In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain describes various misconceptions about introverts. She explains that, “At school you might have been prodded to come ‘out of your shell’—that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same.”
This quote triggered a lightbulb moment for me because, as an introvert, I’ve always felt misunderstood and labeled. Introverts are often characterized as quiet, shy, or rude. As a result, they may often feel unseen, overlooked, and dismissed.
Take a minute to consider the different types of people in your life. Chances are you are either married to an introvert, birthed an introvert, or at the very least, know an introvert.
Or maybe, like me, you’re an introvert yourself.
Introverts of the world, take heart. You are seen, valued, and are extremely necessary!
What is an Introvert?
Introverts get energy from time alone and prefer non-stimulating environments. As internal processors, they spend ample time listening and thinking rather than talking. Like a turtle retreating into its shell, introverts fill their emotional tank from a little bit of alone time away from the outside world.
Conversely, extroverts receive their energy from being around other people. They process thoughts by verbalizing them and engaging in dialogue.
Introverts are not shy, rude, or boring. They simply require peace and solitude in order to recharge their batteries.
Studies reveal that 25-40% of the population is actually introverted. A world known for its constant clanging can often overlook introverts.
Misconceptions About Introverts
“She’s just so shy!” That sticky label was slapped on my daughter from the day she started preschool. Reserved and observant, she did not fit the mold of a typical preschooler. Many of her peers darted around the room, fought over toys, and produced incessant chatter during nap time. She was always content to sit with a puzzle or play quietly with dolls.
As she got older, I felt a great responsibility to explain that she wasn’t, in fact, shy. That word carries a negative connotation, and it wasn’t what I wanted her to believe about herself. I explained to her that we are all created perfectly and uniquely, and that her introvertedness was not a personality flaw.
Assertiveness and speaking out are valued traits in our culture. This can leave introverts feeling like the world is one big party and we didn’t make the guest list.
Embracing My Introvert Ways
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease” is a quote that doesn’t sit well with me. The notion that I need to be loud, assertive, and bold to achieve success has hovered over me since childhood.
I began to resent my introverted tendencies. I felt that if I didn’t speak up or become the life of the party, people would assume that I must not have anything to offer or contribute.
My deepest desire was to be the bubbly, popular, attention seeking girl instead of embracing who I actually was at my core.
I’m the girl who would rather sit back and observe, quietly form an opinion, and offer my thoughts only when I am good and ready. Not exactly Miss Popularity.
It wasn’t until my early adult years that I began to notice the redeeming qualities that came with my introverted nature. I recognized how they positively affected my relationships with others. My own misconceptions about introverts abruptly dissolved.
Let’s Hear it for the Introverts
Thankfully I have come to appreciate the fact that I’m an introvert! There are so many positive ways that introverts contribute to the world around them.
1. Relationships and socializing are very important to us! Introverts tend to prefer meaningful, deep connections with people. Small talk feels like torture. Walking through the weeds with someone and meeting them where they are is much more satisfying than trying to fill empty space with surface level conversation about sports and the weather.
We are often stereotyped as being socially awkward. (I once told an employee behind the deli counter “Good job!” when he handed me my sliced turkey. But that painful awkwardness is a special personality trait all my own, and does not necessarily apply to all introverts).
Because of our desire to connect on a deeper level, introverts tend to prefer a couple of very close friendships rather than a handful of acquaintances. If you’re close friends with an introvert, you can be sure that they have put a lot of care and attention into your friendship and they’re likely here to stay!
2. We add thoughtful contribution to conversations. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who never takes a breath and suddenly they sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown?
Introverts tend to be intrinsic thinkers, and often process their thoughts as the conversation continues in real time. So while we’re processing and formulating a response, before we know it our chance has passed, and the conversation has taken a sharp turn.
Give us a second, and we’re more than happy to add to the conversation! And we almost always have something valuable to say because it has been well thought out, and we are mindful of our contribution.
3. We absolutely love people. We just prefer to socialize around our kitchen table and not in a loud, crowded restaurant. When you get your energy from being alone with space to think, it can be exhausting to try and enjoy a conversation while music is blasting in the background and you are forced to use your outside voice just to be heard.
4. We are good listeners. Since introverts tend to be hyper aware of social cues and are fairly intuitive, we notice things that others may not. We lean into conversations and analyze everything from your facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. Because we don’t feel the need to be overtly vocal, introverts can be extremely good listeners.
5. We are pretty great at self-care – A common misconception about introverts is that we are sad, shy, or depressed. This isn’t true – we just don’t need to be around people! When introverts find themselves in a social situation with too much sensory overload, they prefer to withdraw from the situation in order to preserve some inner peace.
My youngest daughter is an introvert, and her big sister is very much an extrovert. Our extrovert has always and forever craved time with us. She is uncomfortable in her room alone, and prefers to be around people at all times.
Contrast that with our introvert who loves nothing more than time in her room with music, her journal, and the dog curled at her feet.
Our oldest cannot fathom how that can be emotionally healthy in any way. She simply can’t understand why that would appeal to anyone!
Getting Rid of the Labels
Sometimes misconceptions about introverts stem from the inability to relate to them. Before we become quick to label each other, let’s take some time to see what makes introverts truly operate. What a beautiful way to let someone know you value who they are and what they have to offer!
Introverts help contribute some of the most beneficial gifts to our society. They are relational, thoughtful, and care deeply about the people in their lives.
Tell an introvert how much you appreciate them, and that you value their place in the world!
Just be sure you do it in a small, quiet setting. Preferably with five people or less.