Are You An Innie Or An Outie?

46 comments

I am an introvert.

There. I said it. An introvert.

I am an innie, not an outie. (I also have an innie in case you were wondering. But that is by-the-by ;-))

I have known this for a while, having taking the Myers-Briggs several times. Despite my attempts to beat the test, I always come out the same – INTJ.

(My husband is an ENFP which leads to some interesting marital discussions…)

Most people would be surprised to know I am introverted.

I can be quite lively at gatherings. I am happy to address an audience of hundreds. Even without preparation.

And I can talk.

Man, can I talk. Hind legs and donkeys come to mind.

However what most people don’t realize is that prior to my apparently extrovert episodes, I will have prepared by being quiet and alone for hours.

If I have to attend an event and have not had the opportunity to charge my batteries by being alone with as little stimulation as possible prior to going, I will have to drag myself there, hug the edges of the room and avoid talking to anyone.

I couldn’t be less extroverted under those circumstances and come across as being in a bad mood or tense.

Introverts are like that – people and stimulation exhaust us.

And so the bigger the group, the quieter I become. Four is about the maximum number of people I can handle before I shut down altogether.

Introverts typically hate parties or anywhere we have to make ‘small-talk.’

Large, noisy groups don’t lend themselves to the in-depth discussions about topics of great interest that introverts like to have.

And the more serious the subject matter the better.

Which is why we often don’t get second dates.

Too many times I was told I’m ‘too serious.’

Well, too bad.

Besides, I don’t go on too many second dates these days.

(My husband has a few stories to tell about our second date.)

What all this means is that while we introverts need a lot of quiet time and may appear gruff and reserved often now and again, it doesn’t mean we don’t like people, are anti-social or avoid public speaking and performances.

We just have to pace ourselves.

And in a world that is run along extroverted lines (75% of the population is extroverted,) we have to watch out.

Being an introvert is why chaperoning a two-hour field trip will leave me exhausted for the rest of the day and part of the next. (And I mean exhausted as in needing to lie down in a darkened room, unable to speak.)

It’s why I have to manage my day so that I have energy for the parenting duties that occur towards the latter part.

And it’s why if you see me at a party or other schmoozing event, I will often be cleaning, organizing food or selling tickets.

So if you see anyone being a wallflower one moment and a great orator the next. Or chatty and friendly one day but avoiding eye contact on another occasion. Or your best friend turns down an invitation to your 40th birthday party…

Don’t be offended.

Ask yourself if they could be introverted and just in need of downtime. Suggest a one-on-one coffee or give them a break.

And if you are an introvert, can you relate to what I was told one performance review many years ago?

‘Alison, it’s really important to say something basic like  ‘Good morning’ to your colleagues on arrival in the office. It’s, like, fundamental.’

Who knew?

What are you – an innie or an outie? Is there anyone in your life who is a misunderstood introvert? If you are an introvert, how do you cope in this extroverted world? Let me know in the comments!

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Galit Breen
Twitter:
January 18, 2011 at 9:27 pm

I’m *such* an innie. On all counts. Love this. Now get out of my brain! 🙂

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Alison Golden January 24, 2011 at 4:44 am

I’m sorry, Galit, I can’t. I’m ‘in’ there 😉

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Rick January 19, 2011 at 9:00 am

“So if you see anyone being a wallflower one moment and a great orator the next. Or chatty and friendly one day but avoiding eye contact on another occasion. Or your best friend turns down an invitation to your 40th birthday party…
Don’t be offended.”

Perfectly written. I’ve been trying to tell my wife this about myself for years!

Also, just the other day I had to finally tell my co-worker who HAS to say hello every morning that I was going to say hello one more time, and that one hello would stand as the daily hello until I retire!! What’s the point? Geez, I JUST saw you sixteen hours ago!!

Loved your post! 🙂

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Alison Golden January 25, 2011 at 2:26 am

You too! I couldn’t stand Mondays when I had to go in and feign interest in other people’s weekends. I had spent my drive into work plotting and planning how I was going to attack all the work I had to get through that day and then my train of thought would be totally disrupted by that. Hmmm, maybe I am anti-social after all. 😉

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Glynis Jolly
Twitter:
January 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I’m an innie. I’ve known it since I was a small child. Example: I loved to swim as a kid but if there were too many people in the pool that I knew, I wouldn’t verture in. I’d wait until most or all were out soaking up rays. At the holiday gatherings, you’ll usually find me at the kitchen table just sitting and watching all the action or at the kitchen sink doing dishes to stay away from everyone else.

