“Okay, something’s up. What is it?”
“What do you mean?” I replied.
“I can tell something’s bugging you,” said my friend. “You might as well just tell us what’s wrong.
She was right. I was pissed, but I didn’t think anyone had noticed. Heck, I hadn’t even consciously noticed I was miffed until a moment earlier. True to my introverted nature, I had decided to keep quiet about what was bothering me to avoid conflict.
I was just going to slap on my neutral face (which many people have told me is hard to read), nibble on my fish tacos and pretend all was right in the world while I secretly stewed. Meanwhile, my friend seemed to be caught up in her conversation with our other friend. How did she pick up on my annoyance so quickly?
The observant introvert
My friend is an introvert. Like most introverts, she tends to notice things others miss. She could tell the difference between my usual peaceful-quiet-face, and my angry-quiet-face. Dammit.
During the year or so that we’ve known one another, I’ve seen that this particular friend notices other things, too. She is the party host who hands you a fresh napkin milliseconds after you thought you might want one. If I go to an event with her, she remembers specific details about most of the guests. For example, if I mention the guy we met who was wearing a blue shirt, she’ll say something like, “You mean the guy in the denim button-up and corduroys? Or the guy in the blue dress shirt and dark jeans?”
She observes the world around her with the same attention to detail. “Look how the tips of the trees poke out from the clouds on top of that mountain over there.” Meanwhile, I’m like, “there’s a mountain over there? Never noticed. ”
My creepy noticing abilities are concentrated on facial expressions and feelings. I’m good at reading people, but not particularly observant of my physical surroundings. I think it’s like this for a lot of introverts. We are exceptionally observant in certain ways, and kinda oblivious in others. I like to think it’s what makes us so darn adorable. ?
Of course, sometimes our ability to notice what others miss is a pain in the ass. We assume everyone can read in between the lines the way we do. When they obviously cannot, we wonder if we’ve just been imagining things.
Other times, we know we are not imagining it. We’ve noticed something that we cannot unnotice: a look of longing between our lover and another; a condescending glance from an alpha extrovert; a piece of garbage floating in the stream near our house. Sometimes, it hurts to notice. But the rewards can be rich.
Noticing allows us to make a change. We can leave our lover, who never knew how to love us anyway. We can make a wide circle around the condescending guy and find a friend who accepts us for who we are. We can get rid of the trash in our life.
One of the best parts about being an observant introvert is that we can make fellow innies feel seen. That’s exactly what my friend did when she noticed that I was upset. Noticing says, “I see you and I care.” This is way different, by the way, than some stranger assuming something is wrong just because we’re quiet.
Overall, our ability to pick up on what others miss is a major asset for introverts. It’s one of the many strengths that we too easily take for granted. So, just in case you’d forgotten, I wanted to let you know … I noticed you noticing things, and I wanted to put you on notice that I notice things too. 😉
What about you?
Do you pick up on things others miss?
What do you tend to observe more – environment or emotions?
This is so great! I think I am more like you than your friend, I am completely oblivious most of the time, but I can read people’s faces, feelings and the ‘aura’ of a place, kind of. I can feel when everyone is mad, even if they are hiding it out of politeness.
Happy writing to you 🙂
To finally find out over having walking the planet of ours for over a half of a Century it is like a breath of fresh air to finally realize I am not alone. That being said I’ve noticed my Introversion increasing with age. Not all that fun.
Things I’ve never noticed before I notice. I was never a “clean freak” per se, in fact I really didn’t care when too much dust accumulated or about the tiniest specks of dirt. But WOW!!!!
I notice everything now that is the tiniest bit out of order. When the heck did I turn into such a ‘neat freak’ and why is it that I notice everything and anything that is out of place when it never bothered me to this extent before.
I know,you and others think I need to seek professional help. Thing is. I’m am a Professional Psychologist. Pretty damn scary!
Again, this has only increased with age. I appreciate you and others whom have brought Introversion to light.
I wonder if it increases with age. When I was in my 20’s I somehow knew I was different, but it wasn’t quite so noticeable. I went out, was the life of the party. Was very popular.
Still, I had to leave before others. I had to have alone time. Sorry, back then nobody understood it and since I was the most popular of my friends I, nor they, would have ever classified me as an Introvert.
