DEAR INTROVERTS: You’re amazing. For reals. Introvert discoveries, inventions, books, songs, and ideas are the reason the world hasn’t reverted to the Dark Ages. Yes, the majority of the population is extroverted and you’re the outliers of the bell curve, but hat only increases the value of your innate strengths and innovative abilities, so embrace your socially selective selves and celebrate the quiet genius that is YOU. In all your awkward, misfit glory.
(Extroverts, if you’re here because you’re perplexed by your more subdued and enigmatic counterparts, keep reading below for some straight talk and fun facts, because we need you almost as much as you need us!)
INTROVERTS 1011: MYTHS, MISNOMERS, AND ENLIGHTENMENT
We’re not antisocial. No, really. Introverts are intermittently reclusive, which extroverts often mislabel as “antisocial.” Select individuals may be antisocial, but introverts are not.The majority of us actually like (some) people and enjoy socializing…on our terms. That makes us selectively social…which is an entirely different thing.
The true differentiator that defines introverts and extroverts is social energy flow direction. It has zero to do with how many friends we have or events we go to, or how much time we spend alone, and infinity to do with physics. Extroverts drawenergy from socializing, whereas introverts expend it to socialize. Put another way:
Extrovert = GAINS or generates energy from being around others that is immediately injected into their fuel tank. Their energy needle moves to ‘F’ and they go home happy after a party or other social gathering.
Introvert = DRAINS or burns energy from our fuel tank as we interact with others socially and/or professionally. When our needle moves to ‘E,’ the introvert’s imperative is to retreat and replenish in solitude.
We get people hangovers if we overdo it. We socialize on our terms because our ability to do so depends entirely on our fuel level. Our biggest social dilemma is wanting to be included and invited to things while reserving the right to decline or sit out if we’re too close to ‘E.’ Most of us learn not to socialize on empty the hard way: Best case scenario, we make ourselves go, but lack the energy to interact, leave early, and take twice as long to replenish. Worst case, we have an internal meltdown from sensory overload, a wicked people hangover the next day, and take three times as long to replenish.
This is why coercing, cajoling, or pressuring an introvert to socialize rarely ends well (if it’s effective at all). Plus, it dishonors our nature, so if you value us and our friendship, let us be who we are. (If you don’t, we’ll probably leave you at the curb.)
We’re not shy…we’re strategic. Another misperception universally loathed by introvertsis that we’re “shy.” We aren’t. Not as a group, anyway. We are inwardly focused though, which means that we’re busy wondering, innovating, assessing, analyzing, and strategizing. We occupy and entertain ourselves, so seeking external stimulation isn’t a priority. Which is why we’re inclined to hang with a good book and skip the party scene, but lest ye doubt, we do know how to have fun. We also blend worlds and take books to parties sometimes, so don’t judge.
We despise small talk. We’d rather use our words for conversations about things that are meaningful or not at all. It’s one of the reasons our MO in crowds emulates swimmers in a pool: We analyze the water off to the side before diving in, do a couple of laps around the room, find a wall and rest, take a deep breath, plug our noses, and repeat the cycle until our fingers are pruney. Then, we bolt.
Get us talking and we may not stop. The gears of an introvert’s brain never stop turning, so because we spend a fair amount of time alone, when our “open mouth, roll words” switch is flipped, we can have a lot to say. Like, a really lot. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to get an introvert talking about a topic that excites us, you may not be able to get a word in edgewise, so just go with it and listen up…you’ll most likely be amused, and you might even learn something (because we heart facts and books).
There are other things introverts aren’t, like repressed, socially inept, unintelligent, loners, misanthropes, arrogant, heartless, passive, narcissists, timid, oblivious, party poopers, negative, selfish, self-centered, villains, angry, clueless, wallflowers, evil, depressed, rude, shut-ins, insecure, or broken.
YOU MIGHT BE AN INTROVERT IF…
- Being around people drains or overwhelms you and/or you retreat to your quiet bubble immediately after socializing at a party or other event, especially if you tend to leave early and need a day (or a few) to rejuvenate before emerging again.
- Your group of close friends is small, and your inner circle isn’t easy to infiltrate, but once you let someone past the velvet rope, they’re in for the duration unless they violate your trust or deal-breaker boundaries. Then, they’re dead to you, aka, “the INTJ door slam” – more on that and the other Myers-Briggs introvert types below.
- You feel revitalized by solitude and love your alone time, whether you spend it daydreaming, reading a good book, binge-watching Netflix, or dog hiking.