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Alison Golden January 24, 2011 at 4:34 am

Yes, I do that too, Glynis. Sit and watch (and invariably someone comes along to ‘cheer me up’) or I do dishes or clean. Funny, how I have no similar compulsion to clean in my own house 😉

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Natalie January 19, 2011 at 6:36 pm

I’m totally an introvert. Fortunately, so is my husband. Unfortunately all the rest of my family are extroverts. I have a very difficult time explaining to them just how much “extended family party time” wears me out. They don’t understand me; they just assume I’m like they are and so they think I am making lame excuses when I really just need to recharge — sometimes, like you say, for a VERY long time. I totally get everything you’re saying here.

In a related note, I was a competitive swimmer for 8 years. Part of the reason I loved it was that I got to be alone, even at practice with everyone else. When you swim, you’re really by yourself…
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Alison Golden January 24, 2011 at 11:57 am

Yes, I like to swim too. And my husband and I will never forget the row we had our first holiday season when, on the way to visit his folks, I asked what time we could leave. We weren’t even halfway there. He, as an extrovert, didn’t appreciate that AT ALL.

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Mary E. ULrich
Twitter:
January 19, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Are there combination people?

Like you, I can be either–depending on the context and the need.

Think I’ll find a quiet place and think about this 🙂
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Cathy Presland
Twitter:
January 20, 2011 at 11:34 am

Hey Mary – that probably means you are an I rather than an E but in the loud world of E’s you have adapted your behaviour 😉

There is a myth that there are more E’s in the world – from what I read it’s about half and half but we E’s make more noise…!
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Alison Golden January 24, 2011 at 12:03 pm

It’s interesting Cathy, about the 50% thing. I got that 75%-are-extroverts statistic from Marti Lane Olsen’s ‘The Introvert Advantage’ and have read similar stats many times. I wonder if many introverts present as extroverts (the innie bit being hidden from view largely) with even the introverts themselves not seeing themselves as such? I know I was very surprised to see myself classified as an introvert, having worked very hard to do the extrovert thing ( I was in sales.) I was only in my 20s at that time and eventually got worn out. When I had children, I got VERY clear how I was going to spend what free time I had and that is when my introverted behaviors really came to the fore. Now I have more confidence in me, I accept the introversion parts more readily. I wonder if these issues could explain why only half the introverts are represented in the statistics?

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Beth
Twitter:
January 20, 2011 at 9:54 am

Alison,
This is a great post, especially for us Innie’s. I’m an INFP and grew up with quite a few Type A Extroverts. Sucked the life out of me. Sometimes I felt like I was watching animals at a feeding frenzy. And misunderstood? Not so much now, but in high school and college, a lot folks thought I was a b**tch, cause my quiet nature seemed cold and brooding.

Interesting you bring this up cause I’m not so sure outties are ever misunderstood, at least for their outgoing nature?
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Cathy Presland
Twitter:
January 20, 2011 at 11:38 am

I don’t know about being misunderstood (speaking as an E) but what I love about MBTI is using it to type those around us so that we can understand them and communicate better. I know the I’s in my world need space and sometimes the invitation to contribute and likewise we E’s are not being intentionally annoying, it just helps us to ‘think out loud’ – that’s how our brains work 😉

Cathy
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Alison Golden January 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Hi Beth:

What I only recently discovered is that introverts don’t like to interrupt. I always thought my inability to interrupt a meeting, or not forcefully put my point across, or talk across someone else was a failing of mine. That I was being non-assertive, weak or in some other way failing. The situation you describe is always off-putting to me, to the point where I will walk away and often not return and it has been quite freeing to know that this is part of being introverted and not some character flaw of mine – I have enough of those to be going on with…;-)

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Cathy Presland
Twitter:
January 20, 2011 at 11:31 am

Hi Alison,

I guess you know by now that I am a hug fan of personality profiles (done right) and MBTI is my absolute top fave (apart from my own of course 🙂 )

Coulda guessed the I part – loads of bloggers are – it’s about energy replenishment rather than lack of sociability though, but you will need alone time and I know I’s don’t like just being asked ‘have you got 5 mins’ you’d rather have a specific appointment that you can prepare for.

