Telling others you are an introvert is often more difficult than it sounds. Despite the recent surge in books, websites and articles about this topic, many people still have no clue what introversion is. Or worse, they have bought into unflattering introvert stereotypes.
Many misguided souls still believe that all introverts are shy, antisocial weirdos who don’t know how to interact with other humans. So. Not. True.
The fact that there is such widespread ignorance about introversion makes the task of telling others we are introverted more intimidating. Despite this, I remain a strong advocate for spreading the word about introversion.
I regularly tell people I’m an introvert either in conversation or by directing them to this blog. Reactions have ranged from, “oh, cool” to “a whosa-whatsa-vert?” to “maybe I can help fix you”.
Lately I’ve encountered a new and very interesting response. Some of my most extroverted friends have replied by stating that they think they are introverts too. Umm … no, definitely not, but nice try.
I find this reaction encouraging because it means that they don’t think introversion is an inferior orientation. They actually want to be part of the introvert club.
Of all the times I’ve told people I’m introverted, one occasion will forever stand out in my mind. While I was traveling through New Zealand a few months ago, I joined forces with a posse of friendly travelers.
For two days in a row, I played the role of hardcore tourist with my new friends. We explored, we wondered, we saw sights and chased adventures. Every hour was enthusiastically saturated with new experiences.
By the end of the second day I was utterly exhausted. Feeling drained and irritable, I began to withdraw into my own inner world. I didn’t have a single ounce of energy left for chit chat and social pleasantries.
If I were to draw a diagram of my energy levels, they would have been in the dangerously low, about to self-destruct, red zone.
While en-route from a local hookah bar to a dance club, one of the other travelers questioned my behavior. He pointed out that I wasn’t talking to anyone and I seemed to have put up an invisible wall.
I tried to explain to him that I was an introvert. Big mistake. This man came from a highly extroverted culture where introverts are likely burned at the stake (okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea).
Introversion was a completely foreign concept to him. After a brief pause accompanied by a look of disdain, he continued to press me about my behavior.
Then it happened. Beep beep beep self-destruct sequence initiated. Without even the hope of stopping them, tears began streaming down my face.
And there I was, balling my eyes out in front of a near stranger while four other near strangers watched from about 50 feet ahead.
Despite the mortifying outcome of this situation, I don’t regret trying to explain my introversion to my new friend. My big mistake was attempting to do so while in a fragile state.
In fact, this experience is what inspired me to start Introvert Spring. Because the more people know about introversion, the less often we will have to feel alienated and misunderstood. Then hopefully, one day, we won’t have to explain ourselves at all.
That will be the day that the quiet introvert revolution is won, and we can ride off into the sunset with the spoils of respect and acceptance in hand.
Wow, what an asshole. What happened after that? How did he react when you cried? How did the others react? Did you stay with them after that? And as a New Zealander, I’m sorry that happened in my country, even though it doesn’t sound like he was from there. What places did you go to?
Actually, I meant to include in there that this man is actually a very kind and generous person and I hold no grudge against him. He really didn’t mean to hurt my feelings. He was simply very ignorant about introversion. He felt terrible when I cried and immediately explained that he thought I was a really lovely person and he enjoyed my company. What really felt like bullying on my side was actually a sincere attempt to understand me. The others asked if I was alright and behaved awkwardly around me the rest of the night. We were in Auckland so we visited Waiheke Island (soooo beautiful) and another little island I forget the name of. We also explored the downtown area, went to some cafes and an Irish Pub.
I’m from Auckland! Was Rangitoto the other island? Or Kawau or Tiritirimatangi?
Actually, I think it was technically part of the mainland, but we still had to take a ferry there.
I’m sorry to hear about that experience. That’s upsetting for anyone and certainly a sensitive introvert. I’m a melancholic introvert and I feel constantly misunderstood. The world is extraverted biased. Introverts are deep, thoughtful, contemplate and sensitive. Some people say to me, “She is sensitive and gets upset” but I say there is no reason for people to be “insensitive and hurtful”. This gentleman did not approach you in a kindly manner but was out to convert his “extroversion”. I have always thought I was inhibited but as a young child I have liked my “own company”. I disliked socialising in large groups, find small chat cumberson and boring. I do love however one-on-one’s and things I’m interested, particularly philosophical thought. You can’t stop me talking. I’m a good listener too. My challenge is family social occasions where everyone is talking and there is a lot of activity. I just want to go off into my own corner or try to find someone to talk on a one-on-one basis. Finding out there is nothing wrong with me has been liberating. I’ve punished myself thinking there is was something deficient in me – now I realize I’m just a Melancholic not Sanguine (Extravert) Introvert on the far continuum.
