Introvert is Not a Dirty Word

I had never really considered the differences between introverts and extroverts. I had never stopped to examine what I might be. I never cared…that is, until I met my husband.

Suddenly, standing next to my then-fiance, I realized that he and I were quite different (painfully so) when it came to how we interacted with people.

One particular Sunday following a church service at the mega-church we used to attend, Jonathan was walking me around and introducing me to numerous people. As the number of new faces grew, I slowly began to shrink. I froze. I became silent. I put my head down and avoided eye contact.

He pulled me aside and, in a loving yet stern way, told me that I was coming off as rude. He knew I wasn’t rude, he explained, so something needed to change. i.e. me.

It was then that I realized that I was an introvert who had all along been posing as an extrovert. The thing I soon came to realize, also, is that “introvert” is not a dirty word…

My husband and I joke because, he will call me an introvert around new people and whisper when doing it. You know, “Well, Nicole…she’s an introvert.”

Us poor introverts, we are often made to feel worse for being who we are. I’d just like to clear up a few things about introverts, however:

We ARE social. Being an introvert has nothing to do with being anti-social. An introvert is defined as someone who recharges by being alone. An extrovert is defined as someone who recharges by being with others. Nowhere, however, is it stated that introverts are not social people.

I am very social. Most people never suspect that I am introvert. I love parties, family gatherings, holidays. But here is the distinction: I prefer smaller groups of familiar people as opposed to larger groups of strangers.

I’ll take a dinner for 6 over a party of 20 any day of the week. My husband, on the other hand, loves to walk into a room and not know a soul. He gets glossy-eyed (I’m serious) and begins foaming at the mouth (I’m joking)–eager with anticipation. For me, that scenario is pretty much hellish.

Secondly, introverts are outnumbered, and that’s why we stick out. The population is made up of 75% extroverts and 25% introverts. No wonder introverts often feel like outcasts. We essentially are. More people in the world refuel by being with others, so we are sometimes looked down upon for needing time alone.

Introverts are not being rude. Usually, we just simply need more time to warm up and speak up. We find chit chat and small talk brutally painful and avoid it at all costs. We might be misread as aloof or detached, but really we just like to know someone before jumping in.

We are people just like everyone else. We just happen to find a cup of coffee alone with a book more energizing than a cocktail party. We aren’t opposed to the cocktail party, we just need both and a little more of one than the other.

So please, if you are an extrovert, be kind to us introverts. We really are wonderful, awesome, fun people (well, most of us). And if you are an introvert, know that you’re not alone–well, except when you choose to be because people make you tired.

Okay, so are you an INTROVERT or and EXTROVERT? Have you ever given the other a hard time? Do you know of any relationships where the two opposites work well?

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22 thoughts on “Introvert is Not a Dirty Word”

  1. I am an introvert ALL the way! That definition describes me perfectly. I have been accused of being a snob most of my life. Others would see me joking around and being crazy with my close friends but then I was quiet and reserved when they would meet me. It used to bother me but now I just find it funny. I kind of like surprising people who think I am quiet and then find out that I they were oh so wrong. Nice to know I am not the only one out there.
    You asked about relationships where extroverts and intorverts work and actually I find that I often choose extroverts as some of my closest friends. The way they jump into social situations takes the focus off of me and allows me time to adjust and ease into the conversation/situation. It also encourages me to be more outgoing than I would be on my own.

    1. I know! Many introverts are made to feel like they are two different people–the person you first meet and the person who later emerges when time has passed.

      I agree too that extroverts can be good for introverts and vice versa. They encourage us to be more open and we encourage them to be more retrospective.

  2. I’ve had my wife tell me that the reason a lot of Christians around me don’t invite me to events or work with me on anything is because they think I believe I’m better than everyone else because I shy away in crowds and things. So my introversion moved from being “rude” to people thinking that I somehow see myself as “better.” It’s frustrating and makes me want to withdraw even more.

    1. Jason,
      I can so empathize. I used to always feel like I never fit in or I people thought I was just a “bitch” (their words not mine).

      I will admit that since marrying my husband I have worked very hard to break that persona. It is not natural. It sucks every time. But I smile, make eye contact, shake hands and even make small talk.

      The result has been two-fold: It has gotten easier and I have met and maintained friendships I might otherwise not have.

      I’ll be praying Jason for you to be encouraged and not withdraw…and be more willing to be uncomfortable. It’s not fair that more people are extroverts, but it is reality.

  3. I am a flag-waving, card-carrying introvert. I’ve considered getting myself a t-shirt or mug that says, “I don’t hate people; I’m just an introvert.”