I’m ENTJ which I’ll leave you to figure out!

Cathy
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Alison Golden January 24, 2011 at 12:16 pm

So you are the same as me, but more extroverted. 🙂

You are right, I absolutely hate the spontaneous stuff but I guess you would know that from the 50 or so routines I have going on to make my life run more smoothly…

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Melody Granger
Twitter:
January 21, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Oh. My. Goodness.

Did you crawl inside my body and figure me out??? Alison, I am such an introvert – with a great personality – but I need lots of quiet and alone time to recharge. If I am over stimulated back to back, back to back, then I pay for it. I KNOW I have to pace myself. (I’m an organizer;-)

speaking of children’s field trips…I’m chaperoning a Jr Beta Convention tomorrow. I have earplugs in my purse. I’m sooooo dreading the actual getting up and getting there part. I know I’ll enjoy the other mothers and the kids once things are underway, but shoot me now, because it’s gonna be hard to get there… ahhhhh….
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Alison Golden January 31, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Hi Melody!
The getting there part is the reason why I don’t go on them. If the drive is at all unfamiliar to me, count me out, that puts me way into overwhelm. I have just offered to drive a field trip but it’s local and I haven’t done any all year – feeling guilty. It’s a question of really getting to know yourself and having confidence to *be* yourself, I find. I spent too much of my youth bending to what others wanted of me…

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Susan January 23, 2011 at 10:10 am

Great post! I like the way you explained the differences between introverts and extroverts — too many people use negative words when talking about introverts.

As someone else noted above, introverts are at least half of the population. I wrote a post on it a few weeks ago: http://www.theconfidentintrovert.com/2011/01/06/we-arent-a-minority/

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Alison Golden January 31, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Hi Susan:
Thanks for dropping by. Interesting how introverts aren’t in the minority. I guess the ‘he who shouts loudest’ maxim bears testimony here, the world requiring extraversion so much in our daily activities.

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Lisa Liguori
Twitter:
January 31, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Love this! For years, friends and family (and even my own self!) have thought that I was an extrovert. As you know, I am just a party waiting to happen! Yet, I am soooo not an extrovert! I love entertaining, but have to prepare myself before hand and have ALOT of quiet time afterwards. If only I knew this about myself years ago, I would have been spared much grief.
You have clearly hit a chord with folks with this article, based on the great conversation happening here. Thanks for speaking up for us ‘innies’.
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Alison Golden February 2, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Hey, Lisa!

Isn’t it annoying that we take years to learn even the most basic of things. We need to know this stuff about ourselves in school! I’m sure we need some life experience though to learn these lessons but why does it have to take so darn long? I’m still learning every day.

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Marcia Francois February 4, 2011 at 12:31 am

Well, hello.

I saw a comment of yours on mogul mom and came over to check you out. I also have twins – mine are 19 months old now…. when does it get easier??? 🙂

I’m an ESTJ but I have an intimacy outlier – the way they explained it to me is that typical E’s like the big groups and I like to connect one-on-one.

My friend did exactly that – turned down our kids’ party and I was a tiny bit offended but she is an INFP (my opposite which is why I get on with her so well)
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Alison Golden May 13, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I’m glad you were only a tiny bit offended, Marcia. I’m sure it was hard for her to turn it down, too. 🙂

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Nicole Rivera
Twitter:
February 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Allison this is such a great post. It has me thinking. On one had I think I am a complete innie – especially with the bouts of socialization following a need for major me-time, however, after years of silence (voted most-shy and most-quiet in my graduating class), I went and became a teacher! What was I thinking?! Five 45-minute performances a day – in front of TEENAGERS?! I don’t know if this brought me out of my shell, or if I was secretly an outie all along…

Anyway, I think it is time that I was tested, because I am all over the map on this one – mute and uncomfortable in some situations and cool as a cucumber, I dare say gregarious, in others!
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Alison Golden February 9, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Nicole:

The key seems to be how your charge or recharge yourself. If you’re tired, do you go to be alone or do you go out and find someone to be with? I agree that teaching seems a very outie profession but I think quite a few introverts are drawn to it because of it’s idealism and the desire to connect intimately with people. But the reality is different so perhaps that’s why so many teachers get burned out. Just a guess.

