The Introvert

Introverts are incredibly fascinating people. Perhaps I feel this way because I have extroverted tendencies. Maybe an introvert would not be mesmerized by a fellow introvert the way that I am mesmerized… but I didn’t always feel this way.

A few months ago, I struggled with my perception of “the introvert.” My experience has been that he is quiet, doesn’t want to talk, makes me feel uncomfortable because he doesn’t want to talk, and it seems he could care less if he knew me or didn’t know me. This didn’t make me feel special, and I want to feel special. So, with this perception, as I came across introverts in my life, I’d give them a certain amount of time and if they didn’t open up to me, I’d move on and find someone new to engage with.

Then I started to notice how many people I am surrounded by – at work, in my family, in public – that were introverts. One of my introverted girlfriends was struggling to find ways to communicate with her significant other. I wanted to be of service to her and because I didn’t know much about introverts, I asked around about books. Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength [affiliate link]
was recommended to me by Life and Career Coach, (and introvert) Adam Rico. Since he is both an introvert and a Career/Life coach, I was sold! I bought the book that day.

New Findings.
This book is incredible! It is written by Psychologist, Laurie Helgoe, PhD. … And guess what? She is an introvert too! To hear about the world from this new perspective has been eye opening.

A few quick things I’ve learned:

  • An introvert experiences a high level of mental arousal on an ongoing basis. She seeks to reduce the added stimulation offered by society. By contrast, extroverts who experience a low level of mental arousal, look to society for excitement.
  • Introverts have direct access to an internal power – the power to birth fully formed ideas, insights, and solutions. Whereas an extrovert (at least I do this) tends to share ideas when they are barely formed, before they have time to incubate. I’ve had some ideas that I’ve nixed before they even had the chance to turn into something beautiful – simply because the person I shared my idea with shot it down. Not so, for the introvert. He will come to you with a fully thought out, carefully designed plan of action.
  • An introvert needs time to think. If you ask him a question and he doesn’t respond immediately, it is not because he does not have an opinion. He is forming the thought in his head before he speaks. Allow time for this silence. Even if it’s uncomfortable for you extroverts. If you try to fill that break in conversation, you may miss out on a highly perceptive opinion. Which brings me to the next point.
  • When an introvert speaks, people listen. I found this to be true growing up. There was a boy in my high school class who did not talk very much. Sometimes we’d be in the middle of a classroom debate or brainstorm session and John (name changed for privacy) would open his mouth. A hush would immediately fall over the room. If John was going to say something, we knew it was going to be good, and we wanted to hear it!
  • If you really want to get to know an introvert, don’t invite her to a party and tell her it is going to be swarming with people and off-the-hook WILD! She may not show it on her face, but inside she is screaming with terror. Introverts prefer small, intimate gatherings, and the best gathering may even be one-on-one.
  • Introverts reflect, while others move ahead. They invent, while others rely on what is established. They create while others consume.

This book has given me incredible insight. I highly recommend it to both an introvert, (so he can claim his inner power and make it work for him) and the extrovert, so she can better understand how to engage an introvert – perhaps start by taking the in-your-face energy level down a notch and chill the heck out. (this last one is a note-to-self).

Questions for my introvert friends: Do you feel like the above information rings true for you? What is a trait that I am missing? 

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32 thoughts on “The Introvert

    • lol! Reckless, I am intrigued by some of the people who are coming out and saying they are introverts. I would not have guessed this with you. I love that you could relate to what I’ve learned!

  1. Great post and thank you for taking the time to help understand us wonderful introverts! Actually, those points do ring true for me also but there are times when, if I time any social events around my needs I have better staying power and can also deal with larger groups of people, otherwise I just crash and burnout so quickly.

    Of my friends, I would estimate 70% of them are extroverts, I’m a bit like you, I find their worlds mesmerizing and enjoy listening to their escapades. Most are starting to understand me better and appreciate how I like to do things, there is learning from both sides and it’s fun mostly. (They can be tiring at times, but I don’t mean that as a criticism).

