The care and feeding of deep introverts



It's always an interesting experience being a deep introvert in a highly extroverted society. Even if you work in a relatively cloistered environment (like I do), you'll still experience the life-draining, soul-sucking presence of other people no matter what. At the end of every workday, it's quite normal for a deep introvert to simply "shut down" and become almost completely non-responsive or borderline aggressive and rude in response to what others usually think are simple and polite queries.

It is the natural lot of the deep introvert to be misunderstood, ignored, belittled, or regarded as "strange" or defective in some way. This is neither wrong nor surprising- and this post is not meant to function as some sort of "pity the poor introvert" diatribe, so as far as I'm concerned, the way that extroverts and the rest of society view deep introverts is simply what it is. The point of this post is instead to formulate some simple and clear ideas to help deep introverts deal with our natures, and to help those around them to deal with us (mostly by leaving us the hell alone). In other words, instead of being descriptive, the intent of this post is to be prescriptive.

A word of caution to the reader before you proceed: if you're a frequent visitor like pumpsix, FrancisBegbie, UncleBob, Tempest, or dltaylor81, then literally nothing I'm about to write is going to be news to you. If, however, you're an extrovert who stumbled across this blog by accident (because you had nothing better to do and no one to talk to in order to distract you from the emptiness of your own head) or a deep introvert trying to figure out whether there's "something wrong" with you, then what is to come might be of some use to you.

How to Spot a Deep Introvert

This can be something of a challenge, actually. Most deep introverts have developed serious stealth skills through a lifetime of learning to fade into the background in order to avoid censure for being... well, different. You would also be surprised to find that a great many deep introverts- Didact included- can easily be confused for extroverts if you meet them in a public setting where they are giving a presentation or a speech of some kind. Many of us have learned to adapt, to project a charismatic and powerful persona with a loud voice and flashes of wry humour; only once you get to know us will you realise just how carefully constructed that fa├žade is, and how immensely taxing it is upon us to maintain it.

There are, however, certain tell-tale signs.

Most deep introverts- INTJs, INFPs, those types- are male, there are a few female deep introverts out there but they are very rare. So basically you're looking for the guy sitting deep in the corner wearing headphones and concentrating very hard on reading a book on something esoteric, like quantum physics, the fundamentals of investing, applied mathematics, or world history.

Common feeding grounds include: large bookstores, the backs of dimly lit coffee shops, small bookstores, computer hardware stores, used bookstores, hunting and ammo stores, out-of-print and rare-edition bookstores, internet cafes, basement bookstores, musical venues showcasing obscure yet fanatically-followed underground acts, college bookstores, and quiet old-school English pubs drinking pints of real ale (i.e. with soil floating on the top).

I did mention bookstores, right?

The most common place to find us, by far, is in our own homes. This means that if you don't know where we live- and we often go to considerable lengths to ensure that you don't- then you are S.O.L.

How to Work Alongside a Deep Introvert

Give him a difficult assignment that requires large amounts of time alone to think and formulate ideas. And then go away and let him figure it out. No, seriously, just get lost, we'll figure out how to fix it on our own.

You may find it very difficult to read a deep introvert. This is deliberate and intentional; we do feel emotions- often very very strongly- but we don't like displaying them in public. It is unseemly to do so.

You may also find it very difficult to get an introvert to open up about his personal life. Again, this is completely intentional. We tend to compartmentalise our lives. Work, family, friends, and play all form distinct and discrete compartments in our lives, and with the exception of extremely close friends and family, it is extremely rare for us to let them get jumbled up. We do this for our peace of mind as well as for yours, since our minds and personalities can only handle a small amount of socialisation at a time.

How to Work For a Deep Introvert

Deep introverts make surprisingly good managers and bosses- mostly because we don't micromanage. We don't have the time or patience for it. We don't generally play favourites either, and because we hate superficiality and pretense, we don't play politics, so you always know exactly where you stand with us. The best of us tend to be brutally honest with our opinions about you, within the limits of what is allowed by corporate policy or legality, both to your face and behind your back, so you never need to worry about us saying one thing about you in front of you and another thing to others.

Understand that when we tear apart your idea and present it back to you in tatters, we are in fact giving you the highest possible compliment that we can. Ideas are of absolute importance to us. We spend time examining ideas only if they are worthy of our time and attention. The fact that we have taken the time to look over your idea and then ruthlessly dissect it based on our knowledge, experiences, and skills should be taken as a very positive thing.

Introverts often tend to be very good at delegating work as well. It's not that we're lazy- well, actually, we are, it's just that we're selectively lazy- but there are certain tasks which we just know we're not cut out for. Most of these tasks involve socialising of some kind or another. We can do it, but the mental and physical drain that results is so severe that we require literally hours if not days of recovery time afterwards. In some extreme instances, the drain is such that we enter a near-catatonic state that requires us to be almost completely isolated from external stimuli for a few hours before we can even think about being around other people.

