Wednesday August 21, 2013

23 (+3) Signs You Could Be An Introvert

Introverts have been getting a lot of press lately. Given that approximately half of the population "prefers"** introversion, but US society tends to "prefer" extroversion, it's nice to see Innies getting more press.

** Psychologists, and the MBTI, prefer to use the word "prefer" rather than the words "is" or "are". I can say I am an Introvert, but I'm not supposed to say you "are" an Introvert (or an Extrovert, or whatever).

Semantics aside, on to the topic of this post. Various people and groups have been sharing a recent Huffington Post "Lifestyle" article called "23 Signs You're Secretly An Introvert". Anyone who knows me knows I'm not secretly an Introvert. That secret was out years ago. But the article is interesting and I'm clipping it along with many others.

I thought I'd go through it here, bullet point by bullet point, to see how it applies to me...

Important Notes

Before we continue, there are some things you need to know.
People ... may not realize that being an introvert is about more than just cultivating time alone. Instead, it can be more instructive to pay attention to whether they're losing or gaining energy from being around others, even if the company of friends gives them pleasure.

“Introversion is a basic temperament, so the social aspect -- which is what people focus on -- is really a small part of being an introvert," Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, psychotherapist and author of "The Introvert Advantage," said in a Mensa discussion. "It affects everything in your life.”

Despite the growing conversation around introversion, it remains a frequently misunderstood personality trait....

-- Carolyn Gregoire, "23 Signs You're Secretly An Introvert"

The underlying difference between Introverts and Extroverts is energy. Does external stimulation (people and situations) energize you or exhaust you? Does being by yourself and doing "your own thing" energize you or exhaust you? What kinds of activities drain your internal batteries and how you recharge? How fast do you recharge?

Everything else is behaviour. Behaviour is merely a symptom, neither necessary nor sufficient. There are certain "typical" (even stereotypical) behaviours that are common to many Introverts (or Extroverts), but the presence or absence of any given behaviour is insufficient to "prove" introversion (or extroversion).

If we want to dig deeper than behaviour, there are neurological differences ([1,2,3,4...]) between Is and Es -- differences in brain chemistry. The behaviours are a symptom of the neurobiology combined with how you feel and how you were brought up and other factors. It's those other factors (plus decades of misunderstanding) that make it difficult to guess whether a given person is an Introvert or an Extrovert.

Behaviour may be a clue, but it is not a cause and never a requirement. If you really want to know if someone is an Innie or an Exie... ask.

On to the 23 "Possible Signs"

  1. You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.
    This is one of the common traits ascribed to Introverts. We don't dislike talking; we merely prefer more interesting subjects. Possible reason: A lot of Introverts tend not to be good at spontaneous conversation. If we know a subject well or are interested in that subject, we find it easier to talk about it. Spontaneous "improvisation" can be more difficult. Also, chattering about the weather, sports, or similar subjects, can be oh so boring. I could be reading my book instead.

  2. You go to parties -– but not to meet people.
    I like this "sign" because it negates the stereotype that Introverts, as a rule, hate parties. We don't. Not really. (OK, some of us really hate parties :-) But if we do go to a party, we may have different reasons for going than Extroverts have.

    There are plenty of Innies who will happily attend a party if they know people who will be there or if they really like the people who are throwing the party. My spouse and I gladly attended a wedding of a friend, and we were honored to have been invited, even though the only person we knew was the groom.

  3. You often feel alone in a crowd.
    An important point here: Alone is not the same as lonely. Many Introverts like to observe. We're in the crowd but not "of" the crowd.

  4. Networking makes you feel like a phony.
    It's not that I feel like a phony. I just hate the idea. It's not "me". The whole idea of "networking" feels... off... to me.

  5. You've been called "too intense."
    I don't specifically recall anyone using these words to me. Maybe I've blocked the memory or maybe I just got lucky. I have certainly heard and read about many people who complain about others telling them they're too intense, usually phrased as "lighten up." Bah.

  6. You're easily distracted.
    Personally, my guess is that this is not so much an Introvert trait as an high sensitivity (HSP) trait. Many HSPs notice everything around us and we have difficulty blocking out distractions. Noisy work environments are a special kind of hell. Approximately 70% of HSPs are Introverts. Im an HSP Introvert. (Hush. Please.)

