Are you an introvert? Here are twenty-two signs that you might veer toward introversion on the spectrum. How many do you relate to? These signs may not apply to every introvert, but they are generally true:
- You enjoy spending time alone.
- You do your best thinking when you’re alone.
- Your inner monologue never stops.
- You often feel lonelier in a crowd than when you’re alone.
- You feel like you’re faking it when you have to network.
- You’re not the student shooting your hand up every time the teacher asks a question.
- You’re better at writing your thoughts than speaking them.
- Likewise, talking on the phone does not sound like a fun way to pass the time.
- You’d rather not engage with people who are angry.
- You avoid small talk whenever possible.
- You’ve been told you’re “too intense.
- You don’t go to parties to meet new people.
- You shut down after too much socializing.
- You notice details that others miss.
- You can concentrate for long periods of time on things that matter to you.
- You live in your head.
- You like to people watch.
- You’ve been told you’re a good listener.
- You have a small circle of friends.
- You don’t get “high” off your environment.
- You’re an old soul.
- You alternate between being with people and being alone
It’s Not Binary
Keep in mind that introversion and extroversion are not all-or-nothing traits. Imagine a spectrum with introversion on one end and extroversion on the other. Everyone lands somewhere on that spectrum, with some falling closer to the introverted end and others nearer the extroverted end. Nobody is a pure introvert or extrovert. “Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum,” wrote Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist who first coined the term introvert. In other words, we all act “extroverted” in some situations and “introverted” in others.
The Science of Introversion
Every superhero has an origin story. Superman was rocketed to Earth as an infant by his scientist father moments before his home planet’s destruction. When a young Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed, he swore an oath to rid Gotham City of evil and became Batman. What’s the introvert’s origin story?
To understand our origin story, first you need to understand the difference between temperament and personality. Dr. Nancy Snidman, a research professor in the Child Development Unit of the University of Massachusetts, told me in an interview that your temperament is made up of genetic and biological factors that influence how you view and respond to your environment. Remember, introversion and extroversion are temperaments. Personality, on the other hand, is a mix of both your temperament and environment.
You were probably born an introvert. From day one, you had the seed of introversion encoded in your DNA. When you were born, your dopamine reward system was less active than your extroverted peers’. As you grew, you reacted to your surroundings as an introvert. You may have been more cautious than other children, clinging to your parent’s leg instead of running excitedly toward the play group.
Why does it matter that you were born an introvert and that you’ll likely stay an introvert for life? Because you don’t want to spend your life pretending to be someone you’re not. As an introvert, it’s important to recognize that your needs are always going to be slightly different from the needs of extroverts—and learn how to work with your introversion, rather than fight against it.
Temperaments Don’t Change. Personalities Do.
personality and temperament are different. Your personality is shaped by your circumstances and experiences; your temperament is encoded in your DNA from birth. Turns out, both your personality and temperament work together to create who you are. It’s both nature and nurture.
For example, let’s say you were an introvert who was lucky enough to grow up in an environment that supported your quiet nature. Parents and teachers praised you for being thoughtful and analytical. They understood your need for alone time and helped you socialize in a way that worked for you. They encouraged you to seek opportunities that played to your strengths, and most important, they didn’t make you feel “less than” for not being like the extroverted kids. If they did this, you probably grew up to be a fairly well-adjusted introvert who feels comfortable in your own skin.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Instead of being praised for being thoughtful, many introverts are told they’re “too quiet.” Parents order them to “stop spending so much time in your room” and teachers tell them to participate more. Introverted kids get the message that there’s something wrong with them because they’d rather do an activity quietly and alone rather than hang out with friends every weekend. If this is the kind of childhood you had, you may have grown up to be an adult who feels broken. The good news is it’s not too late to change that.
Introverts Aren’t Unsociable. We Just Socialize Differently.
When it comes to friendships, extroverts want the variety of the buffet, whereas introverts want the quality of the chef’s special. In other words, the general rule is this: extroverts seek breadth while introverts crave depth.
Introverts keep their social circles small, and that’s okay. Just make sure your social circle isn’t zero. Interestingly, research shows that everyone—both extroverts and introverts—can feel happier after socializing.
Does this mean that introverts should rent theaters and throw birthday parties to the tune of three hundred people? Not exactly. Introverts really do get worn out by socializing, and the quality of our interactions matter. But it does mean we need some socializing. It’s all about balance. We can’t party all weekend, but we also shouldn’t shut ourselves away in our homes for years à la the poet Emily Dickinson. Find what works for you—dinner with your best friend, writing a thoughtful email to your sister to catch her up on your week, or messaging with online friends. The important thing is to be social on your own terms. You may find that if you initiate the interaction, you’ll have more control over it—and ultimately this can help prevent social brain-drain.
Here are fourteen rules for being friends with an introvert:
- If you want to get to know us better, hang out with us one-on-one.
- Likewise, if you say it’s just going to be the two of us, don’t invite other people.
- We’d rather have a tiny moment of real connection than hours of polite chitchat
- Sometimes we need encouragement to open up about ourselves
- We may have a hard time confronting you about something.
