How To Explain Your Introverted Personality To Others

introverted personality

Let’s face it, a lot of people don’t understand us introverts. For many extroverts, the introverted personality makes about as much sense as Snapchat does to my grandma. Even fellow introverts might be confused about what it means to be introverted.

With all the ignorance out there about introversion, the thought of explaining our personality is daunting, to say the least. Still, we introverts want and need to be understood on a deeper level, especially by those we care about.

Sure, showing the people we love an article like this one will do the trick sometimes. But I have to be honest, there comes a time when we all have to speak up about our introverted personality in real life, with real words (no emojis). And it isn’t always easy.

It’s tough explaining our introverted personality to people who’ve been conditioned to think of introversion as an inferior personality type, or even a dysfunction. Case in point:

This story will piss you off

A while ago I did a radio interview for The Candy Palmater Show. During our discussion, Candy shared an experience that had introverts (including myself) across the nation shaking their heads in disgust.

She recalled a workshop she attended in which the presenter talked about different personality types. The presenter wrote the words “introvert” and “extrovert” on the board, and then did the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the absolutely unforgivable …

He drew a big huge X over “introvert” and circled “extrovert”. His message was loud and clear: introversion is the inferior personality type. All who want to succeed should strive for extroversion.

As infuriating as this story may be, it is not uncommon. Many introverts constantly come up against stereotypes, myths, and widespread ignorance about introversion.

All this negative feedback makes introverts reluctant to speak up about our true nature. Many of us barely have the courage to admit that we are introverted, let alone explain our inner workings to others.

Why bother?

You might be wondering why we should even bother explaining our introverted personality to others.  The thing is that when people understand, they behave differently. As Oprah always says, “when you know better, you do better.”

The more people understand what it means to be an introvert, the less they’ll bully and badger us into jumping on the extrovert bandwagon. They’ll be far less inclined to ask us why we’re so quiet every 10 minutes, or give us a hard time about our need to be alone.

The question remains, how do we actually go about explaining our introverted personality? Here are 3 key steps to explain your introverted personality to others:

Know your subject

The #1 rule for teaching is to know your subject well. You can’t enlighten others when you yourself are in the dark. I saw this principle play out again and again as I coached my introverted clients and students. As long as I was continuously working on being more aware and intentional in my personal life, I always had exactly what my clients needed to have their own transformational ‘aha’ moments.

If you want those around you to understand you, read books on introversion, sensitivity, and Myers-Briggs personality types. Get curious about what makes you tick and why. This way, you’ll always have answers for those who are in the dark about introversion.

Choose a familiar frame of reference

Many people have no frame of reference for a topic like introversion. They’ve never experienced it, talked about it, or seen it accurately represented in the media. How do you get through to such people?

The best way to help others understand any concept that is foreign to them is to meet them where they are. You do this by placing the new foreign topic in a familiar frame, like sports, nature, or anything else the person knows well. This is exactly what good metaphors and analogies do.

Celebrity introvert Amy Schumer uses a hilariously effective metaphor to explain introversion in her bestselling book, The Girl With a Lower Back Tattoo:

“If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them; you just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them – like the sun. They give you life, sure, but they can also burn you and you will get that wrinkly Long Island cleavage I’ve always been afraid of getting and that I know I now have.”

You don’t have to be a comedian like Schumer to explain your introversion. Simple metaphors and comparisons will do the trick, as long as you paint a picture the other person can easily step into.

Practice stressless self-expression

As an introvert, I know how stressful it can be to express your true feelings and needs. Much of this has to do with the fact that others told you your innate needs are wrong. You also might have trouble with verbal communication, often struggling to find the right words at the right time. This is a common introvert problem, and nothing to be ashamed of.

To express yourself without the stress, practice sharing your thoughts in low-risk ways. What do I mean by this? A high-risk way of expressing yourself would be to announce the most painful aspects of having an introverted personality to a room full of acquaintances. A low-risk way of expressing yourself would be to tell one person you trust that you like being alone because it recharges you.