How to Manage a Deep Introvert

The key is to recognise that his greatest talents shine forth when he's left alone. The idea that "teamwork" and "brainstorming" are always and everywhere Good Things is complete nonsense, as anyone who's ever worked in a corporate environment knows full well. "Brainstorming" is just another way of saying, "let's put a bunch of overpaid and overly talkative idiots in a room together to come up with the most harebrained consensus possible". When you want off-the-wall thinking, creative problem-solving, and dogged perfectionism, that's when you bring in your deep introvert, sit him down with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones in his own corner office, and tell him to get to work. There is nothing that makes a technically gifted deep introvert happier than being given license to sit down and build, test, debug, and implement scripts for 10 hours without having to say a word to anyone.

How to Date a Deep Introvert

It's not easy for you. You might be surprised to find out, though, that it's often even worse for him (or her). Actually, this is the one place where female deep introverts genuinely do have it worse than male deep introverts. People generally expect women to be sunny and pleasant to be around, not taciturn and contemplative, but female deep introverts tend to have their noses buried in books quite a lot of the time (these days usually with headphones on), so opening them is quite difficult.

Ladies, when it comes to male deep introverts, understand one thing: if he doesn't want to talk to you, there isn't a damn thing you can do about it. It's that simple. Male deep introverts can be, and often are, very very successful when it comes to dating- but it takes enormous effort over a much longer period of time than it does for extroverted A-types.

When it comes to dating and sex, though, there is one good thing going for deep introverts. We spend huge amounts of time in our own heads- and no, you can't join us in there, you wouldn't last a nanosecond. You think Alice's Wonderland was bizarre and crazy, wait until you spend ten minutes wandering around the utter chaos that is an INTJ's headspace, in which a thousand different voices and ideas all compete for attention at any given time.

Anyway, back on topic- because we spend so much time in our own heads, we have very highly developed imaginations. Let's just say that when it comes to intimacy, more imagination is a Good Thing- and we have plenty to spare.

Just understand that ultimately, your very presence drains us. If we insist on spending hours alone playing video games, reading comic books, lifting really heavy weights, cooking, or listening to music and writing Javascript programs, then simply leave us alone to recharge and be assured that when we come back, we'll be quite pleasant to be around.

Do not, under any circumstances other than extreme and life-threatening emergencies, disturb a deep introvert during his "me time". If you are stupid enough to do so, do not be surprised when he responds with unmitigated and violent hostility. You asked for it, after all.

How to Raise a Deep Introvert
This one's a topic particularly near and dear to me. I was raised by two complete bookworms, so naturally I'm a bookworm myself. The simplest approach here is to leave your kid alone to let his imagination run free, but make sure that you use a firm, fair hand to ensure that he (or she) grows up right. There is a fine line between an introvert and a psychopath, as it happens. And ensure that you have a lot of books around. No, seriously, you need to have loads of books around, otherwise your kid is going to drive you insane asking you for yet another book about dinosaurs or dogs or ecology.

Treat your children fairly. Do NOT show favour of one child over another, especially if one child is an extrovert and the other is a deep introvert. The introvert will simply withdraw if he sees this happening, and will generally either become cold and moody, or insecure and possibly even mentally unstable. I've seen both happen, and neither outcome is pretty. Do not allow your introverted child's siblings to gang up on him, this will damage him beyond your capacity for understanding and may even forever destroy his ability to form meaningful relationships in his life.

Note that the one thing you should not do is try to force socialisation. Introverts form friendships at our own pace and any attempt to rush the process usually results in breaking the very rapport you're trying to create. Remember, introverts have been burned many, many times by a society that simply refuses to understand us, which means that we reserve our deepest trust and greatest affections only for those who have proven themselves worthy of those privileges.


Homeschooling is also strongly advised. Not only will you spare your kid the lousy standards of most public Western education, but your kid will likely learn a damn sight faster than he would via conventional schooling, and he'll probably form much stronger bonds with you to boot.

Gift Ideas for Introverts

  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Books, books, and more books- no seriously, you CANNOT go wrong with giving a deep introvert a book, just please for God's sake ensure that it's not "mainstream" literature (you know, of the Fifty Shades mommy-porn variety)
  • Video games
  • Rare DVD boxed sets- LOTR extended edition boxed sets, certain great old-school cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series, stuff like that
  • Musical instruments (for those of us who are musically inclined)
  • A Linux distribution on a DVD or USB stick- you think I'm joking, but you've not seen a nerdy introvert truly geek out until you've given him a copy of Knoppix or Gentoo or Slackware and then asked him to optimise it
  • Food- no really, many of us have learned the hard way to be self-sufficient when it comes to food, and we are genuinely very grateful and appreciative when other people take the time and trouble to make good food for us

Dos and Don'ts With Introverts

(Mostly Don'ts)