Oh my. Yes! That’s what happened to me at my sister’s graduation. A bunch of family we hadn’t seen for years, but had been dying to see were there. And, well, it turns out I couldn’t handle it all that day ’cause not only were there many extroverts, but I was feeling like complete shizznits for not bringing myself to openly talk to the ones I so badly wanted to talk to. I don’t feel this is part of my introversion, though. I’ve been an introvert since I was very young and had a lot of people tell me I’m quiet, ask why I’m quiet…etc. Then went through depression at 13. A cousin I hadn’t been very close to died the year before, so that didn’t help. Even though we weren’t close, I still cried a lot.
You know, I had no idea I was an introvert until recently. I thought I had social anxiety actually!
Now that I have more information, I’m trying to let the people in my life know what my deal is. lol. I’m sure they’ve been wondering for a long time. 😉 Hopefully they accept the way I am without trying to help me out of it!
How do you say, “I like hanging out with you and visiting you, but not for really long periods of time.” without it hurting someones feelings?
It is really amazing how discovering you are an introvert can completely change how you view yourself! I had a similar experience, which I share in this post: //introvertspring.com/?p=67#sthash.IN4ZtbGB.dpbs . I think once people understand that you are an introvert, they are less likely to be offended when you need to escape for some alone time.
I actually think that in the long run it helps others to say to them that you don’t want to hang out for at long time. As long as you make it clear that it has nothing to do with them, but is all about you taking care of your own needs. Yes, it is difficult to say. And they may not understand/believe you at first. But eventually I think most people will, when they experience how much better you seem to be doing when taking care of your needs. People may not be aware of it, but deep down it’s probably not very nice or as much fun to be around somebody who really doesn’t wan’t to be around at that time.
Thanks Anja. Well stated. Indeed, everyone benefits when introverts are given the space needed to recharge 🙂 .
During a recent family trip to Rome, I was completely overwhelmed with jet lag and trying to navigate unfamiliar streets with two small, overtired, and hyperactive children. We were visting a part of Rome that I really wanted to see, but I hadn’t had time to absorb any of it. I had just about totally shut down, and my husband noticed something was wrong. I told him I was on overload and we promptly found a nice quiet place to have lunch. He doesn’t always get the introvert thing, but I was so so so grateful that at least that one time, he did. It really made all the difference. I’m glad for your blog; it’s important for everyone (not just introverts!) to speak up and let others know what we need, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Thank you, Beth. And thanks for sharing your experience. Travel and children combined would drain any introvert quickly. I’ve been staying with a friend and her hubby and two babies for the past week in Bogota, Colombia. I’m astonished at how much work young children are! Everything takes longer and requires a lot of preparation. No wonder you were on overload!
How about sharing introversion with people who don’t believe you? I hear, “No way, you talk a lot and can easily get along with others. You aren’t an introvert.”
You raise a good question, Joy. I also get a similar response from people who haven’t spent a lot of time with me – especially people who have seen me dancing salsa (I used to compete and perform a lot). I usually start off by saying the main defining trait of an introvert is that we are drained by a lot of stimulation and socializing. So, although we might enjoy some seemingly extroverted activities, we need smaller doses at a time 🙂 .
Just wanted to say that I ADORED your article! I bursted so many times into spontaneous laughter imagining how things played out for you in NZ. I backpack quite a bit and can relate to your experience. Sometimes it’s almost like I spend the whole day exploring a new place alone so that I am sufficiently charged up to deal with all the extroverts who NEEDS to talk when I get back to the hostel at night! =D
Thank you so much, Justin! Indeed, you definitely need to have a full tank to deal with the extroverted atmosphere of hostels. I can only handle two or max three days in a row in one. Mind you, I did find a really quiet hostel in Panama City that was full of middle-aged European men. I call it the introvert hostel 😉 .
Nice article, I spent the last 3 years in college being shunned as a party pooper or shy person and something that can be fixed. I had a few close friends with me but they accept me as is but didn’t understood the reason behind my actions.
I liked some introvert pages on facebook and posted on one, next day I received flak from my classmates. “Just be yourself” screw that extroverts.
I really want to tell them that you cannot fix what is not broken; Do so anyway and you break us in the process.
