I don't really hate people…I'm just an introvert

If you would rather stay home and read a good book than go to a party…
If you can recite your list of friends by name without forgetting anyone…
If your idea of a “big crowd” is 10 people…
If you’d rather fall on a knife than go to one of those big, noisy, card-exchangeathons called networking events…

…You may be an Introvert. A good listener. A person who thinks before they speak. Someone who calls before they visit.

I first learned the term Introvert in 1999. I was taking an intense 9 month systems analyst diploma program. Our first week was devoted to team building and getting to know our fellow learners. On the first day, we took Myers Briggs tests. This day alone was worth the price of admission to the program. It completely changed my life.

Some people hate this stuff. Labels, they say. Boxes. Maybe it was because our facilitator did such a great job of explaining that there was no such thing as a “bad” profile…and that none of the types were better than others…or maybe just because I enjoy patterns and anything that can help me understand people.

Anyhow, after the test, we received a very long, detailed report describing our profile. When I read mine (INTP), I thought: “This is me. This is *exactly* me.”

Then it dawned on me: if this is a “profile” and someone bothered to describe it in such detail…it means that there must be OTHERS out there like me. (Turns out there’s not too many. Apparently, INTP is a pretty exclusive club – about 1% of the population.) While all the letters were interesting…and the whole Myers Briggs thing intrigued me so much that it became an obsession a bit of a hobby (here I am, 10 years later…still excited about it)…the one letter that really helped me the most was the I. Introvert.

The P and J distinction – Js being the organized, decision making, let’s get there early types vs the Ps who tend to, well, *not* be those things, is where I had the most fun. Because if, say, I was running out of the house at the last minute – to the annoyance of my J husband – I could just brush it off as my “Pness” which always made me giggle. But I digress…and that’s because my Pness leads me astray sometimes. (Hey…maybe Patty is really a guy.)

After spending $15,000 and nine months of my life studying computers…what do I remember? One afternoon and one team building exercise. Here we are, 20 people who first met that morning. We were divided into 2 groups: those with an E in their type (the extroverts) and those with an I in their type (the introverts). Even in a computer course, which tends to attract introverts, we had more extroverts. 11 of “them” and 9 of “us.”

Our task: to collaboratively design our ideal office environment. It amazed me that we were able to agree so easily on the design. Every new suggestion was met with enthusiasm. We took turns talking. (And we wondered if the other group would ever complete the assignment with all the chattering that was going on beside us.) Our office building had 9 offices. One for each of us. With doors that closed. And a private entrance in case we wanted to come or go unseen. We each had a private washroom. We had NO PHONES. We may or may not have thought to design a common meeting room.

Then we shared our designs with the other group. THEY designed the OFFICE FROM HELL. They had 5,000 people in their office. 5,000! And *no walls* – all open space and meeting areas. Never mind devils with pitch forks and fire and brimstone…if you want me to behave, threaten me with this.

I would never be the same again. I embraced the term “introvert” – it was scientific and it helped me feel OK about being who I truly am. I was not alone (even though I *like* being alone). I learned that approximately 25% of the population is introverted. It seems like less, because we tend to avoid other people be quieter. I started to say things like: I hate going to networking events because I’m an introvert. Before I would say: I hate going to networking events because I’m shy, stupid and socially inept.

Our facilitator also cautioned us about using our new labels as excuses or reasons not to do things. I took that as a suggestion. 😉 Now I could say things like: I don’t go to networking events because I’m an introvert.

People are often surprised to hear that I’m an introvert. Possibly because they saw me on stage doing stand up comedy – talking about my sex life – complete with demonstrations and sound effects. Or maybe it’s because when I’m around my right people, or close friends I can be quite gregarious. And when I’m feeling courageous drunk I can even fake extroversion.

I also love public speaking and I can be very high energy on stage – loud and enthusiastic. (And no, I was not born with this ability. I was a terrified, shaking, I’m gonna pee myself wreck when I first joined Toastmasters. Which, by the way, is an excellent place to meet other introverts.)

But here’s a little secret: *lots* of speakers, actors and comics are introverts. Public speaking is a great way to meet and attract right people. Take a networking event. Attending and glad-handing sucks isn’t fun for me. I like to think before I speak. This makes one on one impromptu conversations draining and difficult. By the time I think of something clever to say, the subject has changed or the person I was (not) talking to gives up and moves away.

