Over a year ago, I wrote an article on introverted leadership. Much to my surprise, many people wrote and affirmed the sentiments I expressed. Many of them were introverts who felt misunderstood and often relegated to lesser opportunities because of their reticent personalities.

I understand. I am an introvert.

In the article, I offered some suggestions to introverted leaders to help us navigate what we perceive to be a noisy and energy-draining world. Now I want to address those who are not introverts. You are the people who have to work with us, live with us, and interact with us. Perhaps you even get frustrated with us. And while we introverts can certainly do more on our part, I hope these eight statements will help you understand us a little bit better.

  1. Our aversion to small talk can make us appear rude. Okay, maybe we are rude. When someone asks us how we are doing, we really don’t believe most people want to know how we are doing. If someone tells us that they are so glad to see us, we have our doubts. As a result, our responses are often not warm or chatty.
  2. We value close friendships. We may do poorly connecting to tons of people, but we connect well to those we consider close friends. Indeed we tend to be extremely loyal. We introverts often process relationships mentally and emotionally. If we find a loyal friend, we treasure the relationship as a precious gift. If we perceive someone uses us or is disloyal to us, we struggle greatly with that person. Indeed some would say we have an “off switch” for those persons.
  3. We like to have a reason to talk. Some people are surprised to discover certain people are introverts because they have witnessed the introvert engaged in a lively conversation. When an introvert is truly engaged, he or she is talking about something that evokes his or her passion. It is a fallacy to say introverts don’t like to talk. We just like to have a meaningful purpose to our conversations.
  4. Meetings and public interaction don’t really bother us; long meetings and long public interaction do. Think of an introvert as an automobile with a tank of fuel. The longer we are in meetings or similar settings, the more fuel is depleted. At some point we run out of fuel and become almost non-functional. We can only get refueled and refreshed by moving to a more private setting.
  5. Don’t assume we introverts don’t like to have fun. Most of us do have fun. We typically enjoy cutting up with people we know and trust. And our idea of a fun place for relaxation or vacation is typically a quiet and out-of-the-way spot. I must admit that my love for college football is an exception to this pattern.
  6. We are not always quick to speak. Sometimes our reticence can make us look thoughtful; at other times we may appear to be clueless. We are often processing information and the environment of the moment. We tend to be especially aware of the feelings of others who may be present.
  7. We like written communication. We often tune out long-winded explanations and reports. Countless times in my life I have said, “Let me see that in writing.” That gives me the time to process the information and reflect upon it. By the way, we introverts really do like written affirmation in cards, letters, and emails. That tends to be one of our love languages.
  8. You can’t fix us introverts. Our introversion is not a disease that needs a cure. For the most part, we like our personalities and have no desire to be like the extrovert. Spouses who try to change introverts into extroverts have an uphill battle and a likely conflicted marriage.

Of course, all of this information is the perspective of an introvert to the rest of the world. I do not mean to imply that everyone should adjust to us. We have to make our own adjustments to communicate and function in this world.

Are you an introvert? Do you have to work or live with introverts? What do you think of my eight insights?

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Comments

  1. Emily Terry says

    You nailed it with this blog! I am already emailing some of my friends and co-workers so they can see a perfect description of me.
    From one introvert to another: thank you!

  2. says

    Dr. Rainer,
    Thanks for the thoughts. I am a pretty well-defined INTJ who started a fundraising coaching firm two years ago with a college friend who is an ISFJ. I have found that the Thinking vs. Feeling trait is more pronounced than the Introvert vs. Extrovert trait. I’m curious about whether you are T or F and if you find this trait showing up more than you think. My business partner is naturally an Introvert, but his Feeling trait drives him to connect with people, sympathize with them, and communicate effectively. However, as a fellow Introvert, my Thinking trait puts me square in the categories you describe above. Thanks again for sharing.

  3. Joey Rosas says

    Thom, I am married to an introvert and one of my closest friends is an introver. Thank you for the “gentle” reminder. Joey

  4. rkburns28 says

    It’s scary how well you know me! Even the College Football exception! lol
    Thank you for this! It will help me and those who work with me!

  5. Sandee Wiggins says

    Thanks for so clearly expressing the things that those who work with me need to understand. I’ve never been able to voice it so eloquently.

  6. Thom Rainer says

    Kiley –
    I am an INTJ. You are likely on to something in differentiating introverts. I appreciate your insights. You have me thinking even more!

