Who introverts are (and who they’re not)

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Introverts have received a lot of attention lately, yet misconceptions about introversion still exist. Who are introverts, really? And perhaps more importantly, who are they not?

  1. Introverts make up 30-50 percent of the population.

    That means up to half of the world is introverted.

  2. Introverts loathe small talk, but they enjoy meaningful conversation.

    “Introverts crave meaning, so party chitchat feels like sandpaper to our psyche,” writes author Diane Cameron.

  3. When in relationships, introverts want to keep up with their partner’s inner life, not just day-to-day events.warm_smile_by_luchikk-d36bg29

    “When an introvert cares about someone, she also wants contact, not so much to keep up with the events of the other person’s life, but to keep up with what’s inside: the evolution of ideas, values, thoughts, and feelings,” writes Laurie Helgoe in her book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.

  4. Introverts become distracted and overwhelmed in highly stimulating environments.

    Introverts are known for their extraordinary ability to focus intensely for long periods of time in quiet, minimally stimulating environments. Yet in highly stimulating environments, introverts tend to either zone out because there’s too much going on, or they become distracted. On the flip side, “extroverts are commonly found to be more easily bored than introverts on monotonous tasks, probably because they require and thrive on high levels of stimulation,” Clark University researchers wrote in a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

  5. Despite preferring to work alone, introverts can still be good team players.

    “We just don’t need to be in the same room as the rest of the team at all times. We would much prefer to have part of the project carved out for us to squirrel away with it in our offices, consulting as necessary but working independently,” writes Sophia Dembling in The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World.

  6. Introverts often feel more lonely and bored in a crowd than when they are actually alone.

    “I am rarely bored alone; I am often bored in groups and crowds,” writes Helgoe.

  7. Introverts often express themselves better in writing than in conversation.

    Writing allows introverts time to gather their thoughts and select just the right words.

  8. Introverts are often called “old souls.”anastasia_early_spring_by_luchikk-d3awm3j

    “Introverts tend to think hard and be analytical,” Dembling tells Huffington Post. “That can make them seem wise.”

  9. Introverts notice details that others might miss.

    They often have a keen eye for detail. They might notice the subtle shift of a friend’s mood or the slight variations of color and texture in a piece of art.

  10. Introverts often feel alienated.

    “In an extroverted society, we rarely see ourselves in the mirror. We get alienating feedback. Alienating feedback comes in the form of repeated encouragement to join or talk, puzzled expressions, well-intended concern, and sometimes, all-out pointing and laughing. Alienating feedback happens when we hear statements like, ‘What kind of loser would be home on a Saturday night?’ Alienating feedback happens where neighborhoods, schools, and offices provide no place to retreat. Alienating feedback happens when our quiet spaces and wilderness sanctuaries are seen as places to colonize,” writes Helgoe.

  11. Introverts may end up in one-sided relationships.

    “Because introverts are typically good listeners and, at least, have the appearance of calmness, we are attractive to emotionally needy people. Introverts, gratified that other people are initiating with them, can easily get caught in these exhausting and unsatisfying relationships,” writes Adam McHugh in Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture.

  12. Introverts tend to internalize problems.

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    “We place the source of problems within and blame ourselves. Though introverts may also externalize and see others as the problem, it’s more convenient to keep the problem ‘in house.’ Internalizers tend to be reliable and responsible, but we can also be very hard on ourselves,” writes Helgoe.

  13. Introverts are not necessarily shy.

    According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet, shyness is the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is having a preference for minimally stimulating environments. You can be an introvert without being shy, like Bill Gates. There are even extroverts, like Barbara Streisand, who are shy.

  14. Introverts aren’t anti-social.

    They alternate between periods of work and solitude, and periods of social activities. They may have strong social skills, be talkative, have deep relationships, and enjoy going out with friends. They simply need downtime after socializing to recharge.

  15. Introverts aren’t just extroverts who need to come out of their shells.

    About introverts, Cain writes, “At school you might have been prodded to come ‘out of your shell’ — that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and some humans are just the same.”

  16. Introverts are not people who need to be “fixed.”

    Of course, we all have habits or behaviors we could improve, whether we’re an introvert or an extrovert. Yet introversion is not a flawed way of being or a “problem” that needs fixing. Helgoe writes, “Your nature is not the problem. The problem is that you have become alienated from your nature — from your power source.”