To put it quite plainly, start with the easiest and safest forms of self-expression, and work your way up. This will make the task of explaining your introversion, and whatever else you want to share about yourself, less daunting. This guide will help you express yourself naturally and make meaningful connections as an introvert.

One more thing …

Even though explaining ourselves is hard, it’s worth it. When people understand you, you feel understood. Before you say, “no duh, Michaela”, think about it for a second.

What would it mean to you if those around you really understood you in a deep and compassionate way? How would it feel if they could see and accept the real you – not the buttoned-up, socially acceptable you – but the true blue, beautifully flawed and amazingly awesome YOU?

Isn’t that what we all secretly want? The first step to feeling understood and accepted for who you are is to start explaining your introverted personality to those you care about.

Over to you

Can you relate to what I’ve shared here? What has been your experience with explaining your introverted personality? Please do share your insights in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Lots of love,

Michaela-Signature

 

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25 Comments

  1. At the beginning, I had difficulties to explain. Disconnected sentences, confusion, tendency to stay quiet, even overwhelm. All were happening in circles. Through time, this changed and I learned to explain my introversion in a calm, understanding way, especially to those I cherish. Luckily, the people I cherish are introverts (except my family), so it’s with my family that I had to do the explaining part. They never understood it, even after my explanation, but that’s okay. I’m happy that I have people in my life who don’t just understand, they also accept me, fully. 🙂
    Of course I can relate with everything you wrote here.
    As always, wonderful article, packed with great insight and amazing advice Michaela! 🙂

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    • Thanks for sharing that, Marko. I think expressing ourselves to family is often the hardest because they have such deeply ingrained beliefs about who we are and who we should continue to be.

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  2. Yeah most friends of mine don’t really get the recharge thing. But they accept it. I think using a metaphor like Amy can help a lot!

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    • Yes, metaphors do help! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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      • A really good metaphor to explain our introversion is the battery on your phone. The more you use it, the more the battery drains. This is what happens to introverts when they are required to talk a lot or partake in a large social group setting

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        • Yes, that’s a great metaphor, Franco. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  3. Thank you for the article – it hits home.
    I find that explaining my introversion is helpful, but still misunderstood. Personally, I can’t even get to a point with people for them to take the time to be interested enough in me to care. It’s exhausting and frustrating trying to deepen my relationships because of my introverted ways. It appears to me that both my introverted and extroverted friends get bored with me and my quiet nature and move on to more “interesting” people. How do other introverts deepen their friendships? I’m at a loss. Thank you Michaela!

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    • Hi Lori, sorry to hear about your predicament! I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes, it takes the right person to give us space to express ourselves. Often, we have to be the right person first by nurturing ourselves, exploring our inner workings, and being curious about those around us. I talk more about how to make connections as an introvert in my free Introvert Connection Guide. 🙂

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    • I totally agree with your comments Lori, like you, the people I mix with, show no interest at
      All in my feelings, far too busy talking about themselves.

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  4. I was trying to explain to my boyfriend of two years , who mostly doesn’t really relate to me at all , my strange introverted quirks. I don’t have any close friends except my sister and I was hoping he’d read this infj article that I found to be the most accurate thing like it had been written about me. But there’s all these articles saying it’s scientifically invalid and disproven. So I know that he’ll look that up and that’ll be the end of it. I suppose he’d look at it like horoscopes or hippie stuff.

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    • Ah, you are with a boyfriend who needs Proof with a capital P! I find people who need copious amounts of proof to even consider your point of view need two things to be swayed: 1) to see that you’re definite and unwavering in your belief. 2) to be told in a way that can’t be debated. This is why sharing your perspective in terms of feelings is so powerful in a relationship. Emotions are subjective, and are not up for debate. Saying something like, “My mind feels like a Jackson Polluck painting right now,” or “I feel like I’m swimming against a giant wave”, or just a simple “I feel sad because xyz” are all very powerful. 😉

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  5. Hi Michaela, good timing on the article. Yes I can relate, the funny thing is I find myself explaining myself to other introverts more than extroverts, weird I know…(•ิ_•ิ)?

