The Power of Introverts!

Riese’s Team Pick:

You know when you find a word that you’ve always known, but never thought about too much, and then you read something about that word and you’re like OH MY GOD, THAT’S ME!  That’s how I felt about the word “introvert” when I read this a few months ago. That’s me! I used to use words like hermit, loner, socially awkward, anti-social, weirdo, etc. and I read Party Of One and related to most of it but not all of it. But “Myths About Introverts” just really nailed it. Like this:

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

And also:

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

…and I was like — Oh! Seriously, thank you for the affirmation! Really that whole article comforted me. Why is that? Why are we so comforted to be un-alone about being alone? Some of you out there in this wild wild world don’t know what it was like for introverts before the internet. It was so different.  When you were alone you were really truly irreversibly alone. But I always wanted to be alone, to do crafts or write or read. It was actually okay with me, but it wasn’t okay with everyone else.

However, when I’m around the right people it can be even better than being alone. And like Susan Cain in the TED Talks video that this post is about, I always tend to date extroverts. Somebody has to call the pizza guy, you know?

Anyhow, I really enjoyed this video which I saw on Nextness (which our lovely Music Editor Crystal directed me to), and this video is the reason I wrote this post.

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3178 articles for us.

97 Comments

    • I read this article and “Myths About Introverts” a couple of years ago and felt so much better about a lot of things.

    • I love that “Caring for Your Introvert” article. I’m the sole introvert in my family and every once in a while the rest of them need reminding about why I don’t like long social gatherings/always felt really drained by my grocery store cashier job when I had one/etc.

      At least all my close friends are fellow introverts?

  1. I read this article ages ago and it perfectly described me too. Thanks for reminding me about it!

  2. Sounds like someone needs to find their Myers-Briggs type indicator!!! (Slot one of four is the Introvert vs. Extrovert slot).

    Here is the test:
    http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp

    Here is the tongue-in-cheek explanation of all the 16 types that I love and reference often.
    http://www.xeromag.com/fun/personality.html

    As an extrovert, learning very specific things about introverted-leaning people has really helped my communication and interaction with people. So good that you posted this!!!

    • I LOVE MYERS-BRIGGS!

      Certified INFP here.. and my dad’s an Accredited Test Administrator (or whatever the technical term is) and so I know it’s legit. ;)

      I am constantly trying to work out people’s types- it’s one of my favourite things to do (and ties into my INFP-esque will to understand all people, hah).

      And that explanation page you posted is great and quite amusing!

      On a slightly more serious note: my dad actually told me off the other day for linking some not-quite-legit online tests (inc. that actual one, heh) to mates – he opposed this (and rightly, I’ll admit) on the grounds that they’re not accurate and unethical (because you don’t get to explain exactly what the indicator does and doesn’t do (eg. can help you understand yourself and others and is useful to the end it helps with this, but will not necessarily tell you exactly what you’re like.. also, people need to understand that their preferences change, just because you favour one thing doesn’t mean the other trait in that category never applies, and also, it’s important to know what the letters stand for, etc)), but still.

      If I was hearing about this for the first time, I would still want to check it all out though (and I’m sure some of you do too, hah). I can’t recommend any incredibly accurate online tests that are free but I will link to this particular page that I like that gives a brief overview of different types (like above but more serious), plus with links to career and relationship approaches and strengths/weaknesses, hah.

      http://www.personalitypage.com/html/high-level.html

      As a side note:

      I think that Autostraddle most likely attracts a lot of I, NF and NT types in particular.

      And also – I love you extroverts. You’re excellent. :)

      • My apologies for offense. I’ve always had very good results with that free test – it almost always confirms test results from the “accredited tests”. At my workplace, they administer Myers-Briggs as part of our 2 year new hire training program. I, and most of my coworkers have gotten the same results on both tests.

        FYI, the free test results page (after you answer all the questions it dumps you onto a new page) links to the exact “personalitypage” link that you provided, thus offering an explanation of the type, as well as your interactions with other personality types.

        Additional FYI, I am a scientist NOT an HR person, so I’m sure the Catbert Evil Director of HR people will have very HR-y things to say.

        • Oh, I was certainly not offended- I just felt the need to make sure that as many people get as much out of Myers-Briggs as possible, and I really don’t want anyone to potentially get turned off because the test was a bit off (although even then, that could happen in the real one and a test person could explain that well, it’s true). I’ve also done that test before and it showed up correctly- although obviously not recent enough with that particular one to remember that it linked to the same page, whoops (heh).

