In Honor of My Personality Type Switching Back to INTJ… Let’s Talk About Introverts

Orientation for the hospital involved a Myers-Briggs test.

No joke.

Anyway, during said test, I discovered my E/I rating has moved firmly into “I” territory again. The only time I’ve been an “E” was when I was in Michigan. And even then it was only borderline.

Being an introvert doesn’t make you a hermit. It doesn’t make you antisocial. It doesn’t make you arrogant, stuck-up, or a “party pooper.” The fact that most extroverts don’t understand introversion (but expect us to not only understand them, but to conform to them) is a problem.

An even bigger problem is the fact that the American Psychiatric Association is considering including introversion as a determining factor for diagnosing mental disorders in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

What the hell?

Their proposed definition of introversion is: “Withdrawal from other people, ranging from intimate relationships to the world at large; restricted affective experience and expression; limited hedonic capacity.” The definition also includes “deficit in the capacity to feel pleasure or take interest in things.”

This frustrates me to no end. And, if you are an introvert yourself (highly likely, considering you are sitting at your computer, reading this blog, instead of out partying or playing miniature golf or… doing something with people that’s less lame than mini golf), it should upset you, too. Because, if the APA does adopt introversion as a way to identify various mental disorders… we introverts are in for even more ridiculous social stigma than before.

Also, did I mention that introverts constitute about half of the population? Seems like a pretty shitty diagnostic tool to me… but what do I know?

So, APA, let’s have us a little palaver. Pull up a chair- you might be here a while.

***

What does it mean to be an introvert?

Okay, APA, your definition of introversion sucks balls. Also… it includes the definition of fucking apathy along with it.

Introversion is not apathy. And it’s not a “withdrawal from relationships.” Introverts and extroverts handle relationships differently. That’s all.

So, what makes an introvert? Well, it’s mostly a question of how they recover their energy/where they draw it from. Extroverts draw their energy from other people. They like crowds, groups of people, lots of chatter. It’s invigorating to them.

To an introvert, however, those situations are decidedly not energizing. They are, in fact, rather draining. In order to recover their energy, introverts need time away from people. Time alone with their thoughts. This prolonged time away from people would drive an extrovert crazy, but it’s exactly what an introvert needs.

But it’s more than that. When it comes to small talk, introverts are the masters of the maladroit. Not because we are stupid or have nothing to say, but because we just don’t see the point in such a frivolous activity. Extroverts love small talk because they love to chatter. That’s fine. But introverts do not. When introverts talk, they want to talk about something important to them. They want a conversation, not a mundane bit of useless talk.

For this reason, the telephone is often especially abhorrent to the introvert. Most telephone calls lack real substance. Which can be fine for checking in with your parents, but if an introvert really cares about you, they won’t bother you with the needless chatter a telephone call would entail. If they don’t call, it’s not because they don’t like you. They might like and respect you very much- telephones are just not the proper venues for the kind of talking they want to do with you.

I mean, okay, maybe they do hate you. But that has nothing to do with them being introverted or extroverted and probably more to do with you being a dumbshit douchebag. Or something.

When introverts are in a group of people, they can come across as being extremely quiet. This comes from a difference in how introverts think and communicate effectively. Extroverts love to chatter, which means they think best by talking. By talking through their problem, they can often solve it. They might say a few wrong things along the way, but the constant stream of conversation is part of their thought process.

Introverts, however, like to think about things before they say them. They turn over the possibilities in their mind, holding entire arguments in their head before they come up with an opinion and share it with the group. This opinion is unlikely to change, whereas the extrovert’s can go through a series of mutations.

Two different means to accomplish the same end. Two different ways of life. Two different personalities.

It’s neither better nor worse to be an introvert. It simply is.

***

Reading through that, you can probably see how introverts and extroverts can clash on a variety of topics (and, more than likely, you’ve experienced this in your own life, be you introverted or extroverted).

I know this is coming across as a bit biased, but hey, I’m an introvert, we’re pretty misunderstood, and it’s my goddamn blog. Suck it up or leave.

I don’t know how many times my more extroverted friends have tried to drag me to a party (or guilt me into attending), even though I had absolutely no desire to go. Parties, for me, are usually pretty draining. I start to feel claustrophobic if the crowd is crushingly large, and I can’t handle feeling like my personal space is being invaded. It’s always too loud, I can’t hear anybody, and conversations tend to revolve around how “wasted” everyone is. When I attend parties, I tend to drink too much in order to deal with how nervous and uncomfortable I’m feeling.

But my tendency to self-medicate with alcohol (something I’ve finally stopped doing, thankfully) is not the issue here. I’m not alone in feeling uncomfortable in large gatherings. Most introverts do.

That’s not to say we can’t enjoy parties. Of course we can. But they do drain us. And we tend to be able to handle them for a shorter period of time than extroverts. We will duck out early or find a quiet balcony to spend time on. We need that space, and you just can’t find that at a party. For us, people are… tiring.

So please, don’t get upset or offended if an introvert doesn’t feel like partying or going to the bar with you. Again, it’s usually nothing to do with you. If you are an extrovert, you just need to respect the fact that introverts might not enjoy these situations as much as you do.

I know this is difficult, extroverts. It’s hard for an extrovert, who is so revitalized by other people, to understand someone who prefers time apart from people. It’s a little easier for introverts to understand extroverts simply because they spend so much of their time volubly working out who they are and what they believe in in groups of people (groups that often include introverts). But nobody can read minds, and extroverts don’t get that same glimpse into how introverts discover their identities and opinions.

But I have faith in you, extroverts. With a little effort, you can understand us and respect us. As we do you. Sure, we’re still going to clash, but we’ll be able to better respect each other, which will lead to fewer misunderstandings.

