Here’s the thing about introverts. A lot of people don’t understand our ‘strange’ behavior. Instead of trying to understand, they usually make assumptions that are way off base. I don’t really blame them.
People see the world through the lens of their own experiences. Since extroverts experience the world very differently than introverts, they are often confused by our actions. The body language and behavior that they interpret as sadness, rudeness, or weirdness could be something totally different for us.
It can be really frustrating to spend your whole life being misunderstood by louder and more outgoing personalities. These people try to give you all sorts of labels: the shy one, the strange one, the loner, the nerd, the homebody. When someone tells you who or what you are enough times, you start to believe them. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
It’s time for introverts to take back our identity. One of the ways we can do this is by helping extroverts to understand us. That’s why I’m setting the record straight by decoding some of our most confusing behaviors.
5 Strange Introvert Behaviors Decoded
Introverts can be like magicians. One moment you see us and then, poof, we’re gone. Contrary to popular belief, our disappearing acts usually have nothing to do with us being rude, angry, or depressed. We don’t hate you, we just need some space to recharge and hear our own thoughts.
Giving you the silent treatment
When an introvert goes quiet it can mean something entirely different from an extrovert doing so. Talking and socializing in general are draining for introverts. Going quiet is a way of preserving what little energy we have left.
Also, we don’t tend to speak just for the sake of filling empty air space. We talk when we have something of value to say and recognize that sometimes silence is better than empty chatter.
“Hello, earth to Michaela.” This was something I heard a lot when I was younger and I zoned out frequently. I was like a robot that suddenly went into low power mode, body frozen in place, eyes glazed, mouth sealed shut.
It was almost as if I was meditating in the middle of a conversation. Now I see that zoning out is my brain’s way of taking a break when it’s overstimulated by too much socializing. I also zone out when I’m bored.
I can only imagine the assumptions people make when I’m staring blankly into space like a zombie. The word “serial killer” comes to mind. Hopefully they realize I’m not planning murder, I’m just daydreaming.
Avoiding small talk
Introverts go to great lengths to avoid small talk. I can see how our efforts might be seen as strange. We give one word answers in the hopes that our lack of engagement will end the small talk ambush. Instead, our behaviour is often misinterpreted as an invitation for overly chatty extroverts to tell us their life story.
We might also ask questions that make small talkers feel uncomfortable:
Small talker: “It sure was sunny today.”
Introvert: “Yeah, so do you believe in life after death?”
We’re not trying to weird you out. We just want to have a meaningful conversation instead of talking about things no one really cares about.
Being overly guarded
A lot of people think that introverts are guarded because we’re shy or we’re jerks. But our crossed arms and closed off vibe aren’t necessarily signs that we’re mean or angry. We’re just protecting our energy, saving it for people we can trust and with whom we can be ourselves.
What do you think?
Can you relate to the ‘strange’ behavior that’s often misunderstood? Share your comments below if you like. And if you would like to receive introvert articles, confidence lessons, and ebooks I don’t share on the blog, join my mailing list. You’ll also get a free Introvert Connection Guide.
This fits so well except I know people who are even more introverted than I am whom I struggle to communicate with. What gives?
I know what you mean, Lauren. A lot of introverts find it tough to communicate with other introverts.
Those are the strange behaviors? I keep a snorkel by my tub so I can fully submerge myself for long periods of time. And that’s just the beginning.
I can relate to this. I’ve done all of these things. The funny thing is we introverts can and will view others through an extroverted lens as well and wonder what’s up with another introvert because they stop talking or just disappear. Thinking in introverted terms is not the norm as I think we have all been conditioned to see others through the extrovert lens. I’ve had INFPs think I hate them if I go a day of not resdily responding to a conversation, when in fact I’ve just been over stimulated and it’s not because of them. I often get tired of explaining myself to others. Being understood seems like a far off distant place.
I can completely relate! Even down to the part about explaining myself. That gets tiring very quickly. Sometimes I go M.I.A. for 2-3 days, just to recharge. It’s nothing against my family or friends, but I feel that I’m a better (and much kinder) person overall when I get that time to myself. Otherwise if I’m around people too much without any breaks in between, I’m no fun to be around, can be very short with my answers when a billion questions are thrown at me in social settings, I have low energy, and am just tired. Now that I’m learning more about myself and the signs of needing alone time, I’ve been more intentional in saying “no, this weekend I’m not making any plans” or “I’m only going out these days this week so I recharge on this day, and this day”. It’s really been helpful.
