Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On being an introvert

Most of the time, I like people. I like learning about their backgrounds, trying to figure out what type of person they are based on the things the don't say, and listening to their dramatic monologues. People entertain me, and I think that, for the most part, people are good. So I'm a fan of them.

Sometimes, however, people annoy me, and the only satisfying company I can find is, well, myself.

Thus is the common conundrum of the introvert: liking and understand people, but not wanting to be around them all the time.

Some common characteristics of introverts:
  1. Introverts generally have to be dragged to parties and social functions, and then need at least a day to recuperate from them.
  2. Small-talk skills are pathetically non-existent, though listening skills are above average.
  3. Introverts are deep thinkers and are very good at entertaining themselves.
  4. Being singled out feels a bit like having a heart attack
  5. Introverts may be in their element when presenting something to a large group of people, but tend to hide in the shadows when interacting in small groups.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where being a talkative, go-getter type person is not only considered normal, but is preferable in most spheres. Introverts are usually coined with terms such as "loner," "taciturn," and "guarded," while extroverts are described as bighearted, warm, and empathic. It is true that the extroverts are usually easier to get along with, but because introverts are very much a mystery to the outgoing types, they are largely misunderstood, at least among those who don't give their brains time to process information before they start spurting out words.

Common misconceptions of introverts:
  1. Introverts are either (1) rude, or (2) extremely sweet with no opinions of their own.
  2. Introverts hate people.
  3. Introverts are arrogant and/or unintelligent.
  4. If someone is lost in thought, clearly that means that something is wrong with them.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people try to tell me what I'm thinking. Rather than letting me speak for myself, they'll make their own conclusion and announce it to the world as if it were undisputed fact. I love the words of Jonathan Rauch, a self-proclaimed introvert, who said:
The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still we endure stoically, because the etiquette books--written no doubt, but extroverts--regard declining to banter as rude and gasps in conversation as awkward. We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts' Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say "I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush."
Pure gold.

So, a little advice to the extroverts out there: don't be offended if the introvert doesn't talk to you, don't worry about their emotional well-being when they say they want to be alone, and please, don't talk down to them. Introverts are usually peaceable, easy-going creatures. Until you annoy them, that is.


  1. I love this post! I've been in that position many times too. I've often wished I could be more outgoing, like my mom, but I'm pretty good just the way I am!

  2. Angie, you're an introvert after my own heart. "Common characteristics"-check, check, check. I love how well you articulate what it's like to live life as an introvert.

    PS Your mom gave me your blog address at church and I've been reading since I came home from church 2 hours ago. I can't stop! I love your writings.

  3. I didn't see this comment until just now. Welcome aboard!