downtime, relaxing with friends etc.. But for me I am only bothered to put in effort to interact when there is a meaningful connection and something worthwhile to talk about.
    I think a lot of the time the surface confidence and power extroverts seem to have actually hides inner weaknesses. Some people are simply incapable of being with themselves quietly, they need noise and people to bounce off. I tend to see this as a weakness in a person, rather than a strength.

    1. This is an area where I am more extroverted than introverted. I HATE silence. If no one is saying anything, I’ll usually try and find something to say. I’ve actually been working on being comfortable with silence in a group of people. My introverted boyfriend has taught me hanging out can be just as fun and social without filling every second with discussion.

      1. it is interesting how people can be so different when it comes to things like this. To me silence is usually peaceful, and I don’t feel a compulsion to start conversations amongst a group, though I guess that does mean I am not very good at getting to know people.

  19. hi TK. nice post. I wish all extroverts would read your chart. it explains a lot. I posted once that I consider myself a “secure introvert”. no real issues as long as you’re not trying to dig in my past too soon, so maybe I can be a bit superficial with acquaintances at first. when I was younger I was told I seemed snobby. guess if they didn’t realize I was just quite

    1. I don’t think most introverts and introverted because they are insecure. They just keep to themselves more. It’s funny because, to an extrovert, certain questions don’t feel like they are digging into the past, but they may feel that way to an introvert.

      1. Sorry I did not explain myself well. I just meant I’m secure with being an introvert. you’re right being insecure or secure has nothing to do with introverts or extroverts. Its just another part of our personality.

  20. How do you see yourself, TK? Introverted, or extroverted?

    btw I looked closer at the Schmooze Bloggers feed on Flickr– so far, the “Whippings” entry is my favorite.

    1. I feel like I’m an extrovert these days with a few introverted tendencies. I like my alone time and sometimes I don’t feel a need to invite others along. For example, if I go to a movie or something, I rarely think beyond inviting one or two people. I’ve actually been trying to work on this, though. Friendships require effort and engagement.

      1. If you need alone time, I think that still qualifies you as an introvert. I’ve been following the newer definitions that simply state that if you draw your energy from people, you’re extroverted, and if you draw your energy from solitude and quiet, you’re introverted. The old stereotypes that introverts must be shy or anti-social don’t really do us any favors, I think. Introverted people can be plenty social, but it’s an expenditure of energy to do so. It fits my experience, anyways.

  21. Hey TK- great post on a topic that keeps rearing it’s lovely head in my life lately, personally and professionally…I am an introvert who can chat it up in the extrovert world easily but I need a lot of solitude to recuperate. My daughter is very much one as well and in raising her, it’s difficult because those extrovert qualities are definitely favored in school and she is often measures upon how much she crosses to “the other side” and with how much ease. I’ve been meaning to read up on this particularly Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution…and by the way, thanks for the like on my post! Much appreciated 🙂

    1. I really do like my solitude as well. My Friday nights have actually turned into my haven, where I play video games, read books and just focus on myself. I’ve always been they type of person who can entertain herself well. I would think raising an introverted child would be a bit hard because, like you say, the school system favors extroversion. At the same time, I imagine introverts would be less likely to voice any problems or insecurities they have in school.

      1. I agree – I am a teacher and work with a lot of students who don’t succeed in traditional school settings. I would venture to say that many of them lean this way, and don’t succeed there because of it. Then there are the others, like me, who dove into school because it allowed me to do so much of what I loved doing – reading and learning on my own! I only got tripped up in the group projects. Thanks again for addressing this…I think it’s so important for people to know their own ins and outs, whether they be an intro or an extro…

  22. I bet you are an extrovert, since you spoke of attraction of the opposites.
    I do feel people get restless around me, when they see me content in my own company and thoughts.

    Just wondering, do extroverts feel incomplete without other people? Do they introspect too?

