Monday, June 15, 2009

INTROVERTS SHOULD BE LEFT BY THEMSELVES

Introverts are perhaps the most misconstrued people in this world. They are usually perceived as dull, boring, and at times arrogant. They are also, often believed to be rather dry, lackluster, and lacking in enthusiasm. For this they are at the receiving end of quite a lot of criticism and endless advice and suggestions.

This, of course, is not really what introverts are about. These are many of the misconceptions and misperceptions that usually people have about them. Such opinions held by others and their constant advices to introverts make them irritated and lead them to avoid others.

Contrary to popular belief, introversion is not only about being shy, quiet, and not being very sociable. This is true, to an extent, but this is not the only thing that is related to introversion.

According to Carl Jung, introverts orient their thoughts inwards, to their inner self. They are more concerned with their inner feelings. In other words, introverts are more self-reflective and introspective. They are highly self-involved and tend to explore their own inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Compared to introverts, extraverts (extrovert and extroversion being the more common spellings) are quite the opposite. Extraverts orient themselves towards their outer world. They are less concerned about their inner feelings and are more oriented towards their surroundings rather than themselves.

Since introverts are more concerned with their inner feelings, they prefer to be self-involved rather than being in social gatherings. They like to spend a lot of time with themselves rather than being with others. This is why they have very few friends. They tend to be more focused and do not like to be distracted. Extraverts, on the other hand, being oriented towards their outer world, like to be in social gatherings and do not like to be alone.

Carl Jung also suggests that every individual has both introversion and extraversion, but one of them is dominant. In case of introverts, introversion is more dominant compared to extraversion. This means that introverts have some traits of extraversion also and though they are not very sociable, they can make the necessary adjustments when required.

If an introvert is not very sociable, it simply means that he/she does not want to be like that. But when it is required, then an introvert can become sociable, for that particular moment, though not as active as an extravert. Therefore, an introvert can be sociable, but only when he/she wants to be or has to be.

There are other reasons for why introverts are like the way they are. Hans Eyesenck gives a biological basis for introversion and extraversion. According to him, it is the biological temperament that determines whether a person is an introvert or an extravert.

Each person has a certain level of arousal within their central nervous system (specifically, in the part of the brain known as the ascending reticular activating system). Introverts have a high level of arousal. They have a low threshold for social stimulation. A low threshold for stimulation means that introverts get easily aroused by their surroundings and they do not have to go out of their way to generate a certain level of enthusiasm.

This low threshold of stimulation makes an introvert to be self-involved. Since they have a high level of arousal, being self-involved is enough for them to stimulate themselves in a highly satisfying manner.

Compared to introverts, extraverts have a very low level of arousal and a high threshold for social stimulation. This is why an extravert is very active and highly sociable. Since they have a high threshold for stimulation, they have to be outgoing and involved in many tasks to satisfy their level of arousal. In other words, they have to go out of their way to generate a certain level of enthusiasm to satisfy themselves.

The kind of excitement that an extravert may have by being with many friends and by being highly active, an introvert generates the same amount of excitement by simply reading a book or by being alone and being involved in his/her own thoughts.

Introverts, having a high level of arousal, get easily aroused and that is why they do not need to be very active and sociable. Extraverts, on the other hand, having a low level of arousal, do not get easily aroused and because of that they need to be highly active and very sociable. This is why introverts tend to be more contemplative and thoughtful and extraverts tend to be more spontaneous and impulsive.

Introverts, in the same manner, can be differentiated with people who are involved in adventure sports, who have more of a sensation seeking personality (they are not exactly like extraverts). People with a sensation seeking personality have an extremely low level of arousal. They have an extremely high threshold for social stimulation.

To satisfy their level of arousal, people with sensation seeking personality need to be involved in adventurous activities. They need to be involved in things like bungee-jumping, paragliding, or river-rafting.

An introvert does not have to do all this to satisfy their level of excitement. For them, reading a book of their interest generates the same amount of excitement that a person with a sensation seeking personality might generate by bungee-jumping.

Introverts, having a low threshold for stimulation, generally get uncomfortable in a situation that can be highly stimulating for them. For an introvert, being around with many people, being involved in too many tasks, or for that matter bungee-jumping, can be highly stimulating and too much for their comfort level. These situations do not match with their biological temperament and thus causes discomfort. This is why introverts tend to be shy and prefer to be with very few people.

In the same manner, extraverts become uncomfortable when being in a situation that is not highly stimulating for them. When alone, extraverts go out, get involved in something, and be with many friends to decrease their discomfort. Being alone and inactive does not match with their biological temperament. They become so uncomfortable in low stimulating situations that they just have to be involved in something or the other.

Carl Jung and Hans Eyesenck give a completely different picture of introversion. Their views give a better understanding of introverts. Introverts behave in a particular way because they orient their thoughts towards their inner self and have a high level of arousal.

It is not that introverts are dull and lack in enthusiasm. They are enthusiastic in their own way, which may be different from others. They get excited and generate their enthusiasm by doing different kinds of things. Those things might be boring for others but not for introverts. Similarly, the things that excite others, like being in social gatherings, do not create any kind of interest for introverts.

Rather than indulging in criticisms, there should be a respect and acknowledgment for individual differences. Introverts have their own good qualities. They are different from others, because they are simply like that. Just like others behave in a particular way, introverts also have their own way of behaving.

Introverts like to live in their own world. They like to be self-involved, are self-reflective, and prefer to be with very few people. Instead of trying to change them and making them like others (or rather like extraverts), they should be left by themselves. They are best when left to enjoy living in their own world.

80 comments:

C R D said...

Being an introvert myself, I can completely relate with the post :)

The high arousal levels didnt sink in, though the introspection aspect was bang on.

I too get misunderstood as being rude and arrogant. I somehow have a problme relating with superiors. also, i feel like running away when approaching a crowd when they're all looking at me, or greeting someone i have just met. Its bcoz i dunno how they will react. fear of their reaction gets the better of me

Cheers
CRD

Angie said...

I also feel that I can relate! It is very informative, and I appreciate your post on the different values of introverts vs. extroverts. Often, I feel that a major conflict is conversation ... that extroverts are content with talking about the weather or last night's BB game, whereas introverts desire meaningful and stimulating conversation. It's interesting to look at both sides to see how when the interact, they're coming at it from different needs and expectations.

I look forward to continuing to read your blog!

jojigirl said...

Thanks for enlightening me about why I am. My appreciation for this very helpful post.

Rakesh Vanamali said...

Very well written! I can relate to all of this so very well!

Superb write, and very informative!

Saif said...

@ CRD
The fear that you have is understandable. In such situations the best thing to do is just to be yourself. The more self-conscious you get the more difficult it becomes.

About the high arousal thing ... well, there is continuous activity going on in the brain. This activity generates mechanical waves called brain waves. A high arousal level means that the brain waves are of a high frequency. In some people the brain waves are of a high frequency and in some people it is low ... this is random, since birth and there's no specific reason for this. People are just born like this (some with high frequency and some with low frequency brain waves).

Because of high frequency brain waves, introverts, to maintain a balance, need to be in situations that are relatively calm. A highly active situation causes discomfort because it does not match with the biological setup (high frequency brain waves).

High frequency brain waves causes a person to be more sensitive to his/her surroundings. This is why a relatively calmer situation, for an introvert, can be highly stimulating. Since they are more sensitive to their surroundings, they are more thoughtful and have a more analytical mind. This is the reason why most of the thinkers are introverts.

It is completely the opposite for extraverts, i.e. they have low frequency brain waves and thus, to maintain a balance they have to be in highly active situations.

Hopefully, this description makes it clear for you. :)

Saif said...

@ Angie
I'm glad to know that you found this post to be informative.

The difference in conversation, that you cited, between introverts and extraverts, is right to an extent. I won't say that it's a major difference, as that's just a small aspect ... but yeah at times it is true.

... I'll be looking forward for your future visits :)



@ jojigirl
Its really nice to know that you found this post to be very helpful. That's the purpose of writing it ... to make introverts understand themselves in a better way, to make them feel good about themselves, and to make others clear their misconceptions about introversion.



@ Rakesh
Thanks a lot for the appreciation ... great that you feel like that. :)

S.Ganesh Kumar said...

Wow,This is the best Blog entry I read regarding the Introverts and Extraverts.Being an introvert,I often face questions like 'why don't you behave like others',or any language problem when I do not speak much,when the fact is I just want to speak well enough to get the message right and get the work done and don't like much of chatting with others.
And I think Carl Jung's suggestion that every individual has both introversion and extraversion is absolutely right,because at times,I do try to be free and mingle well with others when necessary and also at times,a tendency to grab attaention does prop up once in a while
in mind.:D

S.Ganesh Kumar said...

