Introverts Are Not Misanthropes: We Love Specifically, Individually and Deeply

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Life Coach Nancy Okerlund mentions in her newsletter, The Introvert Energizer, that introverts love specifically and individually.  An introvert is a person- to- person person. I’ll add that we love deeply as well. Our love is deliberate and thoughtful. We don’t give lots of people snippets of our attention.  We desire true connection with each person.  We meet people with our hearts out front, ready to receive and give beyond small talk.  I know extroverts do this too.  The difference is introverts may lose energy from the interactive stimulation and need to replenish it in solitude or quiet time. Extroverts thrive in the stimulation (to a point, of course).

Who Do You Think You Are Spending an Evening by Yourself?

I have my first evening to myself in 11 days. I curl up on the center cushion of the couch, pasta for one in front of me, Mad Men Season 5 Disk 3 in the DVD player.  I’m in introvert heaven, then my phone begins to buzz softly on the leather cushion next to me.  I turn it over and discover texts from two different significant people in my life.  I send thoughtful replies to both of them.  More buzzing.  Another friend reaches out via a text.  I read and respond. Meanwhile the two first texters have responded to my responses. As I read their messages a fourth important person joins in the text fest. Now I’m connecting madmensimultaneously but individually with four people I care about as the Mad Men menu screen taunts me with its episode selections and looping music. My heart wants to connect with these groovy people but it also wants to quell my desire for solitude.

Sure, I could tell them all that I have plans and need to sign off but telling people you are unavailable is so damn hard. They take it personally even though it has nothing to do with them (usually) and everything to do with your own need for space and recovery. I know many people who take pride in their constant availability. They make me feel selfish when I want to stuff my phone in a cupboard and leave the room. The truth is most of the time I don’t want to be cut off from people entirely.  I simply want to connect deeply at a manageable rate, preferably one at a time or simultaneously through writing.

Why Introverts Are In Demand Despite Their Penchant to Be Alone

Loners, if you catch them, are well worth the trouble. Not dulled by excess human contact, nor blasé or focused on your crotch while jabbering about themselves, loners are curious, vigilant, full of surprises. They do not cling. Separate wherever they go, awake or asleep, they shimmer with the iridescence of hidden things seldom seen.Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto

Maybe it’s an element of mystery, maybe it’s because we listen and love specifically, maybe it’s simply that people want what they can’t have, but introverts are not often left to their own devices.

Independence is attractive.  Most introverts can entertain themselves, no problem. We want to work alone. This is contrary to what extroverts expect.  They don’t understand how we  joyously celebrate when we find out something has been cancelled and we have a night at home without plans.

Because of our inward focus we are able to pluck insight, intuition, light and grace from a secret place known only to us.  Given space to reflect we offer ideas discovered in our reveries. We can be stingy with our company but when you have our attention we are generous listeners.

We Want to Love You All but There Are So Many of You

Introverts process conversation, stimulation and relationships so deeply that it takes a lot out of us.  We want to be there 24/7 for our loved ones but our brains become white noise if there is too much to take in in the form of words, sounds, body language, sex, attention, activity, giving, receiving, etc. We want to focus on our beloved but the outside world calls as well. We want to focus on our inner world but the lover has other ideas. Our depth-seeking selves can only manage so many hearts and conversations.  If we spread ourselves too thin we pay for it in fuzzy-thinking and feelings of being overwhelmed. It’s very difficult to listen generously and respond thoughtfully in a rapid-fire manner to dozens of people.  We have to say no, which is stimulating and leaves us feeling guilty.

We Like People, Really

I ended up watching Mad Men an hour later than planned with frequent text interruptions. touchinghands I didn’t get near the renewing effect I would have had I watched without distractions in complete absorption. I didn’t get my thoughts knit together and my memories stored completely in a much needed eight hour sleep session either. I set those gifts to myself aside  because people and connecting are important. I know I have to recharge.  I know I have to say No sometimes but I also realize human connection is equally nourishing, especially if done specifically and deeply.

Are you a social introvert? How do you keep from drowning in a flood of social interactions?  

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17 Comments

  1. Elisandra
    September 29, 2014

    I like what you said about loving “specifically” because that’s exactly it with me. When I love someone, I’m very devoted, affectionate, and giving of my time and energy. But if I don’t love someone, I don’t have any desire to have them around. I’m polite and friendly with everyone at work or when I’m out and about running errands and such, but I would never give them my phone number or have them participate at all in my private life. I recently tried online dating and I didn’t fit in at all. The people there seemed to want SOMEONE to fill the void in their lives, and they were in a big hurry to get you to rush out and meet them with little or no conversation at all first, and that’s not how it works for me. I’m not lonely. I don’t feel a void if someone isn’t around. I only want specific people around that I really really really like. Otherwise, I’d rather be alone. So, if someone isn’t willing to even give me a chance to get to like them first, no way am I giving up a big chunk of my desperately needed day off relaxing time in order to transport myself somewhere to meet them.

    Reply
  2. dharmagoddess
    March 2, 2014

    You wrote “telling people you are unavailable is so damn hard. They take it personally even though it has nothing to do with them (usually) and everything to do with your own need for space and recovery…The truth is most of the time I don’t want to be cut off from people entirely. I simply want to connect deeply at a manageable rate…”

    Yes! I’ve found that after trying to explain this over and over and over to my H, I finally gave up. His needs are different and he DOES take it personally. That, as I have come to understand it, is his problem rather than my problem. He will understand, or not. He will accept me as I am, or not. The bottom line is that *I* have to understand and accept me and I think I’m finally good with that.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      March 4, 2014

      Well said! At some point we have to accept ourselves and go forward. If you’ve offered honesty and sincere communication and still they don’t understand, you’re at a stalemate. Hopefully, there is enough respect for differences that it is workable. Thanks for reading and sharing.