- You abhor or avoid environments that overwhelm or distract you and find it enormously challenging to focus when surrounded by external stimuli (i.e. the mere thought of a cubicle farm has you reaching for a paper bag to breathe into.).
- You mostly play well with others but do your best work independently.
- You elevate #RBF to an art form and people think you’re shy or aloof when they first meet you, find you intimidating, or tell you that you’re hard to get to know, even though you think you’re straightforward AF and don’t have an intimidating bone in your body.
- You’re self-aware, analytical, probably overly self-critical at times. You think about and understand the what and why of your emotions, motives, and actions, and you prefer to learn by watching and practicing on your own vs. being put on the spot.
MYERS-BRIGGS® INTROVERT TYPES
The Myers-Briggs® world consists of 16 MBTI® personality types, eight of which are extrovert-dominant, and eight of which are introvert-dominant. Two of the introvert types are the rarest of them all, with the veritable unicorns of humans being INTJ females, who comprise just 0.5% of the entire world population, followed by male and female INFJs combined, with a 1.5% prevalence.
For the unfamiliar, the (brief!) gist of the MBTI® assessment2 is that it was created by Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers based on the work of Dr. Carl Jung. Their intention was to make personality type theory accessible to everyone (which they did) so people could become their best selves and make the world a better place.
The 16 types they defined are the possible combinations resulting from the emergence of a dominant preference in each of four opposing pairs. We all have some of both, but one is (normally) stronger than the other (sometimes by a bunch), which is what makes you you.
The pairs are: Extraverted (E) vs. Introverted (I), Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N), Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F), and Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P). The types are ISTJ, ISTP, ISFJ, ISFP, INFJ, INFP, INTJ, INTP, ESTJ, ESTP, ESFJ, ESFP, ENFJ, ENFP, ENTJ, and ENTP. FYI, “Perceiving” means preferring to take in information, not being perceptive or having quick perceptions of people and situations; and Judging means assessing, not being judgmental…don’t be that guy and confuse these.
Also, because I hope you’ll come back (and tell all your friends about my blog so I don’t have to!), I love 16 Personalities, but I’m also an MBTI® purist2 (who’s not being compensated for saying that, btw), and I play faves with INTJs because I am one. The unicorn herd is my peeps, but I also write about introverts in general and the sarcastic humor applies to all of us.
Introvert types, prevalence, and characteristics3:
- ISTJ – “The Inspector” (11.6%): Detail-oriented, realistic, present-focused, observant, logical, practical, orderly, organized, judgmental, tends to blame others, can be insensitive.
- ISTP – “The Crafter” (5.4%): Logical, learns by experience, action and solution-oriented, realistic, practical, easygoing, enjoys new things, self-confident, difficult to get to know, can be insensitive, easily bored, risk-taker, dislikes commitment.
- ISFJ – “The Protector” (13.8%): Reliable, practical, sensitive to emotions of others, eye for detail, grounded, prefers reality and facts to abstract concepts, protective of tradition, avoids confrontation, dislikes change, neglects own needs.
- ISFP – “The Artist” (8.8%): Very aware of their environment, practical, enjoys hands-on learning, loyal to values and beliefs, caring, considerate, dislikes theoretical information, reserved, quiet, strong need for personal space, dislikes arguments and conflict.
- INFJ – “The Advocate” (1.5%): Sensitive to others’ needs, reserved, highly creative and artistic, focused on the future, values close, deep relationships, enjoys thinking about the meaning of life, and idealistic. Dislikes confrontation, can be overly sensitive and stubborn.
- INFP – “The Mediator” (4.4%): Loyal and devoted, sensitive to feelings, caring and interested in others, works well solo, values close relationships, good at seeing the big picture, can be overly idealistic, takes things personally, distant, can lose sight of little things and overlook details.
- INTJ – “The Architect” (2.1%): Analytical, logical, objective, enjoys abstract theoretical concepts, big-picture oriented, has high expectations, good listener, can handle criticism, self-confident, hardworking, perfectionistic, dislikes discussing emotions, can seem callous or insensitive.
- INTP – “The Thinker” (3.3%): Logical, objective, abstract thinker, independent, loyal, affectionate with loved ones, difficult to get to know, can be insensitive, prone to self-doubt, struggles to follow rules, has trouble expressing feelings.
