Susan Cain’s 2012 book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, has gained huge popular acclaim and received attention from everyone from business leaders and psychologists to teachers, university presidents, and political activists. American culture is dominated by the “extrovert ideal” and yet without introverts, where would we be? We would not have Post-impressionist sunflowers (Van Gogh), personal computers (Steve Jobs), or quantum physics (Albert Einstein). The Civil War might never have come to an end (but it did thanks to Abraham Lincoln), and the world would never have met Harry Potter (but we did, thanks to J.K. Rowling). Typically the most creative people, and often very personable and charming, introverts get a bad rap and are victims of all kinds of unfair stereotyping. They are not by definition socially awkward nerds with no friends. They are usually fascinating and inventive, often intuitive and passionate.
How do they operate?
- Introverts process information internally. They are more tuned in to the internal world of emotions and ideas than the world of people and activities.
- There are many types of introverts—just as there are many types of extroverts—from the extremely shy and non-social, to great leaders and extraordinary speakers. In fact, being shy has nothing to do with introversion, and being a great leader has nothing to do with extroversion.
- Introverts can usually handle the same situations and environments that an extrovert can, but not for as long. High energy people, activities, crowds will ultimately exhaust them.
- Rather than “refueling” in the company of others, an introvert will “plug in” by being alone, when exhausted or drained.
- Time alone to think without distractions is a basic need for an introvert. Though an introvert can tune people out and focus in the midst of chaos, in a way that an extrovert (who can be distractible) often cannot, doing so takes its toll.
- Introverts are highly introspective.
- An introvert is as likely to enjoy a party as much as anyone, but may go to fewer parties than an extrovert, and may prefer smaller groups of intimate friends.
- Though I can think of exceptions, most introverts will weigh options at length before making a decision.
If you are not an introvert, you may have all kinds of crazy ideas about what life would be like with one. An eternity of silence and isolation as your introvert partner holed up in an office inventing edible Saran Wrap or writing haikus. Or a lifetime spent with zero social life, zero parties, and zero dinners out with friends. No matter how much you love someone, you want more than one person in your life, right? Well of course you do! So does your introvert. An introvert is not a freak. He or she is simply a person with a particular way of operating. I guarantee that you know many people who are introverts and, based on some of the stereotypes, you would never guess. In fact, the most common myths about introverts simply not true. They are not rude, they do like people, they know how to laugh and play, they go outside, and they can be quite talkative, when they have something meaningful to talk about. (But it’s true— small talk is agonizingly painful to the classic introvert.)
Why is it awesome to be in a relationship with an introvert? Here are 6 great reasons:
- They are great listeners. They want to know you, and understand you better. Though empathy does not necessarily go hand in hand with introversion, many introverts are so tuned in to nuance that they are, in fact, very empathic. What that means for you—you will feel heard.
- They are observant. An introvert pays attention to details. In a relationship, introverts are likely to notice moods, words spoken or not spoken, body language. They are aware of your needs. What that means for you—you will be seen.
- They are easy to be around. There is less drama, less competition, less general relationship chaos with an introvert. Your introvert partner has no desire to outshine you, be the “headliner” in the relationship, or be the center of attention. What that means for you—their easy presence is comforting.
- They are loyal. Because introverts are selective about who they hang with, they invest time and energy into their relationships. They are patient and loyal, sometimes to a fault. What that means for you—you can rest easy.
- They practice good self-care. Typically, introverts pay close attention to diet and exercise, and generally value their health. They also project these values through their appearance and manner of dress, often classic, understated, and non-flashy. What that means for you—nice arm candy! Just kidding (sort of). It means your partner will be healthy and set a good example!
- They are authentic. Introverts may or may not sit up all night talking, but when they do, their conversation is likely to be thoughtful, meaningful, even soulful. They are likely to feel things deeply and passionately, and live honorably according to their values. What that means for you—you will know your partner wants to connect with you on an intimate level.
Introverts are wonderful partners for other introverts, and also for classic extroverts (wait for next week’s blog on great reasons to date an extrovert). For personal growth, to get out of their comfort zone, and just to have fun, people will date, or be in serious relationships, outside their “version” – whether it be intro or extra. Often, in fact, extroverts and introverts are very successful in relationship, once they understand one another’s modus operandi and are able to respect each other’s unique needs.