And I wonder why most people are so keen to destroy the intovert nature of a person!Often,they consider it as a sign of being unhealthy.:(

Saif said...

@ S. Ganesh Kumar
What you have said is something that is quite a common experience that introverts go through and this what made me write this post. It's just a very common misconception that being an extravert is the only right way of living life. People think that being an introvert means that there is some problem with that person, which is obviously untrue.

There is a complete lack of awareness among people about introversion. There is a false belief that the only way to be successful and happy in life is to be an extravert. This of course is absolutely wrong. Introverts have a lot of good qualities. There are a lot of advantages of being an introvert.

Those who feel that being an introvert is something wrong and try change an them or criticize them for what they are, completely ignore the fact that many famous people are introverts. People like Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Abraham Linkoln, Edison, Mother Teresa, Bill Gates, Al Gore, are all introverts. Among the Indian actors, Amitabh Bacchan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan are also introverts. These are of course a very small number of famous introverts. There are a lot more famous and successful people who happen to be introverts.

There is nothing wrong in being an introvert. A person should be proud of being an introvert and should not bother at all about changing himself/herself.

Lee Ann / Living Introverted said...

Thanks for this thorough explanation! I will be sharing it with my readers. :)

Vi said...

Hi!
I stumbled upon this entry from Living Introverted. Wow, this was an amazing post. I had never heard of Hans Eysenck before, nor have I heard of his theories on the different biological threshold levels for stimulation. I loved your comparison between him and Carl Jung.

The Buddhist Conservative said...

Very good analysis of the often misunderstood introverted personality. In a world dominated by extroverts, we introverts often receive a bad rap.

The only thing I disagree with is the use of "shy" in describing introverts. I believe shyness is a product of other personality traits as well as environmental factors. Many extremely introverted people, myself included, choose when to put ourselves "out there" which to an extrovert would appear as shyness or aloofness.

Like Vi, I found the post through Lee Ann's 'Living Introverted'.

Namaste'

Martina Solmes said...

Saif,

Thank you so much for this informative and much needed post.
I'm a first time visitor to your blog and hope to follow it more if time permits.

Also, there's something that I've been wondering about lately. Maybe you have some input for me.

If and how does one’s gender influence the experience of being introverted?

It seems that men in general have less difficulty being comfortable, and admitting to, being introverted. I wonder if this is a cultural thing or just pertains to my particular group of friends.

Most introverted women I know have noticeably greater difficulty making friends (especially with other women) because they are more likely perceived as conceited, secretive, and smug. I’m wondering if it has to do with gender role expectations for women like hospitality, warmth, cheerfulness and readiness to display emotion.

I also wonder what role culture plays in terms of introversion. I commented on another blog about my first experience living in the U.S. as a native Swiss. I was frequently perceived as slow or rude because I didn’t speak up in crowds or “advertise” myself to others.

Generally, Swiss culture (and a lot of Western Europe) bears many similarities to U.S culture, but there are still some significant differences.

I grew up being taught that talking too much, too fast or too loud and generally making a spectacle of oneself are signs of bad manners. A saying I was taught goes “Speaking is silver, silence is golden”. Self-effacement and ability to focus quietly for long periods of time were regarded highly.

Maybe these things date me because I know things are changing fast in Europe. Also, these are observations rather than endorsements of any cultural value system.

Anyways, I look forward to your thoughts and future posts.

Kindly,
Martina

Brooke said...

wow this is a great post! the cyclone (coney island) and graduation parties leave me feeling just about the same: awful. i'd never considered a biological basis, really. the only thing i wonder about is whether introversion is so very self-centered. others-- even many others-- matter very much to me. if anything, they matter so much that it takes me more time and energy to "see" them and feel them than it might to someone for whom others matter less. just a thought.

Angelique said...

Kudos for writing this. Alot of times I'm misunderstood... and mistaken for a outgoing person who likes chit-chat, my least favorite thing!! LOL

I will talk at length when I want to when it's someone I value or enjoy talking with but alot of mindless chatter irritates me, crowds especially.

Thanks for shedding some light for others to understand the introvert!

Saif said...

@ Lee Ann
Thanks for the appreciation. Coming from a person who has written a book on introversion, it feels really great. :)



@ Vi
Yeah, Eyesenck's theory explains introversion very well. Giving a biological explanation for introversion and extraversion clears many of the misconceptions related to introverts and helps in a better understanding of them.



@ The Buddhist Conservative
You're right that shyness can be a product of other personality traits and environmental factors, but that does not mean that it is not associated with introversion. There are elements of shyness in introversion and Eyesenck' theory sheds light on it.

Also, I have never said that shyness is majorly associated with introversion. I'm not saying that introversion is synonymous with shyness. Shyness is just a small aspect. The degree of shyness may differ from person to person, some may be extremely shy and some may not ... some may even be able to overcome their shyness to quite an extent.

You're also right when you say that many introverted people may simply choose to be "out there". But, in a large social gathering or an unfamiliar situation an introvert has a feeling of discomfort (explained clearly by Jung's and Eyesenck's theory), and this discomfort results in being shy.

Saif said...

@ Martina
You have put forward some thought provoking issues about introversion.

I feel that introverted men might have a greater difficulty in adjusting in the society. Usually, men are expected to be more outgoing and out-spoken. Also, extraversion is seen as a sign of strength and being bold, which is more associated with men, due to gender stereotypes.

Introversion is misperceived as a sign of weakness and according to the gender stereotypes, men and weakness do not go hand in hand. Again according to gender stereotypes, being coy and quiet is more associated with females compared to males. So, in this way being an introvert can be more acceptable for females compared to males.

But, I have seen that the kind of criticism that introverts get, is common for both males and females. The most common one being that the person is cold.

So I think that when it comes to adjustment in society, males might have greater problems compared to females. But, when it comes to being perceived by others, there might be no difference in males and females.

I also feel that there might be cultural differences when it comes to introverted females. The way girls are brought up in India is different from that of USA and Europe. In India, girls are taught and brought up to be as relatively shy and less outspoken. I believe this is not the case in USA and Europe.

There are cultural differences in gender roles. Also, now a days there are no specific gender roles. In the era of metro-sexual men and alpha-women, nothing much can be said about gender.

So, on the whole gender differences in introversion is something that is quite debatable and it is difficult to come to an exact conclusion.

When it comes to cultural differences, I think there is a difference between individualist and collectivist societies. In collectivist societies, it perhaps, is quite easier for introverts compared to introverts in individualist societies. Asian countries come under collectivist societies and Western countries like USA and European countries come under individualist societies.

The way you were perceived when you moved to USA, is something that every introvert is perceived anywhere. It could also be that it was only because you were seen as a foreigner. If I'm not wrong then I believe that there have always been ego clashes between Americans and Europeans and this why you were perceived in that way.

Well, I'm glad that you put forward these quite debatable issues.

... and thanks for following my blog, I'll be looking forward to your future visits. :)

Saif said...

@ Brooke
Well, you've got a point there. Introverts require more effort to associate with others and this is why it is quite possible that introverts are more genuine and meaningful when it comes to relationships. I don't remember where, but I have read about this somewhere ... I'll try find the source from where I read this.



@ Angelique
Yeah, introverts like to talk a lot only with people who are close to them or only when they find something that is of their interest. Like you, introverts prefer to avoid mindless chatters and usually have a no-nonsense attitude.

Lucia said...

The playing out of introversion in collectivist societies and individual societies has been on my mind. I am an introvert who works in international development. In thinking about collectivist societies, I'm turning over different facets in my mind. I understand that women and girls may be able to keep to themselves. I also think that having a support structure of family would make having connections much easier for introverts. It removes the need for having to get out there to make connections. On the other hand, there are often expectations to never be alone. One of the most difficult things for me as an introvert in many trips to Asia and Africa is the sense that as a visitor I should never be left alone. Because the people I am with are usually with family or others 100% of the time, there doesn't seem to be a sense of needing or wanting any time alone. I often find this constant interaction exhausting and find I don't have time to think and get rebalanced.

adele said...

On the Myers-Briggs Indicator, there is no statistical significance in introversion/extraversion for males versus females ( there is for one scale only: thinking/feeling).