    • Wendishness, thank you for your comment! Have you happened to read this book yet? If not, I highly recommend it. She specifically talks about how extrovert friends desire their introvert friends to be around (and to come to parties!) but the extroverts don’t understand how this – sounds like at the wrong timing for you – could be draining for an introvert.

      I’m interested to learn more about how you time your events around your needs. What are some ways you have done this?

      • No, I haven’t read that book but I’ve put it on my list to read (thank you). Another great book that is buzzing around at the moment which is fantastic is “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, in case you want to read more about introverts.

        I’m not just an introvert though, I’m also an Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) – not sure if you’ve ever heard this term before but you can Google it, or go to http://www.hsperson.com which is the site of Elaine Aron who coined the term and read about it. HSP’s can be either introverts or extroverts but it seems more are introverts. I just mentioned this because it’s relevant to how I manage in what seems like a more extroverted world.

        While this may not work for all introverts/HSP’s I’ve found it works for me. Like all introverts, my inner world is my safe haven but I have learned that if I have a social outing, I prepare for it and unwind from it in the same way (only reversed). If I know I’ll be at a gathering with a lot of people, I try and get together with a small number of people who are going to the same gathering. Perhaps go for a drink first, whether that be a coffee or at a bar or even go out for a meal. What you are doing is conditioning yourself gradually to take in more noise, interaction and stimulation before “the main event”. By the time you get to where you’re going, you’ll find it won’t be as overwhelming. It also helps when you get there, to scope out a quiet spot if you need some time to just zone out quietly on occasion.

        And when I get the event is finished, I try and end the night with a quiet drink with a few people and always come home and then spend some time by myself doing something that I find relaxing and calming and it helps me to shed all that stimulation and prepare for sleep.

        Of course in the situation of a conference or seminar, it can help if before you throw yourself into that type of situation, going to a cafe and having a coffee by yourself. With people coming and going, conversations going on around you etc., it will help you to prepare yourself for coming into contact with more people and it’s a more gentle way to do this rather than “throw yourself to the wolves”.

        When it comes to other things I might get invited along to with friends, we often will find a compromise that works well for everyone. I think it’s crucial to explain to friends about what it means to be an introvert, once people ‘get it’, they are happy to accommodate your needs so everyone can enjoy whatever it is you are planning to do.

        Sorry if I was a bit long-winded (bad habit of mine).

      • What?! Don’t apologize for being long winded. I love that you took the time to reply to my question. 🙂 I have heard of the book you recommended called “Quiet….” This is one that is on my radar, but I have not read it yet.

        I have never heard of a “Highly Sensitive Person”. I will check into this. It sounds quite fascinating, actually.

        It is awesome that you have come to know yourself so well that you know ways to best “ramp you up” and ways to “ramp back down” before and after stimulating events. I know there are some people who have not been able to do this type of processing and become so stimulated they shut down. It sounds like you have developed a system that works well for you.

        How did you come to find out you are a Highly Sensitive Person? Is this something that is diagnosable or did you read up on it and relate to it, so you just knew it was you?

        Also, just curious – how did you find my blog? I like hearing how people come across it.

      • It took me a while to learn what works for me and no doubt others will come up with ways that will suit their needs better than this but it’s good to share different ideas in case they can help others.

        Oddly enough, I’ve had the most hectic three months and while it was such a whirlwind of events and stresses, I put into action all that I’ve been learning from reading and came through it reasonably well. The important thing I needed to remind myself was – whatever I was facing or dealing with, make sure that I get my “down time” to unwind – it saved my sanity! It also gave me a chance to put into practice all the new things, like what I’d mentioned previously about dealing with larger groups and events.

        I think you’ll find it fascinating reading about HSP’s as well, there are a few similarities with introverts and extra things to ponder. Highly sensitive people can also be extroverts and high sensation seekers which makes it all the more confusing but nonetheless interesting.