    Thank you for all the hard work you do for everyone here, I think we all enjoy reading your prose. You make connecting as a community so easy!! 🙂 I’m grateful and very appreciative for all the effort you put into your writing and look forward to reading new articles and learning new things from you and about you and hope you turn this article on personality into a four part series considering we have four main parts to our personality that we use most often according to Myers/Briggs. 😉 😉 <=== Shameless article idea encouragement. (◕‿◕)♡

    I think it's best for me to describe Introversion for me metaphorically like a hibernating bear, my energy levels are affected by the four seasons throughout the week or day sometimes depending on activity, my mileage varies depending on whom I'm around.

    *Monday, it's spring I start with a yawn, and wipe the winter weekend sleep from my eyes and plan my weeks activities.

    *While late spring Tuesday I tend to forage for tasks to complete.

    * Wednesday, it's hump day so I find an obstacle to overcome, or score some tasty new books or other knowledge.

    * Thursday feels like Autumn and I tend to collect my resources for the impending winter and become a bit more assertive at this time.

    *By Friday there's a chill to the air, I've had enough of the people, the picnic baskets and the annoying park rangers, to want to settle down for a winter nap on Saturday, however as circumstances of my environment dictate sometimes winter comes a day later than expected and I have to deal with more people, picnic baskets and park rangers on a day when I should be conserving my energy for Spring's arrival on Monday.

    So I've only been getting one day of rest here lately and becoming Mr. Grumpy bear with a lack of hibernation, and because of the sequestration of forest resources, and my experience of being a wiser bear having survived many a season, I know that it's sometimes feast or famine when it comes to time, resources, and energy and to not live beyond my means by any means necessary… This includes 12 to 14 hour power naps Saturday night. 🙂 The lesson here is at the end of the week, keeping an introvert from his or her recharge time is like poking a tired hungry bear with a short stick. ʕ ᵔᴥᵔ ʔ

    Reply
    • Thanks James! I love the hibernating bear metaphor, and can relate to it most definitely. I always say a little hibernation is good for the mind! 🙂

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  6. I feel blessed by this article, it is like a mapping of some of my life events. However, when I try to explain myself most associates declare me sensitive. I also have very few friends and many people usually think i do not have any contributions to make even before they ask.
    Please advise

    * Thanks a lot for opening innie- Spring. It makes me begin my day with optimism

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    • You’re welcome, Richard! Onward! 🙂 xo

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  7. Years ago…long before I knew what it really meant to be an introvert – the fact that people drain, and alone time recharges – I had a group of friends who wanted to do something EVERY weekend. It was just way too much for me. Especially after having to deal with people for more than eight hours a day, five days a week at work.

    One day I had to come out and tell them, “I needed some ‘Robin Time'”. At the moment, that was the best way I could put it to express my need. To my surprise they fell in love with the term I coined, respected my need, and even went on to borrow the expression in reference to themselves on occasion.

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    • Thanks for sharing your inspiring story, Robin. Saying you need “Robin Time” is such a simple and clear way of expressing your needs. 🙂

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  8. I’m sad that I’m constantly at odds with my husband because he is always “on”. He gets up in the morning singing and is the sane when he gets home from work. I’m retired so I have a lot of alone time but he drains me and I feel like he’s always trying to fix me into making friends and inviting people over etc. I don’t enjoy the small talk with women at church. There’s no deep connection with them so I don’t want to waste my energy and my husband thinks I’m rude and that I think I’m too good for them. What do I do my relationship with him is waning?
    Cathy

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  9. Very good article. I was fortunate to meet a fellow INFJ when I was 18. Sadly she passed away a few years ago after 38 years together. The loss is devastating. People would always ask us what are you doing this weekend or what plans do you have, usual neurotypical small talk. When we would respond, nothing really, “just being together”, they couldn’t understand. As a widower I have learnt now to say or text GF……..gone fishing. It has been hard explaining to others but they are learning to accept the alone recharge time needed. I am thankful to at least have experienced such an incredible connection but it hurts beyond any comprehension I could have possibly imagined. I am thankful for this site as without her it is rare I can connect anymore. Thank you.