Fast forward 30 years. Not only has my Introversion become more apparent to me and others (I don’t like leaving the house to even go out to eat… EVER)!
I am truly my happiest and best when I am by myself. I just don’t give a damn about the outside world and want nothing of it. Even to meet a friend for coffee is too much.
I truly hope this is not the fate of Introverts and would love to hear from some older ones like myself.
I am not shy and never have been. I will be he first to strike up a conversation with a stranger. However. I just find I am happiest staying in my house. I have no desire to go out.
When my husband and I celebrated our 30th Wedding Anniversary a couple of years ago he wanted to take me out. I just wanted to stay in. We did.
Do you know if anyone has done any studies on Introverts as they age? Because I turned into a neat freak whom sees every little damn thing out of place and no desire to even go out for dinner for a celebratory event.
Far cry from the fun loving, carpe diem, woman I once was.
I’m an older introvert (55) and I too feel I’m more innie than when I was younger. But I have to say that I feel like I’m choosing… no, embracing the ‘me’ I always was. I’m becoming more aware that the alone time is golden, and instead of frittering it away, I make plans. Plans to read, plans to work on radios, plans to finally master the shift from first to 5th position on my viola 🙂
When I go out now, it’s almost always to spend quality time with family who have come from far away. The crowd in the restaurant seem to melt away when I’m with my adult children trying some crazy new food they like. When they go home, I have that experience to savour, and I find I can’t really remember the noise as much as I remember the look on my daughter’s face. Which surprises me because I easily notice the environment, while faces are hard for me.
Lot of words, but I’m more hopeful now than at any other time in my life. Understanding why I am an innie has been huge.
I’m understanding more of who I am the older I’ve gotten. But my realization happened almost overnight. It was as though I woke up and “Poof!” My life and who I am made perfect sense. I have been through some tough times in the past year and I suppose I spent a good bit of time self reflecting, which is something I have always done. But I have had to utilize my “superpower” of reading some folks who were very close to me. I had to hone in on my ability to analyze people and their motives. When I really started practicing, I became much more aware of everything! I spooked myself because it was then that I began really picking up on how other people felt. This had a negative impact on my life, and then I became a hermit. So, you are not alone in not wanting to leave your house! Circumstances for my habit of hibernation, unfortunately have changed. I’m now trying to adjust to my…..new life, new intuition? I’d much rather be back on the sofa! ?
I feel you. I have given in to who I am. A normal work environment is rampant with conformity. I decided to work for myself, again. Surprise, it’s what my gut has been screaming at me since my youth. Listen to your gut. This is your life. What makes you happy? That’s what your gut wants for you.
You talk to people all day, right? Then why would you want to be around people in your off time? Makes sense to me.
Noticing it “getting more noticeable” with age I believe is due to awareness.
Great article Michaela. 🙂
I can relate completely. It’s also the case with me as well, I am much more observant on emotions, rather then the environment. I learned how to notice and recognize people’s expressions, gestures, especially to read between the lines. Detection of hidden meanings in sentences is really something I cherish, since that helps me to see if someone is hurt or needs a comfort. It’s pretty easy for me to see when someone for example is lying, only by looking into that person eyes or facial movement.
Also, I can detect when something is wrong, I don’t know how to call this, but I simply can tell when my friend has something heavy on his/her heart.
When it comes to small details, my brain is accustomed to see things, little things that other people miss, but only when I focus or wander.
P.S So I noticed also you notice things, and I wanted to put you on notice that I notice things too. 🙂 (haha, hope this sentence makes sense 😀 )
Marko, I am exactly the same! I feel it can be tough sometimes, noticing when someone is lying – especially if it is someone close to you and they deny they are lying! I have to say though – it’s pretty neat being able to sense when something is wrong or off. Like a super power!
Do you have a blog? If so may I have the link? I am very interested in reading it if you do! You are very good with your words.
