How to Understand Introverted People

Four Parts:Understanding introvertsSome things to considerInteracting with introverted peopleLiving with an introvert

If you're introverted yourself but unsure what that means, or you spend time around people who exhibit introvert traits, it's a good idea to gain a greater understanding of what this entails.

Part 1
Understanding introverts

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    Understand what an introvert consists of. Introverted personalities tend to be quiet, reflective and easily drained in high energy environments. They are often considered to be "thinkers" and are viewed as people who are contented with solitude.
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    Look at how the person "recharges" when stressed, tired or worn down. This is a key indicator of the difference between extroverts and introverts.
    • Extroverts tend to recharge by interacting with others, being social and participating in social gatherings, events, etc. The social stimulation energizes the extrovert.
    • Introverts tend to recharge by withdrawing from social occasions and other people, sitting in solitude or maybe talking to only one other trusted person. This is because the extra stimulation from spending time around people, noise and constant comings and goings drains the energy of an introvert. Without this ability to withdraw, an introvert soon becomes edgy, tense, irritable and ill-at-ease.
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    Be aware that introverted people are at greater risk of being over-stimulated in certain environments. Introverts tend to be very sensitive to external stimuli, such as noise, light and activity. While an extrovert might find working with the radio on a total breeze, the introvert may find the radio so highly distracting that only total silence will allow for him or her to work effectively.

Part 2
Some things to consider

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    Avoid assuming that introverts or extroverts are unequal. Neither personality type is better nor worse than the other. During current times, extroverted qualities tend to be lauded as people clamber up the corporate ladder, and in many places, announcing one's presence loudly and selling one's skills to the world is considered to be an essential part of succeeding in competitive job and sales arenas, something many introverts find challenging (although not impossible). However, quiet personalities are as valid and important as their noisier counterparts, they just don't like taking center stage as often.
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    Realize that every person has both introverted and extroverted aspects to their personality. What tends to occur however, is that some people are more extroverted and others are more introverted, with some "central flexibility" where the two traits cross over. The trait may be evident in just some situations, or in any situation, depending on the individual. Each person is made up of many aspects, with introversion or extroversion being two parts of a greater whole. However, what does happen is that you have a tendency for either one or the other trait and this in turn affects how you balance your time, your social interactions and your recharging needs.
    • Expression of the extent of introversion is situationally dependent.
    • Some people are at the extremes of either introversion or extroversion. Life can be a lot harder for these people than those who have a more "balanced" leaning towards either tendency. That doesn't mean they are not "normal", it does mean they are more likely to experience problems in social contexts where people carry certain expectations of "typical" behavior and interaction.
    • The term "ambiverts" is used for persons who display fairly equal amounts of both introversion and extroversion. However, this may just be that the person is either one or the other but is moderate in the expression of the more dominant trait, yet feels comfortable with expressing both.
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    Avoid making assumptions based on a person's introverted or extroverted tendencies. While neat boxes are often tempting to apply, the human personality is far too complex for such an approach. Both with yourself, and with others, avoid the tendency to think that the personality trait defines the whole. It does not, and cannot. Much more goes into making up your personality as a whole, along with social skills that you can learn.
    • Just because a person is considered to be an introvert doesn't mean that that person cannot be in charge, powerful, in the spotlight, etc. There are plenty of renowned introverts who are known as great leaders, inspirers and change-makers.
    • An extrovert will sometimes make use of taking time to reflect, to think things through and to be at peace in solitude, when needed; it just isn't as pressing or important to the extroverted personality to spend extended periods of time in such modes. However, just as an introvert should not be labeled as "all or nothing", neither should the extrovert be so labeled.
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    Avoid labeling introverts as "anti-social". This is both unfair and impolite. Introverts will participate in social occasions and are as likely to be friendly, outgoing and articulate (all personality skills or traits that are learned or innate but that have nothing to do with whether one is an extrovert or an introvert) as the next person. Every human being appreciates contact with others, it is simply a case of how much contact, with whom and for how long. Introverts are more likely to manage the interactions to minimize the exhaustion or overwhelming feelings that can occur, at least for those introverts who have recognized the reality for themselves.
    • Both extroverts and introverts are equally capable of learning and applying social skills, just as the opposite is true and both can be socially inept; skills are a separate issue from personality traits.
    • Many introverts are employed in careers that involve a lot of interaction with different people; what you will discover is that they have carefully managed systems in place to be able to cope with the constancy of interaction. For example, they may schedule only a few daily appointments; they may decline any after-work functions that are not a good investment of their time for the expected return. An introvert is less likely to indulge in social events as a form of escapism or habit but thinks through the benefits before wading in.
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    Realize that age can have an impact on the introversion and extroversion traits. As we grow older, we tend to mellow and some of the more evident extremes of either introversion or extroversion become less marked and both personality types shift into a more middle zone. This allows extroverts to access more reflective states, while it also allows introverts to find their voice and stand up for the things they find matter. Much of this stems from the wisdom that comes with experience, provided a person learns the lessons and feels secure in their life.