As to sociability, it took me a long time to recognize that I am an introvert because I am so interested in other people, but this interest is not just interacting with other people but studying what makes us tick, etc. I do love being with other people, talking, and interacting, but more in a small group or one on one. I love to go to a coffee house, alone, to be around others and observe them without having to actually talk to anyone (do any of you like to do this?). I have found certain activities,like lecturing to a large class or making small talk at a large gathering, to be exhausting. Coming to understand this as part of my introversion has helped me accept myself and my preferences rather than see myself as a "failure" at certain activities.

Saif said...

@ Lucia
Yeah, in such situations it can be exhausting. But then an introvert always has a choice to stay away from such situations. I can understand what you're trying to stay, but still an introvert being an introvert can somehow manage to take some time out.

Its not that introverts do not like to interact at all. They like to interact with people, but only in a limited manner or whenever it suits them. Introverts have a lot of difficulty in making social connections and building relationships. A collectivist society has a lot more social support compared to an individualist society. There is a strong sense of social connectivity in collectivist societies. And as you said, it is easier to make social connections in collectivist societies. Thus, for an introvert, a collectivist society, will enable better social adjustment. An individualist society, on the other hand, has a comparatively weak social connectivity and will create difficulties for an introvert to make interactions with others. That's why I said that it will be easier for introverts in a collectivist society.



@ adele
Well yeah, everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses. And you being interested in studying social relationships is also a big sign of introversion. Introverts have a strong analytical ability, which you seem to have. The best thing for any introvert is to be able to recognize his/her strengths. This helps the person a lot in building self-confidence and proudly accepting that he/she is an introvert ... exactly the same thing that you have done :)

... you have asked that "do any of you like to do this?". Well, not exactly the same as you do but I'm a big introvert and I'm also very much interested in studying and analyzing social relationships. I have taken this interest of mine is to such an extent that I'm writing a book on relationship issues and I'm even doing my PhD on relationships :)

The description that you gave about yourself, there seems to be a lot of similarity between me and you. To quite an extent, it seemed that I was reading about myself :)

Tausif said...

Very nice article. This is by far your most popular post. Regarding introversion, I think its more of the Western culture that looks down on introverts. You see it a lot in Western popular media, such as films, where they show introversion as undesirable and extraverts are deemed as "winners". Whereas, in the Eastern world it is not looked down upon (as much). You probably have read more about it and will have a better knowledge about cultural aspects within this context.

I can identify with the biological aspects that cause intraversion. For me social gatherings really drain me out, so does lots of talking. And sometimes I feel people find this insulting when they see I am not very talkative.

Diana said...

You describe me very well here. I'm so glad there are people who do understand introverts. I also relate to much of what Carl Jung said. I can be somewhat extraverted. But that's usually stimulated by caffeine and/or sugar. Not always, but sometimes. Or sometimes alcohol if I were to drink a little too much.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights about introverts and extraverts.

Diana said...

Oh. I just read the comment where you said you are a big introvert. When did you realize that you are introverted? Was it a relief to understand yourself better? It was for me.:)

Saif said...

@ Tipu Bhai (Tausif)
I haven't really given a thought about what you said that introverts are looked down upon more in Western countries. You have had the experience of living in both Eastern and Western parts of the world, so I believe that you can tell about it in a better way. But giving a thought to it, you seem to be right to quite an extent.

I can understand when you say that people find it insulting when they see that you're not very talkative. This is what makes people think that the person who is an introvert is rude and arrogant.



@ Daina
Yeah I am a big introvert. Well, I don't exactly remember when but it was at a very young age, even before I knew about the word "introvert". I always had the feeling that I'm not like others. Later when I came to know about the words "introvert" and "introversion", I thought to myself that "hey, that's me" :D

I never felt bad or inferior about being an introvert. I used tell myself that this is the way I am. So, not exactly relieved, I would put that in a different way ... when I realized the strengths and advantages of being an introvert, it enhanced my self-confidence to a great extent.

Tanveerz said...

fantastic write up! being an introvert myself...there were lots of things which i could connect to. In fact the comments page makes as good a reading as the main article of yours. congrats!

Saif said...

@ Tanveerz
Nice to know that you could to relate to it ...

Anonymous said...

I've been cursing myself for being introvert.. My parents also get stressed because of my personality
Deep in my heart, I really want to change into an extrovert. But I can't. I would feel uncomfortable and lack confidence to do so.

Thank you for the article. It gives me a better understanding of myself. But still, I don't know how to explain about this introvert thingy to my parents. I'm sure they would still force me to be an extrovert. If I couldn't change, they would feel disappointed and sad all the time.. Can you give me some suggestion?

Saif said...

@ anonymous
You're right when you say that you can't change into an extravert, because the fact of the matter is that you are an introvert. Trying to be an extravert will be trying to be someone else, which only creates dissatisfaction. At best you can be an extravert when the situation requires you to do so. But, on the whole you will always be an introvert.

I can understand that it is difficult to convince parents about something that they don't believe in. They might be feeling pressure from the society that thinks being an extravert is the right thing to be. You can tell your parents that each person in this world is different from the other. In the same world there are extraverts and there are introverts. Each person is different from the other and each person has their own abilities and strengths. You can also give your parents examples of famous people who're introverts (read the comments where I have named some famous introverts).

Apart from that, the most important thing is how you feel about yourself. You need to realize that being an introvert you can do so many things that an extravert may not be able to do. You need to realize your own potential and you need to strengthen your abilities. You need to know what's important for you and what's not. The first thing that you need to do is be happy and satisfied with yourself, which can happen by doing the things that I mentioned above. If you are satisfied about yourself and if you are confident about your abilities, then your parents will not at all feel disappointed. When they will realize that you are happy with the way you are, they will also feel happy for you and won't ask you to change at all.

I hope this has helped you in some way. You are always welcome to ask anything else that you feel like.
Take care!

Anonymous said...

I am definitely in like-minded company here on this blog. I have been interested in personality typing since completing an undergraduate degree in communications 6 years ago. I have consistently tested as an INFJ and ISFJ over that span of time, and my life experiences have been nearly identical to all of yours. I am very heavy on the "I" with a pecentage ranging from 75% to 100%. Anyway, I enjoyed reading ll of these threads.

Saif said...

@ Anonymous
Good to know about a similar person. My results of on the MBTI have been consistently as INFP and even I have a high percentage on "I" (I don't remember the exact number though).

Thanks for visiting ...

Sheeba Riyas said...

Saif,

I have a question for you...at what age can the characterictics of an introvert or extrovert be identified?

I noticed that my 2 1/2 year old is extremely shy and is a deep thinker. Are these possible signs of introversy? He is perfectly normal otherwise.

Saif said...

@ Sheeba
Well, if you go by Eyesenck's theory then introversion and extraversion can be identified at a very young age. So, even though your son is just two and a half years old, he is showing signs of introversion. But, you should not come to a conclusion right now, because he still has a long way to go. In the later years a lot will depend on the kind of peers he has and the kind of environment he is brought up in. Who knows all this might affect him in such a way that you might see some changes in him.
So, yes your son is an introvert but it can't be said that he will remain like this, because he is just 2.5 years old.

Anonymous said...

You write "According to Carl Jung, introverts orient their thoughts inwards, to their inner self. They are more concerned with their inner feelings. In other words, introverts are more self-reflective and introspective. They are highly self-involved and tend to explore their own inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences."

But this is, in normal discourse, just the definition of "self-centered". It's very hard to argue for further acceptance when really this just a new word for something society has always shunned. Nicing it up doesn't change things.

Saif said...

@ Anonymous
Well, you should check the meaning of self-centered properly before saying that. Being self-involved, self-reflective, and introspective is in no way being self-centered. Maybe you see it that way, but that doesn't mean it is like that. Yes, society has shunned this type of behaviour because largely people feel that being an extravert is the right way to lead life, which is not true.

It's not about nicing up things, it's about telling the reality. Introverts like to be by themselves, but they also like to interact with others, not exactly like extraverts, their way of interacting with others is a bit different.

Also, many of the great psychologists are introverts. Being a psychologist is about being altruistic. So, how can a person be altruistic and self-centered at the same time?

It's not at all about being self-centered. This is what introverts are "misconstrued" to be. The key is that they are "misconstrued", which is obviously not the reality.

Anonymous said...

Saif wrote:

"Well, you should check the meaning of self-centered properly before saying that. Being self-involved, self-reflective, and introspective is in no way being self-centered. Maybe you see it that way, but that doesn't mean it is like that."