Yes, get tested and read Marti Lane Olsen’s book. Interesting.

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Mrs. Jen B
Twitter:
February 9, 2011 at 7:17 pm

I think I spent a lot of time being a misunderstood introvert. As the years have gone on, though, I’ve tried more and more to reach out to others and overcome my natural tendency to keep to myself.

Great post – visiting from the SU group on Blogfrog!

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Alison Golden February 9, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Maybe you shouldn’t Jen. Maybe keeping to yourself is how you recharge your batteries. Perhaps you just need to accept that and let others deal with it. Otherwise you’re going to be constantly burned out. Take care, thanks for stopping by!

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Green Bean
Twitter:
May 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Great post, Alison! I love the line about pacing ourselves. That is so true. I totally overdid it last year and have been in recovery mode all year this year!
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Alison Golden May 13, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Oh yes! It can take ages to recover when we totally burn ourselves out. When I worked in sales I had a pattern of working for a couple of years then having to take 2 years off traveling or something low key. My resume was *very* patchy. When I took a job a while back, my recovery time was twice the length of the period of work itself!

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Dean
Twitter:
May 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Alison,

I’m totally an innie, and like you I’ve found ways to be outgoing when I want to. Until recently when I started researching more into introversion, I had that “I’m different” mindset when I would say to myself “I need to download for a while.” My girlfriend still often gets upset with me when I walk away for 5 to 10 minutes at a social gathering. I need to recharge my batteries; she thinks I’m being rude or trying to avoid her. (eesh!)

Anyway, I’ve found that, like you, taking time before or after social events to have “me time” helps. Also, I try to do 5 minutes of meditation each day to quiet my mind. Finally, improving my conversation skills and people skills really helped out. Anyway, thanks for this article – I can relate and enjoyed it!
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Alison Golden May 27, 2011 at 7:34 am

Hi Dean

I am *still* learning about all this stuff. This morning I have a volunteer breakfast – which means standing around chit-chatting. Not my idea of fun so I may just have to sit in a corner and eat my frittata alone.

Glad you enjoyed it and got something from it!
Alison

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Sage
Twitter:
July 11, 2011 at 5:07 pm

I’m an INFP and can completely relate to being an *innie*. LOL It is amazing how long I need downtime after big social events. Even little ones with family…

{{HUGS}}

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Alison Golden July 14, 2011 at 5:38 pm

I think family gatherings are pretty tough. They’re, um, intense and as such stressful even if they are pleasant and you enjoy the family. I simply find myself needed more downtime period. I get a bit down on myself sometimes but mostly I realize I just have to take the time and I do.

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Helen September 11, 2012 at 9:04 am

I can relate to EVERYTHING in this post. But luckily I have already known I’m an introvert for quite a while. (Meyers Briggs..). The biggest revelation was that i USE energy around people, but GAIN energy alone. I was actually a bit nervous abt getting married for that very reason – how on earth do you get enough time by your self when you have a family and a job?? (Still havent figured it out compleetly….hehe).

I’m quite lucky when it comes to my friends – we are 6 girls meeting every wednesday evening. And with that I dont really need more time with friends.. Its a nice size group (we are 3-6 people on those nights), so perfect for me that like to get to talk to everybody there (whats the point of spending your evening with way more people than you are able to chat with anyways.. ;)..)

By the way – this coming weekend I’m going to a cabin all by my self for 2 days…………… I say no more…..!! 😀 (Last time i had a minimum of 24 hours to my self was in april 2008.. and no – I’m not kidding. My husband then went to South Africa to visit his family (we live in Norway), and I desided to not see any people at all that one weekend when he was gone.. That was 4,5 years ago… )

(..and by the way – I love my husband and my children dearly!! but other introverts will understand my need to get away for 2 days… 🙂 )
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Alison Golden September 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm

So how was the cabin, Helene? Last January everyone left the house for 5 days and I chose to make it even more solitary by not using my computer or car. I didn’t know the time (covered up all the clocks) and didn’t use electricity. I saw one person the whole time. That was a little too much quiet for me but it taught me a lot!
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Helen September 25, 2012 at 3:50 am

Yeah I read the entry you wrote abt that.. Interesting!

