March 19th, 2012
07:48 PM ET

Overheard on Revenge of the introverts? Many readers say they can relate

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

If response to the following story is any indication, a good chunk of our commenting population identifies themselves as introverts. Susan Cain, a writer and TED2012 speaker, opined that these folks are responsible for some of humanity's greatest achievements.

Introverts run the world - quietly

Readers identified what it means to be an introvert, and how that affects their lives. This was a popular comment:

Travis211: "Score one for the introverts. Something about us introverts that extroverts don't know about us:

1.) We do not believe in artificial chit-chat (We hate small talk, because its illogical)
2.) We only believe in talking when we believe we have something to say
3.) We find happiness in solitude, extroverts find happiness in rooms with people
4.) We are constantly thinking in our heads
5.) We are quietly planning to take over the world!!"

isolate: "I agree on all points but #5. A world where introversion was predominant (itself almost a contradiction in terms) would be a strange world indeed - devoid of professional sports, supermarket tabloids, mega-churches, casinos, and most of what passes for media entertainment these days. Facebook and Twitter, et al, would vanish, and anyone who proposed a television show like 'Real Housewives of New Jersey,' would be banished to an asylum. Imagine politics based on reality and not megabucks, personalities and theatrics. To you and me it would be heaven indeed, but what would happen to the millions of extroverts forced to live in a world without relentless, mindless distractions? Mass catatonia? If I might, I would replace your #5 with, 'We are self-doubting, always verifying what we think we know to be sure it's true.' "

This commenter doesn't like lots of noise.

tapeworm: "I have not been to a mall shopping in years! On top of that I hate crowds and cannot stand a lot of noise. I feel best when sitting outside or in a field where there is a breeze and only the sound of birds and the breeze. Loud music drives me insane!"

Some of our readers found kindred spirits in the comments.

scion101: "I'm an introvert and this obsession with being open and social has gotten me hit hard in school and potentially work; I don't like working with people. Ever since I was in kindergarten I didn't like having strangers foisted upon me during a project for the sake of 'teamwork' or 'building bridges.' I'll do that on my own time thank you very much. Plus, I end up doing most of the work anyway. Now don't get me wrong, if I know someone who's industrious or who I like, I'll work with them in a heartbeat; but don't expect me to be willing to rub shoulders with people I don't even know. I'm here to get the job done, not make friends."

james1095: "I had that problem in school, too. Forced to work together with people, who too often had little to contribute and I ended up doing most of the work. Occasionally I find someone with the same interest and drive that I have and we make a great team, but being paired up randomly is a crapshoot that more often than not is counterproductive."

Can extroverts be good listeners?

Nellen: "I am a rarity: an introverted teacher. Research has shown most teachers are extroverts, so it makes sense they'd teach to their type of student and recognize their achievements more. I find faculty meetings and superintendent days much more frustrating than my time in the classroom because extroverts never listen to the introverts in the room. That time is not a total waste of time because it provides me with an empathy for my students! I re-enter my classroom with a renewed sense of serving their needs. Extroverts don't realize how obnoxious they can be! It's not that I want them to shut up, I want them to listen. Or maybe they're just narcissists. I'm digressing."

LibraLady: "I disagree. I am an extrovert and a good listener. I work with many introverts (programmers and developers) and enjoy the strengths of their work. They seem to like it when we have visitors in the office and I take over and relieve them from the pressure. It does not mean that I am obnoxious or narcissistic. But like all people, we have strengths and weaknesses just like introverts do. The power lies in us all recognizing this and working with it instead of digressing."

This person said they feel like they have to be something other than themselves to succeed.

Keith: "I am an introvert who lives in an extrovert world. Every day I pretend to be that outgoing person everyone knows. Then I go home and collapse under the pressure of being that out there guy."

Some of our commenters admitted to going out of their way to avoid talking to others.

nickmach: "My problem is that I do not find interacting with other people to be pleasant. It is either stressful or boring. My brain does not seem to produce any dopamine at all when I see an acquaintance. All I think is, 'Can I avoid talking to this person without him getting pouty?' I ask my wife when we go to a party, 'How long do we have to stay?' "

kekokeko: "I do the same thing. When I'm walking down a long hallway toward one of my co-workers, I'll duck out into one of the meeting rooms until they pass just to avoid having to come up with something to say! I put headphones on in the elevator so someone won't try to strike up a conversation with me about the weather or something."

The same commenter above noted that their introversion has affected their work life.

kekokeko: "One criticism that I've heard from others all of my life is that I'm 'too quiet.' I've gone on dates with women who have asked me why I'm so quiet and it got irritating to the point where it was a deal breaker if I heard those words. Fortunately, I'm now happily married and don't have to face them anymore. Also, I recently took a job with an employer who told me that she almost didn't hire me because my references said that I was too quiet and kept to myself (even though all had wonderful things to say about my work). It is annoying that simply not talking all the time makes people think there is something wrong with you."

