The Gifts of Introversion

I have been writing about introversion for 10 years now. That’s a surprising number of words about being quiet. It seems that a lot of introverts are finding their words these days. With so many of us taking up our keyboards in recent defense of our disposition, I would wager that there are more words dripping with introversion than ever before.

While I, of course, celebrate that, I am troubled when introversion conversations drift in a particular direction, and that is in pointing out what we are not. I cringe when I see links to articles with titles such as “Why Introverts Hate Small Talk” or worse: “I Am an Introvert, Leave Me Alone!”

My concern is that we are giving the world the impression that ours is an orientation defined by what we lack. We aren’t gregarious, excitable, or charismatic. We dislike crowds and loud stimulation. We have less energy. Sometimes it’s even implied that we don’t like other people. It seems that extroversion gets to be defined by what it is, but introversion is too often defined by what it isn’t.

I know the confusions circling about the introverted temperament in an extroverted society, and I understand why we introverts can feel defensive about our social patterns. But our temperament is now part of a broader cultural dialogue, and my hope is that we can move away from a defensive posture into a more constructive one. Now that we know that up to half of the population falls on the introverted side of the spectrum, we no longer have to fight like we are backed into a corner.

I think it’s time to shift the conversation by celebrating the positive side of introversion. The more I have settled into my introversion over the past few years, the more I have come to appreciate its gifts. At this point, I wouldn’t want to be any other way.

Introverts bring a bounty of gifts to the table:

  • Introverts bring a sense of calm. Far from communicating a standoffish posture, we attract people because they feel more at peace in our presence. We have a peacefulness that can help defuse difficult situations, and we show the value of quiet restraint in tense conversations. Our non-reactionary responses help us—and others—in crisis situations.
  • Introverts help others slow down. There is one introverted mentor I know who is a magnet for younger anxious employees because they seem to breathe more deeply and slowly around him. Have you ever noticed that people actually breathe differently around you? We can show others that our intrinsic value is not in how much we accomplish or how busy we are.
  • Introverts are loyal friends. No quote from my book, Introverts in the Church, has resonated quite like the one I wrote about introverts and friendship: “Introverts treasure the relationships they have stretched so much to make.” It may take us a while to warm up to people, but once we’re in, we’re in. We will prioritize you, and we won’t easily give up our friendship because of conflict or changing life circumstances.
  • Introverts see things. I have often thought that if someone were to write me into a novel, I wouldn’t be the protagonist or any other central character; I would be the narrator. Those of us who like to sit on the sidelines and observe others often see more than those in the center of the action. We notice group dynamics and individual behaviors that others might miss, which is a reason introverts make excellent therapists.
  • Introverts are compassionate. When you have an inward orientation, you go deep into yourself, and you can see both the good and the bad, the light and the dark. Honest self-reflection, usually borne out of solitude, helps us to extend compassion and forgiveness to others because we know their struggles and inner contradictions.
  • Introverts are funny. I know a lot of introverts, myself included, who spend a fair amount of time sitting quietly, thinking of funny things to say. We are often the people in the group who don’t lead the conversation but who interject pithy lines from time to time. Our timing isn’t always great, but when it is, people laugh.
  • Introverts are creative. Creativity often seems to come from a deep connection with our inner world. Underneath the surface are sparks of imagination, waiting to ignite. Because we do our best work in solitude, creative introverts may be less reliant on established norms and more able to see and hear new things.

Finally, introverts listen. I saved this one for last because I believe listening to be an exquisite gift and one that our world is desperate for. We all long to be heard—truly listened to without being judged for what we say or how we think and without being treated as a mere interruption in another person’s story. There is much more to listening than not speaking, but not speaking is certainly a good start.

Share your thoughts.

Let’s keep our discussions reflective, productive, and welcoming. Please follow our Community Guidelines and understand that we moderate comments and reserve the right to delete comments that don’t adhere to our guidelines. You must sign in or sign up to comment.
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  • Tracy, from Bliss This Home

    I thought the points sounded more like HSP, too!

  • Sam Dalton

    I have to agree that the label extrovert and introvert are just that labels.
    People are complex and possess in some part all of the skills and traits that both “extroverts” and “introverts” possess.

    Extroverts label us Introverts because they are probably, on the whole, just not like them. “Extroverts” seem. at ease with those who project an image that conforms to some expectation that you have to be perceived as popular or alpha personality.
    ” Extroverts” want to be noticed and appreciated at a superficial level, I’m generalising, but our expression is not always a reflection of our true self when we are sensitive to what others think.

    “Introverts” may not see this as a priority and maybe this is not a true reflection of them as a person.
    I could generalise and say introverts have a greater sense of self and empathy but that may not be true “Extroverts” feel a need to be accepted and express this in the form of being around people like them selves.