Speaking at an event is a completely different situation. If I’m the speaker, I get to prepare what I’m going to say. I talk about things that I find interesting and/or funny. Afterwards, people approach me – to talk about what I was talking about. We’re instantly in a good conversation about a subject that interests both of us. I don’t have to approach strangers and do that awkward dance of “small talk” where I have to pretend that I care about the weather or know who “Apu” is on the Simpsons.

Jonathan Rauch, in this article: Caring for your Introvert, has a great answer to the following question: How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice?

First, recognize that it’s not a choice. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s an orientation. Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don’t say “What’s the matter?” or “Are you all right?” Third, don’t say anything else, either.

Are you an introvert? What’s your Myers Briggs type? Do you find these labels/theories helpful? Or annoying? (Yes, I am begging inviting you to comment) 🙂

If you don’t know your type, you can take a free test online.

This one is informal: http://www.personalitypathways.com/type_inventory.html – just choose the descriptions that sound more like you. (It’s also a good summary/comparison of the different traits.)

This one asks a bunch of questions and magically gives you a result: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp (hint: answer the questions quickly, there are no wrong answers)


  1. Elissa on December 9, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Patty, no one should have fake extroversions. 🙂 Let’s not even go there about the P-ness.

    Introverts kick ass.

    My empirical evidence beyond the fabulous people I know personally is this: When I started a high profile leadership program at a Fortune 100 company, we had people apply and then interview for the spots.

    The first year, we had mostly extroverts and we worried that we would not have enough good people the second year. But the second year blew us away. Why? We got the introverts. They didn’t show up on the radar as fast, but they far outperformed their loud counterparts. interesting, yes?


  2. bailey on December 9, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Well, you just described ME to a “INJP”, too. I also came across this info. some years ago and it was like the light bulb exploded. Also makes it easier to forgive all those “other” folks for their bewildering behavior, yes? And 2 years ago I made the giant leap and told my husband I was no longer going to be accompanying him to his parties. What a huge relief. I stay home all snuggled in with a book and the cats and he goes and does his social networking thing and doesn’t have to leave early because I’ve had it. Now, I’ve since found others who have taken this info. and applied it to body types which, apparently, are correlated to brain types which gives you info. on the foods that are best for you…THAT was a revelation, too, and I use that info. to this day. Life is good.

  3. Patty on December 9, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Elissa – I agree. Introverts DO kick ass. I was just remarking to Joe that we’re more creative…because we *have* to be. Tonight, our BBQ lighter ran out of fuel. We could have gone next door and asked our extroverted neighbours to borrow theirs (and endure a conversation that neither one of us was up to). Instead, we used the toaster oven, a piece of paper, a candle and a wooden skewer – and we got the thing going. I do believe that some great inventions were designed by introverts…all in order to avoid other people. 🙂

    Bailey – I found the same thing. Once I knew about “types” all the weird things my husband did started to make sense. Things that previously would have annoyed me, I just sluffed off as “type differences.” Life becomes *so* much better when we get to know and accept ourselves and others for who we are.

  4. jeanne on December 13, 2009 at 12:49 am

    introvert: check. toastmasters: check. professional speaker: check. can fake extrovertism (read: actor): check. and so on. being the only intro in a veritable sea of (related) extros, i got odd looks of pure unadulterated puzzlement when i declined invitations to gatherings. tried everything to make them understand. finally found the bingo when i played the height (or lack thereof) card and told them that i just get tired of looking up people’s noses.

  5. whollyjeanne on December 13, 2009 at 12:50 am

    p.s. ever read party of one: the longer’s manifesto by annelli rufus?

  6. whollyjeanne on December 13, 2009 at 12:51 am

    pps: shoot. let’s pretend i didn’t post the previous comment that should read – and i quote – ever read party of one: the loner’s manifesto by annelli rufus? jeez. (and no, it’s not a freudian slip.) (i’m sure.)

  7. Tangerine Meg on December 19, 2009 at 9:52 am

    I only just did the Myers Briggs test this week, around the time I read this post.
    What a revelation: an introvert not a misfit? ..Woohoo!
    Understanding that I am an introvert has possibly even been as impactful as reading Barbara Sher’s explanation of Scanners… more pennies are dropping!
    The ‘caring for your introvert’ article you linked to was great aswell.
    I loved reading your post about meeting and working with Barbara too!
    And if you can’t tell yet, I’m really enjoying reading your blog.