    1. I do feel like more of an extrovert, but only in small groups of people. Once the group gets larger than 10 or so, I clam up a bit. I’m not sure if anyone feels complete with other people. I like my alone time, but if I go too long without social interaction, I feel the loss. I imagine introverts need social interaction too, though. My dad is more extroverted than me (about some things). I think he is introspective out loud. He doesn’t think and then speak. He voiced all his thoughts until he finally reaches his conclusion.

  23. I’d like to think you hit the nail dead on, talking about introverts especially existing in an extrovert world. I define myself as floating between the two, once I get comfortable with people I can talk naturally. But a lot of my friends that know that if I enter a new social scene I will be the one in the background, I like to observe, gauge behavior, listen and so on befor I engage with people. While some people are a little put off by that, saying I’m cold, or I don’t relate to others as easily, it’s more of a security thing for my personally.

    1. In large groups, I won’t say much. I open up easily in smaller groups because I find it easier to tell what kind of people I have around me. You’re comment makes me think about my next post about personal bubbles. In a small group, it’s easier to let people in. In a larger group, my bubble is big and protective.

  24. The most successful writers, artists, inventors, and philosophers are probably introverts — or at least exist closer to that end of the spectrum. The world tends to look at us as though we have a problem that needs fixing, but if everyone were an extravert, we’d be in even bigger trouble than we’re in now.

    Great post.

    1. My writer side must come from my introversion, then. In fact, I know it does. I think people who are more extroverted than I would feel uncomfortable being alone for too long. While I can be extroverted in small groups, I place a high value on my personal time.

  25. Thank you so much for writing this. My fiancé is a serious introvert and I guess I just never realized it. I will try harder to accommodate for it 🙂 Thank you so much.

  26. I’m pretty introverted so I understand how hard it is to relate to extroverts the way they expect. I don’t always know what signals to send to indicate that I want to interact. On the other hand, if a person is constantly giving signals that they don’t want to interact, what’s the extrovert supposed to think, you know?

    I’m glad there’s getting to be more familiarity with introversion and extroversion, so a person can say “I’m really introverted but I do like hanging out with you” or whatever and hopefully the other person gets it.

    1. I don’t think it even needs to be stated. People just need to accept that constant socialization isn’t necessary for some people and that that makes them no less of a friend.

  27. I always thought I was an introvert, but not to the extent that you write about. Is there a sliding scale between the two, or is there a name for someone who is an introvert until he has a couple of glasses if wine in him? I think that’s more me.

    1. I don’t think two boxes are enough. I think some people have some of both in them. I’m not aware of a scale, though. Maybe I should take that fancy personality quiz…. I forget what it’s called at the moment, though.

  28. Interesting post. Introvert, here, by the way. I can be quite shy and reserved around strangers or people I don’t know well, but I don’t have a problem opening up to people who I’m close to… however, I don’t let myself get too close to too many people. I’m fine with being an introvert. I like to spend a lot of time alone, although, like you said, I do crave the occasional social activity — with people I am comfortable around, of course. 🙂

    1. That definition makes me think I really am introverted more than extroverted. I’m really animated in my close group of friends, but keep to myself otherwise.

  29. Very interesting!

    I’m the same in my relationship; my boyfriend is more on the introvert side while I’m more extrovert. At first it was hard because there’s things he doesn’t want to talk about (i.e his ex or a stressful day at his job). Like you said, I think it’s because of the pain that he doesn’t want to talk about it. We are totally different on this.
    When I’m in pain I want to talk about it, through and through. There’s nothing I can’t tell him.

    So I also thought it was odd at first, and exactly like you, there’s friends that told me it was weird. Now that I understand him (and myself) better, it’s alright. I now appreciate this kind of behavior since I realize he actually tells me a lot of things compared to the other people in his life.

    Your writing style is really beautiful!

    1. My boyfriend is exactly the same. He doesn’t want to share all the stories of his ex where, if I were him, I would want to talk it all out. I just have to accept that difference. We balance each other out well. There are times where he does mention things about his ex, and it almost becomes a bonding experience since I know how tightly he holds on to that part of his past.