          I really just wanted to comment out of excitement that someone else appreciates Myers-Briggs, though.

          And yes, I’m sure they will have very HR-y things to say. If you need consoling, I could bring over a copy of Friends and we could watch endless re-runs.. I don’t actually hate it, just so you know. :)

      • *waves* INTJ, here. My dad (and my great-aunt, actually) use Myers-Briggs with the departments they manage, and so I got tested too. :)

        I def. try and peg my coworkers and managers– makes work so much easier. (My truthiness can be overwhelming for some of them, as is often the case with INTJs.)

        • INTP for me. also, if you like myer-briggs, you would probably really like the enneagram (they have a website explaining it all), it is this really thorough personality type system. when my friend gave me the book, i thought it sounded crazy and that it would be weird and new-agey(i am usually totally not into that type of stuff) but it is not. it is scary accurate, I can seriously type everyone i know. it is basically just a more in-depth, wholistic myer-briggs (they even correspond to specific types) i am a 5.

          • I’m an INTP too! Also, I just did that enneagram test and I’m also a 5–there must be some correlation there. Also! I like that direction of growth thing on the enneagram test–since I’ve gone back to grad school and actually like what I do now, I’ve become strangely more extroverted. The enneagram explains all!

          • yeah there is! in the book it has the corresponding myer-briggs types and INTP is most likely to be a 5. yeah, i like the direction of growth thing too. i am telling you, it explains all!

        • Oh, girl(s). This is why INTPs, INTJs, and ENTPs get along so well. Truthiness. We haz it. Everyone else should just bask in the glory of the bluntly presented truthiness. :)

      • ISFJ here! Although I definitely do lean more to being an ambivert than an introvert.

        I use Myers-Briggs all the time! Student Affairs <3s mbti

    • I’m an INFJ, I did this a few weeks ago- I had the same OMG THIS IS ME moment that Riese did with the article she linked to. It was like, everything I’d ever felt in my life was instantly validated. Awesome :)

    • I always feel like I’m the only person that’s an introvert! Thank goodness they’re out there! lol I feel the same way in social settings people always say I don’t like going out, I do just not the whole entire night.

    • I’m an INTP. I sometimes get INFP from online tests but INTP is the one I got when I took it with my psychologist.

      Also, there’s one where it compares your Myers-Briggs type to a Harry Potter character: http://piratemonkeysinc.com/quiz.php INTPs are Voldemort, which I don’t exactly disagree with but it was still a little unnerving when the results came up!

    • Living in the city and having GrubHub and Foodler is tears-in-my-eyes awesome. Order online, pay online, tip online and there’s no parking so the delivery people have to basically toss my food to my stoop and drive away. Just how I like it.

    • I have a totally irreversible fear of calling anyone, ever. Domino’s online ordering is basically the best thing that has ever happened. I don’t even like their pizza, but I’ll order it because I won’t have to talk to anyone.

      • oh my god, seriously i thought i was the only person to order domino’s because of that! i am so happy i am not alone in this.

        i am lactose-intolerant but i would still order pizza from there to avoid going to get anything, or having to talk on the phone to anyone to order elsewhere. so basically, i would rather have a stomachache than talk on the phone for 30 seconds. awesome.

    • This. Internet ordering (which is possible for many take-away restaurants in my city) is the best thing ever.

      Also haircuts…am I the only person who actually prefers cutting it myself, just so I don’t have to make an appointment?

      • oh god that’s the worst part of a haircut, expecting to talk to who’s doing your hair. I always bring my Kindle and pull it out as soon as they start, and hope they get the hint.

        • i do that too! i also take all of the magazines with me from the front and read them one by one to make it clear that i’ve got a lot of reading to get through! last time i felt bad though because i was definitely the ONLY ONE in the salon not talking to their haircutter, like everyone else was chatting it up and i was like, “i hope he doesn’t hate me.” then i always tip super-well so that they might think like, “the quiet ones are always the best tippers!” or that’s what happens in my mind when i leave the place.

          • I do the haircutter over-tipping thing. I hope it’s taken as, “I don’t mind if you talk at me. Please still cut my hair well even though I don’t hold up my end of the conversation.” The message probably gets garbled through the credit card machine, but I still get good results.

          • I totally over-tip as well. The last time I did it the woman gave me such a surprised look I’m pretty sure she thought I hated her because I was being so silent.

        • I drop all kinds of comments about how tired I am and then pretend to fall asleep in the chair.