Read this: An open letter to Google from an introvert {petition}


Check out: World Introvert Day (Jan. 2) gallery



13 Comments

  • JELindholm says:

    Great article. I’m an introvert of the highest stripe, but I’m still learning how to explain it to others, and to even understand myself. Your work always helps

  • I love the ‘out of the shell’ point. My aspiration is to be an actor- and when I was discussing about how I want to go up on the stage and showcase my talents in my moral science class, the teacher said ‘you have to get out of your shell!’. What’s wrong with acting with a shell? It’s acting anyway. I’ll paint my shell invisible 😉

  • Beautifully on point, Jenn! Thank you for this article, I’m excited to share with friends and family. 🙂

  • Jimbaux says:

    Everything written in this article is great and true, but for the purposes of getting society to understand and accept – and not make unreasonable expectations of – introverts and introversion, which would greatly improve quality of life for many introverts, I thought that the following things should be added to some of the list.

    #1 An important thing to consider here is that the perception of how large of a percentage of the population introverts comprise is likely skewed by the fact that introverts do not as often attend “events” at which people are normally “seen.” This results in other people – like extroverts – not realizing that so many introverts even exist! No, you’re not going to see many introverts at parties, parks, parades, and other such things; they still exist!

    It is similar to the phenomenon wherein many Westerners often tend associate Muslims with terrorism, since about the only time that they ever need to think about Islam is when there is a television report of a terrorist attack involving someone invoking Islam. Since so many Westerners so often have no encounters at all with Muslims, and since cameras don’t gravitate toward the hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims, too many people get a skewed perception, and it is really dangerous!

    #9 This is why introverts often get frustrated when two other people are arguing over something that seems so obvious to them (the introverts.) It’s also why introverts often do very well in professions in which success depends on the ability to see things that others have difficult seeing (engineering, drafting, law, medicine, journalism; I’ve been a professional journalist, and I was often commended for asking useful questions that few others thought to ask. I consider knowing the right questions to ask a much more important skill – for a journalist or anyone else – than how to write, since, no matter how good of a writer you are, you can’t write much of a story if you don’t have the material that would have come from asking the right questions in the first place.)

    #10 – To the statement of “Alienating feedback happens when we hear statements like, ‘What kind of loser would be home on a Saturday night?’” – I think should be added “as if there someone is an obligation or a justified expectation for someone to not be home on a Saturday night!” This is the kind of thing that can induce terribly guilty feelings in a person, and, after years of suffering through this, I have finally found that the simple solution (well, almost a solution) to this problem is to simply question the other person’s expectations and assumptions about what I should do with my own time and when I should do it.

    #14 – Some introverts might even be PRO-social, in that they want to make sure that socializing happens in a context that is fair to all parties, to make sure that clear communication happens.

    #16 – A link to one of the articles that has neurological explanations showing that introversion is innate might have helped, since it should drive the point home to the “rest of the world” that might be reading this that there really is nothing wrong with introversion; we can no more change our extrovert-introvert orientation than we can our skin color.

  • Theophilus O. Emmanuel says:

    Wow! I have absolutely no idea how I ended up on this page or website today, but I’ve never had so much clarity about my personality all my life!

    Where, oh, where have you been all this while?

  • Dylan W says:

    This was spot on, thank you sooo much

  • Beautifully balanced analysis of introverted behaviour and some effective myth busting. Personally, I identify myself as an Outgoing Introvert. I can be quite social when I want to but prefer enjoying the company of individual friends, rather than large groups.I think the point that you raised about Introverts not being particularly shy, is important.
    As an Outgoing Introvert, I am not a wallflower at parties, but it takes me a little time to warm up and feel more comfortable. Though I must say that I find it difficult to relate to full blown Extroverts. I guess that is common for most introverts. Great post!

  • Earl Kirkman says:

    I agree with all of those points, but I thought the percentage of introverts in the population was smaller than that. I have usually tested as mildly introverted, but I can identify with all those items. I’m trying to come ‘out’ enough to ditch the rude lable.

  • Aradia says:

    This blog is simply brilliant!!
    Hello Introverts from all over the world!
    It’s good to know there are so many out there that share and understand the same qualities.

  • Subira says:

    Oooh.. im home..

  • Cheech says:

    Well said! I’m forwarding this to my family & friends!

  • Hank says:

    1, Very true points & well written
    2, I have to say that I’m truly proud to be an introvert and …
    3, I hate to sound arrogant, but … if more, or all even, people were introverts, the world would be a better place. (I know how arrogant that sounds, but to be clear, I truly mean the word “hate”. I hate & despise anyone who acts arrogantly and I apologize if I do, I am simply explaining the conclusion I’ve come to). I know the world problems wouldn’t just disappear but knowing the special skills and traits we harbor, simply the way we would handle problems would be far more efficient & long-term for the better. Now this may sound a bit too biased (here I expect the resistance) but I also think society overall would be better …

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