      1. Right? I also feel like we’re bonding when he suddenly talks about something. It’s great.
        Today I just feel bad about the fact that I said to him “Please talk to me mooore!” in the past. It seems like such a stupid request now! I’m just glad he didn’t leave me hahaha

  30. Hey TK – just a few thoughts about your thoughts – from an “introvert” who has learned how to appear to be an “extrovert” at particular chosen times …. By nature, I am an introvert. I love my peace & quiet but do need excitement & adventure every so often. If the situation is work, I am right on, I can talk to anyone, anytime around my professional endeavors. Social situations are intimidating. Why the disconnect? Sometimes I fear the other people will not like me or will find me “rejectable” for friendship because I am a bit of a scientific nerd and not so exciting! Add on top of that, I don’t pick up on social or verbal cues very easily because my mind somehow just naturally remembers weird scientific trivia but not who the latest cultural icon or topic of conversation is! Then, there is the challenge of my memory for faces, it doesn’t exist! I often have to ask my spouse when we are out, who somebody is, do we know & where we met them because I have a slight amount of “facial recognition” deficit. How embarrassing not to recognize someone who you were introduced already several times. So my natural instinct is to want to hide. This is exacerbated by the additional challenge of carrying on a conversation in noisy places with many other conversations going on at the same time like at a nightclub because my ears just hear a cacophony of rumbling noises and I truly have difficulty hearing only the voice of the one person who is talking to me unless they shout directly into my ear drowning out all other voices. (Usually I just smile & nod as if I hear them, but if they frown, I frown – how strangely funny is this behavior?) Don’t know if it is actually my ears or just my brain at the root of this, but it happens. On the successful side, I have learned to compliment extroverted people for not having to talk all the time but be able to sit quietly and enjoy the scenes of a loud environment. That seems to put the extrovert at ease knowing they don’t need to be anything other than who they are and they reciprocate by letting me be who I am …… But, strangely enough, when sounds are singular and concentrated like music I am fine with my hearing. I have a great ear for music, play music myself & have actually worked as a sound technician at concerts! Now, because I always found architecture interesting, I am a real estate agent in San Diego and have been painfully forced to learn how to appear extroverted eventhough it is not my innate nature. That is my “professional persona” and which I have become quite good at projecting. But at home, I am often quiet and peacefully content. I have discovered to ask people about themselves – because I truly am interested but also because I don’t know what else to say! People love to talk about themselves (see the length of this reply!), especially extroverts. And then, when I get people to talk about themselves, I don’t have to think of cute, intelligent, interesting things to say – I just listen and respond when appropriate. I find other people to often be much more interesting than myself anyway. So, after much word-iness in this reply, maybe some of us by virtue of nature & physical abilities/deficits were born to be the listeners & observers of life while others of us were born to be the active talkers & participants who we all enjoy being around at a party. The simple yin-yang of life. After all – don’t all extroverted talkers/action types need listeners/spectators to feel good about themselves as much as anything else …… :~) Cheers to all of us! Just a few stray morning thoughts for you ………..

    1. Haha, you sound a lot like me. I know plenty of nerdy facts, but rarely know the latest pop culture. I’ve also always been bad at social cues. I usually can’t even tell if someone is flirting with me unless they tell me in plain English they are interested in me. The worst social quirk I have in an inability to sugar coat anything. I just see a fact… the other day, my friend was telling me about a huge accident her ex got into and how – while she cared – she wasn’t sure how to remind him that they didn’t work well together (and that he cheated on her, which makes him a terrible person in my book). I would just tell him that. “Super sorry you’re hurt, but we don’t work well together. This doesn’t change the fact you betrayed our relationship. Here’s a cookie” That’s as close as I can get to sugar coating…. that might make me a bad shoulder to cry on….

      While I have my social quirks, my extroversion comes out in small groups. I hate silence and I can’t just sit and let the other extroverts talk. While I have many introverted qualities, I guess I’m a bit of an extroverted nerd as well.