I understand you completely Ashley! Agree, it’s pretty neat to have that ability and notice when someone is lying, like you said, a true super power! 🙂 But I also have to agree, it’s very hard in some occasions, especially if that someone is close to you, and you know they are lying…
However, this ability saved me countless times from awkward situations…
I don’t have my own blog yet (I am considering the possibility of starting it in the near future), but thank you so much for your kind words! You have no idea how big compliment this is for me… Thank you. 🙂
You should start one! It would be great. I know this because I have no experience at writing and I started my own blog! You can check if out (if you want). It’s http://www.INFJash.wordpress.com and this might sound weird but I enjoyed connecting with you in the INFJ forum! Unfortunately my account no longer works, so I couldn’t reply to anything. 🙁
Thank you Ashley, really. 🙂 I saw your blog, it’s awesome! You have marvelous articles, I really enjoyed reading them. 🙂
Not at all, I also enjoyed connecting with you through the forum. 🙂 I’m sorry to hear about your account… 🙁 Have you tried creating another one maybe? From a different mail address?
What is the difference between an introvert and someone who suffers fro agoraphobia?
Hello Marko ! I feel that i am just like you. I did a test the other day on reading facial expressions and passed with flying colors. I know that i am strange if that is the correct term, maybe different would be more appropriate. Eleven years ago someone asked me if i was a savant !. I was poisoned with lead and aluminium as a child and had the symptoms of Attention deficit disorder with concentration and learning difficulties, i have spent large amounts of my life as a INTP. Introverted intuitive thinking perceptive type. I am also a Protector type. I have suffered from trauma four times ,two of them resulting in Post traumatic stress. (Google the gifts of trauma.) I can sense when there is dysfunction in families or when things are not quite right. I am facinated by my ability to notice detail. and can recall things people have said from many many years ago especially during traumatic periods and have an almost photographic memory. Have you experienced trauma ?
It would be good to talk and share experiences.
Kind regards and a happy Christmas.
Hi Howard! I haven’t experienced any major trauma when it comes to my personal health (lack of support and humiliation definitely), however since I am an HS INFJ empath, when my friends and family go through it, it’s not easy. Like you, my protective nature is ever present, and it is transmitted to my friends.
No matter what goes on in my life, I always save that extra ounce of strength to give to the ones I cherish the most.
Sometimes I feel like a bystandard watching things in slow motion thinking “I see what is happening … why isn’t anybody else noticing? Why doesn’t anybody do something about it”. Once as a teenager, driving on the highway, I saw an motorcycle accident on the opposite side of the highway. I knew it was just happened because the smoke was just starting to rise from the motorbike. I also noticed that there were a bunch of people standing around just watching. This was before cell phones … so I immediately thought “has anybody called an ambulance?” I immediately stopped at the 1st payphone (this was back in the 80’s when pay phones were ubiquitous) and called 911. A minute later I heard emergency sirens.
Me noticing things others don’t in business … well you’d think that would help me but unfortunately due to lazy status-quo people, I can be annoying and a threat to people’s plans. Unless you are part of a truly positive workplace, one must keep one’s mouth shut so that you don’t become a target.
I know my reply is years after your comment, but I am able to relate to your observations of the people you work with. I am retired now, but I remember being able to tell when someone was “milking the clock”, that is, looking busy but actually accomplishing very little. I used to wonder if anyone else noticed that sort of thing but just didn’t want to make waves about it. If I tried to do anything about the clock-watching, I was looked upon as someone who wanted to “upset the apple cart” and I imagine I was not very well liked by some people. Which is unfortunate, because I want to be liked, but it irks me when I see someone taking advantage of a situation and try to skate through the day on the backs of those who really work hard.
I can tell when someone is lying, and when someone is trying to play a mind game with me, which makes me angry because I feel that person thinks I am too stupid to figure out he is playing a mind game.
Anyway, I seem to be able to read people’s faces and body language, but especially their faces; but I have to rely on GPS to get me from point A to point B because I don’t notice my surroundings! Weird.
Absolutely, (almost) all the time.
When I am at work, I find myself observing more about some peoples’ emotions, especially those that are closely related to my work. When I share my observations with people, most of the reaction would be that I “think too much”. I silently accept their judgement but I don’t find anything wrong with this. I continue “thinking”, not to the extent that it brings negativity, but only if it helps me to improve and for things within my control.
On the other hand, I find that I can be pretty observant about the environment and surroundings if I pay attention to them, sometimes, surprising myself with my observations too.
Noticing and being observant takes energy. I have to choose where to channel my energy my power. Somethings are not worthy of my time and energy. I intuitively judge people places and things very quickly so I know where to channel my energy my power.