Part 3
Interacting with introverted people

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    Be open to learning. This section on interacting with introverts is for everyone; just because you're introverted doesn't mean you automatically know how to interact with other introverts.
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    Listen with care and interest. Introverted people like to know they are being heard but they are not going to struggle to ensure that you are listening. If they feel that you cannot be bothered to hang in there and truly listen, they will clam up and fail to articulate any further. This might not concern you if you're flitting from person to person while networking (an event most introverts dread) but if you are wanting to make a real connection with the introvert, you have to make the effort to truly connect and to truly listen.
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    Expect introverts to listen to you, in depth. Before you think this is all one-sided, you're in for a rude shock. Introverts love to listen to your side of things once you've made it clear you're dedicated to listening to them too; indeed, they can be your rock solid source of a good sounding board for your ideas, notions and worries. Since introverted people are typically good listeners, if you have a problem or need advice, they will listen, wait till you're done talking and then give advice or offer to think over what you've said and return with a solution or idea.
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    Give introverted persons space. As already explained, unlike extroverted people, when around people too long, it saps an introvert's energy. So don't feel bad if your introverted friend doesn't want to hang out 24/7. It is not personal, it is essential to their well-being and thriving.
    • With introverts, a lot of information is processed after the interaction or event. This is why downtime and being away from other people is so important. This is the time of forming clarity, depth of understanding and processing of all that has been learned. An introvert finds instant processing of information during a social interaction nigh on impossible and hence can end up feeling highly distressed or needing to "shut down" if pressed to make a decision on the spot or give an opinion there and then.
    • Respect the need for the introverted person to take more time than you. Even if you feel ready to go ahead with something, to decide something or to do something, you may need to wait a little longer before your introverted friend, colleague or customer comes around to your way of thinking. Do not perceive their quietness and unwillingness to hop on board immediately as a sign of rejection or exclusion; it is not the case. Instead, by accepting that the introvert needs space and time to process, you will be able to see that it's their need, not an insult to or rejection of you.
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    Work with the introvert's strengths. A lot of negativity surrounds the introvert. Yet the introvert has amazing qualities that are of great benefit; after all, the trait wouldn't have evolved without being highly useful. Some of the strengths of introverts include:
    • Being cautious, risk averse and reflective
    • Writing articulately
    • Thinking analytically
    • Staying calm during a crisis (unless overwhelmed); reflecting inner calm and peace
    • Conscientious and good at concentrating on tasks requiring focus
    • A great listener, a careful adviser
    • Being independent
    • Being tenacious and determined, willing to take the longer-term view
    • Empathic, diplomatic and willing to compromise.

Part 4
Living with an introvert

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    Be grateful that you are living with an introvert. You have someone who will make your home a heaven!
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    Realize that your introvert-in-the-house needs downtime. This is not to be taken as personal rejection or any aspersions being cast on you. This is about letting the introvert recharge. If you're concerned, have a discussion and suggest that the introvert-in-the-house at least signal that he or she needs downtime and is going off to be alone. That way, everyone else knows what is happening and won't disturb the introvert or take it personally.
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    Allow space. The introvert needs somewhere personal, quiet and undisturbed to retreat to within the home space. If this is not offered, the introvert can become stressed and tense, a feeling that can impact everyone in the household.
    • If you are living in an environment where space is a problem, consider making a schedule to get all of the extroverts out of the house once a day, to allow the introvert to have complete peace.
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    Work to each other's strengths. If you're an extrovert and your partner is an introvert, share out the chores to the person who is best at doing them. For example, your introvert partner may be the best for checking the tax details and choosing the house decorating colors, while you might be best at planning parties and receiving the house guests warmly or cold calling the plumbers to get quotes for renovating your dilapidated bathroom. Talk openly about what the introvert finds difficult to do and reach compromises about who does what.
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    If you are both introverts, be wary of a potential to sidestep problems that neither of you like handling. Also take care to avoid creating your own bubble and failing to make friends or keep in touch with friends. While you have each other, broader perspective is absolutely essential to feeding your voracious need to process life's deeper meanings.
    • If you both are too alike, there is a risk of being overly dependent on one another. Be alert to this potential and be sure to widen your social circle and spend time doing some things apart. While it is a source of comfort to be so similar, do not make it into a crutch.
    • Enjoy the fact that both of you are of one mind while making an effort to keep challenging one another to live life as fully as possible.


  • Be the quiet one sometimes. Your friend isn't always in a quiet mood. Introverts definitely have moments when they love to sing, dance and be the center of attention ever so briefly.
  • Being shy is not the same as being introverted. While some introverts might be shy, it is a mistake to label all introverts as shy. Shyness is about fearing social contact and situations; introversion is about finding such situations exhausting and overwhelming if in too large a dose. That said, a shy introvert is probably experiencing a double dose of anxiety during social events.
  • Highly sensitive persons (HSPs), as noted by Elaine Aron, are not the same as introverts. HSPs are found in both spectrums, among the extroverted and the introverted, although HSPs are more likely to be introverted than not.


  • Open space offices are not a good environment for many introverts. The level of noise, constant interruptions and lack of privacy can cause introverts to feel exposed, vulnerable and overwhelmed.
  • Be aware that the person you're dealing with may not realize yet that he or she is an introvert. If the person is always irritable, seems overwhelmed and over-stimulated in social and work environments, there is a possibility that this person has yet to come to terms with his or her personality needs and isn't getting the "away" time needed to rejuvenate the energy. You might be in a great position to suggest that they could benefit from understanding introverted traits more.

Sources and Citations

  • Sylvia Loehken, Quiet Impact, (2014), ISBN 978-1-4447-9285-0 – research source

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