Being self-involved is not the same as self-centered? I think only an introvert makes such a distinction. I've found introverts (in the minority) use "Self-centered" to mean the same as what extroverts (the majority) call "selfish".

Calling it "self-involved" doesn't help. An introvert may think it does, but the rest of us don't. Self-involved is just as bad...and introverts can't erase that fact by rewriting language.

I know plenty of psychologists who are not altruistic. They get into it out of a self-centered desire to understand themselves. I love psychology, and my own (more casual)interest is in part self-centered too. But there's no question in my mind that this self-interest is the prime motivating force for many.

I'm not saying introverts are bad people who wish ill on others. Most I know would prefer to see others happy than sad. But they don't thrive on other's happiness, and that leaves the rest of us cold in our interactions with them.

A relationship, of any sort, with an introvert is emotionally fairly one sided. They don't mean us harm, but they hardly go out of their way to share our joys and work on our happiness. An unsuspecting, or trapped, extrovert will pour hours and weeks and years into these interacting, depending on circumstances, and, emotionally at least, get very little in return.

Saif said...

@ Anonymous
The problem is that you are looking at introverts from your own limited perspective and you are expecting introverts to be like you, which makes little sense.

If you think that being self-involved is the same as being self-centered then that's your problem. I'm not going to convince you to change your views. But even if a person is self-centered (introvert or not), why should anyone else have a problem with that if he/she is not being harmful to others.

People always ignore the fact that each person is different from the other. If an introvert is behaving in a particular way what do you have to do with that. Introverts are not emotionally cold, they just seem to be that way (I know that you're going to have a problem with this also). Like I said in the post, introverts have a low threshold to stimulation and that's why they get aroused by doing things which may not necessarily seem to be acceptable by others.

There are two completely different kinds of people - introverts and extraverts. Why does anyone have a problem with accepting this, rather than complaining about introversion and trying to make them like extraverts. Everyone has their own way of living and one should not be bothered about it if he/she has not been harmed by that behaviour. If you have found introverts emotionally cold and giving very little in return, then just stay away from them. You won't believe me, but being that way may not have been the intention of the person that you're mentioning. He/she behaved in a natural way, because introverts are biologically built that way. It is understandable that someone else might get hurt by such behaviour, but that was not the intention.

The purpose of writing this post is not to show introverts in a good light. It was just to tell that introverts are different from others and because of that may be misunderstood by others. If you have some problems or issues with introverts, then that's not my concern. In fact you are not the first one who has such an attitude.

Now coming to your view about some psychologists. Psychology is the field that studies behaviour in order to understand behaviour in a better way so that it helps in making life more satisfying. If someone studies psychology to understand himself/herself, then what's wrong with that. Also, only when one has an understanding of himself/herself in a better way, then he/she can have an understanding of his/her surroundings in a proper manner. So, in a way, an attempt to understanding oneself (which you think is self-centered) leads a person to be altruistic.

Psychologists have an inclination to help others. Saying that some psychologists (that you know) are not altruistic is again just what you think and I don't want to do anything with that.

You are just one of those who expect others to behave like they want to. You fail to understand that there are different kind of people in this world and one should accept that.

I'm not saying that introverts are better than extraverts. This will be a wrong and illogical statement. I'm just saying that introverts and extraverts are completely different from each other. Both have their good and bad qualities, and that's it.

It's all about being comfortable with oneself. You, being an extravert, will definitely not be comfortable by being alone. Likewise, an introvert will not be comfortable by being with too many people. They are behaving just like they are, just as extraverts have their own way to behave. There is a reason for calling this post, "Introverts Should Be Left By Themselves." The more you try to change introverts the more they will resist and the more negatively they will be perceived by others. So, it's better to leave them the way they are ... to leave them by themselves.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, but I never thought to search the Internet for these things until my job forced me to interact with large numbers of people for several hours at a time. It was obvious to me then that I wasn't like the others present; I was aloof, yes, but this environment just wasn't my natural habitat. It was stifling. I could tolerate it, but I certainly wouldn't miss it if I never had to do it again. Was it any surprise that I had never voluntarily put myself in that sort of setting before until work forced me to do so?

It was also obvious to me that being the way that I am pissed off some people present, as if my disinterest in the things that interested them was some sort of personal affront. I found this odd, because I was fully aware that those very same people took no interest whatsoever in the sorts of things that interested me, and yet I felt no ill-will toward them because of it. To each his own.

It's not that I was too stupid or too arrogant or what have you to participate more; it's that I had no natural skills whatsoever in that setting.

Though I suppose I could fake it somewhat, I didn't feel I that should have to feign being a certain way to make certain people happy; they certainly weren't bending over backwards to ensure my happiness. And feigning is a lot of mental work for me since I am not naturally extroverted--something extroverts fail to realize.

Anonymous said...

For the extroverts shunning introversion, I'll add a few comments. First, you should just accept people for who they are so long as they aren't causing others harm, as already noted. But on top of what's already been noted about that, something more needs to be underscored: If you criticize or judge an introvert for simply being the way he is, you will not change that person; you will only give that person more incentive to stay the hell away from you. We don't need your judgment, and we are family, and so feel no already quite happy with our significant others or immediate families and have no need whatsoever to seek interaction beyond that. Since we are not seeking such interaction, your shunning isn't withholding anything we value from us; we'll do just fine on our own anyway. So all that you accomplish is alienating us further. If we never saw you again for the rest of our lives, we'd do just fine.

I'm reminded of a professor I had once: he had just taught us in class minutes before how to solve a certain kind of logical proof, involving something like six steps, the last step of which was to reverse the answer of the previous five steps. I missed or didn't get that last step, even though I understood the rest of the process completely, and took a chance and raised my hand and gave the exact opposite of the right answer. He sneered "Noooo!" in a demeaning way. The lesson I learned: never raise my hand in that class again.

Second, some people are terrible at some things but excel at others. We all have different skill sets related to our personality types. I might make a terrible politician, but I could make one hell of a scientist. I have a kind of focus that extroverts lack and I wouldn't give it up for the world. When I am working on a problem it is as if the rest of the world goes silent and I am only working on that problem. This allows me to produce great work and inspires a perfectionist streak in my work. That is a sort of skill that many employers would love to see in an employee, such as a computer programmer or a chemist, even if I would make a terrible salesman. It is also the sort of skill that undoubtedly makes the sorts of medicines you use possible--so don't knock it.

Finally, given that extroverts are more likely to be successful in this world (in general), don't you think I would change (at least somewhat) if I could? Do you know how hard it is to date if you abstain from social situations? (In high school, I solved this problem somewhat by being a social person's "sidekick.") Or to get a high-paying job if you don't network? (Note: successful introverts have done so largely by "faking it" by their own account.) While we introverts have some prized skills, they are in niche areas where you have to work extra hard to get your foot in the door , and overall we are at a disadvantage in an extrovert's world. But we press on like everyone else.

Anonymous said...

…continued (though the first half of my post hasn't yet shown up?)

My main point in posting here is really to add some balance to a conversation that tends to be unbalanced due to extroverts lower likelihood of discussing emotions. My initial interest in the introvert/extrovert relationship was in communication differences between the two groups. But after reading hundreds of blogs, discussions and message boards I see the emotional side of the interaction represented from mostly from the introvert side.

Introverts talk a lot about the emotional toll of interacting with extroverts. But it’s much harder to find the other side described, since extroverts are usually talking about other things than personal emotion. I think it’s important, though, for introverts to realize that the pain lies both ways. It is emotionally draining, and often painful, to spend a lot of time with an introvert. They simply don’t provide what’s needed emotionally, while demanding a lot. The lack of normal levels of enthusiasm sucks the very life force out of an extrovert.

The saddest thing I see is extroverts who, due to lack of information in this area, get themselves romantically involved with introverts. I’m not talking about a borderline extrovert and a borderline introvert, but full fledge members of each group. The extrovert almost always suffers incredibly in such a case, but no one dares tell them why…because that would be showing intolerance to the introvert personality. Either that or they lash out with less tolerant terms (“self-center”, “self-involved”, “self-absorbed”) without trying to understand just why the introvert is so hurting their extrovert partner. (This is not from personal experience but observation…I myself am a fairly borderline extrovert and have never been involved with an extreme introvert).

The gender breakdown makes this even more awkward, with more female extroverts left to either suffer an introvert or remain single. As they have more power to remain single, we are left with more unattached males, a demographic phenomena we know to be dangerous for society. I don’t see a solution to this, as no one is likely to change, but I do think it is best to be aware of what’s going on so people at all levels of the spectrum can make wise choices as to with whom they want to interact.