Real INTJs: Stephen Hawking, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Elon Musk, Bobby Fischer, Ayn Rand, Mark Zuckerberg, Julia Stiles, Nicola Tesla, Isaac Newton, Isaac Asimov, Charles Darwin, John Nash, Michelle Obama, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Emily Brontë, Samantha Power, Susan B. Anthony, Carly Fiorina, Katie Couric, Colin Firth, Colin Powell, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Jodie Foster, Anne Coulter, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Bateman, Jane Austen, Beethoven, Maria Shriver, Augustus Caesar, Jay-Z, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, H.L. Mencken, Martina Navratilova, Hillary Clinton, Vladimir Lenin, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, James K. Polk, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, John Adams (+ FLOTUS Abigail Adams), JFK, Al Gore
Fictional INTJs: Spock, Hermione Granger, Batman, Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling, Dexter Morgan, Dexter (Dexter’s Laboratory), Dr. House, Ellen Ripley, Gandalf, Katniss Everdeen, Magneto, Marsellus Wallace, Michael Corleone, Vito Corleone, Mr. Darcy, O-Ren Ishii, Tywin Lannister, Walter White, Willy Wonka
Other famous introverts (real and fictional):
- ISTJs: Queen Elizabeth II, Robert De Niro, Warren Buffet, John Malkovich, Denzel Washington, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Billy Bob Thornton, Julia Roberts, Jeff Bezos, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, George Washington, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush
- ISTPs: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Harry Potter, Michael Jordan, The Dalai Lama, Snoop Dogg, Frida Kahlo, Venus Williams, Ernest Hemingway, Bruce Lee, Eminem, Simon Cowell, Amelia Earhart, Sally Ride, Shaq, Clint Eastwood, Demi Moore, Vladimir Putin, Zachary Taylor, John Quincy Adams
- ISFPs: Prince Harry, Picasso, Prince, David Beckham, Marilyn Monroe, Steven Spielberg, Jimi Hendrix, Britney Spears, Lana Del Rey, Ryan Gosling, Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams, Nero, Brad Pitt, John Travolta, Kobe Bryant, Marie Antoinette, Jackie Kennedy, Warren G. Harding, Martin Van Buren
- ISFJs: Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, Pope Francis, Rosa Parks, Kate Middleton, Halle Berry, William Howard Taft, Jimmy Carter, Tiger Woods, Bruce Willis, Vera Wang, Gwyneth Paltrow, Selena Gomez, Mother Teresa, Clara Barton, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Elijah Woods, Vin Diesel, Agatha Christie, Louisa May Alcott, Robert E. Lee
- INFJs: Carl Jung, J.K. Rowling, Albus Dumbledore, Cate Blanchett, Leonard Cohen, Dante Alighieri, Plato, Audrey Hepburn, Al Pacino, Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Taylor Swift, Marilyn Manson, Jane Goodall, Roger Waters, Shirley Temple, Queen Noor, Eleanor Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler
- INFPs: Mr. Rogers, Tom Hiddleston, Michelangelo, J.R.R. Tolkien, A.A. Milne, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, John Mayer, Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, Sarah MacLachlan, George Orwell, Hans Christian Andersen, Virginia Woolf, Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Hellen Keller, Emily Blunt
- INTPs: Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Aristotle, Yoda, Galileo Galilei, Eckhart Tolle, Robert Heinlein, Harper Lee, Marie Curie, Paul Allen, Tina Fey, Ellen Page, Sheldon Cooper, Sigourney Weaver, John Cusack, Diane Lane, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Gerald Ford
That concludes “Introverts 101” so please take 18 seconds to subscribe to my blog and follow me on Instagram for “Introverts 102” and other fun! Grazie. J
1This is an updated and edited version of an article posted on ThriftBooks.com for National Introvert Week 2019. As you can see, the world literally wouldn’t go around without introverts (I’m talking to you, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Yoda, and Stephen Hawking!), especially my world, so I’m celebrating us all year long.
2I explain why in another article, but if you’re participating in anything “MBTI” or championing a type, please take the real test at least once in your life. Once is actually all you need and the $49.99 it costs is worth giving up a night out with the girls if you’re on a budget, I promise. Plus, it will give you so much more than a hangover.
3For the official Personality Type Basics, Isabel Briggs Myers is your girl.
4Some of the people below actually have taken the MBTI® assessment and shared their results in interviews or on social media, but others were (obviously!) long gone before Myers and Briggs did their thing, so the following was compiled from multiple and sometimes conflicting sources, which makes it fact-ish at best…take it as such.