        I first heard about this about a year ago, my psychologist had been reading all about this personality trait (it was first discussed by Carl Jung who initially called it innate sensitiveness) and through our sessions she felt that I ticked most of the boxes. I did the self test and I think there was only one thing I didn’t tick off. Then I discussed it with my GP who looked at it and he had a “light bulb moment” and said “wow…that IS you!” So since learning this, it’s made life so much easier in many ways but it’s an adjustment having to learn that all these years I’ve been like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole.

        I do a lot of reading about things that interest me, psychology subjects and I’m like you, I find it interesting to find out more about the different types of people that we have to share the planet with. And I’m having to change habits of a lifetime which were started simply to live in a world that isn’t as friendly or accepting to those who appear quieter. Now I know it’s okay to be an introvert and HSP and I keep learning more ways to get the best of both worlds and help others see that it’s great to have us in their lives as we add something unique to any relationship, whether that be personal, family, work etc..

        As for finding this blog, there is a page I follow on Facebook, if I may give them a plug – called Introverts are Awesome, and the page owner shares so many links they find around the internet and a lot are quite good so I will often check them out. http://www.facebook.com/IntrovertsAreAwesome

        I’m happy to have stumbled across this blog of yours though, I love the way you approach life and the many different types of people in it, it’s such a refreshing thing to see. 🙂

      • Ohmygosh, it makes me so excited to hear how much “self-discovery” work you have done! It feels a little weird to be excited for someone I have never met personally, but perhaps I feel the bond because we are both on a journey to discover more about ourselves. 🙂

        I ended up “liking” the facebook page you shared. There is a lot of good content there!

        What is a GP?

        I commend you for doing the work to “change habits of a lifetime”. This is such a huge task that anyone who has not done the work can truly appreciate. I feel like I am in the beginning stages of unlearning some of the things I believe about myself.

    • Ha! COOL! This book is so packed full of good information. I love more that it was written by both an introvert and a psychologist – so she can go at it from the psych angle AND speak from experience!

      As an introvert, do you feel there is a specific characteristic you have that was not listed above?

    • haha. Irene, I’m happy to hear how dead-on these descriptions were! What is a characteristic you think is true for yourself that I did not include in the post?

    • ha! Kent Julian is my coach. I found Adam through the guest post he did for you! I read a few of his posts, saw that he was an introvert and wondered if he could recommend any good books. 🙂

  2. You’re spot on Alana. Unfortunately introverts can often be viewed as shy, lacking confidence, or aloof. However, they are typically none of those negative labels. Introverts just get their emotional and mental energy from being alone and thinking. Once introverts have had time to recharge they are ready to engage with the world in a really effective way.

    As an introvert myself I know I really enjoy any alone time I can get. However, I also know that too much thinking can get in the way of getting anything done. At some point you have to share your ideas in order to influence others positively.

    I really appreciate that you took the time to read the book and understand introverts. That says a lot about who you are and the introverts in your life should be thankful. Great post Alana!

    • Adam, thanks for your comment here! Somehow I missed this the first time I went through the comments.

      You mentioned that sometimes introverts can be viewed as shy, lacking confidence or aloof. Prior to reading the book, this is EXACTLY how I felt about introverts!

      Laurie’s book, and your comment here about needing time alone to recharge is helping me to gain perspective into my husband’s intricate mind. 🙂 I feel like I am slowly beginning to appreciate the things he needs to do to recharge and not just think he is not capable of handling people. We are just wired differently and need different things to recharge.

      I am so glad you recommended this book to me!

      • Yeah! I agree! I was shocked at how many times this post has been passed around. It has been fun being introduced to a few new introvert communities.

  3. While introverts can masquerade as extroverts- I do to a great extent but for small amounts of time- they do so at great extension of strength and energy. They rejuvenate/restore/recover by being alone. Extroverts get energy from being around people.
    I live alone and most people don’t envy me citing how lonely they would be. However my high interaction with people requires extensive alone time to recover from the stimulation so it has always been home to live alone.

    • That is a really good point – that because you live alone, you are able to use that time to rejuvenate and reenergize. Whereas this style of living situation for an extrovert could be incredibly draining.