Anonymous said...

[This was the first half of the post above which never showed up for some reason.]

The poster at September 20, 2009 3:53 PM said:

"First, you should just accept people for who they are so long as they aren't causing others harm, as already noted."

This is one place we disagree -- introverts do cause extroverts significant psychological harm. Being less "self-involved" (Saif's term) we just try to get over it an move on rather than obsessing over it like many introverts.

"But on top of what's already been noted about that, something more needs to be underscored: If you criticize or judge an introvert for simply being the way he is, you will not change that person; you will only give that person more incentive to stay the hell away from you."

The truth is, that after enough exposure, most extroverts don't want to be around the one-way emotion sucking force that is an introvert. Many (mostly the feeling/emotional types) can be extremely painful to be around with their constant focus on their own emotions. You seem to be saying you also don't want to be around us, so I don't see what's the problem from your own perspective? We would seem to be in agreement. Unfortunately this isn't what I see in the real world...introverts mostly do need some interaction, and unable to get it from other introverts, they seek out extroverts, to nobody's benefit.

Your example from the logic class is interesting, but again points to the problem of introverts. One of my degrees is in philosophy and I, like everyone, got slammed many times. But unlike yourself I didn't obsess over it and continued to participate actively in class. If everyone has to go around walking on eggshells all the time because we have people like you in class, it seriously hinders the progress of learning.

I'm glad you have some good skills, and I look forward to your scientific contributions if you are in fact in that field. There are also many extroverts in the sciences, but certainly introverts make some valuable contribution, especially in the most narrowly focused areas like computer programming -- less benefit in areas like geology, anthropology or biology. But remember that society is always going to move in the direction of the skills of its people, and we will never have the information to evaluate whether another path might have yielded a happier or more productive populace.

I'm not saying we should get rid of all introverts or anything crazy like that, but that they should realize that at a social level at least, they are a hindrance and that they cause as much pain as they think is inflicted on them. Introverts often ignore social sciences other than psychology. Until recently the field of psychology didn't even have a significant social subfield. There are certain behaviors that create the cohesion that families, communities and nations need to function, and these are diminished in the introvert. It's the denial I think we need to get over.

Anonymous said...

"...introverts mostly do need some interaction, and unable to get it from other introverts, they seek out extroverts, to nobody's benefit."

In light of this comment, I think you are mistaking introverts for some other type of person. (Of course, personality tests measure more than just this one aspect; I'm an INTJ on the Jungian scale.)

A self-absorbed person who needs validation from others is not an introvert. It is the gregarious types--the extroverts--that need such validation. I have enough validation knowing that, in my own eyes, I'm doing something worthwhile with my time, regardless of what anyone else thinks about how I spend my time. I don't seek fame or popularity; that just adds more things to worry about, and given the choice I prefer peace of mind.

In fact, I consider myself empowered by this lack of validation-seeking, because when you seek validation from others, all you do is hand over control of your life to someone else. You open yourself up to being used by other people for their purposes. Hence, kids start drinking, smoking, doing drugs because of peer pressure; they want to be liked, so they do things against their better judgment. I'm glad to be unaffective by such destructive influence.

For an extrovert, I wonder how they answer the question: Why should I seek validation from one person and not another? I guess it depends on who they want to be like. But I'm quite happy being myself. I'm not trying to be anybody else.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, I don't think its true that "introverts mostly do need some interaction." If that was true, the title of this post would not be about the idea that introverts are best left alone.

We, or at least the most introverted of us, avoid social interaction. When it comes to a significant other, it is difficult for people who don't gather together to meet other people who don't gather together--but that's exactly the sort of person an introvert is likely to be happy with: someone like oneself. In fact, I'd say that the only reason we introverts voluntarily partake of social situations is in search of an SO. Once a long-term SO is found (which can certainly take some time for one to find!), we no longer have any need for social situations unless work or family requires them. We can go along with such things, but it's just not "our thing."

So I don't think its true at all that introverts seek interaction with extroverts because they can't get it from other introverts. Introverts like doing their own thing, which means avoiding interaction with others (regardless of personality types), except for those closest to them, to pursue whatever they do enjoy. Maybe it's fishing, or reading a book, or jogging, or whatever; there are plenty of activities that are not group activities.

I also think that it is false that introverts demand a lot without giving anything. I intentionally demand nothing at all from other people so as not to create the expectation that I owe them something. I don't give of myself much, but don't ask much of others, either. Because I don't want to create the impression that I'm up for somebody's else's projects all of the time. I'm not asking anyone else to work on my projects, so don't ask me to work on yours. I have plenty of my own projects to work on. You have your priorities, and I have mine. And it is best if we just pursued them in parallel if those projects don't have anything to do with each other. Perhaps the "lack of normal levels of enthusiasm" has to do with disinterest in the things that interest you. That doesn't mean we don't have interests; it's just that our interests are not your interests. Since we don't ask you to participate in what interest us, don't expect us to participate in whatever interests you.

If there is any psychological pain when it comes to the introvert-extrovert dimension, I would suggest it only comes from extroverts who expect everyone else to be like them, and who get pissed when some people aren't like them. Which is odd, because I'm not asking extroverts why they are not like me; again, to each his own. And if you give me grief simply for being different than you, that just a sign that it's time for me to pack up my things and leave. I have no obligation to be in your company. You are just one out of six billion other people that I don't spend time with. So I'll do just fine on my own, thanks.

By the way, I've always wondered about the extroversion drive. Just how many people must one be around to get whatever kick out of social interaction you get? If one or two friends isn't enough, when is it ever enough? Do you need 10 friends? 100? Just how many friends do you have to have to feel satisfied? You can't have 1,000, so if you can settle for 100, or 10, why not just settle for 1? While friends can supposedly be there for you during times of need, I think for most people friends are usually just there to borrow money or catch a ride. Is such shallow friendship it worth the hassle? If I need real friendship, I can get it from my SO. I don't need any more than that.

Anonymous said...

You write:

"I don't think its true that "introverts mostly do need some interaction." If that was true, the title of this post would not be about the idea that introverts are best left alone."

And yet you have an SO? Do you get social interaction from the SO or just have sex or some other arrangement?

Anonymous said...

"By the way, I've always wondered about the extroversion drive. Just how many people must one be around to get whatever kick out of social interaction you get? If one or two friends isn't enough, when is it ever enough? Do you need 10 friends? 100? Just how many friends do you have to have to feel satisfied? You can't have 1,000, so if you can settle for 100, or 10, why not just settle for 1?"

You learn from other people. No one has 1000 friends, but talking to other people is, in addition to reading, on way to learn about the world. Most people who do not communicate with others understand people less well than those who do. Hence why introverts often need to study psychology in order to understand people.

You do not need to be interested in people, but a lot of introverts spend a lot of time pretending they are.

I hope you are in a relationship with another introvert.

Anonymous said...

"In fact, I'd say that the only reason we introverts voluntarily partake of social situations is in search of an SO. Once a long-term SO is found (which can certainly take some time for one to find!), we no longer have any need for social situations unless work or family requires them."

I just need to make sure I've got this straight, because it seems a bit more extreme than even what I've hear most introverts say. Unless you are looking for a mate (SO) you aren't interested in an social interactions? Not with family even, let alone friends?

If this is the case are there other introverts who feel this way, because I see a heck of a lot of "how to make friends if you're an introvert" websites?

Or are you using the word "social interaction" to mean something else, like say "parties"? That's not what the term means. A social interaction is generally defined just as interaction between 2 or more people.

If you are using it in this way, to mean any interaction between people, I would suggest you might have aspergers rather than being an introvert.

If you are using "social interaction" to refer to participation in social events, you should note that many extroverts hate social events such as parties. That's why assessment usually is based on how you respond in a comfortable environment. A person who chooses only to spend their life with one person can still be an extrovert if, with that person, they behave and relate in an extroverted manner.

Extroversion by definition has nothing inherently to do with numbers of friends and social contacts, it only correlates with such numbers in a moderate fashion.

Anonymous said...

Angie said:

"Often, I feel that a major conflict is conversation ... that extroverts are content with talking about the weather or last night's BB game, whereas introverts desire meaningful and stimulating conversation."

I'm not sure why introverts tend to confuse the I/E and N/S measures of personality. I'm an extrovert and have a degree in philosophy. For years that was my prime, at least most desired, topic of conversation. But I certainly could, and can engage in conversations on other topics.