      Reply
      • dharmagoddess
        March 4, 2014

        My pleasure! I greatly appreciate your resources and writing and find them a great source of comfort (i.e., I’m not crazy and I’m not an alien!).

        Reply
  3. Does Your Partner Need a Lot of Space?: Introversion or Just Not That Into You? | space2live
    January 10, 2014

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    January 3, 2014

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    Reply
  5. nolabels
    December 19, 2013

    How does the extrovert deal with the introvert girlfriend to help her grow and become more engaged in the relationship (especially if it is a long term one where kids are involved)?

    Reply
  6. Jen Anderson
    October 24, 2013

    I am an insecure extrovert who hurt her introvert friend by misreading her cues for time alone as rejection. We’ve both gone through a lot. Mostly together. She cut off communication with me three months ago. I miss her. I know she loves me. We just don’t speak the same social language. I’ve been reading up on this stuff, and it’s opened my eyes. So many, “so THAT’S why …” moments. I see how selfish I’ve been, and I hope that, given time, we can somehow mend. I’ve apologized and told her how important the friendship is to me (probably too much). Anyway, your articles have been enriching. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      October 24, 2013

      You sound like you have a big heart and a strong desire to be a caring friend. It’s awesome that you are taking the time to learn about introversion. If you give your friend enough space she may reach out. It’s important that she honor your temperament as well. The world needs you both and introvert/extrovert relationships can be very fulfilling. Best of luck. You’re on the right path.:)

      Reply
  7. The Space We Need: An Introvert Wakes Up, Slows Down and Starts Living According to Her True Nature | space2live
    August 16, 2013

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  8. Wendy L. Schmidt
    August 14, 2013

    I never let a phone ringing conquer the time spent alone. It’s not hard at all for me to let it go and I don’t really understand the problem of not picking it up or calling someone back later. But then, I don’t like pop-ins or sudden, last minute invitations or strangers who insist on sitting nearby in an almost empty movies theater when I love catching the matinee on my own. It’s like, “Really, there’s a whole theater and you have to sit near me?” So, maybe I don’t feel obligated to respond as much as the writer. Or maybe I cherish my personal space more. Or maybe, I need to prepare my energy level to interact and socialize with others. Whatever the reason, I tend to be polite but not particularly pained by insistent media rings and beeps. And, I’m always, always, willing to call back, come on time, and do what I say I will do.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      August 15, 2013

      Thank you for your perspective. I think the rings and beeps are just frustrating interruptions that pull me from my deep thinking. It’s so hard for me to return to my thoughts where I left off.
      I completely understand the maddening situation when moviegoers choose seats too near yours. What the heck?
      Thanks again for your thoughts.:)

      Reply
  9. Jonathan
    April 19, 2013

    It took a long time, but I was able to get my (true) friends to adjust to my style of communication. I may not answer my phone, or respond to a text or email within seconds, but I will get back to you. It took a lot of patience. I had to repeat myself several times before it began sinking in, and I had to remind them (several times) that my lag in response time was not personal. The investment pays great dividends, though. My true friends understand, and they also know that if something is a real emergency I’ll be there. It’s also good for weeding out untrue friends – if you don’t respond within five minutes, once, they don’t call you again.

    Reply
    • brennagee
      April 20, 2013

      I showed my 9 year old daughter your comment. I want her to know it’s OK to respond and communicate at your natural pace. As you said, true friends will learn to understand you. I often don’t respond right away because I am in the middle of a juicy thought or activity or because I want to respond thoughtfully and with meaning. I like to think I am a good friend. I am loyal and I do my best to be there when it is important. I am not however, available 100% of the time. I need space to be true to myself.

      Thank you for your insight. Refreshing to hear.:)

      Reply
  10. Ann
    April 19, 2013

    me, the extreme extrovert can completely identify with you on this post. I NEED alone time. I long for it. When I have not had enough of it, I start to feel like I am loosing who I am. I love people, I love being around them, I live out loud BUT I also need that time to recharge and watch mindless tv or read.

    Thank you for your honesty and your writing. You speak to my soul and I find myself looking forward to this time every Friday! I just want more of your writings, of your insight. I crave it and realize you speak to my soul and help me understand a lot of my own emotions!

    SO….THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!!!

    Reply
    • brennagee
      April 19, 2013

      Do you feel most alive when you are alone or when you are with others dear Ann? I feel like I become my full self or more me when I am alone but I also have close friends who draw out my true self with their openness.

      I think people on both ends of the introvert/extrovert spectrum are longing for solitude. Our nervous systems have not evolved to the level where they can absorb all of the stimulation each day presents.

      Thanks so much for your honesty and loyal readership. If you lived near me, we would have fun hanging out in each other’s kitchens or living rooms.;)

      Reply
      • Ann
        April 20, 2013

        I feel most alive with people! Yes that is a great point, we all long for solitude. I find that i need the solitude to refresh, recharge and reconnect with myself and my emotions. But I come alive with people!

        I would love to hang out in the kitchen or living room with you any day! what a pleasure it would be for me to not just read your words but hear them spoken! I would be honored to have a conversation with you and your gorgeous mind! it inspires me!

        Reply
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