I’m from the Philippines and introverts here are not welcome.
Thank you for sharing your experience, Kim. And I’m glad you mentioned how introverts are received in the Philippines. I feel that in Western cultures, introversion is only just beginning to be understood and accepted. It seems that a lot of other cultures are even less introvert friendly.
I’m from Philippines too. Some like me being honest, but im friendless and i have some bad experience with extrovert woman too.Onetime my sister in baptist church show her dislike of me because I am not look so happy around with our brothers and sisters and i’ve heard her saying “others” to me, i was hurt and remain quiet, im a man who don’t get angry easily .So now im not going in baptist church anymore…
and im happy being alone. Im so glad I finally knew one introverts here in Philippines, and hoping many more.
very helpful note! it is much harder to share wnd get accepted in new groups who cannot accept ant difference and might easily define it as being disrespectful to them when it is not..like dealing with in_laws at. first..or moving to a new place..that I am about to, so there are lots of stra-gers around you! it is really difficult to tell people about it as they think it could be a strange sort of behaviour and a sort of disorder! 😀 although in my. opinion many of them have this supressed introvert sIDE so much hidden in their personality that they will never know thst part of themselves unfortunately..
Hi Mansoureh. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that telling people you’re an introvert is especially relevant in new environments. In-laws would be tough! Have you actually told your in-laws you’re an introvert yet? I’m curious to know how that would play out.
thanks Michaela. no way! I have been trying to be figured out instead, but I guess that is rather impossible since I myself have recently figured it out completely..I was on the verge of communicating something like that to one of them when she tried to confront me about my trying tto keep a distance all the time, but I didn’t actually..it is really hard..
I have trouble with in laws and my introversion as well. My significant other has a huge family and I seem to be expected to go to a lot of big family lunches and what not and it can be really overwhelming and draining. In fact recently I have skipped out on some of these get togethers cause I felt like I didn’t have the energy, but I had to use the excuse that I was sick. I feel like my significant other’s family thinks I’m weird and I don’t know how to explain to them that I’m introverted and that being expected to go to all these family events is very stressful for me. 🙁
Hi Katie. I can definitely understand how you feel. First of all, even though your in-laws might not understand, it’s important to recognize that you’re not doing anything wrong. Release any feelings of shame or guilt that you have about being protective of your energy and time. I recommend that you or your partner explain to them that you really enjoy their company, but you’re not used to large family gatherings and they really overwhelm you. This way they won’t feel rejected.
Wow. I just read the comments and the part where you cried. I can totally relate to that. Like sometimes I just wanna hang out with my friends for a short period of time and when I get exhausted I start to want to break down.
Thanks, Sarah. I’m glad I’m not the only one. This goes to show that introverts really do NEED alone time to recharge 🙂 .
Oy…I’m so GLAD to read stories like yours because it reminds me I’m as I’m supposed to be, even when I feel otherwise. I went to the extrovert extreme and lived in Asia for two years as an English teacher…Where the most extroverted of extroverts go to booze it up after a 10 hour work day in front of demanding kids, you get paid based on your charisma and every citizen thinks you’re a rock star and openly discusses your every move…All in the name of trying to mold myself into an extroverted ideal that I knew was just beneath the surface. By the first year, I’d alienated all of my friends and loathed even leaving my apartment and hated everyone around me for “making me feel that way.” By the second year I wised up enough to quit before it happened again, despite knowing why and how it was occurring.
It’s hard to generate self-validation when we still have the inborn feeling that others are supposed to give it to us, but I believe that’s the key to being a successful introvert. Recognizing that we still have the desire to embrace societal trends even when they’re wrong. Embracing the wellspring of energy within us and not trying to be a pseudo-extrovert. Write more, please.
Thank you so much for your comments, Earl. Your experience in Asia sounds like an introvert’s worst nightmare (well, at least it is mine)! I love what you said about “embracing the wellspring of energy within us”. Well put. 🙂
I’m an introvert but too shy to admit it.
I’m introverted but too proud to admit it.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Dr. Susan Cain.
There are times when a person has to act outside their comfort zone (introversion in my case) in order to adapt to their environment (my job: very extroversion oriented) if they are to survive. (i.e. not get fired) I’m right there with you; I have to work with and depend on extroverted ADHD types on a daily basis. There are times when I ask myself why I put myself through it, but then I realize that I’ve grown in so many ways despite the headaches they give me.