No, shallow conversations are not as rewarding, but they are also rewarding. Almost everything interests me.

Anonymous said...

Saif wrote:

"About the high arousal thing ... well, there is continuous activity going on in the brain. This activity generates mechanical waves called brain waves. A high arousal level means that the brain waves are of a high frequency. In some people the brain waves are of a high frequency and in some people it is low ... this is random, since birth and there's no specific reason for this. People are just born like this (some with high frequency and some with low frequency brain waves)."

My reading of the literature points to a bit more specific causes and differences. Introverts do not just have higher levels of brain activity, as many would like to believe. Rather there is, in some introverts, increased activity in a few very specific areas associated with sensory processing.

This increased activity is caused by decreased activity in another area of the brain, the reticular activating system. This low level of activity prevents filtering of stimulus, likely sending repeated bombardments of the same stimuli to brain areas further down the processing line.

It is this bombardment that seems to overwhelm many introverts, keeping them away from environments they find too stimulating. Unable to filter they reach their stimulation limit early, with relatively limited quantities of sensory information.

Anonymous said...

"And yet you have an SO? Do you get social interaction from the SO or just have sex or some other arrangement?"

I can't answer that without you telling me what you think counts as social interaction. List some activities, and I'll tell you if I participate in them, or participate in them fully (as opposed to just "being there" as required).

I can participate in a conversation, but I don't naturally get into deep discussions. (I can write deeply and comprehensively, but I think that's because in writing I can control 100% what I talk about. I won't change the subject to something I know nothing about like another person could. When I write I stick to what I know; I'm not a fan of people who talk without knowing what they are talking about, so I try to avoid that myself.)

My participation in conversation consists in making a comment here or there, or recalling something I saw or heard before. I'm not good at small talk, or leading a discussion, except perhaps when that discussion is something I know a lot about. Even then, I would need to have my "speech" already written. I am not at all comfortable with on the spot questions. I need time to think about how to answer a question I haven't thought about before. So e-mail works well for me, since I can articulate a response before I hit send.

"You learn from other people. No one has 1000 friends, but talking to other people is, in addition to reading, on way to learn about the world. Most people who do not communicate with others understand people less well than those who do."

I have no doubt that I don't understand other people well. That may because genetically, I can't pick up nonverbal cues the way an extrovert can. In that case, exposure to other people wouldn't help anyway. It would always be a distressing situation. Maybe that's why I avoid others, but I'm just guessing.

"You do not need to be interested in people, but a lot of introverts spend a lot of time pretending they are."

Is that by choice, or necessity? It's hard to get a job or SO without some minimal social interaction. I would prefer to keep it at a minimum, though. It's just not my think.

"I hope you are in a relationship with another introvert."

Yes, I am. In fact, knowing that I'm different from most people, I made sure I would not get in a long-term relationship with anyone who couldn't accept me the way that I am. I made sure that I didn't date someone who wasn't like me.

My SO has a couple of friends (literally 2), met only every several months at most, though communicated with electronically every other day or at least once a week. My SO has no desire to make new friends, as my SO has enough on the plate not to want to add anything more. My SO spends more time with others only for annual kid's birthday parties and so on. SO we've had opportunities to spend more time with others in virtue of doing things for our kids, but we never pursued it. And neither of us desire any sort of public happy hour. At the end of the work day, home is a place to decompress. We go out on weekends, but mostly just to get out of the house, not to be with other people for long periods of time. To do things with each other and our kids.

Anonymous said...

"And yet you have an SO? Do you get social interaction from the SO or just have sex or some other arrangement?"

I can't answer that without you telling me what you think counts as social interaction. List some activities, and I'll tell you if I participate in them, or participate in them fully (as opposed to just "being there" as required).

I can participate in a conversation, but I don't naturally get into deep discussions. (I can write deeply and comprehensively, but I think that's because in writing I can control 100% what I talk about. I won't change the subject to something I know nothing about like another person could. When I write I stick to what I know; I'm not a fan of people who talk without knowing what they are talking about, so I try to avoid that myself.)

My participation in conversation consists in making a comment here or there, or recalling something I saw or heard before. I'm not good at small talk, or leading a discussion, except perhaps when that discussion is something I know a lot about. Even then, I would need to have my "speech" already written. I am not at all comfortable with on the spot questions. I need time to think about how to answer a question I haven't thought about before. So e-mail works well for me, since I can articulate a response before I hit send.

"You learn from other people. No one has 1000 friends, but talking to other people is, in addition to reading, on way to learn about the world. Most people who do not communicate with others understand people less well than those who do."

I have no doubt that I don't understand other people well. That may because genetically, I can't pick up nonverbal cues the way an extrovert can. In that case, exposure to other people wouldn't help anyway. It would always be a distressing situation. Maybe that's why I avoid others, but I'm just guessing.

"You do not need to be interested in people, but a lot of introverts spend a lot of time pretending they are."

Is that by choice, or necessity? It's hard to get a job or SO without some minimal social interaction. I would prefer to keep it at a minimum, though. It's just not my think.

"I hope you are in a relationship with another introvert."

Yes, I am. In fact, knowing that I'm different from most people, I made sure I would not get in a long-term relationship with anyone who couldn't accept me the way that I am. I made sure that I didn't date someone who wasn't like me.

My SO has a couple of friends (literally 2), met only every several months at most, though communicated with electronically every other day or at least once a week. My SO has no desire to make new friends, as my SO has enough on the plate not to want to add anything more. My SO spends more time with others only for annual kid's birthday parties and so on. SO we've had opportunities to spend more time with others in virtue of doing things for our kids, but we never pursued it. And neither of us desire any sort of public happy hour. At the end of the work day, home is a place to decompress. We go out on weekends, but mostly just to get out of the house, not to be with other people for long periods of time. To do things with each other and our kids.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about this yesterday, after posting. I remembered that when I was in an advanced placement class about American history in high school, I didn't really want to participate, although I knew the material (I did my homework most of the time). I remember thinking then that I'm more of an observer than a participator. I prefer to take in class discussion than contribute to it. And I can retain the information better that way; participation just requires thinking about what to say, and that requires blocking out anything that others are saying, and so not learning it. If I don't participate, I can listen much better.

(Oddly, I did not mind participation so much in math classes, maybe because there wasn't the kind of nuance you get in social studies, and so less room to be wrong. You're either right or wrong in the math class. But having thought about it just now, I can see why: answers to math questions are easy and straightforward. You understand, you give an answer. You don't have to think about mathematical answers as deeply as other sorts of answers. Partipation, then, comes in short bursts, the kinds I can handle.)

Generally speaking, I've always preferred to be out of the spotlight, under the radar. I'd be invisible if I could, because that would be safest. No one can mug you if they can't see you. No one can hate you if they don't know you even exist. No one can harass you if you're not around to be harassed. Other people are not for me something to look forward to; they are something to deal with when you have to. And if you can avoid dealing with them, all the better. The way I look at it: There are pros and cons to social interaction, but the cons far outweigh the pros. The cons are not worth whatever meager pros you might get out of it. So I'm better off avoiding it. I'm safer and more confortable in my own little castle, where other people can't divert me away from getting down what I need or want to get done.

"I just need to make sure I've got this straight, because it seems a bit more extreme than even what I've hear most introverts say. Unless you are looking for a mate (SO) you aren't interested in an social interactions? Not with family even, let alone friends?"

If introversion is a continuum, I am on the extremely introverted side. No doubt about it.

Now that I've had a long-term SO for quite some time, it is true that I don't really seek any sort of social interaction with anyone but my SO and the kids in my household. It sounds horrible, but I do not really seek social interaction with with family outside of my immediate household. That's enough for me. I might chat sporadically with someone who is so inclined at the gym, but that's only to pass the time when working out. (And it passes the time well, even better than television.) I would not engage conversation if my workout was done, though; I'd be on my way. In that sense I could just as well watch TV or listen to an iPod when working out.

Growing up, I would talk to my estranged dad on the phone about things that interested both of us fairly regularly. But I lost interest in those things and stopped communicating as I got older. And since my dad didn't seek communication either, I didn't need to fail to reciprocate. I'm guessing he was a lot like me; his hobbies (like photography) were solitary ones, too. I used to think that I was introverted because of the way I grew up: an only child in a place where no friends lived nearby, kind of a social outcaste from early on, not blending in until later, and then wanting to blend in so as to become "invisible"--which is why I loved attending a state university; I could walk around anonymously and no one would notice me, which is the way I wanted it.)

Anonymous said...