    In the end we are more than the sum of the labels others use to describe the indescribable. We use labels it is a natural way of organising information without having to detail every element of our life and to communicate a concept in a word.

    I don’t think we should get hung up on labels based on snap judgements without looking behind the table in any given situation.
    People will use labels as ammunition for their own self interest in absence of articulation or argument in the analytical sense.

    We are individuals not easily defined or categorised with strengths and weaknesess. As social vulnerable species the desire to conform and fit in sometimes over rides the decisions we make and the choices we believe we have infant of us. Don’t judge any one in a group is my advise to know some one you have to first gain their trust free of judgement.

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  • Thank you, Adam, I couldn’t agree more! ❤️

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  • Karmaswatching

    I have a different perspective on the Author’s statement of “Introverts calm people.” Like many, my family things I’m strange and worries about me because they know me intimately and are extroverts. Therefore they are concerned. But I believe the Author was speaking of those outside of our Families. However, strangers and acquaintances, have told me I have a “calming” presence. I’ve even been told this by people I’ve never met over FB. They would Private Message me and tell me their deepest secrets and hurts stating they didn’t know why, but they somehow felt I was a person they could trust and I gave them a sense of peace and calmness even though we had never met in person. Just noting a different perspective.

  • ForRealNoirs

    i can relate to this article, because people tell me – i calm them down, am funny and i am the peace-maker- so as an introvert and for other introvert friends, this article rings true

  • Amy W. Kelly

    I really enjoyed this different and positive perspective on introversion. Thank you, Adam!

  • Jennifer Taylor Moody

    Agree! Kind of like what I said in my comment above. There are too many generalizations that shouldn’t be considered general at all, but rather are characteristics of a very specific “type” of introvert trying to apply his personal experiences and traits to all introverts. I, too, am a rational, non-people-person introvert who is also a HSP! While I am very “deep” and have much compassion, not all introverts are such-and I don’t always put the compassion first, as I believe in objective fairness. As far as creativity, most of my introverted coworkers past and present are literal, by-the-book types who panic if asked to go outside the SOP. Calm? Ha ha, I’m the last person you’d ever want in a crisis! My HSP status negates the “calm” in cray-cray scenarios! I’m not always the best listener, either, as my hyper-brain is always thinking 10 steps ahead and preparing for what the other might say. Working on that…

  • Jennifer Taylor Moody

    Once again, I’m happy to see that we are working to portray introversion in a more positive light, to overcome our culture’s negative stereotypes. And, I agree wholeheartedly that we need to stop framing ourselves in terms of what we “can’t do” or “don’t like”-especially since many of those statements are very individual and not true for all introverts. However, I’m also concerned by statements claiming certain traits as “introverted” when it may not be that simple.

    Many of these statements only describe potential strengths of some introverts. For example, we are not always calm, as some are highly sensitive and feel easily overstimulated. More accurate: “Calm, centered introverts can be instrumental in bringing a sense of peace to a difficult situation”.

    “Introverts are compassionate” seems like a value judgment and is not universally true. More accurate: “Introversion, combined with a tendency for reflection on internal values, can be a powerful catalyst for great compassion”.

    “Introverts who possess both creative and introspective tendencies can bring a unique depth and subtlety to creative efforts, due to an intimate connection with a rich inner world”. This may be more true than “introverts are creative”, as it acknowledges that not all introverts have creative gifts coupled with their introversion.

    I’m not trying to refute the writer here, just hoping to show that complications can arise from trying to pin down any neutral human trait, including introversion. Because, all the good or bad things about it are not about “it” at all, but rather about how the person has chosen to use it. And, because no element of ourselves exists in total isolation from our other traits.

  • Krithika S.

    Everything mentioned in this article is true and I agree with pretty much all of it but being an introverted computer science student who doesn’t drink, do drugs, or smoke I pretty much have 0 to no chance of socializing. I hate watching other people find friends so quickly and easily and I wish I was one of them. I know I sound really depressed but I don’t know how else to put it.

    • Jennifer Taylor Moody

      Surely there must be other students out there who don’t use substances as their sole source of social connection! If you’re like that, there are others. How about some other science types? Even if they smoke or drink, do you have to in order to hang with them? Or, what if just a few of you got together for a coffee or tea?

  • Karin Miller

    I appreciate this article. For me, I view being an introvert as a gift, but I have not always felt this way. I feel we are all on a journey of understanding ourselves and overcoming inner battles. When I was young I use to wonder what was wrong with me, why would anxiety and fear shoot through me when surrounded by large groups of people or when I was at school, I feel school was the worst of all. School was the worst because I had to be there and there was no escape. Whether we are extroverts or introverts or somewhere in between, we all have things we are working on. As we work to overcome and learn and grow we can find peace and self-acceptance in who we innately are.

