In Defense of Introverts


Disclosure: I’m certified in the Myers-Briggs instrument and my type code is ENFP. That makes me an extrovert.

Most of my fellow extroverts think introverts are weird. I don’t. With extroverts, what you see is what you get. Introverts are more complex, more layered, more intriguing, full of surprises.

Because human beings tend to pile expectations on other human beings, they find the surprise factor of introverts irritating. Introverts tend not to live up to expectations, particularly those of the social behavior variety. People seem them as unfriendly, grumpy, cantankerous, non-communicative, all of which reflect cultural expectations of being pleasant when you’re with company. An introvert would argue, “Why do I have to stop being myself because other people want me to be like them?” A valid point, indeed.

Introverts focus their attention inward, which means they spend most of their time in their heads. Given the current state of humanity, that’s not a bad place to be. What they’re doing in their heads can vary depending on what kind of introvert they are. They could be culling through memories, they could be playing with grand concepts, they could be engaged in trying to define the truth or they could be reflecting on deeply-held values. Whatever they’re doing in there, they’re doing it because that’s what they do. Leave them be.

Sometimes an introvert may share those thoughts if they’re genuinely convinced that the other party really gives a shit and isn’t just trying to make conversation. Sometimes they can’t share what’s inside through words, and their stumbling, mumbling attempts fire up the impatience in others, making them stumble and mumble even more until they get up and leave the room in agonizing frustration. I don’t blame them at all; their thoughts, feelings, conceptualizations and values are deeply held and they should not feel under obligation to share them just because somebody else thinks they should.

It is said that introverts keep the best part of themselves to themselves. If they choose to do that, we should respect that choice. If you really care about the introvert, you will take the time and exercise the patient respect it takes to get to know them. When you do that, you will find they are full of delightful and complex surprises. You will also find that the conversations turn out to be much more rich and enlightening than those you would find in a gathering of extroverts, who all have to talk to justify their existence.

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