  7. Downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you.
    Define downtime. In this case, "downtime" is an Extrovert's word. If I'm feeling productive and happy, it's not "downtime", is it? Downtime is when I'm sleeping.

  8. Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.
    I've never given a talk to 500 people, so I have no idea if this is true for me. However, I do know that I'd rather teach a class to 30 people than try to "mingle" with 10.

  9. When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench -– not in the middle.
    Or the bus, the train, a table in a cafeteria when I don't know anyone, a large meeting room...

  10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.
    Oh yes. The battery analogy is very apt.

  11. You're in a relationship with an extrovert.
    Not me. My spouse is an Innie too. He's more willing to go to meetings and even the occasional party than I am, but he's not an E.

  12. You'd rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.
    Yes, this is me. I'm a serial expert, however. I become an expert at whatever needs an expert now. So, over time, I've become an expert at various things. Just not all at once.

  13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.
    I admit I would rather not be called upon to participate, but if the show is otherwise wonderful, I will nevertheless attend. Even then, I don't mind participation, so much as I prefer to avoid public humiliation.

  14. You screen all your calls -- even from friends.
    Yes, yes, 1000 times yes. Better yet, my outgoing voicemail message requests that the caller please use email if possible.

  15. You notice details that others don't.
    Again, I think this is more of an HSP trait than an introvert trait. It fits me. It probably fits a lot of Myers Briggs "S" types as well.

  16. You have a constantly running inner monologue.
    You don't?

  17. You have low blood pressure.
    Several people in Facebook have been discussing this one. It's the first time I ever heard of it. Supposedly there was a 2006 Japanese study that "found that introverts tend to have lower blood pressure than their extroverted counterparts." Given that Japanese extroverts probably tend to exhibit behaviours more like American introverts (on the surface), I'm not sure I buy this study as saying anything profound about I vs E.

  18. You’ve been called an “old soul” -– since your 20s.
    Nope. Never.

  19. You don't feel "high" from your surroundings
    True. Not only that, the mere thought causes me some discomfort. I don't want to feel "high". I want to feel contented. (Read some of the articles on I vs E brain chemistry.)

  20. You look at the big picture.
    Yes... when I feel like it. But I also like details. I love data.

  21. You’ve been told to “come out of your shell.”
    Again, Ive heard and read about many Introverts who have been told this. I have been exceedingly lucky to have no memory of anyone ever being this rude to me.

  22. You’re a writer.
    This is an interesting point. The better phrasing might be "You prefer written communication". A lot of Introverts agree that they would rather write than talk.

    Note that the word "writer" here does not have to mean "author". Nor should it imply anything more than setting words down electronically or on paper. Some write fiction; some do technical writing; some keep journals; some are bloggers; some simply prefer email to other forms of communication. I call myself a writer but I don't "have a novel in me."

  23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity.
    Not if I can help it. :-)

They left out:

  • You're a reader.
    Many Introverts love books and reading. I'm certainly one of those.

  • You think before responding. You may have been told you're too slow to respond.
    This one comes up a lot. As a rule, Introverts prefer to think things through, sometimes for a long time. A popular phrase is "Introverts think to talk; Extroverts talk to think." We don't like brainstorming; just throwing out ideas isn't the way we operate, as a rule.

    This is one of the reasons why many Introverts screen their calls, prefer to write, like to communicate by email... We want more time to think. We need time to think.

  • You enjoy social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogging...).
    It may seem counterintuitive but many Introverts love social media. It fits our way of thinking. We can write (not talk). We can take our time responding. We can control the conversation.

    You may be surprised to learn how many self-identified Introverts are active in Twitter, how many introvert-related groups can be found in Facebook and LinkedIn, how many "pins" about introversion can be found in Pinterest, or how many articles and blogs about introversion there are. Introverts enjoy getting together, talking, and sharing stories... from the comfort of our homes and keyboards. In many ways, Introverts are as social, perhaps even more social, than Extroverts. We just go about it in a different way.

Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert? How well do the 23 possible signs (or the three I added) apply to you?


Some References re: Neurobiology of Introversion

23 (+3) Signs You Could Be An Introvert ( in category Personality Type ) - posted at Wed, 21 Aug, 12:15 Pacific | «e»


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