The “Joys” of Being an Introvert

I am an introvert and I’m happy being that way.  I remember times when I wasn’t happy being that way.  One often doesn’t feel understood by others.   Our culture doesn’t really know what to do with introverts, and often a parent doesn’t know what to do with an introverted child.  As a culture, we value it’s opposite–extraversion.  Susan Cain has written the book Quiet, with the subtitle The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

Usually we interpret this style of personality as being shy, or timid.  Some even look at the introvert and think they are weak.  And if it’s our kid who is an introvert, we worry, we prod them, we want them to overcome this disability–even if we as the parent are also introverted.  The truth is, shyness and timidity are not at all connected to introversion.  Those are separate behaviors that both the introvert and the extravert can display.

Cain says that 1/3rd of the population in our country is introverted.  That’s a little more than the developers of the Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory estimate–they say it’s more like 1/4th of the American population are introverts.  Either way, that means the majority of Americans are extraverts, which explains why it is the “cultural norm.”

So what is an introvert?  Here are some characteristics of the introvert.  They relate primarily to an internal world as opposed to the external world.  One of the things that means is that they process information inside their mind and don’t say anything until they have thought it through.  My wife says that I have like a french horn in my head.  I take in information and it has to go through all those tubes before it gets to my mouth.  She says jokingly “I’m “slow.”  That’s how the extravert views us.

We get energized by solitude and quiet.  We tend to have fewer friendships, but they are deep friendships that last a long time.  We prefer to work alone as opposed to working in groups.  And we want to understand something before we experience it.  Ask your introverted child to try something new and they want to think about it, or better yet, let someone else do it first.

If our culture values extraversion, then it only follows that teachers and schools place high value on the kids behaving as an extravert.  Today, a lot of learning is expected to take place in small groups.  The introvert may sit on the sidelines watching, and will sometimes add something profound to the process.  But they may be judged by their detachment from the group process.

Parents need to understand the values and strengths of their introverted child, and not be pressured into remaking them into extraverts.  Susan Cain’s book is a good place to begin in understanding the introverted child, as is the book Please Understand Me, by David Keirsey.

Question:  Which are you?  Extravert or Introvert?


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4 Responses to The “Joys” of Being an Introvert

  1. Trish says:

    I am very much an introvert. I am generally happy that way, although it does bother me how difficult it is to socialize when I want to (although I’m actively working on that issue in therapy, through joining a small group at church, and even recently by forcing myself to attend a women’s social at church).

    This is sort of off on a tangent, but when you mentioned the fact that most people are extroverted and so it is seen as the norm, it made me think of the Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical website, which is a response to the general NT thinking about AS. It is a social commentary, not a scientific/psychological site, but I thought you might enjoy it. :)

  2. Melinda says:

    I am an introvert by nature. I can think clearly in my mind but doesn’t quite come out my mouth (socially) as smart and clear as it sounds in my head lol =) I tend to do better writing my thoughts. I also learned alot just by watching…especially behaviorly other people (like my older example of a sister)…what to do and what not to do (was the trouble she got into worth it and usually NOT). When I was young I can remember a girl and I talking for the first time in 4th grade. We were in the same class but hadn’t actually spoken to each other prior. She told me she thought I was a snob because I was so quiet until she had actually talked with me and found she liked me and found me to be interesting (her words stuck with me). This made me want to change to be an extravert because who wants to be labeled a snob in the 4th. grade I’m just saying lol. I did try to be an extravert just by that one girl’s comment but my anxiety skyrocketed. I do put myself out there more today… like now for instance… but I do feel most comfortable & safe staying more to myself. It at times can be overwhelming to me if I have too many friends (How do people stay in touch with everyone lol all the time w/o peole thinking your mad at them if your not talking or doing somthing with everyone all the time) at once. Just a few thoughts as I read your artical.

  3. Hi Dr. Stoop
    I appreciate your posts on introversion. I am an INFJ. People who don’t know me very well nor for very long insist I must be an extravert because, not to get too deep in the MBTI theory, I extravert my Feeling (my secondary preference/strength), but introvert my intuition which is my primary. So I can be talkative, very expressive, connecting, even seem outgoing; however, all of this takes its toll, and I long for a quiet place to close my eyes and listen to nothing but my thoughts so that I can process and recharge. I heard you on NLL recently say you would prefer nothing like finding a quiet corner to settle in with a good book, Amen! Well, that and a good cup of tea! Anyway, I will look into the book you recommended, Quite. Have you read Laney’s The Introvert Advantage? I read this about 10 years ago and it was very liberating (I was the only child of a single mother who was an extravert! Yikes!). Take good care, Kira

  4. Samantha says:

    I am an introvert also, and I love it. I am currently working on my undergrad in psychology and will be going on to get my masters in counseling afterword. One of the most upsetting things for me to hear was that I would have to get over being an introvert if I was going to be an affective counselor. Luckily, I was able to completely debunk that. I am outgoing in the sense that I say hello to anyone and am more than happy to give a hug to anyone who wants one, but I do keep to myself, and have a small circle of close friends and many acquaintances. I absolutely love having deeep conversations with people, but I am not much in to small talk. I am like you-give me a book any day and I will be happy!

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