  7. says

    You got it right Dr. Rainer! I might add that introverts gain energy in our time alone in contemplative time or alone. Interaction with others especially in a crowd tends to drain the introvert. On the other hand, extroverts tend to gain energy from a group or crowd of people.

  8. Ron E says

    Thank you! I have been a pastor for 23 years and my introversion has been a hindrance often by being misunderstood. I came to several of the same conclusions and helps you have, but you added a few good ones.
    These were very helpful! I forwarded both articles to some key people in my life.

    • B says

      Dr. Rainer,

      Thank you for this post. I look forward to reading more of your works. Accepting myself as an introvert and undoing the inadvertent damage from extroverted instruction has been life-changing. Articles like this help me explain it to others who are put of by the term “Introvert.” Seems to me it is widely misunderstood. This article helped me communicate to someone who is in his 60’s the enlightenment I received now at 26. I thought I was late discovering and embracing this about myself – but now I am learning there are multitudes of other’s who are still confused as I was. Thank you for using your talent for others. God bless.

      -B

  9. Jamie Harris says

    Wow, that describes me so exactly. It was a nice feeling to have someone “get it” and explain it in such great terms. Thank you!

  10. Paige Szajnuk says

    Yes; yes; yes. I am an introvert and this is exactly how I feel, act, respond, etc. One thing I hear consistently, even from my own family members who have known me for years, is this: “You’re so serious all the time; why don’t you relax and enjoy life more?” I honestly don’t know why they ask this and/or how they expect me to respond. These are people who have seen me laugh and genuinely enjoy life at times. Anyone else deal with this??

  11. CJ says

    I am an introverted female pastor. Triple wammy. I agree with much of what you said, although for me, there are nuances to how I engage with the length of meetings. As long as I know the purpose for the meeting, and I can see that it is progressing in that direction, the length of time in a meeting doesn’t matter. There have been many times in which I’ve seen my extroverted colleagues fidget more; rather than being drained per se, their energy forces a need to “escape” as soon as the meeting begins to wind down.
    For me, worse is a short meeting from which I leave feeling like nothing has been accomplished. I then have to further “extrovert myself” to find out the info I need in order to do my job. That’s not to say that I’m only task-oriented: It’s helpful for me to know if a brainstorming/dreaming meeting is such, versus a planning-for-this-week, versus trouble-shooting a particular issue that has arisen, versus a “How’re we all doing, for real?” meeting. I am able to then prepare and process my introverted expectations for the appropriate setting.

  12. Stacy says

    We need more recognition and understanding. Thank you. There is a great book called The Introvert Advantage that I found very empowering. We may only make up about 25% of the population, but then, rubies wouldn’t be worth so much if you could find them on every corner would they? ;)

  13. L Johnson says

    A must “must read,” and then re-read again at different times in your life, is Spirit-Controlled Temperament by Dr. Tim LaHaye.

  14. Candi Gimroth says

    THANK YOU so very much for sharing this! It is encouraging and brings a sense of freedom to really be who I was created to be…and ACCEPT it! I know from the inner most part of my being that God, my Heavenly Father loves me and understands me but so much of the time I have not loved or accepted me. I will be reading more on this…thank you!

  15. THMoller says

    Can I add one? See if this resonates.
    As introverts we are surprised at how much we desire to be around other people. We do desire to have friends in our homes. When we have many friends gathered at our home our first inclination is to find a corner, sit and watch and enjoy the activity, without speaking a word. Usually we don’t do that because, after all, this is at our home so we find things to do to serve our friends rather than engage in conversation. With so many people milling around deep conversations are hard to sustain. So we make ourselves busy so we don’t have to engage in small talk and answer the question, “What have you been up to?”. We man the barbecue or clean up after our guests. This busy service masks our lack of wanting to small-talk with the others we invited to our home. Introverts love irony.

  16. Dani says

    Wow. Nailed it! Especially the written communication part! When there’s a confrontation of sorts between my husband and I, I REALLY prefer to write it out and for him as well. It’s SO hard for me to “think on demand”, if you will, and get across what I’m trying to say the way I mean it. Did you follow that? Ha.
    This is a great article! Sending it to my husband, because he still has a hard time understanding me after 10 years… :) a little refresher.
    Thanks!