It is hard for me to even leave a comment. I would rather be left alone most of the time.
Hahaha well thanks for deciding to leave a comment. 😉
I LOVE all of the comments. Which shouldn’t surprise anyone as we’re all known to be very good at written communication.
As far as being social, it’s pretty rare. My favorite is when acquaintances acknowledge how nice it is of me to grace them with my presence. WTH??
Until I confirmed I was an INFJ, I felt like a complete outsider just about my entire life. When asked by friends, I often say my life feels like a Seinfeld episode (awkward at best).
Here’s the greatest… my high school yearbook voted people “the most…” and I still cannot believe I was identified and ultimately chosen “the most laidback!” Is this a joke? I’m just hiding my very uptight type A personality!!!
I can relate James,I also prefer to be left alone,unfortunately at work ,I have to deal with people all day and it seems that it’s not only work shit but personal problems aswell they seem to be drawn to me like I m some sort of magnet
This article helped me so much, Michaela! The paragraph that said “This was something I heard a lot when I was younger and I zoned out frequently. I was like a robot that suddenly went into low power mode, body frozen in place, eyes glazed, mouth sealed shut.” My report cards almost always said “Nora day dreams a lot”. I did and I still do! I was so tired of the classroom chaos!
The other point you made about people who chat endlessly hit home, too. I didn’t realize why I hate being cornered by non-stop talkers. Now I know! Thank you!!
omg u hit the head on the head lauren u just described me too a tee im exactly like u mentioned in this article my friends and family think im nuts Moody as they say
EXACTLY: Although the pure frustration of being caught in those situation where in extraverts are literally blind to body language; it’s sometimes staggering.
Being natural empaths, it is really hard to always be prepared to be…eh…more direct KNOWING many extraverts DO, INDEED, misunderstand. They have little empathy for introverts’ needs because they, themselves, do not share those needs. There for, there is NO source of empathy…maybe sympathy if you spell it out (cringe)…but no empathy because it’s generally not in their personal experience.
Catch an extravert in a state of overwhelm from “too much is enough” while they themselves find a rare situation where in even THEY are outdone….THEN they might say…”Ah HA! So that is what (known Introvert) was talking about!” That’s Empathy!
Since Introverts have probably tried fitting in by running themselves through the short circuiting process of extroversion, we generally have that experience (Empathy)…which it is why it’s so hard to really cut to the chase to spell it out (which kind hurts someone that truly doesn’t understand how their joy isn’t a great source of joy to us). On a small scale, that makes us unique. Big picture? It’s all human stuff.
Boundaries 101: Setting boundaries is a source of teaching…and it’s not even the hardest lesson (so it’s called 101…not advanced 105 with a lab).
We’ll get there. Stay in Class, and be the teacher and the learner. We all have something to learn just as we all have something to teach.
Great article! I can totally relate. I’m making this into a hand-out to share so others ‘get me!’ 🙂
This sounds just like me! It’s something I worry about a lot. I feel embarrassed about being like this. I feel uncomfortable most of the time when I have to communicate with others.
I used to work in an open plan office which was just excruciating. Luckily I’m self-employed now.
I really feel I need some help with communication skills. I just don’t really talk. I feel like I want to be more sociable and enjoy chatting to people and have better relationships with people.
What can I do?
I’m an INFP.
Katy: Practice. Accept opportunity to be more open and out there. Be willing to fail and feel completely dumb as you imagine how people are judging you (they might be…or..they could really just resent having to be away from their own lives). Over time…it DOES get easier. Will you be a great speaker? (shrug). Getting up nerve to speak is different then being a good speaker. Separately they both take practice and are different skills. Are you willing?
That’s how I did it. I just described my own process with it. And…my goal was the first one…the second one (being a great Orator) is not my super power. That said…I am quite good one on one (hospice nurse).
I did nursing education in a prison for 2.5 years (and they DID also have a hospice there which I did work in at times). My job: Stand up in front of 6-100 nursing staff and proceed to give information. Sometimes correctional staff, too. I was chosen for this job because (cringe) I was the only one that interviewed that actually presented a lesson plan into my interview demonstration (gulp). Being a hospice nurse in a prison is like being an ant at a picnic…SERIOUSLY! Was I liked? NOT at all…I was not “One of us”…too entrenched in my own “Compassionate” perspective.