    • I didn’t realize that getting other people to order the takeout was actually a thing. I’ve always gone out of my way to not have to make phone calls, and I never really knew why. I guess this has something to do with it. It’s nice to know I’m not alone (even though I enjoy being alone)!

  3. Yes, exactly! THANK YOU!

    Not long ago I read an article (I think maybe in psychology.com?) about introverts and I had the same reaction: finally, that’s what I am.

  4. I am so EXTROverted that I can’t function without people around. It’s problematic. This makes the other pole make a bit more sense.

  5. so weird, i almost linked to this ted talk on the boundaries post a couple days ago. i read her book, quiet, in two days and loved it (especially the parts about the ‘biology of introversion’, for example, if you put a lemon drop on the tongue of an introvert they salivate a lot more than extroverts because they are more ‘highly reactive’ or impacted by their environment, meaning that there is a real biological disposition). it is very easy to get through and very gratifying, especially if you are really introverted (like me!)

    • I studied the biology of introversion at uni, and all the studies about the differences in responses to stimuli depending on whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, it’s really interesting.. or I thought it was anyway! I could finally say to my friends and family “I told you I wasn’t lazy, I just don’t need to be as energetic as you, I’m more efficient!” :)

    • I’ve been consistently typed INFJ for like ever and actually gave my last girlfriend a copy of the Atlantic article to help her understand (to no avail as we are now ex). But I hadn’t heard of this biology stuff. Makes so much sense, as I’ve long thought of myself as allergic to life, given high reactivity manifesting as allergies, depression, anxiety, and sensitive tummy.

      I’m going right out and buy that book. And by out of course I mean online.

  6. Just love. #5 especially when I’m staying with people for a few days. And I just need to go in a room by myself and be away for a bit. #1 is why people have said to me my entire life: I thought you were so quiet when I first met you, now I know different. Cause I don’t do small talk. Also that video was awesome. Totally agree with her.

    • When my family visits my sister for the holidays, my sister sends me out to pick up random things (milk, newspapers, etc.) She’s an extrovert’s extrovert, but we came to an understanding and now she helps me out. It’s awesome.

    • Whenever I go on trips to see family, I always will either end up hiding in a bedroom reading with headphones on or will take long walks so that I can get that space that I need.

  7. Yes! People who understand! I totally have my girlfriend order food (well, sometimes that’s just because I’m lazy.)

  8. I read that ‘caring for your introvert’ article (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/caring-for-your-introvert/2696/#.T1woMwZ_yEM.facebook)
    a couple of months ago and had that same epiphany…’like holy, holy fuck…this is me.’
    It’s somehow so friggin’ comforting to know what you are and that it’s actually a good thing. I mean, I’ve always known it’s a good thing but all this recent validation from outside sources is a great bonus.

  9. The “call the pizza guy” line made me nod emphatically. I could never figure out my aversion to phone calls at all until college and the realization I was an introvert (one of the few useful pieces of information I got out of the three professional development classes they made us all take). That realization, among a few others, made so many things make so much more sense.

  10. Sometimes I wish I weren’t such an introvert. Extroverts seem to have all the fun. The only good point that I’ve came across is from an article that said introverted/cautious/shy ancestors of ours are less likely to be eaten by predators than those who were extroverted/adventurous, and that it’s a defense mechanism.

    But that’s like a million years ago and there’s no bears roaming around eating extroverts. :(

    • There are plenty of good things about being an introvert.

      1. It’s generally cheaper
      2. You can act mysterious
      3. You’re in the same category as Einstein
      4. You can sometimes become more of an extrovert with the assistance of alcohol – whereas if you’re an extrovert, you’re kinda stuck that way…

      See plenty of good things!

      • Also, enjoying being alone is a good thing because you’re going to spend a lot of time that way, like it or not.

    • Well, a modern-day analogue to the bear thing is that someone who is skittish of strangers is probably better at surviving in a dangerous city than someone who feels the need to make small-talk with everyone they meet.

  11. It’s trouble when you’re two introverts in a relationship. There is a constant battle as to which of us has to go on the phone to order takeaway. Thankfully a lot more places are allowing you to order via online menus – THANK GOD FOR TECHNOLOGY.

    • See, I don’t think I could date someone who wasn’t an introvert. I don’t think I’d want to date an extreme introvert, but I’ve grown up in a family of extroverts and it just gets annoying how much most of them don’t get us, even the mild ones.