  17. says

    Thank you for this understanding article! You described both my husband and I! And by God’s grace, we’ve been married for 36 years. As a retired Navy Chief, I was told over the years that it would not be possible to be “me” and lead as an introvert. I believe that through abiding in Christ, that was proved incorrect. I truly hope and pray that others become acquainted with your book and articles to understand and appreciate the strengths of introverts. I have a ton of weaknesses, but it’s nice to be encouraged now and then :-)

  18. Carl Nicely says

    AMEN.. needed to be said,but I am about 3 notches to the left.. a bit on the extreme side. and it has been a hard path to walk. Anyone for an introvert club? it would be nice and quiet for most of the time. :)

  19. Barb says

    I am an introvert (INTJ). And, I have 3 children who are introverts at varying points on the scale. One thing that I’ve noticed lately is that introverts, because they need to think before they talk will often lose the opportunity to add to a conversation. The extroverts, rather than giving the introvert a little time will jump in and sqelch the introvert and the introvert loses the opportunity to contribute and the group loses the contribution that an introvert could have made.

  20. Casey Walker says

    As I read these, I could not keep the tears from falling from my eyes. I have always thought something was wrong with me in how I am with people, why I always felt drained after being in a crowd, or even painfully shy sometimes in a crowded room.
    I guess the big one is processing. I didn’t understand it but for years, it seemed that while in a discussion with someone they would give me this look, “are you not tracking what I am saying,” when all the while I was thinking what they had said. Or I tell people close to me that it just takes me more time to process things, and I get, “oh no you dont your smarter than that.”
    I am still processing what you wrote here and am thankful that this may have opened up a new life in the Lord for me in seeing myself, maybe for the first time.

    • B says

      Casey,

      I am 26 and I just discovered (or I should say *accepted*) that I am an introvert. I just wanted to reach out to you and say there is nothing wrong with you – and I know what it feels like to think something is wrong or different about yourself.

      Think about this – God LOVES when we spend quiet time with him – I think being an introvert is a HUGE plus in this area (likely *the* most important area) in that we aren’t uncomfortable unplugging and sitting alone with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Introversion is a HUGE strength :)

      God made introverts and extroverts – we just gave it the names. God doesn’t make junk – he gives us all specific strengths and weaknesses.

      Birds have wings to fly – but they don’t have hands and their wings can get heavy. There are limitations to every gift.

      *HUGS* <– Or no hug if you don't like them haha :)

  21. Brian S says

    I think this article hits home for me. I’ve scored 98% introverted on an ocean test and it isn’t that I can’t participate in the “party” or even be the life of the party at times but when I am it’s usually in a smaller group or a group of trusted friends. Although I have to throw in my two cents and say that I don’t think written affirmation is the tendency of an introvert’s love language but it is definitely one of the few options. I think introverts are, to make a more basic assumption, more often limited to non-oral love languages. (I.E. acts of service, physical contact, and written affirmation)

  22. says

    Thanks Thom for your insights. I am amazed whenever a Christian spouse says that God won’t be able to use him/her unless the spouse becomes more extroveted. I also appreciated your mention of the dark side of these characteristics…whether introverted or extroverted we can hide there instead of being in true intimate relationship.

  23. Mike says

    My favorite line:
    “Our introversion is not a disease that needs a cure. For the most part, we like our personalities and have no desire to be like the extrovert. ”

    I’ve always found it interesting that people will say, “Well, it’s just something you have to get over.” I’ve been told by some that introverts can’t be good pastors. In my experiences, the men whom I consider the wisest and most loving shepherds to their flocks have been introverted.

    • Teri says

      Hello, I found this all so interesting, As I am a “introvert” My partner said, ‘I need help because of this. “But, I don’t see it that way. I just like to make my own way. In early years he.( My partner) would push is friend’s wife’s on to me to be friends. I hated that. I like to read and learn, I am not crazy, I just want to be me, and not be hassle all the time about socializing…

  24. Matt says

    At Catalyst last October someone spoke on leading introverts and a light bulb went on…my 3 1/2 year old daughter is an introvert! That’s why this extremely extroverted dad can’t figure her out!!!!
    I appreciate this. You are helping a father understand his daughter from an early age and I pray it helps our relationship for years to come. Ultimately I hope my relationship with her reflects God’s fatherly love so you are providing quite a service here. Thanks!

  25. Dorcas says

    When ever am on an assingment I could look so serious and everyone arround me conclude saying why am I so angry, all I say is but you heard me singing am not angry but it never ends there cause they always feel I have been offened.