Ha! Finally someone noticed!!!! I don’t notice what people are wearing but I can read moods and intentions! I have worked for over 30 years in the field of Corrections. Mine and others safety at times depend on reading people! I just have not ever thought I was born with this ability… I thought it was learned! This is why I have always been so comfortable in this career!!!!! You have cleared up a mystery for me! I am a natural at this! I have a friend that calls me a savant because I do this so easily. I also am a nature lover and notice the amazing small stuff that others miss as well! I now know that it is me and not others just being lazy! I have to be careful because I find this so obvious and could not understand why others just could not pick up on things! This is my superpower!
Super Power – I love it!
I also pick up things that other people do not notice, sometimes they think I’m weird when I point things out.
I like it when a friend notices because I feel a sense of sympathy and recognition. However, when someone I don’t like notices I feel invaded by that person. Like you say it’s a double-edged sword.
I’m not that good in noticing practical details such as hair colors, people names or directions, but I’ve always take my time to understand people’s motivations, behaviors, emotions and character. You could say I’m an intuitive. As much as I love my intuition (it gives me a rich imagination, creativity, ability to read people), sometimes I feel I’m looking from outside the picture – as if I don’t belong that place, or this planet for that matter. I know people more than it’s safe to let them know, I see situations for bigger perspectives that sound a bit paranoid but they eventually prove to be accurate. Does it get any easier as we get older? I hope so.
I am also troubled by that. Sometimes I wish I could shut it off. But we can also help so much with this gift. 🙂
Thank you for both noticing that this year on my birthday. Doubly cursed, a Piscean and an intuitive!
Yes, I have always felt somehow like an outsider looking in, even in my close relationships. There is some evidence to suggest that we learn to be empaths if we have trauma up to 5 years, as we learn to be very observant and fit in with what adults need of us. The opposite is the narcissist who puts up a shell around themselves, and acts out, rather than following what is going on. Childhood trauma can simply be not being noticed or taken into account, for instance.
This can be difficult if it goes too far – then we can become co-dependent, people pleasers, and need to notice ourselves more and bring more self-love to ourselves. Otherwise, the dialogue in the head is noticing too much outside oneself and not noticing inside. The best state to be in with regard to other people is ‘neutral’, i.e. you can observe them, but do not let their emotions overwhelm you. I have to be very careful with this feeling.
Our egos are really tricky little devils.
I notice more about emotions that people currently feel. Though i do notice my environment as well.
My partner and I are both intorverts. He notices environments more and I notice emotions more. We are the dynamic duo! Just kidding but we’ve noticed the difference before and it’s a little funny how oblivious I can be to environments and so spot on with emotions.
Sometimes I wish I noticed environments more because it can be difficult noticing emotions sometimes, like the examples you provided. But in the end I am happy for my abilities because I will always know the truth, even if it hurts.
I notice both, but people always first. I like being an observer, and although it feels like a superpower sometimes, it seems the real trick to saving yourself is to detach somewhat, and become more like a scientist, noting patterns and behavior. (And then take a nap, like Michaela.) That’s why saying nothing often seems the best course of action. Most people would hate what they reveal about themselves without even knowing!
I’m an INTJ, and being hyper-sensitive to the environment comes with the territory for me. Unfortunately I’m not so great with reading peoples’ emotions, and this is can be an constant internal struggle.
When I’m with someone I care about, I’m always walking on eggshells, afraid I’ll say something that will sound insensitive to them. On the other hand, I’m afraid that my own facial expressions (mostly neutral) will convey the wrong idea to the other person, for example that I’m disinterested in a conversation when in fact I’m very interested.
It felt good to share this, thanks for another great post Michaela 🙂
Right on. I didn’t know it’s an introverted quality.
I loved this article! I am INFJ and I excel at reading between the lines both in conversation and body language. I never even think about doing this, for me, it’s just a natural state of being. I pick up very strongly on people’s emotions and unexpressed intentions. Sometimes it scares me to intuitively know so much about people while they have no idea that I’m picking up on every little detail about them. I use my powers only for good, however. If I sense that someone is sad or upset, I try to comfort them, or simply provide a listening ear for their struggles. I often feel like I live in a constant state of Deja Vu, where I have foreseen the results of situations and endeavors. To me, it feels like I am merely a passive observer, watching everything go down exactly as I knew it would. I am also very jealous of my relationship with my boyfriend and I have an uncanny sense of when a girl is flirting with him or trying to steal him away from me. I know exactly the pain you are talking about regarding intense intuition!