    Seriously though, my husband is as far over on the extroversion spectrum as I am on the introversion spectrum. It’s good, because it keeps me from being a complete wall-flower. However, to keep both of us from going insane, we’ve learned that sometimes it’s good for him to take the kids and go to a large group gathering and leave me at home. I’ve started walking by myself and an iPod for an hour or so almost daily, which has helped too.

    I’m sure God made me an introvert for a reason. I’m still trying to figure out why, though. Hah! ; )

  4. Introvert. I suspect that I sometimes come off as being anti-social, even though I’m truly not. And I often try way too hard to compensate, which means I OVER-compensate, which means I sometimes don’t make good first (or second) impressions, which makes things even harder.

    I tend to be most comfortable around people who can carry more than their half of the conversation – although, due to my introversion, I quickly O.D. on anyone who talks too much.

    Excellent post, Nicole. I think your take on the whole introvert thing is very healthy. Thanks for giving me a new perspective on one part of my personality.

  5. Raised in a VERY extroverted family, I was more comfortable as the audience. Realizing later in life that I was more introverted was a bit of a shock/identity crisis. Now I’ve adjusted and settled into the reality and the advantages of it. For example, if you are looking for a good listener, you will probably find it in an introvert. (Thus, I counsel.) I really enjoy studying alone for hours.(Thus, I teach.)It’s tough to be in a large group of people since it disorients me, but if I focus on one person at a time, it works. Just understanding that helps.

  6. So funny you posted this today – I just did a post about it on Friday, and if people are sometimes more extroverted online than IRL. I am definitely an extrovert and DH is completely and introvert, as is our oldest. But I think that makes me defensive for them, because I know they are both awesome, and it bugs me when people assume they are shy or rude when they don’t immediately want to engage. Trust me – if you let them warm up first, they will talk your ear off worse than I will!

  7. Great Post. This would go against a public persona that most people see, but I am at my very core an introvert. Like you said, it is important to point out that I am not a loner or anti-social. In fact, I would say that I don’t particularly enjoy being isolated at all. I just don’t like being thrust or forced into certain social situations. When I am alone in a social situation, it’s because I want to be. I am either taking in my surroundings and deciding where to find my “in” – or I am checking out for a few moments to avoid sensory overload. Church groups tend to be the worst violators of an introvert’s bubble:

    When I’m sitting alone and eating at a retreat/group function (like I was doing at a camp I just went to), I am doing so by choice. It’s not because I have no friends to sit with, it’s because I want to either recharge, reflect, or simply cool down from sensory overload. The last thing I want is some well meaning person, especially someone I don’t know sitting down with me and violating my much needed check out.

    This is just an example. I don’t go to big parties, I hate night clubs, and I don’t care for shopping malls. I am actually quite social and conversational when I’m comfortable or with people I know I can trust.

    Sadly, this trait is not well-received in the business world. I have thought of wearing a sign that says “social time” on one side and “me time” on the other.

    Thanks for the post. I think more people are introverted than 25%, but they are beaten into submission by the extroverts and Type A personalities of the world.

  8. I’d honestly have to say that my two most important relationships are the product of intro-/extrovert marriages (so to speak).

    One of them actually IS my marriage. I’m more introverted than my husband, which explains why he’s the youth/worship pastor and I’m the one behind the scenes. I’d much rather be making sure things run smoothly than be forced to center stage. He loves the annual ski attack weekend that the youth groups in our denomination go on; I kind of enjoy it, but I also kind of dread it. How on earth am I supposed to find (a) some sense of peace and quiet amongst 1000 teens and (b) someone I actually KNOW to talk to? It’s crazy. I *can* make small talk with just about anyone, but then, it’s usually just me and that other person in the checkout line. That’s okay. Have me make small talk in a group of twenty folks that I don’t know, and it’s a whole different story. Innyhoo…Hubby and I complement each other well. I think God designed it that way.

    The other relationship is my best friend. She’s the extrovert. Seriously. Her oldest son go that trait, and we laughed ourselves silly during our cookie-baking day in December when he was 20 months old and not about to go nap because he’d miss all the fun. She’s energetic and fun and we’ve done some silly stuff together. She’s a song evangelist. Gorgeous soprano voice. I’ll happily back her up with my contralto any time. But where she can recharge with people, I often would recharge when it was just the two of us together. She’s blind (extroversion helps, trust me), and so we spent a lot of time together, just us. I’d drive her places. I’d take her to and from work. We’d go shopping. We’d bake. Before kids, when her husband would close the store he helped manage, I’d pick her up from work, we’d go home, we’d cook, and then we’d read…okay, I would read aloud, she would listen, and we’d just have a great time.

