Introverts: A Field Guide.

Via on Aug 25, 2013

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Do you know what it means to be introverted?

Do you consider yourself one? Think you are a pretty good judge of whether or not people are introverted or extroverted? Maybe not.

After two very busy weeks, I was incredibly excited about my plans for today. I love my friends and family. I love my kids. Going out and being social is fun, but I wasn’t excited about going out today. I was excited because I was spending the bulk of the day alone to write and paint. After two wonderful but jam packed weeks, I needed the time alone to recharge.

As someone who works with people all the time, you’d think I’d be an extrovert. I’m friendly. I’m not shy. But when I get close to my “people time” limit, it’s time to shut down, be quiet and hole up with a good book. I love helping people, but there’s a huge reason that I balance that type of work with work where I get to be quiet and dive in to working with words instead of being bombarded with interaction.

It’s because—although I don’t fall into some of the old stereotypes—I’m an introvert.

I spent years feeling guilty if I wanted to spend time alone instead of doing things with friends. I learned to make the best of it, and often pushed myself to be social—even when it felt exhausting. Many people do this, as extroversion tends to be prized in our society, while introversion is seen as a “second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.” It is none of those things. It’s the way an estimated two-thirds to one-half of us are wired, and it can be our greatest asset.

As I mentioned, being introverted isn’t the same thing as being shy (though there’s nothing wrong with being shy either). Many shy people are also introverted, but one doesn’t really have much to do with the other. The best explanation I was ever given (and maybe one of the biggest “aha!” moments of my adult life) was that while extroverts are energized by connecting and spending time with others, introverts need inward-focused, alone time to recharge.

Being introverted has nothing to do with lack of confidence. Many confident people are introverted, and gather their strength from the time they spend alone rather than from the input of others. In some ways, I believe that the ability to enjoy being by yourself says a great deal about your confidence.

It isn’t that introverts don’t like social time—it’s that for us, social time is giving out energy rather than receiving energy.

A lot of us fall somewhere in the middle between the two, and some interactions take more out of people than others.

A few things to consider if someone you care about falls more on the introverted end of the spectrum:

1. Think of each of us as having a cup of energy available.

For introverts, most social interactions take a little out of that cup instead of filling it the way it does for extroverts. Most of us like it. We’re happy to give and love to see you. When the cup is empty, though, we need some time to refuel. We aren’t mad. We don’t stop caring about you. We’ll be so happy to see you and talk to you again when we’ve had some time to decompress.

2. Silence isn’t a bad thing.

Really. It’s not an insult. It’s the introvert’s way of conserving energy and restoring him or herself. If we can be quiet with you (and you can be content being quiet with us) it’s a huge compliment and a huge relief. Other times the quiet really does need to be spent alone. We come back when we’re ready. It’s worth the wait.

3. Just because someone is friendly, she isn’t necessarily an extrovert; just because someone is quiet, doesn’t mean he’s an introvert.

If you pay attention to people you care about, often you can see what energizes them and what drains them. If you aren’t sure, ask. If you notice a friend seems wiped out, ask if spending time together sounds like fun or if they’d like some down time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve become almost giddy because plans were cancelled—even with people I love. When you know someone needs some space in order to re-energize, be respectful and give it to them. It isn’t rejection.

4. Text. Write letters. Email. We love it.

There are times that you can’t beat a face to face conversation, I’d agree 100 percent. But for introverts, sometimes being able to stay connected and stay in touch in a less intense and less draining way is a huge help. Being in crowds is tough. Even long conversations can be tough if we’re already “peopled out.” Having the freedom to respond when we are ready is a great feeling. Sometimes, it’s right away. If it’s not, don’t be offended. (It’s not you…it’s me. Really!)

5. All of this really comes down to respect.

Each of us has our own set of boundaries, our own way of communicating and our own needs. When you care about someone, you choose to communicate with him or her in ways that show you love and respect them. If your cup is filled by lots of interaction with others, go for it! Be in tune with your own needs, and enjoy the way that time with others energizes you. If someone you love is an introvert, and needs time to him or herself, tune into and respect that as well. We don’t do activities alone because we are sad, or negative or depressed; we do it because that’s what fills our cup back up. We’ll be even happier to see you when we come back.

One of the best things I’ve read on the subject was the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. The shorter 12-question quiz on her site can give you some good insights into your own personal introversion or extroversion that bypasses some of those long held stereotypes (P.S. I’m 12 for 12).