I think I definitely notice emotions more than my environment. It seems I can easily sense people’s moods. As you said, sometimes that is not a good thing.
i notice the emotions of the people around me, and am completly oblivious to my surroundings sometimes. I have some trust issues and often when i sense a feeling from someone i tend to think its fake, and then i close up to them because i dont trust them. Usually, im incorrect about them but its just hard for me to tell if they are sincere or not a lot. any tips on how to get rid of this negativity? Thanks for letting me vent
Great article, I think one of my biggest challenges is having to talk to strangers or being around a lot of people. I always wanted to be by myself but , being with one or two people every now and then wouldn’t kill me. I have always been misunderstood by the extroverted people around me so it’s good to see that there are people here who have similar personalities .
Well… As coincidence happens I just saw something on the TV that is very much related. There was an interviewer who was asking rather awkward questions. I find it strange because I have seen many interviews by him and he was never so weird. I began to feel uncomfortable for the subject at hand. And indeed… The guy who was beeing interviewed, who always kept a straight face during this time, al of a sudden went away during the interview. I felt it coming…
Hey Michaela i notice too. I notice emotions and when someone approach me then i get to notice details. yes so when that person is close to me noticing emotions seems quite scary and that which makes me to stop socializing or not even socialise but i do care and want to help but when that person feels irritated or upset i cant its truely scary.
Definitely an environment noticer.
Faces and emotions slip through my grasp.
I notice the environment if it is new. After that then I notice people more.
I do both, environment and emotions is something I notice all the time. I do however have concluded that regardless of how we process. Emotions and feelings come first before thoughts. Often as an empath I pick up on things even at a distance especially if I’m connected to another person, although I tend to avert any meaning to the energy I pick up from others moods tend to cloud my internal intuition, so I often ask then analyze the responses then ask more questions to get to the bottom of it. My general goal is to look for the light in everyone, take the good and make it great, I’m extremely ambitious and don’t spend much time in my compartmentalized “Nothing box” that men have. I noticed recently as sort of break through between INFP’s and INTJ’s communication styles, and that is the filters by which we use, INFP’s tend to filter everything by way of feelings/emotions and INTJ’s by rational thoughts and logic. What makes sense for both of us in our interpretations is completely opposite yet if known or understood and accepted it becomes more like a Rosetta stone to understand our unique perspectives and goes a long way in moving a relationship forward. I understand how hard it can be to express inner thoughts and feelings and worry about being misunderstood, and not heard. I will only say that if anyone wanted to move forward, then abandon the old patterns of behavior and express yourself anyway you can until it is understood, it may take some time but it’s still worth it, take notes and notice key words, it helps often words used over and over tend to say a lot about how someone thinks or feels. Pay attention to everyone and everything, there is so much to learn, to experience and to enjoy in the world.
I overheard someone call me boring and weird because I don’t talk a lot, which i don’t understand why they’d say that as I’ve literally said nothing to offend them. Honestly, I like being introverted and quiet as it just gives me peace in my own mind and teaches me a lot about myself.
Unfortunately, being introverted doesn’t go well with being at school, when you just want to get away from all the people and how people single you out or use your quietness against you, like judging you for not speaking to them. Yet over time I learnt how to handle being at school and how to deal with idiots. At least my friends accepted me for being quiet.
I can really relate, Bella – I experienced that same type of negative judgmental reaction from a few insecure people back when I was in school, and I never understood why anyone would act like that, either.
But I think it’s great that you seem comfortable with yourself and your introversion, and can recognize that they are the ones with the problem, not you. Fortunately, school doesn’t last forever (although it can sometimes feel like it does)!
I, most definitely, notice people..no wonder am so interested in human behaviour. Great article again, michaela ?
I wonder if most INTJ’s are environment noticers and most INFJ’s are emotion noticers…?
