Our loud, materialistic society undervalues the characteristics of introverts, who by nature tend to be more quiet and understated than is the social norm. In a culture obsessed with extroverted personalities, even positive introvert characteristics may be painted as undesirable or “less than” in some way. Let’s just get it out of the way and state that many people may assume the dominant traits of an introverted person are being socially anxious, uncomfortable with teamwork, and unassertive.
If you are an introvert, you may have had some of the above accusations and a great variety more slung your way from more extroverted bosses, teachers, and even frustrated and/or insensitive friends and family members who are choosing to see your introvert characteristics in a negative light. You may have been called “shy” like it was a bad thing and often told you need to “come out of your shell”. If this sounds like your life now or your childhood, the reality is simply that you were not in the right setting that nurtured your positive introvert characteristics that allow introverts to make unique and valuable contributions.
So instead of letting a negative view of introversion seep into your self-concept, remember that introverts such as yourself have a great many positive characteristics which can benefit yourself, your interpersonal relationships, your workplace, and society as whole. Here are some amazing positive characteristics common to introverts that you should feel proud of and continue to cultivate. We’ll also look at some of the flipsides associated with these introvert characteristics, and provide tips for maximizing the positive sides and avoiding common pitfalls.
Introverts examine situations from multiple angles and take many perspectives into account before making decisions. Due to a high amount of inner dialogue and even debate, introverts are able to play “devil’s advocate” even with themselves to arrive at a deeper, more reasonable perspective. Introverts suss out underlying causes of situations and are great at problem solving, even though they may have trouble communicating their wise perspective to others in high pressure settings.
Those who view the introvert in a deep thinking state from the outside may accuse them of ruminating or overthinking. And indeed, if you’re an introvert and an honest one, you can probably see some truth in these statements from time to time. When you’re a deep thinker, you may have a tendency to get caught up in the details or even fall into obsessive thinking patterns that remove you from the reality of the task at hand. To break a thought pattern like this, it can help to take even a small action step to “break the ice” and allow you to move forward.
Introverts often have intense interests and pursuits that are deeper and more personally fulfilling than those who are more outwardly-directed. A great many famous artists, writers, inventors, and even instigators of social change are and have historically been introverted people.
Two of the main reasons are an introvert’s capacity for deep feeling and connection with their inner passions, as well as their ability to focus intensely on their pursuits. No one is better at dialing into an intensely focused state than an introvert. Introverts often have a natural access to a state of flow, in which one’s consciousness is entirely and joyfully consumed by the task at hand and time ceases to have meaning.
Although introverts may struggle to bring their contributions out into daylight, they are some of the most creative people around. Not just with regard to novel art, music, and writing, but also when a creative solution is needed to a complex problem. An introvert may need more time and/or privacy to create/mull/investigate, we will come up with amazing innovations and are responsible for world-shaking pieces of art, literature, scientific discoveries, new technologies, and even solutions to social problems.
Let it be noted that introverts may have trouble collaborating on projects and may accumulate silent grievances about being outshone by others who are better self-promoters. It’s extremely worthwhile for a creative introvert to learn skills for self-promotion (or maybe just hire an agent) to make sure their light is able to shine, and they get credit where credit is due.
Introverts are generally fairly self-sufficient people for a few key reasons. We are reflective and work best when we have alone time to work through our own thoughts and feelings without outside interruptions. We prefer to finish our projects on our own before presenting them in situations requiring outside evaluation. Additionally, through lots of inner dialogue and self-searching we tend to have a great deal of self-knowledge.
Introverts also care less about wealth, power, and status than more externally-motivated, extroverted people. We are less reliant on the outside world for validation. We tend to be more motivated by meaningful personal experiences than anything someone else looking from the outside would perceive at first glance. All that being said, a pitfall among introverts is to become too self-sufficient, neglecting the need for supportive social interactions. Introversion is a spectrum and different levels of introverts may need more or less social interaction to be healthy and happy. But as no one is truly 100% introverted, remember that it’s important to reach out from time to time to avoid becoming too isolated.
Most everyone would agree that we have a sore need for more empathy and kindness in the world, yet many may not recognize that introverts are often the most empathic and kind people you could possibly meet. True empathy comes first from being able to connect with one’s own emotions and develop self-knowledge and understanding. This self-connection is then extended to connect with others and truly empathize with another’s emotions and point of view.
This characteristic of being naturally empathic helps authentic kindness flow easily from an introvert. When you can understand and feel another’s perspective, it’s a simpler matter to truly treat others as you would like to be treated. Introverts often gravitate toward professions where they are able to help people, making effective and well-loved counselors, therapists, doctors, nurses, and healers of all kinds.
As natural empaths, introverts need to be careful not to be consumed by the feelings and needs of others at their own expense. The introvert’s natural empathy can make them an easy target for narcissists. It’s important for an introvert to use their self-knowledge to keep their own needs at the center and avoid letting their own well-being rest too heavily on someone else’s satisfaction.
