For those of you, who don’t know me, I’m an extreme extrovert. On the Myers-Briggs scale, I am as E as E can be. Every definition and characteristic of extroversion seems like it was written about me. Hates being alone? Check. Feels energized in large groups? Check. Processes things out loud? Check. Loves an audience? Check.
So I was truly astounded, during a reflective moment I had the other day, to realize that the vast majority (about 80%) of the close friends I’ve had over the years I’ve lived have been introverts. In fact, in every place I’ve lived in my adult life, I’ve made at least one very close introverted friend.
Most of the population is extroverted. The numbers are fuzzy, but researchers generally agree that over half of us are ‘Es.’ Extroversion in its most gregarious form is so highly prized in modern American culture that introverts complain of sometimes having to fake extroverted traits in order to find success in their personal and professional lives. Many recent books and articles have come out in praise of introverts, but all the ones I’ve seen have been written by introverts themselves–the “insider” perspective. I’d like to add my voice as an “outsider.” Don’t get me wrong: I love my extroverted friends too. I appreciate and admire their vivacity, spontaneity, ease in conversation, wide range of interests, and inexhaustible desire to hang out and do crazy-fun stuff.
But because I feel that what introverts bring to relationships and to society is often undervalued, I’d like to take a moment to write a Valentine to my introverted friends. Because I really, really love introverts. Why is that? Here are just a few reasons. (Keep in mind, this is a list of generalizations, and therefore not universally applicable. I didn’t want to clutter the list with a whole bunch of words like “usually” “sometimes” and “often.)
1. Introverts are fascinating to talk to, because they spend long periods of time thinking. Start talking to an introvert about something to which he or she dedicates a lot of brain power, and you’ll find yourself spelunking down deep caverns of intense, labyrinthine thought.
2. Introverts are fun to get to know. They aren’t likely to put all those awesome observations out there for everyone to see, which makes getting them to share their cool thoughts with you an exciting challenge.
3. Introverts are peaceful people, characterized by a compelling “inner quiet.” Their presence provides a reassuring anchor for those of us who live on something of a roller coaster.
4. Introverts put in the time and effort necessary to cultivate quality relationships. They have excellent focus, which means you can have the kind of deep conversations with them that create close friendships.
5. Introverts are not high maintenance. They are just as happy staying in and watching a show or reading a book as they are going out and doing something fun. They don’t need constant entertainment, because they have mind palaces!
6. Introverts are incredibly loyal. Because of that deep focus, and because they don’t choose too many close friends, once you’re in with an introvert, you’re in for life. If you have to move away, whenever you see them again, you can pick up right where you left off.
7. Introverts are intensely aware of the features of their environment, including micro-traits of other people. Having a bad day and trying your best to paste on a fake smile and pretend you’re fine? It won’t get past your introverted friends. They’ll pick up on it, and they’ll want to know what’s really going on…
8….unless you really don’t feel like talking about what’s wrong. Then they’ll give you space.
Maybe the most telling indicator of my love for introverts was the fact that I married one of the most extreme introverts I’ve ever known. It took me two and a half years to really get to know him, but once I did, I was hooked. Even though he almost scared me off by saying that sometimes he wanted to go live in a cabin in the woods and never see another human being again (which I later learned is totally a normal thing for introverts to feel), I soon grew to appreciate him for all the reasons I listed above, and more.
So, a very happy Valentine’s Day to my dear husband and all my other wonderful introverted friends. I’m a fan.