Sep 15 2009

How to Treat Your Introvert

I ran across this link called How to Care for Introverts today and realized I’ve never written about being an introvert, although I’ve mentioned it in passing a couple times.  That link goes to a very crummy scanned image, so I thought I’d type it in here, and then add my own thoughts.

First of all, for those who don’t know what an introvert is, the best definition I know is: “someone for whom spending time with other people is tiring.” An extrovert is just the opposite: someone who gets a charge from being around people, who finds long periods alone boring and tiring.  An introvert expends energy in dealing with other people, and needs downtime alone to recharge from it.  There are other aspects to it, but that’s the main difference.

It doesn’t matter whether we have fun and like the people at the party, either, which is the part extroverts usually have trouble understanding.  One time I mentioned to someone how I wasn’t looking forward to a string of family Christmas parties one right after the other, and she asked, “Why, don’t you like your family?” She couldn’t understand how going to a fun party with people I really like could wear me out.  If anything, those occasions are the most tiring of all, because instead of sitting in the corner and waiting for it to be over, I actually talk to people and get involved, which takes more energy.

Being introverted isn’t the same thing as being shy, although there are certainly shy introverts.  I was very shy as a kid, and I’m much less so now, but I’m just as introverted as ever.  I think shyness is partly about fear, while introversion is simply about energy and what increases or decreases it for you.

So, here’s the list from the link.  Some of these seem to assume you’re in charge of the person, so they mostly apply to the parents of introverted kids, but others could apply to anyone.

Respect their need for privacy.

Never embarrass them in public.

Reprimand them privately.

Teach them new skills privately rather than in public.

I never thought of this as an introvert thing, but I do like my privacy.  Being embarrassed in public doesn’t bother me as much now, but it certainly did when I was a kid.  I don’t mind opening up to a certain extent now, but there’s a limit.  I also definitely prefer to learn things in private, rather than stumbling through them in public.  (Like spending a year learning to play bridge before playing with people.)

Let them observe first in new situations.

Give them time to think. Don’t demand instant answers.

Don’t interrupt them.

Give them advanced notice of expected changes in their lives.

Give them 15-minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing before calling them to dinner or moving on to the next activity.

This kind of makes us sound slow, which isn’t the point.  It’s just that we like to think before we speak, observe before acting.  Introverts rarely blurt things out, and when we do, we often regret it.  When I’m in a normal conversation, I don’t say anything without thinking over the sentence to myself first, considering how it will be received, and editing until I’m happy with it.  That takes time.

This also makes me think that constant multitasking isn’t a good plan for introverts, and I see that in my own work. When I’m working on project A and getting instant messages about project B and a phone call comes about project C, I  tend to not be very productive at any of them for a while.  If you’re smart and good at what you do, you can cover for that to some extent, but there’s no way to be as productive as if you could focus on one thing for a few hours.  I never thought of that as an introvert thing either, but it makes sense, since each new interruption requires a complete shift of thinking so the introvert can focus on the new thing before acting on it.

That 15-minute warning before switching tasks sounds really good.  Maybe I should try to implement that with my work schedule, setting a 15-minute warning alarm that goes off before each appointment or task on my schedule.

Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests and abilities, encourage this relationship even if the friend moves.

Do not push them to make lots of friends.

I’d certainly agree with the second one.  Introverts take conversations slowly, and a friendship is essentially an extended and complicated conversation.  Since conversations require energy, having lots of friends would wear us out and not leave enough time to recharge.  It probably is better for us to have one very good friend than a bunch of casual ones, and we’re okay with long-distance friends because we can get away from them when we need time alone.

Respect their introversion. Don’t try to remake them into extroverts.

This is the biggest one.   I’m sure every introvert has been told at least once to “open up,” as if it’s a personality defect we need to get over, like swearing too much.  I’m so glad my parents never pushed that way; an introvert with extroverted parents who didn’t understand would have a rough time.  Telling an introvert to “open up” is like telling someone with bad knees to run a marathon: it’ll be painful and won’t help.

Now for one of my own:

When an introvert isn’t talking, it doesn’t mean he’s mad about something or doesn’t like you.  An introvert enjoys companionable silence.

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me what was wrong just because I was being quiet, I’d be a rich man. If I don’t talk for a while, it could mean I’m thinking about what to say, or I just don’t have anything to say. An introvert won’t just babble to fill silence, so sometimes that leaves lulls in the conversation that make extroverts nervous.

All this might make it seem like introverts are natural hermits who don’t like people, but that’s not the case at all. When I lived by myself in Barry, I’d find an excuse to go to the store or somewhere every couple days, for the human contact. I didn’t need a lot of it, but I did need it, just in small doses on my terms.

How to Treat Your Introvert, 5.0 out of 5 based on 20 ratings

If you enjoyed this article, why not rate it and share it with your friends on Twitter, Facebook, or StumbleUpon?

GD Star Rating


  • Michael S says:

    When an introvert isn’t talking, it doesn’t mean he’s mad about something or doesn’t like you. An introvert enjoys companionable silence.

    So true, I’d probably be rich also.