  31. I am a textbook, classic example of an introvert. The definition of the word that I cling closest to, and the one that I use to “explain” myself to others, is that introverts draw their energy from within. Social interaction drains that energy. Since I work in the public sector and am forced to interact with hundreds of different people per day, I find myself more exhausted by those encounters than if I had just spent the entire day mowing lawns or chopping wood.
    Extroverts, on the other hand, draw strength from social interaction, and in fact become depleted without that source to feed on. This, along with many of the things described in that “how to care for introverts” picture, has been a major sticking point in my interactions with women, most of whom have been extroverts. My ex-girlfriend was flamboyantly extroverted. She could not understand why I had to think about what she said to me before I could illicit a response, and why I had to observe something new before diving in feet first.
    I have also been discriminated against in various workplaces just because of my nature. One boss actually went as far as to ask a co-worker, who confided in me about it later, “what was wrong with me” and that he was disturbed that he “couldn’t read me.” Said boss even took it to the point of openly sabotaging my work just to “get a reaction” out of me.
    Suffice to say, I do carry a significant amount of angst towards this VERY extrovert-emphasized society. Maybe in other countries it isn’t so bad, but in the United States it is stifling. Introverts like me are treated as social pariahs.

    1. Defining introversion as one who draws their energy from within to be used up in social interactions really makes me wonder if I am more introverted than I think. I feel like I act rather extroverted in social situations. I love talking and hanging out with people. I’m always very animated around my friends. I can only take so much, though. I need my alone time.

  32. Most people are surprised to find that I (a pastor) am an introvert… Although my ‘job’ is all about people, I find I gain the greatest amount of energy and refreshing from my alone time…

    1. I don’t think that’s unusual, actually. Many introverts, being more reflective and sometimes more sensitive, have strong attachments to people — I like to think of us introverts as quiet but deep rivers. So it makes sense that you channel your passion into a job that helps people.

      That’s just my take, anyway. As a introvert in the human services field, I see no contradiction between introversion and helping professions. 🙂

    2. After writing this, I’m 100% confused at how to define myself. I think I was an introvert back in the day because I had no other option (aka, not many friends). But now, I love hanging out with groups of friends. I still love my alone time. Whether it comes naturally or whether I learned to like being by myself, I don’t know.

      1. TK – just because someone is an introvert doesn’t mean that they never spend time with people or enjoy time with people. Rather, I think it just simply means that we get most energized and refreshed during times of solitude and isolation. I enjoy time with people very much, but if I have too much people time, my energy is drained, and I need some alone time to recharge!

  33. Great post on introversion, TK. Have you read “Quiet” by Susan Cain? It was published recently, in 2013, and it talks at length at how Western society is extrovert-orientated and devalues introversion; this leads to all sorts of problems, including the conflation of shyness and introversion (which as you know are not the same at all!).

    As I mentioned in a previous comment, I’m an introvert personally, and it’s taken me a surprisingly long time to deal with that.

    I’ve finally come to terms (or started coming to terms, anyway) that socialization doesn’t come natural to me, despite the fact I love and value it. I’m the type of person that can drop off the map for 3 months and am surprised when I come back and people are upset. So I’ve started doing things like writing letters when I think of things my friends would like, and making it a habit to talk to at least one loved one every day. It may seem obvious, but it helps.

    But then, on MBTI testing I’m a true-blue introvert – my bar for introversion just goes all the way to the top, haha. 🙂

    1. I’ve never read anything on introversion. I never even though about it until I met my current boyfriend who is 100% introverted. But now, after writing this, I have no idea where to place myself. What’s MBTI testing? Is there a quiz or something I can take on that?

  34. Ah, okay! I do recommend the book, it’s quite good. Well, MBTI stands for “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator”, and it’s a personality test that measures several aspects of self (orientation of energy – that’s introvert and extrovert – as well as how you perceive and judge information). When you complete the test, you get a four-letter acronym that sums up your personality, as well as a percentage rating of how strong those traits are in you. Mine is INFJ.

    Though the official version is under copyright, there are plenty of very accurate facsimiles online if you google. I’ve taken the test at http://tiny.cc/24u0fx , a website called Human Metrics where they label it “the Jung typology test”.