As a highly sensitive INFJ, I can definitely relate to picking up on things that others often seem oblivious to! I am fairly sensitive to both the environment and others’ emotions, although I’m actually more in tune with my surrounding environment – my favorite ‘superpower’ is that I can spot wildlife that is either extremely small and/or very well-camouflaged, that others generally don’t notice (or aren’t able to see unless I’m virtually pressing their noses into it or until it crawls/swims/flies away and they can see it moving). There is so much beauty in the natural world that many people never experience – I’m extremely grateful that I am able to perceive and appreciate it.
As a highly sensitive INFJ, I can definitely relate to noticing many things that others frequently seem oblivious to, both in the surrounding environment and in others’ emotional states. However, I’m even more in tune with nature than I am with people; my favorite ‘superpower’ is my near-preternatural ability to rapidly spot wildlife that is extremely small and/or well-camouflaged, and that others generally never notice unless I’m virtually pushing their noses into it, or until it starts to move. There is so much incredible beauty in the natural world that many people completely miss out on; I am extremely grateful for my ability to perceive and appreciate it.
I am a retired RN. I always thought my ability to observe my patients and thei issues was because of my nursing training. My assessments were very detailed and I received compliments from the Doctors because Iwas able to document so they knew what was going on with their patients. I do hink that because of this I can see detail in both emotions and environment. I don’t know how many other introverts have found the people around the relying on us to keep tract of the details. Sometimes I feel like a walking encyclopedia that everyone wants to read. It makes me exhausted because they call me on the phone to get information that they can’t remember. I have learned to just not answer my phone so I can screen the people I don’t mind talking to. Anyone else with this problem?
I am an INFJ introvert. I find that as I am getting older I have uncanny ability to spot toxic or manipulative people from a mile. I tend to get very frustrated when people who get sucked in by these type of people do not believe me. I have a strong need not to be around people that are emotionally harmful as I literally feel ill around them and need days to recover.
Yes, me too. Did anyone ever have that feeling when they meet someone for the first time or even pass quite an ordinary looking person in the street, they shudder or the hairs on the back of the neck stand up – a visceral reaction?
I’ve had this 4 or 5 times. With people I met, over time my bad instincts have been proved right in their subsequent behaviour. Intuition is a great gift but you need experience to learn to trust it.
It’s also wonderful when you meet very similar people and see they respond to you in such a positive way – and the little facial expressions that pass between you in company, the subtle communications that everyone else misses.
Awesome post. I totally relate to the extremely observant innie. Well done.
I notice if a button is open in someone’s clothes. Sometimes, I kind of know that a little argument will become big. I thought it’s weird but oh, it’s actually normal.
Both. I actually stumbled upon this article trying to research what careers best have a need for such a gift. It’s almost like a super power. I don’t mean to sound full of myself but it’s kind of empowering to realize that the people around you are so oblivious to things that seem so obvious to you. You see and know things that are invisible to others. It puts you steps ahead of others in a lot of scenarios. There are a lot of very useful applications for this ability.
I think I`m more like your friend. I`m more observant of my environment than people`s emotions. I recently allowed a friend to come live with me and I noticed each time I return from work my eyes roam round the house looking for items not in place. It`s that bad that I don`t get to drop my bags, I just get on with arranging stuff immediately (I think I need to stop that, really creepy).
Even at work I can notice people looking at others lustfully and the said colleague has no clue she was been watched that way and of course, I don`t say a word about it to anyone. Benefits of being an innie.
Can definitely relate to this, too. I usually sense the relationship dynamics in a couple/group. I use this all the time when I’m deciding on accepting/rejecting a job offer and I have the opportunity to drop by the workplace first. I can tell if I can fit in with the culture or not. This skill has also enabled me to be wiser in knowing when to speak and when not to, and which topics may be sensitive to talk about, and who are those I can fully trust. I’m not always right, of course, but I make it a point to hone this skill.
I don’t know how to start off this so I’m just going to say it. I’m confused. I’m 16, and i’m very observant to who and what’s around me. I basically can understand human behavior. People don’t get me, which leaves me no choice but to distance myself. I don’t want to, but I have to. To protect my feelings. I can see what people are hiding and it sometimes it feels good being the only one who can see people’s problems, and sometimes it doesn’t. To be honest, being the only one who can see these things feels like I speak another language from everyone else. Like no one understands me and I can’t understand anyone else. But I can accept that they can’t see I do. I wanna hear from someone who is just like me.. I feel alone, but I know i’m not.