- We may get lost in our own little world
- Our silence means we’re processing.
- We like talking, too.
- We may not call or text you as much as your extroverted friends.
- Give us time to mentally prepare to hang out.
- As much as we love you, please don’t show up at our house without asking.
- If we don’t answer your text, email, or Facebook message right away, don’t think we’re ignoring you.
- Please know that as much as we had fun hanging out with you yesterday, we probably don’t want to hang out again today
- If we say we want to stay home, we really do just want to stay home.
If You Want More Friends
What if you’re staying home every weekend not because you need to recharge, but because you don’t have anyone to hang out with?
Finding “your people” is hard. As an adult, where do you go to meet new people? And how do you start a conversation with someone you barely know? Hanging out with people you don’t know well can be draining. Also, you don’t want to be friends with just anyone—that means the chatty extrovert who parties every weekend probably won’t become your BFF. You’re looking for a friend who understands you—someone you truly “click” with.
Here are nine ideas to help you make friends with people who truly “get” you:
- Think about the people you already know.
- It’s okay to make the first move.
- Peel off the mask.
- Ask questions.
- Notice how you feel.
- Watch out for potentially toxic relationships.
- Remember that the awkwardness will go away with time.
- Plan a regularly scheduled meet-up.
- Go slowly. You can’t rush a quality relationship.
Why Dating Can Be Hard for Introverts
No matter what qualities you’re attracted to, dating can be hard. And it’s hard whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or whatever-vert. How do you meet people? What do you say? And what if you get rejected? Introverts face particular challenges when it comes to dating. For one, we probably don’t put ourselves out there as much as extroverts. Most nights, we’d rather relax at home or hang out with just a few close friends. When we do go out, we don’t have a huge desire to strike up conversations with strangers. Awkward small talk coupled with the fear of rejection? No thanks, I’ll just get three more cats and be alone forever.
But I Don’t Wanna Leave My House
It can be hard for introverts to meet potential partners because we don’t socialize as much. How do you meet people when you don’t want to hang out in noisy bars and crowded clubs? The good news is you don’t have to. You’ll probably still have to go to places and talk to people. But you can do this in a way that’s more your style. Here are three ideas to help you meet potential dates:
- Through your hobbies. Pick an activity you enjoy or you would like to try. Then find a place where there are other people doing that activity
- Through your friends. Ask your friends if they know anyone you might be interested in. Keep in mind that extroverts, by definition, love to surround themselves with people and tend to be very connected
- Give online dating a chance. Swiping through profiles feels more like shopping than falling in love. But online dating offers some advantages to introverts. It allows you to filter people based on their interests and personality type before you talk to them.
Don’t Fake Being an Extrovert
As you talk to people you’re interested in, it’s okay to be friendly. It’s even okay to step a bit outside your comfort zone and push the limits of your gregariousness. But be careful not to manufacture too much of an extroverted persona. Although it might be tempting to fake being more social than you really are when you’re trying to attract a love match, eventually this approach will backfire. You may find yourself involved with someone who would have preferred being involved with an extrovert—and feels tricked into a mismatched relationship. Later on, you may find yourself resenting your partner’s expectation to go, go, go, and talk, talk, talk.
Why Introverts Make Amazing Partners
For one, we tend to be excellent listeners. At our best, we try to understand what our partner is saying, and we think about where they’re coming from before we respond. This can be helpful, because once words are spoken, they can’t be retracted or easily forgotten, if at all. Introverts truly understand the power of words—including well-placed moments of silence.
Because we’re often comfortable listening and observing in social situations, we’re okay with giving our partner the stage. This relationship superpower is especially valuable if our significant other is an extrovert. While our partner holds court, we won’t feel compelled to wrestle attention away from them.
What’s more, introverts can create homes that become sacred spaces to recharge, and we may have a calming influence on our partners. The list goes on.
Why More Companies Should Hire Introverts
Introverts can make seriously awesome employees and leaders, whether it’s in the office, factory, store, boardroom, or classroom. Don’t think that introverts can’t work on a team. In fact, research shows that quiet, neurotic introverts make better team players than extroverts in the long run.
Bosses often have high expectations for extroverts because they are enthusiastic, outgoing, and assertive; however, one study found that extroverts may not live up to these expectations and despite their drive to be social, they didn’t collaborate well in practice.
Introverts, on the other hand, particularly those who score high in “neuroticism” on the Big Five scale, may be the better employee in the long run. Although neuroticism is often associated with anxiety, negative emotions, and irritability, people who are neurotic also tend to care a lot about what others think of them. This means they may work harder on a team because they worry about how their colleagues perceive them, and they don’t want to be seen as not pulling their weight. So, while companies may be attracted to hiring extroverts because they interview well, bosses should remember to check their expectations—a gregarious personality doesn’t necessarily equal better results.
Also, in the work place introverts are often the calm in the center of the storm. When everyone is losing their head over the company’s latest policy change—huddling in outraged groups in the break room or spouting off their impassioned opinions in meetings—introverts are already thinking of new ways to adjust. Quietly.
Finally, introverts really know their stuff.