    • Jennifer Taylor Moody

      Have you read “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aron? It may have some illuminating ideas on that “anxiety and fear” you mentioned. For me it was eye-opening.

      • Karin Miller

        I will have to read it. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Donald Trump, the consummate anti-introvert, might call us “low energy people.”

  • vijay

    The problem I face is this: while it is easy to be yourself and realize these gifts without caring too much about how you’re coming across to those who don’t bother in personal life, being an introvert is at best a struggle at most places I’ve worked at in the past few years. Especially the kind whose existence hinges on quarter-to-quarter increase in dividends and where as a result peoples’ jobs are on the lines, anxiety/insecurity levels are high and there is a constantly rushed atmosphere and buzz around. All this doesn’t leave much time for anyone (much less extroverts) to care much about what they would consider non-issues – little effort is made to identify where does one lie on the spectrum and what gifts they bring, work is assigned based on immediate requirements and people are placed in departments they have little natural aptitude for. I work in the high-tech sector where HR interaction is limited at entry into and exit from the company, the rest of the time reportage/supervision is under direct managers. Which is where I think the crux of efforts should lie: sensitization of line managers to 1. recognize first and then 2. harness the gifts talked about.

    That being said, I have taken huge strength and feel blessed to be living in the midst of the cultural dialogue you talk about – visible online for sure but not in real-life here in India atleast – brought about by articles like yours and Susan’s book (a lifechanger for me), and no longer hesitate to declare my introversion in clear-cut terms to anyone who does not seem to get why I am the way I am at the workplace. In other words, my patience levels have gone down for those who do not seem to want to understand their colleague’s way of working (whether due to lack of experience, imagination or empathy). It has worked for sure by being more assertive about who I am at the workplace. By doing this, I also like to think I’m doing my small bit about spreading the dialogue on introverts in the real-world.

    Lots of people below say they don’t identify with these gifts. While I certainly do, it makes me wonder if the experience of introversion is different for those with different sets in the middle 2 Myers-Briggs variables. It certainly makes for an interesting case study, if a complex one at that.

    • Jennifer Taylor Moody

      I think you’re right about the MBTI variables. Traits like strong compassion or creativity are about more than one variable of “introversion”. It’s about how multiple traits interact. I’m very innovative as an “INTJ”, but many of my “ISTJ” coworkers are not as much. Likewise, compassion is more important to my “INFJ” sisters than to me; I do have compassion, but am more driven by objective logic. I would think that an “ISFP” would have more artistic creativity than myself. Of course, the MBTI doesn’t define anyone, and all these statements may not always apply to people of these types. But it sounds like you’re on the right track with that last paragraph.

  • John

    I just think many Introverts are now starting to realize that we are not alone. We see more books, YouTube Talks and through the Internet, Introverts coming out and it feels great! We have been living lives that for the most part are not our own! Our lives have been pushed to be more like Extroverts so although I understand where you are coming from I also understand those Introverts that just are letting loose from the so called prison they have been in for so many years!!! We are basically born again and we are happy!

  • ABG

    I love the tone of this article and the focus on what we are rather than what we are not and what we dislike. Thank you! I feel most if not all of these traits describe me, and that is based more on what people tell me THEY observe and like about me; bringing a sense of peace and calm with me is usually at the top of the list.

  • Margaret B

    This is a truly valuable outline of the benefits and strengths of introversion. I concur with every single one. Thank you for your clarity of vision and expression.

  • Kaminsky Árpy

    Most articles about ‘introverts’, including this one, actually deal with ambiverts who tend to edge to the introvert side. More extreme introverts (the forest-loving, daydreaming, cottage-dwelling rural sort) find these articles utterly unhelpful and generalized.

    • Steven Cohen

      Then, um, write your own damn article. Us ambiverts who lean toward introversion, think you forest dwelling introverts are creepy.

      lol. that was a joke.

  • Hunter

    Thank you so much for this. Not only is it well-written, it really resonates; and I appreciate the perspective of affirming what introverts are, as opposed to pointing what they are not. If feels like introverts are surrounded sometimes, since us introverts are quite and not attracting attention to ourselves; and, for me at least, I keep needing reminders that it’s okay to not be constantly excited and on the go, since that is so much of the perceived norm. Having said that, I’m going to rest easy and dive into my novel : )

  • Heather

    Thank you Adam, it is nice to hear about all the positive aspects of being introverted for a change!