  12. I’m so glad you team pick’d this! I also really enjoyed the Nextness blog that went with this video. It identifies an introvert as someone who ‘waits til the work kitchen is empty to get their Arnotts cream selection’ which is something I totally do.

    • This makes me think of when I lived in a suite dorm with 5 other girls and it was nearly impossible for me to brush my teeth in the morning because I would always wait until everyone else was out of the sink area first.

      • Yesss to the roommate-problem-situation. I’ve learned that having roommates that I don’t really know is a bad idea for my psychological well-being. I’m either constantly out of the house, wasting money on food because I don’t want to run into them in the kitchen or I’m holed up in my room, waiting for them to leave so I can walk out and do whatever I want.

        Something about having to interact with people I don’t want to talk to when I just want to be cozy and homey freaks me out a lot.

      • I do a similar thing with elevators. if i see someone waiting for the lift in my office building i’ll loiter outside for a minute and then take the next one.

    • yes i totally do that too! i would sit in my room being really hungry waiting for my roommate to go to his room or the living room so I could go in there without having to small-talk him. lately this has become a routine where if i need to leave the house for some reason but i see that the guy who smokes on the porch is smoking on the porch, i’ll sit there looking out the window waiting for him to go back inside so that i can leave without having to say “hi” — now that my girlfriend lives in my building, she can be the social one to the neighbors and i feel less of the burden is on me to prove myself as not psychotic. however when i’m drunk i become a raging extrovert.

      • god i totally wish that i became a raging extrovert when i’m drunk. that would probably be life changing. instead i just get a headache and get tired, making me want to go home even more. ugh.

    • I do this! For real. Even though I know there might not be any Monte Carlos left when I get there.

  13. I’ve actually already got her book on hold at my local library, and now I’m even more excited about it.

    Also, I loved summer camp. The staff there was wonderful, and no one had any problem if I chose to spend my free time at the base of a tree reading, or sit alone while basketweaving. But also, I was surrounded by fun people who welcomed me when I felt like socializing. It was pretty much my favorite place in the world.

    I, too, refuse to order food from anywhere that doesn’t offer online ordering (which means I never get to have Chinese food).

  14. My dad, my siblings and myself are all introverts of some kind, my mum is an extrovert and she just cannot understand any of us or why we’re happy doing our own thing, she needs socialising so badly she’ll actually wake me up on my mornings off just to talk to her.

  15. My wife is an introvert. Most of my best friends are introverts. My dad is an introvert, and my mom is an ‘ambivert’. My in-laws are introverts. I’m the only damned extrovert around. Kinda funny, since apparently we’re the dominant culture.

    Anyhow, this lady’s book is amazing. My wife just finished it, and I’m about to read it. Awesome.

    • I’m the opposite – while my friends are fellow introverts, most of my family are extroverts! I’m the only one.

      I think it’s part of the reason that I’m often mistaken for an extrovert by people who don’t know me well, in situations where I’m more comfortable. I’m pretty good at pretending to be one under the right circumstances (e.g. not at crazy parties, or when I was working retail for 6 hours at a time).

  16. this also describes a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)and I reccomend you check out the book “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aron. HSP’s are more sensitive to noises, lights, smells, get overaroused easily, take things more personally, think about the meaning of life and death more, more affected by other people’s moods, process things more deeply, and many other characteristics. It’s also a self-help book. I’m still reading it, but it looks like it will help a lot. in the words of A Very Potter Musical, “baby, you’re not alone! cuz you’re here with me!”

  17. Yes!! I read this book also and loved it, I recommend it to every suspected introvert I meet! People are often surprised to hear I am an introvert, which I believe is due to what I like to call my “well fed introversion.” I think that I take care of it well, meaning that I get my alone time and am aware of my reaction to social situations. The result is that I am more than happy in the social situations that I put myself in. I think introverts are amazing and I am proud to be one. We just need to understand ourselves and know how to “feed” our introversion!

  18. Love, love, love this website! This article is relevant to my current dating situation..Thanks to Autostraddle, I think I just figured out that I’m dating an introvert! I’m thinking this book will help me a lot in understanding her and all of this. I am so completely NOT an introvert..We were sitting in her kitchen and the phone rang..I asked if she was going to answer it and she said “Why would I do that?” When I call her I get one word answers and I barely hear the “Bye” as she hangs up..She prefers to text instead..I was starting to think it was me until that whole “order the pizza” thing..I realized THIS IS HER!! She got a pained look when I asked her to phone in our take-out order the other day and said “I’ll pay if you do it..pleeeeeeease” Thanks all..This is helpful!