Did I learn to do it anyway? Yes. Until I figured some things out, I felt every single presentation failed. But over time, I got more courage (even though I still sweat..angsted…). I knew I’d come home when I actually called out a seriously malevolent custody officer heckler and threatened him, in front of his compadres, to go to his superior (and that guys was no BS AT ALL). The Heckler actually shrank before my eyes. And that’s when I left the job and the prison never to return. I learned my lesson…in courage…faith. I had no interest in the other changes I saw coming.
And now I can stand up in public and speak my mind…terrified still sometimes…but will do it! I’m not a great speaker…but I can now speak up! LORD! What we do to get where we are! LORD! What does it really mean when we wish for something…and what it actually takes for it to come true!?
PERFECT !!!! THANK YOU :O)
Thank You Michaela for this well-written article. I fully understand and relate to all the comments made here by my fellow-INFJ’s, which are always refreshing to read / listen to.
As an older INFJ, may I make a suggestion that has been missed here: when dealing with extroverts in particular, who are clearly engaging in boring small talk ad infinitum, one has the choice to endure or remove oneself from the situation. All of us have done this, and will continue to do this. But there is another way. If you have just reasonable levels of confidence ( and I know many INFJ’s struggle with this ) coupled with our infamous levels of intuition, judgment and wisdom which ALL INFJ’s have, then simply apologize to the extrovert saying you are not very good at small talk and could we talk about x, y or z? I have found that decent, intelligent extroverts ( of which there are many ) have no problem doing so, and those who are unable or unwilling to engage in conversation more meaningful are best left to continue their small talk with others who are willing to listen. And because the INFJ has apologized, no harm is done. Perhaps a win/ win for both introvert and extrovert or maybe just simple reverse psychology. It works, but have you the confidence to try this out next time?
Dang, Paul! (OMG)!
Operative word: Confidence (self esteem) coupled with our innate super powers (which confidence animates)!
You, My friend…are an alchemist!!
I can relate to the ‘strange’ behavior. I am in med school and I have had a couple of my classmates trying to diagnose me with a psychiatric condition. At one point, I thought I was depressed and I borrowed a book from the library about depression in an attempt to figure out if I was really depressed or not
All very applicable! Especially the ‘ghosting’. I was at a church function a few weeks ago and after the event (whilst all the ladies were noisily chatting in the kitchen), I was sitting by myself in the lounge, reading a book. My pastor came along and asked me why I was sitting there, all alone (as in, is there something wrong?).
Truth to be told, I did go back to the kitchen several times, but excused myself a few times to sit by myself for a few minutes, or look at the books in the library.
That’s a great fantastic post, right on target, spot on. And that describes me exactly. Thanks
I agree with almost everything on the list, except for the sample small talk conversation.
Every meaningful conversation I’ve ever had has started with some pleasantries and small talk. As a hardcore introvert, I’m not all that interested in small talk, but its unbelievably creepy for someone to just launch into a life after death question out the blue. My defences go up instantly and I am suspicious of the person asking me. So cut the extraverts some slack and try not to be so dismissive of converstation which is clearly well meaning, and can sometimes serve as the intro into something deeper.
I think Mark is right, and he’s right because he came through the initial process of running scared from small talk and into “Courage” to sit with it and see…to developing the skill, over time, (probably), founded in courage, to develop and navigate a conversation into what is meaningful. The “Art” (advanced art mind you) of guiding conversation vs. controlling it (which we INFJs loath doing…controlling, for that damn empathy up and smacks us when we try).
As I’ve gotten to know this site, I see it’s purpose: Through the self same empathy we are known for, it is recognized there is a need to acknowledge there is a struggle we all share.
I know for me, had I had this resource during periods of my life when I truly struggled with this, had I had a mentor…a willing partner (for their are FEW willing that have the stamina to sit with someone like us…even amongst our own reclusive numbers) and Shepard. Even a bonafide therapist struggles (Oh…shopping for a therapist…and actually finding one for my particular special needs was like finding a needle in a haystack. I was lucky though. I did find one who was introverted, intuitive…spiritual and didn’t mind my refusals of medications, and what ever boundary I set for myself was honored; not marginalized).
It’s amazing! People who would find their courage more quickly come here. People who have found it…LOVE IT and wished they’d known of it sooner…and can share their insights…like Mark did. It all contributes to the exceleation of learning. It’s all geared for reduction of suffering. Who doesn’t want THAT?