Job pays pretty good too.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Paul. 🙂
I have a cousin who is an extrovert described her kids as “antisocial” on Christmas Eve last year right in front of them. Since then I have been trying to figure out how to tell her that her kids are probably introverts and not future serial killers. This has to be done delicately so as not to offend which I seem to do a lot with my extended family.
Introversion runs in the family and I know her brother was very introverted as a child in fact he mirrored me as a child and we are about twenty years apart in age and never met until I was in my twenties. I watched her kids and they seemed introverted to me, but how do I tell her this. Any suggestions?
Kellie, that is a good question. If I feel timid about telling people about introversion, I direct them to a really good article or blog post. Then at least they are a bit familiar with the topic before I delve into it with them in conversation. Anyone else have suggestions?
As an introverted person, looking for answers in the world wide web to the “who am I” question, I found myself reading this blog and enjoying it. A big thank you!
I would like to say how dangerous can be (to me) the fact that even shyness is condemned as a weakness or illness in the introverted community (our world). Because the feel of guilty can appear easily after that, guilty to behave shy and then guilty to be a introverted.
Is an introverted person “fixing” shyness just pretending that is an extroverted? Why condemn shyness if we’re not hurting anybody?
I would like to read what do you think about that.
Great comments, David. I agree that shyness is too readily condemned in our society. I believe that we should only change what is not working for us. If you don’t like being shy, it is entirely possible to change that.
I have a very extroverted friend who wants to take me on as a “project” and try to fix me. I tried to explain the whole introvert thing to her, but I don’t think she gets it. Maybe I should point her to this website. 🙂 I’ll go along with her up to a point, as it’s also a good chance to do a little self discovery that I probably wouldn’t have done without her. I’m sure at some point along the way the line will be drawn in the sand.
Oh dear. I’ve been a “project” before. Yes, send her over here, and maybe she’ll realize that you don’t need fixing :).
Consider myself spiritual, yes, highly. To answer your great question.
I’ve come to see that I am an introvert, not shy as labeled and not broken, thank you very much. In truth, I’d not want to be an extrovert, often not thinking before speaking about anyone or thing without need, gossip and backstab their own extroverted friend (if someone does this, imagine what is said when you are not there, in other words, not a true friend) and believing their way is the ‘right way’. I’ve always sat back, looked at the conversation and situation and decide if I want to participate or have something to add depth to the topic. On the other hand, as much as I’m an introvert, I enjoy participating in events that draw huge crowds, though physically challenged, I do marathons, triathlons, concerts and comic con this week 🙂 I also realize my direct interaction with any e ndividual is not likely, I’m feeding on the venue :). I can do it as long as the attention is a focused rather than no focus, and with big events me being the center is not
Ikely :D. I do public speaking for disability awareness and sensitivity for nursing and hospital staff and introversion is on my list. It’s misunderstood and merits discussion to dispell myths often held.
It’s just like in the 50s when they tried to break south paws/left handed people (my brother) and forcing them to use their right. It’s Not Broke! The world needs introverts!! We are articulate, smart, sensitive and capable of great feats many extroverts only dream of.
My spirituality is a big part of my recharging and I cherish it. Crafts, cooking and sports when able are part of it. But when it’s time to stop I close the door and shut the world out.
Ok, how many notice even sitting in a room with an extrovert can set you off? My daughter is also introverted and she can hang with me anytime!!
I have a saying, Give me a friend I can be silent with…
What a story! When I think of telling people that I am an innie here in Croatia…. where people spend 8 hours at cafes daily and their vacation sticked together like glue and live with their big families until they get married… I think that they would all have a good laugh and tell me to grow up! LOL
I don’t usually find telling people I am an introvert difficult. Especially since I have found that it really helps my well-being, performance and cooperation with colleagues at work. I still have to always explain that being an introvert has nothing to do with being shy, but with what gives energy (being alone) and what costs energy (being around people) and people are often surprised because I seem very social (which most people equate with extraversion). After I’ve explained, most colleagues accept my preference for one-on-one-or-a-few meetings over large meetings (they will get more feedback from me that way) and realize that my being more silent during large meetings than other doesn’t mean that I am not participating and considering all that’s going on and that I will speak up when my viewpoint is needed and important.
And at the end of the day and/or week I am happy to leave all that socializing at the office and be as alone as I want and need to be (completely, usually). I feel good with that balance and by telling people about my introversion I hope to have contributed to general acceptance of people that are different. And that there’s nothing wrong with being different.