    • Nooooo! You have a girlfriend? You’re not supposed to have a girlfriend! Your profile says single! I’ve been building up the courage to..Damn!

  19. I love this article and that TED talks video. I’m a massive introvert, it was excruciating today when I basically spent a couple hours on the phone.

  20. The thing that has been most transformative for me to learn about introversion is that it is normal for introverts to experience the world with an intensity and a vividness which extroverts may not relate to. Growing up, I really thought I was alone in that, and it was so isolating… and not in a good way. I really felt like a freak. Learning that there are other people out there, who can be moved to tears by a line of poetry or a beautiful artwork*, or alternately who start to panic if they’re socially trapped in a loud bar… well, that has done wonders for my self-confidence.

    *Once I cried in public when I walked into an art exhibition once and found Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ unexpectedly staring me in the face. Yeah.

  21. I am a sensitive introvert. Everyone in my family is a sensitive introvert. Growing up, you’d find us quietly doing our own things in our own happy little corners of the house. Rather than shout to one another, we had an intercom phone system to quietly and pleasantly communicate without having to physically bother one another. We only had dinner at the table if we had company or it was a special occasion. The rest of the time, we’d greet in the kitchen and serve ourselves and some of us would gather to watch the News, while I usually took my meal back to my room. We lived in the woods in a small town. The house was always very quiet, with the occasional comforting squeak of a floorboard when family members walked around. We spoke softly and rationally to one another. I have NEVER heard my father raise his voice. He has never needed to. I was highly attuned to how my natural surroundings changed through the seasons. This was an idyllic time in my life.

    Then, I moved to a small city (pop ~200 000) for school. CULTURE SHOCK. I couldn’t see the stars, smell the trees, hear the lake, there was concrete EVERYWHERE, people EVERYWHERE, the sound of traffic pervaded every moment. I spent the first week in my res room utterly overwhelmed, trying to acclimatize. Luckily, my roommate was a very sweet extrovert who gently guided me out into the world, taught me to play guitar, encouraged me to “SING LOUDER!” but was still really able to just “be” in the room with me quietly and totally respect my space. She taught me how to socialize and how to sing. Thanks, roomie.

  22. I’m an INFP, so therefore I SCIENTIFICALLY have a lot of feelings. Lol.
    Though I’m a mild introvert so get a good drink in me and I’m wild. You’d never know.

  23. Seriously, when people go on about how the Internet and texting are ruining people’s social skills, I’m like, are you kidding me? I am WAY more social and have tons more friends than I ever did pre-Internet. It’s just teaching extroverts how to socialize in an introverted way, that’s all. So stop being so extro-centric. Yeah.

  24. I ended up commenting on another article (Boundaries) that relates to this one. My thoughts on this article and the other go hand in hand, and I’m long-winded to boot. Inevitably, that lead to an essay covering both.

    I’m your typical introvert, and I am my happiest when I’m in a quiet and relaxing environment. I can’t draw or paint when I’m surrounded by noise and erratic activity. In fact, I get headaches when I try to force it. Very unpleasant and frustrating.

    Small talk is a hit or miss with me. Sometimes it goes well, but usually there are long pauses throughout the conversation. I tend to avert my gaze, think, and kick up the conversation again IF I think of anything interesting to talk about. If not, I go back to whatever it was that I was doing. Perhaps this is considered rude, but that’s simply how I function. Small talk is small and meant to be short (from my POV), and so it ends rather quickly for me. That is if it doesn’t lead into a more in-depth conversation. At times, I just really love comfortable silence with someone; talking isn’t necessary.

    Well, unless I’m speaking with someone I’m infatuated with, but then my face gets all hot and visibly red. It’s somewhat uncomfortable at first. Now that I think about it, dating can be a hassle in itself. I’ve been told that I’m supposed to be the one to do the approaching, and I know I’m not alone in this. I fall apart if I even attempt that, and it’s not because I’m shy. In fact, I’m perfectly fine if I’m approached instead (this doesn’t just pertain to dating either). It’s a thing, I suppose, just like how it is with ordering take-out. When friends and family force me to do it, I plead with them to take pity on me and do it in my stead. Admittedly, it makes for comical situations. I have my moments where I just suck it up and call considering it isn’t as bad as ordering something in person or so I tell myself. I do fuss about it with constant sighing and icy glares though.

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