    With the advent of MP3 players and in-ear headphones now it’s even easier to ‘detach’ at work — sometimes I’ll have them in with no music playing, using them just to dull the roar that seems to develop during the course of the day.

    GD Star Rating
  • Confucious said: “An exemplary person should be slow to speak yet quick to act.”

    The Bible says: “Swift To Hear, Slow To Speak, And Slow To Wrath.”
    James 1:19

    Plato said: “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”

    I’ve often noticed that extroverts tend to get nervous around introverts. They don’t understand the silence and they feel like they have to find the cause. Hence the questions: “Are you okay?” “Why aren’t you having any fun?” “Are you mad at me?”

    I notice a lot of quick, one-line comments on blogs. I think I spent 20 minutes on this one, finding the quotes, re-writing my thoughts, correcting punctuation… As an introvert, I want to be sure that my thoughts, when they ARE shared with others, are clear and understandable. Even now, as I center my mouse cursor on “Add your Comment”, I struggle with myself as to whether what I have written is both worth the effort it took for me to write it, and also worth the effort you’ll spend to read it.

    Ah well. Click!

    GD Star Rating
    • Aaron says:

      One of my favorite introvert moments was when an extreme extrovert said to me, “You know, quiet people like you make me nervous.” I just smiled at him and said, “Yeah, that’s why we do it.”

      I know what you mean about taking your time with your writing. I’ve seen blogging experts talk about how they make sure to leave comments on at least ten other blogs each day, to drive traffic back to their own blog, where they’re blogging at least daily, sometimes several times a day. A typical blog post takes me an hour or two, and a short comment like this takes 15 minutes, so that would be a full-time job pretty quickly for me. Even as a full-time job, there’s no way I could churn out the number of posts some bloggers do; there aren’t enough hours in the day.

      GD Star Rating
  • Trevor Aylett says:

    An introvert listens; an extrovert waits to talk.

    GD Star Rating
    • Casbot says:

      Why is it necessary to disparage extroverts?

      It isn’t fair of people to assume someone is creepy just because they’re quiet, neither is it fair to insinuate someone isn’t listening just because they’re talkative.

      I don’t agree with the sentiment at all. This was a good article, but the comments are making me feel like a lot of people have missed the point entirely.

      GD Star Rating
  • [...]  Naturally the first question is what were they looking at, and it turned out to be my post on how to treat an introvert.  That pleases me, since that’s an article I put a lot of effort into.  It turns out [...]

  • Katrina says:

    Found your link on the Introvert Zone. Love it! Have been explaining these things to family and coworkers for years, but sometimes they simply do not get it. It’s quite heartening to see so many other folks posting similar sentiments (Found I.Z. through this post: ). Just started a new job and, frankly, not sure how long I’m going to be willing to stay there. Too much noise, too much “team effort,” and pressure to multitask. I CAN handle all of those things, but I don’t want to and I’m not at my best. Want me to be a good employee? Put me in a quiet room, give me complex tasks, and *back off*! ;)

    Thanks again for the post!

    GD Star Rating
    • Gabbybird says:

      I understand completely about the job. I worked night shift so I could focus more on one task at a time. I CAN multitask, but hate doing it….it makes me feel so scattered, to go from one thing to another. I finally found my dream job…part of the set up is completing one task before you move on….it also requires reflection to make the right decisions in it. I deal with less people, and mostly deal with them on a one to one basis. I suggest you learn what you can from this job, and keep looking for that job that fits you. I could be do this job with what I learned from two previous jobs. Be patient….and hopeful!!

      GD Star Rating
  • Paul says:

    Oh so true about the silence! I’ve had friends and partners think I was angry or upset when I simply enjoy the space and the comfort of silence. SIlence between friends is a beautiful, wonderful experiene. Thanks for this article.

    GD Star Rating
  • Tyler says:

    This is a great article and very interesting comments.

    I work around extroverts everyday and they are constantly made nervous when I am quiet. My first day on the job an extrovert called me a creep for being quiet… Definitely didn’t make me want to open up. I understand if people do not quite “get” us, but there is no need for something like that. A few days later the same guy said I scared him because I reminded him of a serial killer… Quite and in my own little world for most of the day. This was quickly met with a response that I didn’t not stop to think about. I definitely didn’t regret it XD. Great article.

    GD Star Rating
  • Tyler says:

    Woah.. Sorry for spelling and grammatical errors. On lunch on my phone at this awesome job lol

    GD Star Rating
  • Chris says:

    Wow….I can relate to your article. I am an introvert and extremely shy. I had a funny experience with a supervisor I used to work with. She constantly nagged me about how quiet I was. She is definitely an extrovert. So one morning when she came in I asked why is she so loud. The next morning she came in and said that she is loud because the people she lives with cannot hear.(she didn’t get it but I was amused by it)

    GD Star Rating
  1. Buttered Ham Commentarii Mei — September 13, 2010 @ 9:02 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment

ERROR: si-captcha.php plugin says GD image support not detected in PHP!

Contact your web host and ask them why GD image support is not enabled for PHP.

ERROR: si-captcha.php plugin says imagepng function not detected in PHP!

Contact your web host and ask them why imagepng function is not enabled for PHP.

WordPress Themes