"Or are you using the word "social interaction" to mean something else, like say "parties"?"

Obviously I had no interest in parties; from being someone's sidekick, I went to a few, but never fit in there. I never wanted to talk to anyone I didn't already know. It just wasn't my thing. I'd prefer to just be gone and soon forgotten. I'm just not comfortable in the company of strangers. In high school, I liked having (mostly) acquaintences instead of friends. People I could just BS with in class, but not in my private life.

"If you are using it in this way, to mean any interaction between people, I would suggest you might have aspergers rather than being an introvert."

I doubt I have Aspergers. I don't have the repetitive behavior and other intellectual deficits. Just the lack of desire for social interaction with anyone I'm not already close with. Other people are potential threats to me, potential sources of misery. And it's common sense that they can't be trusted with anything personal; what's the saying about not being able to keep a secret if you share it with more than one person (yourself)?

I will note that both of my two children were developmentally delayed with high-functioning autism. It was only because of that that I ever suspected a genetic link in my own introversion. Both are doing well, but had early intervention to learn how to talk. Still, I don't think of myself as autistic, just introverted. I can recognize what emotions go with what facial expressions, for example, and never had any intervention of any sort. But I have a strong suspicion that the risk for autism goes up in introverts because there is some relation in brain function. I just don't have it as bad as they do. (And social interaction seems less problematic for them because of that early intervention; intervention is no longer needed, later in life.)

"A person who chooses only to spend their life with one person can still be an extrovert if, with that person, they behave and relate in an extroverted manner."

I'm not sure what it means to "behave in an extroverted manner" in that context. You tell me.

Anonymous said...

"I will note that both of my two children were developmentally delayed with high-functioning autism. It was only because of that that I ever suspected a genetic link in my own introversion. Both are doing well, but had early intervention to learn how to talk. Still, I don't think of myself as autistic, just introverted. I can recognize what emotions go with what facial expressions, for example, and never had any intervention of any sort. But I have a strong suspicion that the risk for autism goes up in introverts because there is some relation in brain function. I just don't have it as bad as they do. (And social interaction seems less problematic for them because of that early intervention; intervention is no longer needed, later in life.)"

This is something I have wondered about a lot, especially working in the software industry in areas with a large number of software engineers. As we are all familiar with, there is a lot of, sometimes controversial, evidence indicating software engineers have children with higher rates of autism...which raises the question of whether there is a direct relationship between autism and introversion.

We know most autistics are introverts, but most introverts are not diagnosed as on the autism spectrum. I find the brain science interesting here. There has been some discussion of sensory overload affecting autistics, and now this seems to be a common area of research for introversion. But other areas are dissimilar. The grey matter/white matter ratio is quite different...with many introverts having quite complex neural connections and capability to write fiction (the same capacity needed to lie, which correlates with larger amounts of white matter and imagination).

Yet the increase in selective mating worries me not just for introverts, if it is in fact impacting the autism rate, but presumably extroverts are also more selectively mated -- to what end?

I had said:

"A person who chooses only to spend their life with one person can still be an extrovert if, with that person, they behave and relate in an extroverted manner."

And you asked:

"I'm not sure what it means to 'behave in an extroverted manner' in that context. You tell me."

What I mean is that each individual interaction expresses introversion or extroversion. If two people live alone on an island you could still have one introvert and one extrovert. The introvert would continue to think out sentences before speaking and desire more time alone. The extrovert would still continue to attempt more thinking out loud (tempered by their being with an introvert) and to enjoy conversation more.

Anonymous said...

"I can participate in a conversation, but I don't naturally get into deep discussions. (I can write deeply and comprehensively, but I think that's because in writing I can control 100% what I talk about."

I actually find the issue of writing vs speaking fascinating. I'm a low level extrovert but have always had very good spoken verbal skills. I wasn't very good at writing until graduate school, when I began to excel. At one point I was even paid to be a writer.

At that time I noticed my spoken skills weakened. It became harder to talk because I was planning out the perfect way I would write it down!

But then as my life shifted again I became better at speaking again, and, no doubt, less good of a writer.

So from my own experience it was possible to change from one way to another to some degree. Of course I'm pretty central on the spectrum to begin with, but I'm guessing (and only guessing) that there is some flexibility in most people.

Anonymous said...

"But I have a strong suspicion that the risk for autism goes up in introverts because there is some relation in brain function."

The research does seem to support parental introversion as a risk factor for having an autistic child. Which raises the question of whether genetic counseling should be recommended in such cases. But how would a doctor know? Personality traits are not normally on medical histories, and I can imagine many would balk at such a suggestion.

Without many genetic markers (a few have been identified) we'd be asking prospective parents to take personality tests: and how many will be offended at the suggestion that their personalities might indicate caution in child bearing? We can't even convince people that paternal age is relevant -- they'd rather believe that wheat, or vaccines, are making their kids autistic.

Even if this is found to be a significant cause I think it'll be a long time before the information helps anyone.

Roti said...

Wonderful write up!

Saif said...

@ Roti
Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

Found this on a little searching. Socionics has really interested me lately. The MBTI type breakdowns seem to really offer a lot of insight into people. I've only skimmed through the comments (I'm at work, not a lot of time), but I have something to add to some of the issues that have been discussed here.

Western perception of introverts is a big deal to me. I'm 60-70% introverted myself, and social survival has always been rough. I want to connect with other human beings just like anyone. I don't think there are any exceptions to this, even for extreme introverts. But for an introvert, it's really difficult to keep up with the expectations of being a friend and still have time/energy let for individual pursuits that are essential for our health and growth. There's so little understanding out there, but I think study of these matters is essential if society is going to get anywhere.

I think it's completely wrong to say that one side doesn't need the other. Introverts still need interaction, but different kinds in smaller doses. We could get by only interacting with other introverts, but it would be more difficult to coordinate so everyone's social needs are satisfied while never stepping on eachother's need for solitude.

And just to clarify, this isn't a matter of selfishness. It's a NEED. When introverts fail to get the time alone that they need, they get angry, confused, and exhausted. I can get twelve hours of sleep every night for a week, but if I don't get any time alone to go with it, I'll still feel like I'm drugged and missing a gallon of blood every day.

When these needs are met, I am the most self-controlled, patient, and considerate person in the world... and this is exactly why I believe that extroverts need us.

I've been married for 5 years to an extreme extrovert. Solitude is painful to her. She doesn't think before speaking, speaking IS her thought process. She doesn't like expressing herself in writing.

But here's the most important one: She has no capability to handle her own emotions. She cannot hold anything in. Whatever she is feeling is constantly radiating from her like an aura.

That's where she needs me. As an introvert, I soak up those emotions for her. She releases everything on me. She cannot cope with herself any other way. As an introvert, I can take it all and bottle it up. All that baggage is then released later when I get some time to myself. I am literally her emotional waste disposal service. Every one who knows us for a while eventually comments on how my patience is the only thing that keeps the relationship together.

And honestly... it sucks... it's not a responsibility I enjoy... but I care about her deeply and I don't know what she would do without me. Her life was falling apart when I reached out to her (, and I think it would fall apart again without me. She just can't control herself. That's an introvert trait, so I do it for her.

And that right there should eternally dispel the myth of the introvert as a selfish creature, but SHE actually calls me selfish for demanding time alone. Her reasoning is that she depends on me for her happiness. I depend on myself for my happiness. If she demands that I give up my capability to be happy in order to make her happy, who is being selfish?

Above all, she should understand that if I changed, our relationship wouldn't work. If I became an extrovert, we couldn't be together. The whole thing would explode. And when I see a whole bunch of extroverts together without any introverted mediation, that's generally what I see... a lot of explosions. Groups consisting exclusively of extroverts tend to get stuck in a constant state of conflict.

Kn said...

WOW!!!!!
I can relate to ur post so much !! M an introvert & love to keep to myself... But people r often telling me to be more sociable, talk more, party etc etc... & I find it absolutely irritating :-x !! I can be pretty sociable wen i want to be, but i think why the hell people can leave us alone ?? we r happy & comfortable the way we r !!
Great peice of writing, Saif :-) !!

Saif said...

@ Kn
Yeah, introverts are always given advice to behave in certain way without realizing that introverts have their own way of living, which should be acknowledged and respected ...

Glad to know that you liked and could relate to it :)

Anonymous said...

Nice 1 ... well i would categorize myself as both intro n extrovert ...

What abo ya ?

Btw Nice blog yaar ... will post more comments :)




Divz

Saif said...