  1. Don't repeat yourself. It bores and annoys us beyond measure and causes us to space out very quickly.
  2. Don't be vapid or content-free in your speech. We'll immediately assume that you have no idea what you're talking about and proceed to ignore you.
  3. Don't try to act smarter than you are. We have very finely tuned BS detectors and have no patience for it. If you do this, do not be surprised when we make you look like ten degrees of idiot in public.
  4. Don't be incompetent, at least not around us. Incompetence is something that irritates us beyond mortal comprehension. Being deep introverts, we generally won't say anything, we'll simply get on with doing our job and then do yours for good measure so that we can get the hell out the door faster. You'll look great in the short term, but we'll also put in place an exit strategy that means that when- not if, but when- we leave, you'll end up wearing your arse around your ears. Like a hat.
  5. Don't try to talk to us if we have headphones on. Seriously, how difficult is this to figure out? WE"RE BLOCKING OUT THE REST OF THE WORLD FOR A REASON. Talk to us via office IM or email, you're actually more likely to get a coherent and thoughtful response that way.
  6. Don't make small talk. We can't friggin' stand it. Nothing about the weather or your kid's football game is anything like as interesting as the non-stop dialogue going on in our heads.
  7. I suppose I ought to include at least one do, so... how about this- do keep things short, sweet, and to the point. How's that?

Comments

  1. Myself, I enjoy cigar stores, most of which are places you can play cards or backgammon with like-minded guys. For some reason many guys who smoke cigars are introverted. I also like wandering around big liquor stores, but that's not really an introverted things. I'm just amazed at the variety.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lol laughed my ass off the entire post!

    Headphones are a gift from the Almighty-as is text messaging. Texting and email.

    My wife is a deep introvert-she does all her work from home and rarely ever leaves. I forced myself to stay in a job that deals with groups of people because i don't like not being good at something.

    Great post man.

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  3. Well said. Bookstores were always my favorite place to spend hours at a time. In front of an easel or potters wheel is another. I have some talent and like to practice when I have the time, and I find that people are less likely to interrupt the process of painting or drawing, or throwing clay, than a person who is merely "reading," as though that is a less worthy endeavor because you're not doing something.

    Patience, patience, patience with deep introverts. I go through periods of time where nothing seems to be coming to fruition in my mind. Ideas or plans stew for weeks or months, and then finally some missing piece falls into place and I have the energy to finish a project.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know what you mean. Most days I have plenty of ideas swirling about in my head to write about- but then I get to my computer and I find myself saying, "ah, screw it, wait until tomorrow". Introverts tend to be lazy that way- we like our alone time and we can always find ways to fill that time with quiet, simple activities like lying around in the sun reading a book. Patience is important both for us and for others around us to deal with some of our... more eccentric tendencies.

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  4. Great post. Typically I don't realize how introverted I am until my time is intruded upon by others. I like my socializing time to be controlled and predictable especially if I already have plans for my alone time to do what I need to do. When I have had my time to myself I can go out later on my terms as just another one of the boys and no one will know or care that I spent my free time doing nerd shit while they gibber on about nothing. I actually get along with most people until they manage to display their idiocy, then I take great pains to avoid those individuals. I maintain many healthy relationships with both introverts and extroverts, and I guess the toughest thing about being an introvert is marketing yourself and your skills to others. I feel at times that introverts need a kind of third party "manager" who can do this stuff for them unless they've coached and prepared themselves for the role.

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, being deep introverts, it's next to impossible to find anyone else to market us to others- and, I think if you're honest with yourself, you'd admit that deep down, you want to be in charge of the way other people think about you. But, as you say, it would be a nice thing to have.

      The key to being successful as an introvert is indeed in figuring out how to manage the time you spend around others. I've found that the only way to maintain my sanity is to block off significant chunks of time during the day to be completely isolated from others. Pursuing solitary, single-minded activities with clear-cut goals helps tremendously- powerlifting, chess, Krav Maga, things of that nature.

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  5. This is great! I'm pretty much a deep introvert and the best thing I did was to find another INTJ to sit around and be quiet with. He is much less introverted than I am, so he can deal with anyone we come across. We like bookstores, of course, but our main form of entertainment is going to very small neighborhood bars. It is an intimate venue and we know all of the bartenders everywhere, so we don't even have to order when we arrive. Most of the other happy hour people are also introverts.

    It's funny because whereas INTJ females are rare, almost all of the regulars at the RedPillWoman subreddit are INTJ or INTP. Then again, the manosphere is pretty packed with both male and female introverts.

    And halleluiah to text messaging! You know how to make me yelp and drop my phone? Call me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, if my own parents' marriage is any indication, the single biggest guarantee of marital happiness for introverts is finding another introvert with whom to settle down. They've been married nearly 35 years and a big part of the reason they work so well is, as you say, because they have someone else to sit around with quietly.

      BTW I saw the pictures of you that Bill Powell posted from his Vegas trip. My compliments to you and your husband, you've maintained yourself very well indeed.

      Delete

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