***

Did you know that many actors tend to be introverts? Which can seem strange to you extroverts, since acting is such an in-your-face activity. It often involves a room full of people. You don’t get space onstage- you are constantly in the eye of the public. How can introverts be actors?

It’s actually incredibly easy for introverts to be good actors. Much of this is because, in social situations, many introverts feel like they are acting. When interacting with others, introverts are often putting on a different, more social personality. It’s not theirs– they are simply acting. They feel they have to do this because, to be themselves is to be misunderstood by the extroverted masses. Plus, remember that performing onstage is not the same as mingling at a party. There’s no need for the introvert to engage in banal chit chat or really interact with large groups of people in any way. They are presenting something to you. They engage your mind, but not your mouth. Which is the perfect situation for the introvert.

As an aside, introverts, while quiet in small groups, often make the best presenters because they think so very hard about their presentation before they give it. Everything they say is planned and well thought-out.

***

Introverts might think more before they speak, but that doesn’t make them more intelligent. Yes, gifted individuals tend to be introverted more often than not. But much of that is developed (personality is a combination of innate and developed traits, which is why your personality type can change during your lifetime). Extremely intelligent or artistic individuals tend to become more introverted simply because they do have a hard time relating to other people. Others can’t understand the leaps their minds are making. If you can’t talk about your thoughts with people and have them understand, you tend to stop talking so much with them.

But highly gifted individuals are extreme cases. Your average, everyday introvert is no more or less intelligent, creative, or sensitive than your average extrovert. Extroverts can be brilliant, but they need to bounce their ideas off someone else in order to solidify them. Introverts of the same intelligence level prefer to have their debates and arguments about their new ideas within their own minds. Two paths to the same goal. Neither is better.

You’ll find members of both sides preaching they are smarter, happier, more sensitive, and all-around better. Ignore them. They are just jackasses.

***

You may have noticed that this post (like many I write) is rambly. Not focused. Not always perfectly thought out.

In short, not much of an introvert’s post at all.

That’s another misconception about introversion and extroversion- that everyone is concretely one or the other. Most people blend the two to some degree. Sometimes (usually on here), I tend to enjoy just talking for the sake of talking. Wending my way through topics, ideas, and opinions with my words instead of just thinking them through. This doesn’t mean I’m not an introvert. While exhibiting traits of both, I’m much more introverted than extroverted.

It can easily be flipped. Extroverts might adore being in groups of people and find them revitalizing and fun, but an extrovert might also need to catch an hour alone every few weeks. Almost everyone has traits of both. Use these as a bridge between the two personality types, a path to tread to help you relate to each other.

***

If you have an introverted friend who tends to just stop talking when you are on AIM together, without trying to find a new topic of conversation, don’t fret. I, for one, enjoy talking to most people on AIM. However, when I exhaust one topic, if I don’t have a topic off-hand that I think is interesting or that ties into what we just discussed, I tend to just stop talking. It’s not because I dislike you (probably far from it). It’s often because I do enjoy talking with you, and I don’t want to spoil it with cheap and silly small talk and chatter.

So don’t freak out if they don’t always say “goodbye” before signing off. An introvert just doesn’t see the need for that kind of thing. Don’t be offended. Just smile and chalk it up to one of your differences.

Remember, it’s exciting to be different from your friends. Their differences from you keep them interesting.

***

At this point, does the topic of introverts in relationships even merit a response? We think before we act, which means we might do more analysis before leaping into a romantic entanglement. This has it’s pros and cons, as does spontaneity. When in a relationship, however, there’s not this huge fucking wall between us and our significant other.

See, introverts adore conversation. Real conversation. And who better to be having those kinds of deep, meaningful talks with than your lover? Introverts listen when their partners speak and really think about what they say before they say it, which can lead to fewer spats about poorly chosen turns of phrase.

True, to an extremely extroverted partner, an introvert can seem a tad bit aloof at times. And they might not always want to attend all the functions you do.

But here’s a piece of general romantic advice that also applies here: In a relationship, partners need to maintain independent identities. They need to have their own interests, their own friends, their own pursuits. When that happens, it doesn’t matter if you are introverted or extroverted- you’ll have a strong relationship and be able to handle each other’s differing personalities.

When that doesn’t happen, you get the “high school romance.” Classy shit, there, you dependent, needy bastards.

***

APA, tell me- do the traits of an introvert (the real traits of an introvert) honestly sound like a good way to help diagnose mental disorders? I think what you are looking for is true antisocial behavior. Contrary to popular belief (something I would hope that you, APA, were above considering fact), introversion and antisocial disorder are two very different things. To the untrained eye, they might have some similarities…

But your eyes are trained. Quit being so fucking stupid.

Also… apathy has nothing to do with introversion. Apathy is a whole ‘nother beast. What the frak is wrong with you guys?

Rant over.

***

As a general note to you loyal few galleons who read this every day… posts are going to (probably) get more sporadic. And they will be coming at different times than before (used to be that I’d post once late at night and, possibly, once in the early afternoon… but no more). This is because, for the next 8 weeks, my schedule is fucked up. Depending on the week, I’m working:

Day shift (LTC): 0600- 1430
Evening shift (LTC): 1400- 2230
Day shift (Med/Surg): 0700- 1900

As you can see, shifts vary a bit, so you never know when I’ll be sleeping, when I’ll be working, or when I’ll be free to post.

Enjoy the insanity.

One response to “In Honor of My Personality Type Switching Back to INTJ… Let’s Talk About Introverts

  1. This is supremely perceptive, and a great post. Thanks for the lucid argument on behalf of introverts everywhere.

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