Bonus: Susan’s Ted Talk on The Power of Introverts:

 

Revised from its original appearance on The Good Men Project.

 

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is the strongest girl in the world. She is the love child of a pirate and a roller derby queen. She hails from the second star to the right. Her love of words is boundless, but she knows that many of life’s best moments are completely untranslatable. When she is not writing, you may find her practicing yoga, devouring a book, playing with her children, planting dandelions, or dancing barefoot with her heart on her sleeve. She is madly in love with life and does not know how this story ends; she’s making it up as she goes. Kate is the owner and editor-in-chief of Be You Media Group. She also writes for The Huffington Post, elephant journal, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, Yoganonymous, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. She facilitates writing workshops and retreats throughout North America. Heart Medicine, Kate's book on writing, is now available on Amazon.com You can follow Kate on Facebook and Twitter

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16 Responses to “Introverts: A Field Guide.”

  1. writtenfromtherooftop says:

    From a fellow introvert, I nodded my head as I read this.
    I totally relate to: It’s not you…it’s me. Really!

  2. Kim says:

    I'm 12 out of 12 on Susan's quiz as well!

  3. Lauren Wessinger says:

    Kate this was great! Thank you for shining some light onto this. I too was 12 for 12 introvert. I have always felt in between because I didn't know the true meaning of introvert until your piece. Thank you.

    • You're welcome! Yes, I used to wrestle with it too, until I was studying stress management and we started talking about different types/ways people inherently deal with stress. It was a big eye-opener for me, and helped in terms of not feeling guilty for taking time for myself when I need it.

  4. Scott says:

    I am an introvert, but to be honest… I would prefer to have a choice. Be extroverted when required and when I want to, but still be able to switch to introvert as needed.

    I feel like I am missing out on meeting a lot of great people and all the opportunities that life presents.

    • When I was in high school and at the beginning of college, I used to try really hard to be extroverted. I'm friendly, but large group parties and things just wear me out and make me anxious. I've accepted the fact that I'd prefer to have fewer, but deeper, friendships and when I have to be in a big group, I usually hang out and have a long conversation with one or two people.

      Maybe if you feel like you're missing out, you could take extra down time for yourself before and after something that seems like it would be overwhelming?

  5. Irene says:

    I am an introvert and i took the Myers Briggs twice when I was doing undergraduate work in college. I ended up being an INFP the first time and an INFJ the second time. The P and J were very close scores. Either way, I need. To be alone to recharge my battery. I’m going to share this article on my website. Thanks!!!

  6. Great article, Kate. I'm someone who tends to have both types within me, and I'm quite the homebody, but I'm also fairly extroverted (I'm an ENFJ) and I'm shy! (You're right that the words "introvert" and "shy" shouldn't be interchangeable).

    Great job! xo

  7. Ann Nichols imagineannie says:

    I'm an introvert who has to be an extrovert at work. People often assume that because I can be "on" for a few hours, or on Facebook that I am really outgoing and just kidding about the introvert-leave-me-alone-now thing.

    I am SO not kidding. Thank you.

  8. Freya Watson Freya Watson says:

    Yep, Kate – perfect! The thing is, I wish the extroverts in the world had the same understanding of the introverts as we (yes, me too :)) have of them. Never mind work, one of the challenges I've found with being an introvert is being a mother in a permanent relationship – at weekends and during holidays there are people around all day and then someone in my bed all night!! It gets too much sometime, the constant company (no offense to my beautiful family). My battery runs down pretty quickly on those days!

  9. gillian berry says:

    I spent years feeling guilty (and confused about myself) too!! How could I love people, yet desperately want to get away from them and hide away for the day? When you mentioned, ".. spending the bulk of the day alone to write and paint…", I felt as lit up about it as you felt excited!
    Perhaps I'm truly in need of a solitary day… uh, yes. That is the challenge with 'people work' and a family.
    Thank you for this article, Kate! Delightful, thorough, and so much to reflect upon… an exploration of us introverts (how funny that I still have the urge to lie and write 'extrovert'!) Cheers to the introverts! :)

  10. maxine mcginnis says:

    my personality has allowed me to be both introvert and extrovert learned behavior it was not until I retired at age 65 and was not required to meet other persons needs that I truly loved my time to myself introvert and loving it

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