@ Divz
hmm .. then that means u're an ambivert :) ...

as far as i'm concerned ... i'm an introvert ...

and thanks ... really nice to know that you like my blog ... will be looking forward for ur comments :D

Anonymous said...

Sure :) i love readin buks, blogs n magz ...

thinkin abo startin my own .... Since last 12 months
hhahahahahahaha :P


Hopefully ll do it 1day ... till thn u comment on my status n i ll comment on ur blog ... deal ???

Hahahaahahahaahahaha :D



Divz

Saif said...

@ Divz
haha ... this is something new ... usually ppl ask to comment on their blog in return ... u're the first one to ask to comment on ur status :D ...

about ur blog ... all i'll say is just go ahead with it ... if u have been thinking about it for such a long time then u shud stop thinking and just make ur blog :)

Anonymous said...

hahaahaha yea cuz i dun hv a blog yet ... ;P

n yea will start it as soon as m done wid dez board exms ... huh !!!

nyway wish me luck!!! :D


Keep cOmmenTin ... Divz :)

Jeyssika said...

Thank you so much for writing this; it really has clarified a few things for me.
I'm an introvert and reading books is like bliss to me but going to parties bores me to death, my friends really don't get it and, as you said, just see it as me being boring. I love how & who I am & never try to change to being more like an extravert and I think people need to realise that it's who someone is not that they just choose to be grumpy and alone.
Also a common thing is that people misconstrue being alone - as in what introverts choose to be - to being lonely - a common thing extraverts think I have found.
But yeah thank you so much for this because it really has been a big issue in my life but now I can just clarify for people and with time perhaps, even in such an individualistic culture, people can stop being persecuted, yet again, for being different.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, this should be reguired reading for all reading levels. I find time after time again people "not getting me" because I am introvert. I am proud to be an introvert but others, including family, find it as being "weird" :/ but I blame the way they were raised to believe that introverts are weird and that extroverts are good, and thus, not realizing that there are different degrees of extroverts and introverts.

Saif said...

@ Jeyssika
I'm really glad to know that this article has been help you a lot ... once you who you are and are happy with the way you are, others opinion shouldn't matter at all ... if someone questions the way you are, then just ignore them by thinking that they know much and have limited themselves to think in a unidimensional way ...

and since you mentioned about loneliness and aloness, you can read one the posts that i had written, which is related to this:
http://lifepsychologyandalotmore.blogspot.com/2008/05/loneliness-harbinger-to-aloneness.html

take care!

Saif said...

@ Anonymous
You're absolutely right ... people have to acknowledge and respect individual differences ... they need to know and understand that there's nothing wrong in being an introvert ... introverts are different people and it's as simple as that :)

Anonymous said...

Can totally relate to this article-->I'm a very introverted person myself and sometimes I do find small talk superficial and boring. Some people just don't understand an introvert's mentality and immediately assume that introverts are really cold, arrogant, or antisocial. It's just that we don't feel the need the socialize all the time and that we are independent.

Thank you for getting this out there!

Saif said...

@ Anonymous
Yeah, you right ... people don't really understand introverts. Glad that you could relate to it :)

Anonymous said...

I've read a host of articles similar, but rarely if ever have I read a truly comprehensive discussion of introvert behavior. It seems these writers and researchers are in the business of creating a more positive stereotype about introverts, but it is a stereotype nonetheless.

It is simply not true that all introverts are in touch with their feelings. Many have absolutely no idea how they feel. Many introverts simply are not internally contemplating their state of mind; they are thinking about a myriad of rather impersonal ideas, concepts, revelries, etc.

This article comes very close to discussing the other not-so-pretty truth about introverts: their level of self-involvement. Many simply do not care about other people very much. Articles about introverted friendship are all about how to tiptoe your way into a friendship with someone who'd rather be left alone and who will offer relatively little in return for the effort. Even if you do earn that coveted space in their bubble, you are advised to keep your mouth shut lest you irritate them. However, read an article written by an introvert, and they will tell you their idea of friendship is being in the same room with someone but not speaking to them. I even read a introvert's blog post describing the perfect party: everyone brings a laptop or a book and they sit in the same room, unspeaking. This suggestion was celebrated in the comments section.

The other factor would be arrogance (perhaps borne out of insecurity?). There are plenty of introverted bloggers who feel that their inner worlds are superior to those of extroverts (if they will even acknowledge extroverts have an inner world) and that their thoughts and ideas are deep, sophisticated and fascinating. In their minds they are solving the problems of the world and doing the real thinking that extroverts cannot. But search through their various posts and their big ideas are no different than anyone else's; they just want to believe that introversion makes them better than other people.

Saif Farooqi said...

@ Anonymous
It seems that you have been somewhat offended by the articles that you have read about introversion. I don't really know what you have exactly read before, but I obviously disagree with the little things that you have mentioned, especially the things about friendship and the perfect party. Rather than commenting over here you should have commented on where you read it.

Yes, this article is an attempt to create a positive picture about introversion, but it in no way means that everything about introversion is positive (I have not mentioned this anywhere in the article). There is a pretty much negative attitude about introversion in the world and because of this many introverts develop a low self-esteem. There is a so-called general belief that to be successful and appreciated, one must be an extrovert, which is incorrect and this is what this article is trying to say.

The purpose of this article was to say that there's nothing wrong with being an introvert because of the many positive things associated with it. You may see it as just a stereotype, but that's just your perspective.

I don't see anywhere that I have written that introverts are better than extraverts. I have only said that introversion is different from extraversion and that judging introverts negatively for not being an extravert or not behaving like them is wrong.

It seems that you have interpreted the article in a wrong way or perhaps the way that you wanted to do so. Whatever may be the reason for that, which I'm least concerned about.

Anyway, thanks for dropping by ... take care!

Anonymous said...

This article helped me to understand myself better. I thought something was wrong with me. My co-workers think I'm arrogant. It's just their constant chit-chatting drives me nuts! I am blessed to have a job that allows me to work one-on-one with patients for most of the day. So, I'm good there. At home, I have my animals and they make me happy. Thank you for the enlightenment.

Saif Farooqi said...

@ Anonymous
I'm really glad that this article has helped you to develop a better understanding of yourself. Good luck and take care! :)

Ramya said...

Saif,
Nice article! I wish more people would understand these things, and not keep using negative adjectives to describe introverts...

Though I am raised in India, I agree with Martina Solmes about the points on gender. Will just relate my experience to elaborate...

Even in an Indian context, it is difficult for women to adjust as introverts.. though we're brought up to be less outspoken, that is more from the angle of being less aggressive/assertive and in cases of decision making. the stereotype still is that women are cheerful, warm and love to talk about everything...
I am an introvert and often seen as abnormal or cold to not indulge in what i find to be superficial conversation... plus i dont converse much when in a group and am often happy to be a silent spectator.

However, when a topic is close to my heart, i can be extremely assertive (thought again mostly in small groups), which surprises people as they have slotted me as "shy, quiet, timid,cold" by then.. and then the label changes to "rude or argumentative" ... just can't win with people!!
so not conforming to the "talkative" women stereotype combined with being outspoken in rare occasions makes it worse!
i thought it was easier for men as they just have to be "strong and dependable", which can be silent too...but maybe I am wrong..
Perhaps its not really linked to gender.. and is just difficult for everyone

Ramya said...

of course i dont mean to sound superior or say all extroverts indulge in superficial conversation....i know some personally and they are capable of having deeper conversations, but it doesn't seem to matter that much to them.... they have to understand the basic difference that they love to interact... so for them the topic is not as important as being with the people in some way or the other... whereas introverts have a lot going on in their head and the world's chatter just becomes too much...
though, i even feel almost guilty and selfish to be/feel this way....!

Saif Farooqi said...

Ramya, thanks for the appreciation. You have certainly raised some thought provoking points. (I realize that it's been over a year since you made this comment, somehow I didn't notice it; apologies for that).

Anonymous said...

@Saif,
(Completely unrelated BTW) Shah Rukh Khan is not an introvert, he's ENTP straight away, an extrovert. How do i know this, coz i am one. My friends typed him as entp too.How the hell did i see a lot of people in various websites typing him as something else, a different type each of them, when it's soooo obvious. He's the easiest to type. Cmon now that u have the solution, think about it. Now dont show me some interview of his where he's crying saying that he's a feeler and hence he's something else. I am even surprised i have to convince people that he's an entp, and that too for this looong.

Jenna said...

People have both extroversion and introversion in their personality because each offers them strength, a way to develop.

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