I don’t want to but I know I need to talk to people about being an introvert. I work with a lot of engineers so I’m sure a lot of them are introverts. However, being an introvert is very personal to me. If I talk to someone about it then it’s a very personal conversation to me. Nonetheless, I think talking about it will help me feel more comfortable with myself. I’ve done lots of reading about the topic and read through many of these blogs, so I’m knowledgeable about the topic. I keep reading over and over that it’s okay to be that way, treasure your inner strengths, embrace your introverted-ness, but it still does not feel right. Maybe it will one day.
It’s me again. I’m starting to discuss introversion w/my coworkers, friends and even my extroverted wife! The world certainly needs to be educated. I’m a Toastmaster too and have begun delivering speeches about extroverts vs. introverts. I’m realizing that it’s not as scary as I originally thought to talk about this topic and results in some very interesting conversations. I’ve posted several of Michaela’s infographics posters on my cubical wall. People stop and ask about them. (Notice: I work in an open cubical designed for extroverts and not a nice, private office w/a door designed for introverts.) I live in Houston, TX. That’s a big city. I’ve got a lot of work to do!
Oh man I know this. I’ve been there so many times.
Well, I am past the early days of family adaptation (in-laws didn’t care for my introversion… decades have passed.) But now I have grandchildren.
Let me just say: I adore my children and grandchildren. I am almost always the one to have big family dinners at my house. My husband (extrovert from a very extroverted Italian family) expects that there is nothing I would love more. My kids love to see each other, my grand kids love to see each other, and we LOVE to see them all.
HOWEVER, when we are all here together (and I am with people that I absolutely adore – every one of them!) I feel just horrible. I want to hide. There is just so much noise, so much activity, so much food, so much everything. I often marvel that I can want to get away from people I love so much. It takes me an entire week to recover.
Although I am pretty used to my own introversion I do wonder if there is something wrong with me when I find myself both dreading AND looking forward to these gatherings.
When i try telling my people i am an introvent i have to start from explaining the term ‘introvent ‘ . I just wish this word would be known worldwide so i don’t have to explain it every time …
I’m an introvert who married an introvert 2nd time around and we have two introverted children. In our family people are encouraged to put themselves into time-out whenever they need it; I realised how successful we had been when my 14-year-old step-daughter said “I would love to come with you to ride your horse – unless you need to be by yourself.” Totally blessed.
Being an introvert is very personal to me. If I talk to someone about it then it’s a very personal conversation with me. Nonetheless, I think talking about it will help me feel more comfortable with myself.
i am not an introvert but now i have someone in my life who is an introvert. I really want to understand him n i don’t want to loose him as well.. that doesn’t mean i want him to change infect am ready to accept him the way he is.. but if he don’t share his feelings with me how m i suppose to know the matter.. all of a sudden he goes quite n next day he starts to talk… its getting hard for me… i really want this relation to go far…
Just recently I was thinking about what would be the best way to tell people that I’m introverted. I seemed to have spent a lot of my life explaining myself to people and then finding I had to also defend my explanations and sometimes this was not only annoying, but also very mentally tiring. A lot of the reactions I got from other people were so full on and sometimes bordered on aggression that I felt like I was under siege.
However, just recently, this idea popped into my head. At first it was just a bit of a joke for myself, but now it’s looking like such a good idea, I just might go through with it. I’m going to get ‘business’ cards printed up with one side dedicated to some the positive things – to other people – about me being introverted and on the other side some of the negative stuff that I don’t want to hear from them about me being introverted. Maybe I’ll have a line in bright red letters saying, “I don’t need to be fixed or cured or counselled, thanks very much!”
So, when that awkward moment arrives when I’m invited to something I’m never going to turn up for or, even worse, being asked why I didn’t turn up to a recently passed social event, I’ll just whip out my card and hand it to the other person. Maybe I’ll ask them to walk away before they read it, so we both avoid an even more awkward moment when the other person is trying to work out how to react to the card. That way they’ll have the option to not having to ever come anywhere near me again! lol
I totally understand those situations and I am glad to find someone out there who actually understands because they’ve been through it and not just say they understand but to get over it if I want to stay at a job or improve or succeed in life etc. I have had a lot of hardship because I didn’t even know I am an introvert until the beginning of last year and I thought there was something wrong with me. I am having trouble with my friend and I was wondering if you could give me advice on how to go about it? she is an extrovert with some introvert tendencies and she is saying i’m not being a good friend, which a part of me is screaming ‘yes I am not’