  9. From one fellow introvert to another – I really appreciated this post, Nicole. I would also like to note that some introverts can be quiet or shy, and like you said, that can come off as being rude…even if we don’t mean to be. Something I have learned is that a person’s demeanor can speak volumes. Even if you’re just listening, eye contact and a smile can mean more than a thousand words. And *Bonus* introverts tend to be great listeners, and can socialize that way as well. I have found that more experiences as an adult have made me more extroverted, which is good in that sense, but I still need to recharge sometimes with some alone time. Clear my weekends. Watch a movie at home. That sort of thing. Really not half-bad, if you ask this introvert. :)

    Really enjoy your blog, Nicole. Keep posting!

    1. Cara,
      Such great points! We are great listeners. We thrive in more intimate settings with 2-3 people.

      I would say that I have also become more introverted as I’ve grown older. They say that many introverts do. My marriage has definitely been a contributor to this change and I welcome it.

      i think it’s great that you know exactly what you need to re-charge. i do also and it has helped my husband understand what I need when I need it.

      Thanks for the kind words too and for commenting!

  10. Good post. I often write about introvert issues as well, seeing as how I am one. But I thought you ought to know that the “75% of the world is extroverted” is actually not correct. It is a myth based on an off hand estimate made by Myers-Briggs doctors in the 1960’s. The actual ration of introvert to extrovert tends to hover around 50/50, with some studies indicating that we are actually in the majority! Just something I thought you should know.

  11. I’m an introvert! It didn’t get me many good friends in high school, and even college has been tough, both living on a campus and at a community college. People tend to think I’m being snobby or rude, when really I just don’t like the huge party scene. Most people I know are fine having 20+ “friends” to hang out with all the time but I long for a few good friendships that will last through the years.

    My boyfriend is more extroverted than I am, but he is like me where we prefer a small group of close friends to a room full of strangers. On the other hand, he’s gotten me to try so many new things that I wouldn’t have done on my own because of my introverted nature. It’s a nice balance.

    My entire life has been a constant battle between trying to act extroverted and struggling with the fact that I am most comfortable as an introvert. It’s taken me a few years to come to terms with this but I’m getting better. It’s always nice to know I’m not alone!

    Great post :)

    1. Chelsea, I’m glad you have a nice balance with your boyfriend. That’s how my husband and I are, as well. he draws me out and I encourage him to have more quality friendships.

      I’m glad to know too that you feel you are coming to terms with how God made you. It is freeing to understand yourself and not have to make excuses!

      Thanks for sharing.

  12. Anvil is a Muse, he’s excessively extroverted to make up for my preference to be alone. I have to have him at my elbow or folks think I’m anti-social, arrogant and above the masses of asses all of whom are extroverts… 75% extroverts? Who took that survey?

  13. Hi! Some thoughts about being an introvert. I can identify with the comments about not liking crowds of peple and being unsocial. Nevertheless I don’t think it has to do with being introvert. There are extroverts that have gone introvert because of a difficult (depressing) life situation or smth like that (It was true of me some years ago). And introverted extroverts are the very people who seem unsociable and sometimes rude, not the genuine introverts. Have you tried Myers- Briggs psychological type indicator test? It has helped me a lot to better understand myself and the others.

  14. The idea that introverts need to be validated more by society is something that my mom and I have recently been discussing on a regular basis. My parents are like night and day in terms of introversion/extroversion, and I definitely have inherited my mother’s introverted nature. The funny thing is that most people don’t realize this when they meet me, because I learned over the past few years to make compromises at the risk of passing up opportunities. But many a time we have described our pressing needs to just hole up in a room for 48 hours after a long day at the risk of blowing a bona fide gasket.

    1. Claire,
      Just this week, I had the chance to hear Susan Cain speak who is the author of Quiet, a book about introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. It was fascinating. I’m going to order the book soon and I think you might be blessed by reading it, as well.

  15. I am an introvert and my sister is an extrovert. I have always felt that people preferred her over me, especially in my own family. She would always be invited to do things with our cousins, but I was left out just because I wasn’t outgoing. It hurt me and caused a deep root of rejection. I felt that they looked down on me for my quiet personality. I think it’s interesting that you mentioned that we introverts recharge when alone. It never occurred to me before, but it’s so true! I often find myself sneaking away to be alone because people make me tired! But, I also like to be included socially because it sucks being isolated. Great post!

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