  8. Amy on March 25, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Found you via iHanna’s blog. I’m an INTP! And not only are introverts rare, but female INTP’s are even rarer, so it’s great to have found you! My hubby must be a J, because he’s definitely the kind that likes to show up early to things, whereas I hate that.

    I spent years thinking there was something wrong with me because I never liked going out–even in high school I preferred to stay home than go out with my best friend the extrovert. I thought I was “shy” and identified with all the negative associations that come with that. Turns out that I am shy as well, but now that I have embraced my introvert, I’m more confident and my shyness doesn’t bother me as much. I wonder if there are shy extroverts–I suppose that would be a miserable situation!

    First, recognize that it’s not a choice. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s an orientation. Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don’t say “What’s the matter?” or “Are you all right?” Third, don’t say anything else, either.

    Love that, especially the last sentence 😉

    Tangerine Meg mentioned being a scanner. I read a description of that a while back and that fits me as well. Plus possibly a little ADHD… I like labels!
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Two Received, One Sent, and a Keyblade =-.

  9. […] of course, is an introvert‘s nightmare. Meeting new people. Lots of them. And staying at a stranger’s house for a […]

  10. Spiral on July 11, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    I was once in a class where we did a simple personality test, then split the class into a few groups of 4-5 people based on our results. My group were thinkers, analytic introverts, there were creative extroverts and the others were somewhere inbetween. Our task was to design a swimming pool. We had about 20 minutes.

    The first thing my group did was write a list to brainstorm all the elements we would need for our swimming pool and draw a simple plan. We were prepared when we drew design on the large sheet of paper. It was beautiful – lap lanes on one side and a fun and crazy other side to play in. There was a deep end with a diving board and waterslide, shallow end, toddlers section, rails for less mobile folks and therapy, seated areas… we catered for all people. On our plan we had dimensions, fencing, safety and resuscitation signs, free admission, a lifeguard, trees, even the type of water (saltwater).

    We presented our designs to the class. The other groups had glass bottom pools, rock bands, spas, things that rose up from the water, surf, fountains, rides, food, bars. They seemed to let their imaginations run wild. They had not thought of the finer details like we had – such as target market, dimensions, cost, reality.

    The exercise excellently showed off the stereotypes of each personality type. The whole class chuckled when we explained our first steps of writing a list and a draft plan. I learned a lot from that exercise. It’s tempting to think that a mixture of creative and analytic personalities would produce the best result but that doesn’t often work either. Really, at times I don’t know how anything gets done at all!
    .-= Spiral´s last blog ..Friday 5 for July 9- I Want the Fairy Tale =-.

  11. Meg on July 17, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Hey so glad you did your 7 things as suggested by pro-blogger, so I was directed to this post. This is the second time this week someone has talked about their Meyers Briggs report so I figured it was time to take it and surprise, surprise I was an INTP. I guess it’s true about like attracting like and I guess also you and I are part of a tribe. However just so you know I am 56 introvert, 75 Intuitive, 1 thinker and 33 Perceiver. So guess what bothered me….you guessed it the 1 in typical INTP fashion.
    But I want it also to be stated that I am not bad at socializing, I am actually really good at it.(as I suspect you are too) I just really really don’t wanna!
    Hope you are have a great and peaceful day!
    .-= Meg´s last blog ..New blogging schedule =-.

  12. Pathologically Introverted on September 10, 2010 at 3:44 am

    Hi Patty!
    Just wanted to say thanks for a great article! I am an INFJ but I too experienced the “life-changing” moment when my Myers-Briggs results first revealed I was an introvert – more than 5 years ago now. Ever since then I’ve been fascinated by it (here I am late on Friday night, alone in my room, wearing my earplugs and googling for “introvert”!)

    I was intrigued to read what you wrote about comedy and public speaking – I made a name for myself in high school writing satirical humour, and later through public speaking, which amazed my classmates, as I was otherwise the quietest member of the year group.

    Right now, more than 10 years later I am battling the joys of an open plan workplace and wondering what a modern-day hermit would look like (and how they would support themselves?) On the bus my iPod is the saviour of my sanity, but in most situations my best weapon is tonnes of patience. I’m amazed at how I’ve coped so far, but it is hard work. Reading blogs from “fellow travellers” like you really helps – thank you!