  • Ema

    Yay! Finally the positive side!!! I’m an HSP and being an introvert or HSP can be difficult but I much prefer to focus on the positives – and there are so many! At every job I’ve worked, I’ve always been the ‘firefighter’ – the one who can calm anyone down (and the secret is I just listen….). So happy to read this – we’re someone doesn’t think we’re broken – thank you!

  • toomanyhobbies

    Thank you for this article. You make good points, some of which I’ve made myself. I particularly like and agree with the last one – listening. In a career counseling class I took years ago when asked what we wanted to do or pictured ourselves doing, I said I wanted to listen. I got a blank stare from the teacher. I think things are changing though. I didn’t become a therapist in my late-in – life career change but I did become a nurse. The times I got to be there for patients and just.listen are the ones I cherish the most.

  • Cynthia Kristiani

    Thank you, Adam. This article really a gift for me. Maybe others don’t know about introverts but this is introverts. I hope many people will recognize introverts with their ‘gifts’.

  • schadenfreudian

    Still waters run deep. You could drown there.

  • Kathy Borino

    I think I’m funny and love to make people laugh with quirky one liners. 🙂

  • Alex Willging

    Thanks for the positive affirmations, Adam. I’m also a little burned out from reading so much about how introverts can’t stand small talk or meeting new people. It’s nice to see what we can bring to the table, even if the extroverts get all the immediate attention.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Blanket statements like ‘Introverts bring a sense of calm’ ‘Introverts help others slow down’ ‘Introverts are loyal friends’ ‘Introverts see things’ ‘Introverts are compassionate’ ‘Introverts are funny’ ‘Introverts are creative’ ‘introverts listen’ bother me. I would have said ‘Introverts can be…..’

    As an introvert I am not that funny, probably do not calm people or get people to slow down since close friends and family have been honest enough to note they worried about me and equated my introvert status as the same as being scared, which did not calm them down but concerned/stressed them.. Am not scared, just quiet.

    And there is nothing wrong with a person noting “I Am an Introvert, Leave Me Alone!” because they say I not WE. Personally I prefer to be left alone, I prefer to work alone, thus I want and like being left alone. Which my awesome late husband of forty years appreciated since he was a kindred spirit.

  • Angela G.

    This is accentuating the positive at its best. It is so easy for introverts to forget or flat out deny that we add value to the world. Thank you for reminding me.

  • Diane Seeley

    Adam, this is so nice to see these affirmations in writing. As a young impressionable child, my first memory of my introversion was when my parents would point at me and say, “you gotta watch out for the quiet ones!” This being a perfectly innocent comment came across to me as something wrong with my behavior. Unlike my rough and tumble brothers and my outgoing sisters, I was the one to be aware of! Now, in my later years I am incredible happy with my long hours of down time along with a husband who understands it and needs it too.

    • Leslie Drees

      Hi Diane, I understand your feelings of the past memories. I too have those memories. My biggest is trick or treat. My parents would stay at the sidewalk and send me and my brother (older and highly outgoing) to the door and tell me to say “trick or treat”, hold out my bag, and then say “thank you”. Most times I bolted before the door opened. But the exercise instilled this sense of there is something wrong with you if you don’t like doing this because children all over the world love it, and the ten pieces of candy compared to the two bagfuls of my brothers (which he was always kind enough to share) only reinforced that notion. Now I see articles like this one and meet people who have the same characteristics (not difficulties) that I have and realize I wasn’t different, just not suited for trick or treat.

      • Diane Seeley

        Hi Leslie, I am on my annual silence retreat(my personal heaven,) and I will respond once I return.

      • Diane Seeley

        Hello again! I am back and renewed. I can’t remember having those feelings about trick or treat since my issues seem more to be big groups. This hit home even more so when my husband and his dance partner did competition dancing and travelling to various events around the country. I loathed walking into the hotel doors knowing that would be a barrage of folks checking in and chattering endlessly. I still thought even then that there was something wrong with me, that I was being anti-social and unsupportive. It wasn’t until 2000 when I started practicing (and now teaching) yoga and meditation that I realized that my feelings were not a “disability” but a genuine gift to myself.

  • Kendall Davis

    Thanks for reaffirming the value we bring to other people. Too often I hear extroverts describe our introversion as “hating people” and “anti-social.” They don’t see how deeply we love and care about people and show it our own special ways. I too will be returning to this read when I need encouragement.

  • Jenn M

    Thank you Adam, I can relate to this deeply, it brings me a calming peace that I am, in fact, okay the way I am. I know I will be returning to read this over and over because I need that reminder often.

  • This is wonderfully said, Adam. Thank-you for voicing what I so often find difficult to articulate.

  • Beautifully said. I spend so much time bemoaning the fact that I’m so exhausted from social interaction that I forget about the beauty of this character trait.