When you can tell someone isn’t really listening to you and is instead merely waiting for their turn to talk, it’s incredibly frustrating and alienating. This is especially true if what you need to share has emotional content and you are reaching out for help and support. Introverts really LISTEN when something is being shared. They will take in what is being said, often with great empathy, and think before dashing off a response. This trait is also helpful not only in emotional situations, but also when you have a complex problem you need to solve. An introvert will gladly sit for hours and hash out the details of your situation from multiple angles.
Additionally, introverts tend to listen without an agenda. They will listen to you simply because they care. An introvert will generally not treat what you are sharing as gossip or use it as social currency. They won’t impulsively blab something sensitive you have told them to other parties down the road. Your secret thoughts, feelings and half-baked plans are safe with an introvert. Good listening skills are a major reason why introverts make such amazing and desirable friends, parents, colleagues, and romantic partners.
When you want a job done right, all I’s dotted and T’s crossed, it’s a safe bet to ask an introvert. When allowed time and space to focus, we tend to be very detail-oriented and quality-minded. Introverts take personal pride in a job well done and generally pause to check (and check and recheck) that the job has been done to the best of their ability. Introverts like to present an impressively polished and thorough project when it’s time to share rather than dashing off something hasty.
Introverts are conscientious, caring about their reputation both with others but even more importantly with themselves. Introverts like to keep a strong track record of quality and thoroughness in their work. The flip side of this positive trait is that introverts may tend to become perfectionistic and obsessive. They may dwell so much on the integrity of the details that they lose sight of the bigger picture and fail to get anything done. However, give us the time, space, and support needed to do the job, and we introverts will turn in amazing results.
In order to learn from experiences and improve ourselves, we must reflect upon such experiences and integrate what they mean for us. The personal quality of being reflective makes life experiences richer and more meaningful. With reflection comes self-knowledge, which benefits not only oneself but relationships with others. When you know yourself, you can be more clear and direct in your communication. You will also be less likely to repeat old destructive patterns and wonder unconsciously why the same negative situations keep unfolding in your life.
Introverts tend to reflect upon and also to analyze (maybe overanalyze) experiences and feelings. We are certainly not guilty of living the “unexamined life”. The task of the many introverts is to learn self-love. Otherwise, life may become too “examined”, in that we may obsess over perceived failures or shortcomings and be overly hard on ourselves. Self-love and self-forgiveness is the answer to perfectionistic tendencies. It’s also important not to stagnate too much in your own thoughts; if rumination is becoming out of control, it can be helpful to seek an outside perspective for a little refreshment.
Introverts are the natural dreamers, idealists, artists, visionaries, and poets of the world. Introverts are able to see the world not as it is but as it should be: more beautiful, just, efficient, and fair than it is at present. When an introvert appears lost in their thoughts, they are often dreaming of greater beauty and freedom or envisioning an ideal world and even conceptualizing ways to make it so.
Introverts need space to dream and imagine. An introverted child is often told to get their “head out of the clouds” and “wake up to reality”. Instead, this natural tendency for rich world-building in their own minds should be nurtured and cultivated. Introverts will always find getaways and escape routes that allow them to exercise their imaginations. To tell them to change is like telling a rose that it would be better for everyone if they would just become a cucumber.
The passion, focus, and varied perspective of introverts can make them fascinating people and even great conversationalists. Introverts often have knowledge of topics that is deep as well as broad. Introverts can even learn to be great performers, educators, and entertainers on a larger scale than just the one-to-one.
Sadly, introverts may be told they are boring because they are not prone to loudly proclaiming their opinions or pulling stunts to command attention from their peers. In busy social settings or competitive situations, they may be overlooked in favor of people who are more comfortable grabbing the spotlight for themselves. This may lead others to believe – or even worse, for the introvert her- or himself to believe – that they are not deserving of attention. That their thoughts and feelings are boring and don’t have value. This is a pattern that will often be established in an introvert’s childhood and may compound itself all the way through adulthood if the introvert isn’t in a nurturing setting.
As an introvert in an extroverted society, it’s easy to feel out of place. This alienated feeling may be particularly intense if you had extroverted parents or perhaps extroverted siblings who seemed to fit in better than you. Even as an adult and a proud introvert, I still sometimes feel as if I have crash landed on a strange planet dominated by societal ideals I don’t understand and can’t emulate without great stress.
In times like these, I find it helpful to remind myself of the unique gifts offered by people with introvert characteristics such as myself. Introverts are deep thinkers, good listeners, and natural empaths. We are passionate, creative, thorough, self-sufficient, self-reflective, imaginative and interesting. Also bear in mind that although we are not generally the squeaky wheels, we are far from alone; at least one third of people are introverts. Connections are there if you want them and you reach out.
Craig is the founder of LifeGuider, he is dedicated to improving not only himself but also others in being more physically fit and mentally capable of handling life’s challenges. He is not your regular life coach, no fancy clothes or fast cars, just a regular “Ole Joe” who has experienced the ups and downs of life like everyone else.
Introverts everywhere, get ready to shudder your way through this article. If you fall anywhere…