  26. Virginia Lopez Grandjean says

    Hello Dr. Rainer, I am the Spanish translator of Bible Studies for Life. I enjoyed so much translating this piece as part of the Summer 2014 series. I am an introvert myself, you see, and I can say Amen to all you said! Thanks!

  27. says

    What a marvelous article!! I found it (thanks to my husband) in this quarter’s adult teacher book for Life Lessons and looked up the link on your blog so I could post it to FB (as an introvert, I adore social media). GREAT stuff — describes me to a “T”! It helped me understand me better, if that makes any sense — or at least how to better *explain* me. :)

    • Thom Rainer says

      Welcome to introverts on social media Denise. We should enjoy not speaking to each other. : )

    • Thom Rainer says

      The article is on May 12, 2011. You can find any of the articles with the search function in the top right of the home page. Thanks.

  28. Enlightened says

    Wow. Perfect description.

    I am a 26 year old female, and have only discovered (OR shall I say *accepted*) I am an introvert this year. I thought to be successful I must be an extroverted person – and yet I find myself feeling like an actor around anyone other than my husband – as I am quite uncomfortable in certain situations where people who don’t know me well would assume I am a fish in water. Thank you for this post, it was well explained. I have a friend who is in his 60s, who I have identified with as a fellow introvert.

    Introvert has such a negative connotation associated with it – as he quickly refuted my ‘diagnosis’ – but after explaining to him it’s not what we are taught (shy and neurotic) – he said he felt so enlightened and inspired. I know the freedom he feels, because I recently discovered it myself.

    Some of us as introverts are taught our entire lives there is something fundamentally wrong with who we are and we are taught that our inability to love small talk is rude and sour, and that we should enjoy being at large, loud parties – or we are not living life. I write best when I have had time to spend with myself. Painting, drawing and music-making are all a byproduct of my alone time. Why would I want to give that up? I thank God I married a fellow introvert – as we are comfortable sitting with one another in silence. We support one another – and he was brought up loving himself – where I was unsupported and asked to change.
    There is a beautiful thing that happens when introverts are encouraged to love their nature and see there is nothing wrong with it. Every gift has it’s limitations. Birds have wings to fly – but they have no hands and their wings are a heavy burden at times. Innies and outties are the same way. We each have a set of gifts, as well as a set of burdens.

    I believe being an introvert is such a sweet thing with my One True Love – The Holy Trinity of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. I think it’s a blessing to be introverted – in that I have a deep connection and enjoy spending time alone with God. I know extroverts who struggle with this. That fact alone makes me thankful for my sweet disposition. It’s not a curse – it’s a God-given personality trait that can be used for good in ANY situation and in any way – and for your enjoyment!

    Love to my fellow introverts. There is nothing wrong with you. <3

    – B

  29. Michelle says

    I enjoyed your article. I really want to understand the way an introvert thinks and acts. Your article helped me a lot.

    What I’d really like help understanding, is HOW to build a relationship with an introvert. One of my children married an introvert, and I would like to develop a good relationship with my child’s spouse. Most of the time I feel like my attempts at showing love and developing a friendship actually cause harm instead. I’ve read a lot of articles about understanding introverts, but can’t find much about connecting with introverts.

    (If it isn’t too much trouble, please reply, and if your reply doesn’t automatically send an email, please send an email so that I can come back and read your advice.)

    Michelle

    • Lizzie says

      I have a suggestion for forming a relationship with an introvert. It is great to assume that connection will build over time – doing things together can be good – not asking for opinions but being happy to hear any that are given – generally being a quiet appreciator of their strengths – feeling comfortable to be with them and not know them very well for ages – these work well. Appreciation and respect are the key – and not putting the emerging relationship into the spotlight. I’m an extrovert with introvert children and these tips give them the privacy and warmth they need.

  30. Camie Beagan says

    Wow…. Thanks for the insight.

    I am an outspoken extrovert that works with Engineers and Steel Detailers, who tend to be very quiet, introspective individuals. I have recently taken on a human development role in our firm. I very much struggle trying to understand where my coworkers are ‘coming from’ because they are so quiet. This article was very informative and helpful as I continue to find ways to effectively communicate with most of our staff. I know there is a lot of great things knocking around in their contemplative minds and am working hard draw them out and have their voices heard. Biggest lesson learned, introverts do not want to be extroverts and, perhaps, if the extroverts (I) just shut up they will be heard. – Thank You!

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