      The more I learn about this, the more fascinated I become. There is no one formula that works for every single person and to call someone crazy for needing to “recover” the way they do is ignorant.

  4. I LOVE it when an extrovert takes his time to try to understand us introverts because obviously, when don’t go around trying to explain why we’re so quiet most of the times. This means a LOT to me. Thank you 🙂

    • Anne, thanks for your comment! Haha. You made me smile when you said, “Because obviously, we don’t go around trying to explain why we’re so quiet…” For me, the biggest hurdle is to not take it completely personally when an “introvert” does not want to engage in conversation with me. I’m sure there are cases where it IS personal, and the person really does have no interest in talking with me, but I’ve also learned that it can be draining for an introvert to be the first to start the conversation.

      Just out of curiosity, if you were to meet someone “new”, what is one question they could ask you that would get you talking? (Example: What is a project you are working on right now that you are excited about?)

  5. Thanks, Alana, for taking the time to figure out how introverts work,for your kind words about INTROVERT POWER, and for inviting me to share my thoughts. So many great comments here! I was thinking about this discussion as I was gearing up to volunteer for the first time at a church serving dinners to the homeless. I wanted to just go, blend in and get to work, but I didn’t have a role yet, which means I would be noticed and would need to introduce myself to other volunteers and chat as I figured out what to do. That’s the work part for an introvert. My reasons for wanting to serve were very personal, and I was in a particularly “internal” mood that evening. So I dealt with my dread by turning up the volume on my inner dialogue. As I got ready to go, I mused about what I would encounter, how I would feel; I stepped back and observed myself as if I were in a movie. When I arrived, that filmmaker part of me was entertained as I encountered a group of people standing around with nothing to do but — to my horror — chat!

    I find it very comforting to have a part of myself — whether I think of her as a a filmmaker, artist or storyteller (sometimes a comedian!) — there to observe and empathize and make a story while the outside part of me is just getting through.

    • Laurie, I laughed out loud when I read your comment “… as I encountered a group of people standing around with nothing to do but — to my horror — chat!”

      After reading your book, I understand more now how this would be horrifying. I like the way you described how you prepared for your volunteer event. To put yourself in the “observer” or “laflaneu” 🙂 role is a great tip for overcoming the struggle of needing to interact with others. This is a tip I’d like to share with my husband.

      Thank you for stopping by the blog – both to read the post and then to comment! I’m honored!

  6. I’ve read “Introvert Power”, and yes, all of the points you made about introverts are very true! 🙂 The only exception I’d say is – Introverts aren’t ALWAYS listened to. I am frequently spoken over by my loved ones, something that I do not love …

    Here’s another thing that is true – many people view introversion as a disease to be cured. A friend of mine, when he heard me describe myself as introverted recently, said, “I prefer to think of you as reserved, not introverted.” The unspoken statement was that he viewed introversion as something negative, when it’s not negative or positive … like extroversion, it just IS.

    • Wow, you make an incredible point about how some people view introversion as “a disease to be cured”. I used to be (as recently as before reading Laurie’s book) one of these people. I definitely didn’t get introverts and although there are distinct differences in the design of extroverts and introverts, I often wondered if introverts just were simply socially under-developed. As I say it now, it seems so harsh to say. I am thankful for the opportunity to read the book. It has truly given me a new appreciation for not just the characteristics of introverts, but also an introvert’s strength.

  7. Thanks so much for taking the time to understand introverts and to write eloquently about us, too. As I introvert, I find it’s usually only fellow introverts who understand me, so when someone from outside the tribe gets us, well I just think that’s the best. So blessings, good karma, luck and all that to you for such an understanding article!

    • Jason, thank you for your note here! I have been amazed at the incredible feedback I am receiving from introverts across the globe as a result of this article. I definitely have a heightened appreciation and awareness for introverts after both reading the book and receiving feedback from all who have posted here.

  8. Pingback: So, I Married An Introvert | musings of a shiny penny

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