    A few notes, if you decide to take the test:

    1. Don’t agonize over the questions. In other words, don’t think “well, sometimes I do this, and other times I do this” – go with your gut reaction, or in other words, how you are most of the time. This seems obvious but sometimes people over-analyze, you know? I like to recommend reading the question and clicking the most immediate “yes” or “no” that pops in your head. If you’re taking more than a couple seconds in answering, you could be over-thinking it.

    2. People can change over time. Some people have slight variation in their answers – getting INFP one time, and INTP the next, for example, or even swapping between introverted and extroverted! That’s not unusual. Personally, I’ve gotten the same type every time I take the test – but I guess I’m kind of a stubborn person that way. 🙂

    3. Ambiverts do exist. These are people that are neither extroverted nor introverted – they’re happy with either. People like this are kind of rare, but they do exist, and when they take the MBTI test, they usually get cast as a certain type but with not a very high percentage – 51% exoverted, 49% introverted, for example – close to half and half.

    Sorry to ramble on so much about this! I just took an 8-week course on this as well as attending a conference, so I’m brimming with enthusiasm. 🙂

    If you’re having trouble figuring out whether you’re extroverted or introverted, imho the best questions to ask are these: How do I gain my energy: do I need to be alone to “recharge”, or do I feel excited and pumped up the more others are around? What kind of environments do I like to get the most work done: bustling, noisy ones, or quiet and serene?

    Thanks for humoring my wordiness!

    1. Oh! I know what that is now. It’s been a long time since I took that test. Don’t worry; I won’t over-think it. I’m just curious. I don’t even remember what I used to be.

  35. Not sure if anyone else has posted this yet, but TED has a really great video that examines introverts and their role in our society today. I have always known myself as more introverted than extroverted. Yet just because I am sometimes quieter than others at a party, does not mean I don’t open up easily about things; just because I enjoy a dose of solitude, doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t enjoy a career in the media and TV. As they cover in the video, it’s important to think of these two identities as two ends of a spectrum, and not two of only two existing types of people. Here’s the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0KYU2j0TM4 Enjoy!

    1. Yes, I think it’s important to realize that introversion and extroversion are a spectrum, because that’s where a lot of people get confused. Some people are more towards the middle than others, and some people do change slightly over time (though usually not in a major way, since where we gain our energy seems to be largely in-born or genetic). Also, as you say, just because you fall into a category doesn’t mean you possess every trait associated with that category; this is where life experiences and personal growth especially come into play.

      I think is could be said that in general: you are more likely to possess a higher percentage of introverted or extroverted traits if you have a /strong preference/ for extroversion or introversion. That is to say, an 89% introvert like myself is going to have a harder time at a party, let’s say, and possess more introverted traits, than a 26% introvert.

      I don’t speak for TK on any of this, of course, I just thought it would be nice to respond to your comment as a fellow blogger 🙂

      Thanks for sharing the excellent video link; the book dives into greater detail, naturally, but the video is a great primer.

      1. Thanks for responding anyway! All I can say is wow about the link you put up. Really amazing how accurately it portrayed me. Growing up, I was often the quiet/shy one, yet my friends were not that way. Eventually I grew into myself more and realized I was not really “shy” at all, I just happened to grow up with very extroverted people haha. Apparently I’m only 33% Introvert– too funny! Thanks again.

    2. Thanks for the video. I have to agree as well. Like many other things (gender, sexuality, etc.) there is a spectrum between introversion and extroversion.

  36. I am both introvert and extrovert depending on the situation. I’m more of a introvert due to my happiness with being by myself, reading, researching and other solitary pursuits. This is a great article. We don’t really appreciate the differences in people. We want everyone to be the same and when they aren’t we make it a problem. I didn’t see the video yet, I’ll check it out. Thanks TK!

    1. I think I am a mix too. I have no idea where I land on the spectrum, because I love my alone time. On this flip side, after reading a book for hours by myself, all I want to do is talk to people about it.

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