Cabin was great! But next time I wont plan to fast at the same time… That was a misstake. Its better to fast when keeping buzy, and rather bring some nice food when Im there to relaxe….! and another lesson – I will bring some music next time. 🙂 Looking forward to next time though – which is in 3 weeks… 🙂
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jennifer October 18, 2012 at 1:29 am

….’exhausted as in needing to lie down in a darkened room, unable to speak’
this is brilliant, thank you, i have to do this too and make sure i host social events in the afternoon, so i can ‘come down’ safely from the stimulation
I didnt recognise and acknowledge my innate psychological orientation until my forties, what a relief to know that its ok to be me and not maladapt myself to be something i’m not!

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Sara November 22, 2012 at 8:10 pm

I followed the link from the paleo site because I am an INTJ myself. My husband is an introvert too but I don’t think he gets mentally drained as much as me (cause I’m the mom, right?!?) I tell him that for every hour I have to spend around other people, I need about 2 hours alone to recover. Since I’m around my family or co-workers for 12+ hours a day, well, you see, I never do quite recover and feel stressed any day when I don’t get much time to myself (which is usually after 8 pm when I am tired but stay up too long on the Internet because it’s my own little world 🙂 ) 2 days alone sounds like heaven but I would feel guilty actually doing it. I honestly need about 2 weeks alone to completely recharge myself.

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Lisa H. November 26, 2013 at 9:42 am

Perhaps you need to move to England, or Canada, or Australia – where the ratio of introverts to extroverts is somewhat reversed. You’d be in the majority and somewhat better understood! To be fair, I read these statistics 20 years ago, and I don’t recall the source, but it suggests that the genuine split personality split might be more like 50/50. As social animals, who rely on our family and community for survival in the primal world, we’re conditioned to adapt to the social culture we are exposed to. Thanks for this article – some great insights in this post for how we introverts get by – in the extroverted world in the US.

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Alison Golden November 26, 2013 at 9:45 am

I am a Brit. But I live in California. I’ve adapted (mostly). 🙂
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Lisa H. November 26, 2013 at 10:07 am

Oh it all makes sense. I am Australian. But I live in California. Same same. But different.

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Alison Golden November 26, 2013 at 10:33 am

Hi Lisa:

Exactly! You are absolutely right, I think different cultures are more or less supportive of introverts. My experience is limited to England, Northern Europe, Australia and most recently the US. The first thing I had to do in the US was speak more loudly, then change how I spoke to a more direct form and lastly have more opportunities to be alone because of the requirement to act extroverted when I was out and about in the world. I did not need to make these behavior changes in the other countries. Thankfully, the counterbalance is that refusal of invitations in the US is less of a social no-no and cultural social norms are less rigid (at least compared to the UK).
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Lisa H. November 26, 2013 at 11:40 am

Yes! “May, I please have the Napa burger. Could I have that without the cheese or the bun?”, becomes… “I’ll take a Napa burger, no cheese, no bun. Great. Thanks!” – A subtle but important shift in language, volume and directness.

I’ve only realized I am an introvert in this past year, but it has been a revelation. My partner is an extrovert, and telling him “no” to 95 of the 100 social engagements he signs us up for, doesn’t fill me with guilt anymore as I’ve learnt that it’s essential for my sanity.

Julian Carter November 26, 2013 at 9:14 pm

I’m not only an introvert — my grandmother explained that to me when I was a child — but I’m an INFP. Like you, Alison, I am very good at addressing large or small audiences, and am said to be quite entertaining at parties, which I attend if I must, after retreating into happy hermitude for as long as it takes to prepare for the event. I have to thank the protective inferior function for temporarily taking over, much like a shell protecting its clam. Jung wrote at length about this.

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Alison Golden November 27, 2013 at 8:24 am

I’m told I’m entertaining at gatherings, too. In fact, I sometimes feel I *am* the entertainment! We must be introverted performers, Julian.
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