Introversion is a psychological term used to classify personality. Attributed to Carl Jung, introversion’s technical definition, as made famous by the Myers-Brigg personality assessment, simply states that one recharges by focusing more on internal stimulation than external stimulation.
People who are introverted tend to be inward turning, or focused more on internal thoughts, feelings and moods rather than seeking out external stimulation. Introverts get their energy and are recharged from spending time with their thoughts.” (1)
In the early years of my marriage, I didn’t know my husband was introverted. The signs were there; I just didn’t see them. I thought because he was popular, outspoken, and got along with just about everyone, he was naturally an extrovert like me. But, the real differences came to light at the end of every work week. Every Friday night after a long week at work, I wanted to unwind and recharge from the week by going out and being around other people. He wanted to unwind and recharge by staying home.
When it came to making decisions, our differences showed up, yet again. I would ask him what his opinion was on something and his answer was always short. He would merely say, “I don’t know.” and not think anything of it. What I later learned was that “I don’t know” meant, “I don’t have an answer right now because I need time to think about it.” In fact, there were occasions where it would take days for him to give me an answer. Often, I would forget what I asked him until he came back later with a reply. Not understanding or respecting his tendencies, I mistakenly called him aloof, cold, and distant, but this wasn’t true.
Think of introversion as a fuel source. When the gas tank is empty, introverts turn inward to fill up. This does not mean they don’t like people or that they are shy or that they aren’t great leaders. Introverts can act very extroverted as long as they’ve had adequate time to prepare for it.
Things to keep in mind:
- Introversion is measured on a scale. This means there are varying degrees of introversion.
- Not all introverts are the same. They may have similar traits but those traits can show up differently based on background, up bringing, and conditioning.
When communicating with an introvert, here are some points to consider:
1. They NEED space (down time) to think.
In the early years of my marriage, I thought space was my husband’s preference, not a necessity. I mean after all, didn’t he marry me so that we could always be together?!?! I was determined to barrage my husband with questions that I wanted answers to right away. I didn’t process the same way he did nor did I understand it. I wanted him to process things the same way that I did; this was a mistake. In order to get the best out of him, I had to learn to respect the way he was wired, and that meant giving him space.
2. Pressure can make them stubborn.
Because introverts are most comfortable with their thoughts, they can come across obstinate and resistant if provoked. Demanding they give you what you want, when you want it, will not produce results. Actually, you are setting yourself up to never benefit from the creative and well-thought-out plans devised by them. They may never come to light when introverts feel threatened or provoked.
3. Introverts need to know you respect their space.
This link highlights how to interact with an introvert in a cute cartoon. You don’t have to walk on eggshells around introverts; you just need to demonstrate to them that you respect their space.
4. Ask for their preferences.
No two introverts are exactly the same. When you suspect that someone is an introvert and that you need to spend a lot of time with that person, ask them their preferences. Then, give them a set time and date to get back with you. This gives them time to think about the situation, so they can then come back to you when they are ready.
This post isn’t about labeling people; it is about understanding others. When you have understanding, you can begin tailoring your communication activities in a such a way to build trust and promote inclusion.
Here are a few resources that further explain the uniqueness of introversion:
- What is Introversion?
- 6 Things You Thought Wrong About Introverts
- 23 Signs You are Secretly An Introvert
- The Introvert’s Way
- A Simple Explanation on How On How to Interact with Introverts
What advice would you give on interacting with introverts?
Next week, I’ll talk about the responsibilities the introvert has in communication.