I do feel, with all my INFJ heart, that had I not found help (even though I was one of those who had the ability to help others despite so few able to really help me) I would have not come to where I am now, or would be far far less developed because this INFJ venue…it’s some serious stuff! Word!!!
Nailed it! This is so very true. I got a good laugh out of the ‘Life after death’ convo. Classic.
As a young teenager I was called weird and certainly felt weird. My peers were into boys, clothes and make up. I enjoyed reading. I always felt different in comparison with others. I have never liked being in large groups. On the occasions I have distanced myself, I did so because I needed space or because someone has made me feel uncomfortable.
I embrace my natural introvert today as I have grown in confidence and not ashamed of who I am. Back in the 1990’s I did not even know of the term “introvert” or “extrovert”.
A lot of extroverted types tend to interpret these behaviors (and other common introvert behaviors) as narcissistic , not being a team player, etc. How do you help them understand this is not the case? The struggle…is real, lol. Thanks for writing this!
Mm ghosting thats my specialty…..poof am gone
Michaela, it is so refreshing to read your articles & to know that someone else experiences all the things I do and that it no longer means I am weird – I am simply an introvert and now that I know that, it is so much easier to understand – I used to wonder why the hell I would just zone out when surrounded by too many people and conversations – like help me I am in overload here – I love your articles – Thank you x
You’re welcome, Bernie! 🙂
This is so incredibly accurate. As an introvert we want substance in conversation and small talk as well as long drawn out conversations about meaningless things are just not of interest. I’d rather be by myself or with one close friend rather than a group of people any day. Thanks for your article!
not only do i have infj personality, im also a 22 year old late bloomer…now people think im both weird and immature causing me a lot of pain and depression.
I zone out a lot during conversations and especially in college when my professors are trying to get people to talk. I’ve never been too sure why I do this but this blog explains so much! I also avoid small talk as much as I can because I find it very awkward and wonder why people are trying to make a small conversation.
Hmmm, I definitely do a lot of these things, but I try to be intentional about making it known why I’m withdrawing or “shutting down”. I may be a borderline mind-reader but I’ve learned to accept that most people are not and therefore need explicit information.
My partner is very chatty and whenever I kind of close down, he gets all concerned and asks if I’m okay or if I’m mad. Nope, just charging my batteries dude. Now please be quiet. 🙂
“they usually make assumptions that are way off base. I don’t really blame them.”
I blame people for being stupid,ignorant and judging.
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you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers such
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At all times follow your heart.
I usually zone out because it feels natural to me and also because I’m shy…
First off I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick
question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to find
out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing.
I’ve had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my ideas out.
I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15
minutes tend to be lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints?
I’m so thankful to all extroverted people in the world. Because of you, we have a friendly environment, because of you, we mingle together, and because of you, our social activities are staying alive. Can you imagine living with full of introverted people? No talks, all cross their arms to guard them, all street are shut off after 5 pm, no bars, no loud music, no parties !!!!! We extroverts always initiate conversation, always initiate movement and fill the street with live energy which introverts would love to breathe in. But it’s ok. As long as we can live together, we can share our energy.
Todo es correcto ;:9
I met a girl, she said she is very introvert. We talk everyday, then she went missing. Left my text seen. But she still have time to upload stories and met her friends. I think thats rude.
No matter how introvert and how shy you are. You dont talk to me ask me things then you ghost. I am here however, still couldnt understand why. I liked her soo much but no thanks.
Let’s not forget that we live in a world with other human beings with (implicit or explicit) agreements about social behaviour. Being an introvert doesn’t excuse one from behaving politely just because…
Not all introverts are alike. Just like not all extroverts are alike. The “recharging batteries” is different for every individual. If you shutdown on someone during a meaningful conversation it could mean anything. For some it’s boredom. For others the world evolves around you. Many introverts are self centered. Not necessarily a bad thing. But true. You have to love yourself to love anyone else. Some introverts suffer from depression or anxiety. Others don’t. Many introverts can have moments of being more of an extrovert. Others may never. The point is do not compare yourself to other introverts because you are uniquely you. Introverts often overthink things because we need emotional stimulation. For many of us it’s our source of energy. Not something that drains us. Nobody can drain your energy. You do that to yourself. Period. And it’s perfectly okay.