7 Things Introverts Will Never, Ever Understand

IntrovertDear.com introverts never understand

Although introverts make up 30-50 percent of the population, the introvert’s way is not everyone’s way. Introverts prefer calm, low-key environments, and we actually enjoy spending time alone. Often quiet and reflective, we tend to think before we speak and seek meaning in all we do. A few close friends is usually all we need to feel socially fulfilled; we don’t chase fame and popularity.

Because the introvert’s way is not everyone’s way, there are a lot of things that don’t make sense to us introverts. Here are seven of those things. These things may not be true of every introvert, but these topics came up frequently when I interviewed introverts for my book, The Secret Lives of Introverts.

1. People who think being alone is boring. We all know someone who can’t stand being alone. Their nights and weekends are packed with social plans. At work, they’re rarely found at their desk, because they’re almost always hovering over someone else’s, chatting. These people call their friends when they’re driving alone in their car, and even grocery shopping in a crowded store seems too solitary, so they drag their roommate with them. For these oh-so-social butterflies, being alone for an afternoon is the ultimate punishment.

For introverts, it’s the opposite. Being surrounded by people 24/7 is the very definition of hell on earth. It’s not that we hate people; rather, due to our biology, we need downtime in order to create the energy we need to “show up” for our relationships, jobs, and other commitments. It simply does not compute when people say that being alone is boring.

2. Not having enough time to mentally prepare to interact with people. Recently, I released my book about introverts, and to my horror, I found myself having to talk to people about said book. The first time I was a guest on a podcast, I had exactly two minutes to prepare. I was spending the weekend at my friends’ house (the hosts), and, being extroverts, they woke up one morning and said, “Hey, let’s record an episode! As soon as you finish your coffee.”

Talk to people? Record it? Release that recording to other people? Worst of all, I hadn’t had time to think through my answers to their questions. For introverts like me who struggle with word retrieval, being put on the spot and knowing I’d be judged for it was the ultimate panic-inducer. Somehow, I made it through those terrifying 45 minutes. These days, I feel more comfortable giving “live” appearances — but only after I’ve done my homework.

Like me, many introverts need time to get their public face on. At any given moment, we’re drifting through our inner landscape of thoughts, daydreams, and emotions. Pulling us out of this serene world takes an energetic mental shift. This translates to us balking at sudden invitations to hang out in five minutes, disliking being put on the spot in groups and meetings, and clamming up when having to flirt spontaneously. Because words are hard.

3. Friends who constantly call instead of text. Seriously, do people still use the phone this way? Yes, yes they do. I have an extroverted friend who I’m trying to train. I text him a question. He calls me. I don’t answer. I text him, “What’s up?” Seeing my text, he calls again. We’re getting nowhere.

I get it, sometimes the phone is the fastest way to communicate a complicated plan or idea to someone. And there’s something reassuring about hearing your loved one’s voice on the other end of the phone, especially when the two of you are separated by distance. But in general, this goes back to that whole “introverts need time to mentally prepare to interact with people” thing. For us, a text is less intrusive than a phone call. It politely waits for a time when we’ve had a few moments to mentally prepare to respond.

4. People who seem to never run out of words. Have you ever been held captive by a conversation? Of course you have, because we all have that one neighbor or coworker who doesn’t wind down once they’ve wound up. When this happens to me, my mind starts tuning out the actual words and instead starts scanning for a pattern of sounds, trying to pinpoint the exact moment when the person pauses to take a breath. That’s when I say, “Well, I have to get going!” When it comes to marathon talkers, that moment never comes.

We introverts tend to be minimalists with our words, so we have a hard time wrapping our heads around people who have words in abundance. Generally, we only speak when we feel we have something of real value to say. We dislike small talk because it seems inauthentic; we’d rather talk about big ideas or topics that are personally meaningful to us.

5. Choosing quantity over quality when it comes to relationships. Introverts tend to have small social circles — and we’re okay with that. We’d rather invest our limited social energy into a few meaningful relationships than have an entourage of acquaintances. Depth, not breadth. When someone has enough friends to fill a subway car, introverts don’t get it. Where do these people get the energy to maintain that many relationships? And answer that many phone calls? It makes no sense to us.

6. Purposely calling a lot of attention to yourself — and enjoying it. In general, introverts will not be the ones hinting to our friends that they should ask the TGI Fridays waiters to sing happy birthday to us. Nor do we dream of having our sweetheart propose to us on the Jumbo-tron at the baseball game for the entire stadium to see. In school, we probably weren’t the class clowns — because who needs all that attention? Sure, we can hold our own in front of a crowd if we have to, but we won’t crave moments like those.

7. Socializing just to pass the time. An extroverted friend once remarked, “Of course I’m going to the party. What else would I do tonight?” To introverts, this line of thinking doesn’t make sense. There are so many glorious things we can imagine ourselves doing when we have a night to ourselves. Netflix, reading, gaming, internet surfing — you name it. For us, socializing isn’t about alleviating boredom or passing the time. When we do hang out, we usually do it with a purpose in mind — to make a friend, find a date, network, or simply make a connection. If we are just looking for something to do — anything — we have so many other wonderful introverted options. Options that involve takeout, comfy pants, and a good book. retina_favicon1

What’s really going on in the introvert’s mind? My book reveals the introvert’s inner world. Get your copy.

Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an Introvert

Image credit: @stefiakti via Twenty20

  • Alison Lane

    An interesting read, thank you.
    I appreciate that you have written a whole book on this subject and therefore qualify as significantly more expert than me, but I do have questions about the strong dichotomy here. I would say that most people are neither extrovert nor introvert exactly but rather enjoy company sometimes and solitude at others. I think it’s more likely to be a factor of mood and balance – a quiet morning to recover from a lively evening for example- than a black and white permanent state.
    I definitely have an issue with number 5 – that’s clearly a false dichotomy. Of course it’s possible to have quantity AND quality when it comes to friends and your suggestion that those with lots of friends have compromised on quality is frankly insulting! Perhaps letting your introvert bias show a little …?

    • terryinindy

      Actually, many introverts consider quality time to be intimate in the way that it’s spent up close and personal, revealing details and feelings that you simply wouldn’t feel comfortable announcing to a group. The suggestion that someone could actually be as closely intimate with an entire auditorium of people as they can be with one or two friends is patently absurd. There are aspects of life that you may discuss openly but few share the intricate intimate details and then have time to listen to their friends reciprocate in however much depth they would care to share, there isn’t enough time in the day to listen to more than a few and keeping all the stories straight, much less responding appropriately. When you start talking about groups of 10 or more and claiming they are all as intimate as a couple or trio of lifelong friends and then I’ll be waiting for the sales pitch trying to sell me a bridge next.

    • You are just getting knit-picky. Nothing is a blanket statement. Move on…

    • Hi Alison,

      As you pointed out, introversion and extroversion are not all-or-nothing traits. Meaning, we all act introverted at times and extroverted at others. Introversion/extroversion are on a spectrum, and most people “lean” one way or the other. Being a short, light-hearted piece, I didn’t have time to get into the minutiae here, but you can find a more thorough explanation in my book.

      Regarding quality vs. quantity, I think most introverts would agree that they’re content with having a few close relationships rather than a lot of less intimate ones. Also, given the introvert’s limited social energy, I believe most introverts would argue that they can’t have dozens of close friends and keep up with them all.

      I hope that helps!

  • Roze

    Hmmm, I sometimes find myself bored when I’m alone, but boredom isn’t always a bad thing and its usually just because I’ve kind of run out of fun things to do on my own. That’s usually when I seek out people – not necessarily to interact with – but just to be around and observe.

    http://on-th3-cusp.blogspot.com

  • Stephanie Tippi Hart

    As an introvert, the thing that I absolutely can not understand and drives me crazy is people who just show up at your home unannounced. Goes back to that idea of needing time to prepare mentally for human interaction.

  • OBWankinobee

    I agree with all but #3, and that may be an age thing. I don’t want and don’t get texts. If it’s worth interrupting me for, then call. If it’s just leaving a note for later, then email.

  • I can’t speak for everyone else, but for myself this is spot on.

  • Grayson Shaw

    Not trying to be pedantic but for #6, shouldn’t that read, “Purposely NOT calling attention to yourself”?

    • Mike R. McKinney

      It’s a list of things that introverts “will never, ever understand”. So “Purposely calling attention to yourself”, and liking it, is something that introverts don’t understand.

  • Liz

    With all due respect, I think many of your behaviours described as ‘introverted’ are actually signs of an anxiety disorder.
    As a true born extrovert I developed anxiety and depression as a result of illness.My personality changed and I took on many of the feelings and behaviours you describe here. The most bizarre being worried about answering a phone call. If I am in a bad way, I will not answer a phone. If I have to answer because I am expecting something important, that social contact, even with a friendly stranger, picks up my mood immensely.
    Thanks to medication I am able to be my natural extroverted self that I once was innately. Most of the time. That’s who I am and that’s who I like to be. Not to say that I never want time alone though. I enjoy that too. I must admit I often don’t have the inclination to delve into the complexity of introverts. It’s hard work!

    • Terry

      If you think that’s hard work, try living in a world where you’re labeled disordered because of your innate personality, where people are always ‘encouraging’ you to become something different. In the western cultures, extroverts are valued, introverts are not, even though many famous people have been introverts. Some cultures value introverts and introspection more. It’s great to have validation that it’s ok to be introverted, there’s room for all of us on the spectrum.

  • Terry

    Thank you for this reminder. I spent several days with extended family and their friends, and came away not only grieving for my brother, who recently passed, but grieving for a me that will never be – someone who enjoys being with lots of people I don’t know very well. While they were all socializing, and enjoying each others company, I came away from it stressed, sick with a cold, and hating my personality. It’s hard for extroverts to understand, and they often treat introversion as a defect, which doesn’t help. Even my closest remaining sibling doesn’t quite get it, I don’t think, and the rest would just rather I be more like them. My brother who passed was not quite the introvert I am, but somehow straddled the line better than I can. Often, it’s just easier to be alone than to try to ‘fit in’. Anyway, thank you – I needed this today.