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  10. I am an INFJ (the only time I’m “not” is when I do a “are you an INFJ or an INFP” questionnaire) and seem to be a magnet for INTPs – having said that I work in an academic library so I have no shortage of innie-acquaintances and friends (we do have a healthy smattering of exxies among our numbers) – I’ve always had a rebellious streak; sometimes intentionally, sometimes not; and so I wear my introversion proudly. Those who know and care about me don’t care that I’m an introvert; those who don’t know, or care about, me…that’s their loss

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  11. I am so happy I found the Introvert Spring website and the really great posts on life as an introvert. I still remember the guidance counselor at school discussing our MBTI results and the class distribution – INFJ was the smallest group. Once I started to understand that being INFJ explained my disdain for group projects (please can I work alone), the difficulty with small talk (no, I don’t want to talk about the football scores) and the need to retreat after going to a social event (I am peopled out at the moment), I feel more confident that my own social preferences are not defective, rather I need more alone time to enjoy the extroverted activities. For the few people that understand and appreciate this, the more I enjoy their company for an extended period of time.

    I have tried to explain being an introvert like baking a cake, we all start out with the same ingredients in the bowl, the outcome depends on how long the cake bakes in the oven. Some can tolerate an underbaked cake with frosting on top, cake is cake. Others of us need to let our cake bake the full length of time, cool completely and then frost for best results.

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  12. This is a great article. Last year, I tried explaining what introversion is to a guy who wanted to go out with me and kept asking me even though I rejected him the first time and every other time he asked me to be in a relationship with him. One night he was texting me with small talk, which like many introverts, I cannot stand. So I asked him “do you have anything to say or are did you just text me to have a pointless conversation?” He got defensive and said “there is a thing called small talk” and when I replied “I hate small talk,” he asked how can I hate small talk, and blah blah blah. Then he asked me “Would a guy get some from you if he skipped the small talk and said hey girl let’s get it on.” After giving him several chances to be friends, I have given up and cut off all contact with him.

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  13. I’m already in my 40s, yet I’ve just only ‘realized’ that I’m an introvert in the last few years. I’m a christian serving in a church that prizes extroversion despite numerous sermons on equality, acceptance, and respect. I’ve tried being transparent about my introversion, as well as explaining it to others, but often I get instant rebuts of ‘BUT…’, and constantly having others set some sort of ‘limitations’ on how much alone-time THEY think I should only have. The thing is, the more I’m being put in such situations, the more I ‘retreat’. As I grew older, ….I just can’t muster up as much energy anymore. The worst is when some who claimed to be introverts, telling me off, “If I can do this or that, why can’t you?”
    …..I believe that even if I know and admit that I’m introverted, I’m still an imperfect human being just like anyone else — be it introverts or extroverts. I’m still learning, albeit being in my 40s — at least now I don’t refer to myself as being a weirdo as much. In fact, after exhausting myself trying to be a non-introvert for more than 30 years, ….I think I need 60 years of downtime to recharge (if I can live that long!). HAHA!
    THANK YOU for sharing your experiences!!

    Reply
  14. Your book “The Irresistible Introvert” changed my life. I’m on my 7th book about being an introvert and have 2 more on the way. I don’t know if you realize how many lives you’ve made better by helping us learn we’re normal and don’t have to feel guilty or made to feel bad about ourselves. I’ve shared some of your posts along with other introvert posts on Facebook and they’ve helped people who know me personally to understand me better.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Carole. I’m so happy my book made a difference in your life! <3

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