Simon2010: "I hear you man. I also have had jobs where people have told me that I'm too quiet, even though that has nothing to do with my work. I tell them I get paid to work ... not to talk!"

Where do you get your energy from?

MMuddyWaters: "Quick note: introvert means you re-energize by being alone. Test yourself: When you're drained, do you want to go to a party to gain back your energy, or do you want to refresh by being alone? Extroverts do the former; introverts do the latter. Introvert doesn't equal shy – it just means that you get your energy back through solitude."

This person said they get their energy from other people.

mollywins: "It's all about how one recharges. I get energy from being around people, therefore I'm an extrovert. My partner gets energy from alone time and is therefore an introvert. We enjoy time together and time apart. Everyone needs a mix of both to know how to enjoy life fully. There is a point where the need for solitude becomes dysfunctional. Similarly, there are extroverts who feel they must never be alone. For both dysfunctions, learning to balance life in and out of the shell is a huge challenge. The first step in overcoming it is to be honest with one's own self about the need for change."

Indeed, some commenters talked about how tendencies affect their relationships.

BD70: "I, too, am married to an introvert. Allowed my spouse to quit their job and start a business. My spouse needs to invent and create. ... Now I see my grandson who is also introverted. His twin sister is the talker. He is the thinker. I hope that he comes out alright through the way they teach now."

Here's how one introvert describes it:

ding6: "I am an introvert - one of my bosses once characterized me as like a Norse blacksmith who toiled alone in his cave, forging solutions to problems and foreswearing any outside assistance. In retrospect, he was mostly right as I really did not work well in collaborative settings. As an introvert, I got satisfaction from my results and did not care if anyone else appreciated my efforts."

Are the introverted more intelligent?

cawfeegirl95: "People who are extremely bright/intelligent usually have social difficulties."

scion101: "And that's because most people don't value intelligence."

Are you an introvert? Extrovert? Something in between? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Business • Health • Overheard on • Science
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Mary

    @ Travis211.
    I am # 1, 2, 3, and 4
    I have NO desire for #5

    March 19, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    With the exception of #5 on Travis' list:
    At times I am all of them, at times I am none of them,
    Does that make me just a vert?
    I can't be labeled.
    I'm just me.

    March 19, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sean

    A lot of this isn't introversion, but social anxiety. I am an introvert and had some of the same feelings that were reflected above. Then I joined the military and was forced to interact with people and adapt to a very social climate. I see now that I my feelings before were irrational and I enjoy talking to people more but I still prefer to do things alone and I'm thee last one that would go to a party. It's a stretch for me to 'hang out' with people if there's no specific goal, but even that can be fun some times

    March 19, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @Sean, Social Anxiety Disorder affects people that are extroverts and introverts. Most people are a blend of both. My entire career has been about managing people. If I had to label myself, I would be an extrovert but with an enormous need for solitude when I get home. There are types of people who suck the oxygen out of the air and those types, I choose not to spend anytime with them. When I tell them that I don't want a relationship of any kind with them,they get their feelings hurt because its always about them. I simply don't care. I can name off 10 people that I love being around in any kind of social setting. It really is up to an individual to make the choice for what's best for them.

      March 19, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    I was always quiet, but that really doesn't make me introverted. Rather, it is a manifestation of respect.
    When I was younger, I was "extroverted" only in large gatherings associated with a musical performance I'd done or–when before I was privately owned–in gatherings arranged solely for filling in dance cards. When I started handling aspects of managing my business in music and doing some conducting of performances, I became more outgoing in social groups: still, that was a result of "doing business." The best conducting of symphony orchestras is done with a baton and a pistol in your pocket.
    I still laugh at the common NYC phrase, "going to business."
    I observe that USA citizens today are much louder than they were decades ago. Part of that is the result of demographic changes. Another part of it is because of hearing loss caused by listening to overly amplified noise thought to be music.
    Today, I am much, much happier walking down a street in beautifully polite Paris than I am in New York City. I used to enjoy London streets, but they have also become sadly aggressive (pushy) as the Empire moved in. Rome is lively without being offensive.
    When I walk down NYC streets, I'm aware of an escalating military action.
    As I said here recently about what other persons' thoughts concerning me, whatever is going on in there heads does not bother me: their diagnostic code is their own billing problem. I do wish that they would keep their noise level down, but I know that they lack the education needed to do that.
    I hope that the street-loud ones aren't stupid enough to believe that I confuse their absence of courtesy with their being extroverts.

    March 20, 2012 at 3:32 am | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @Joey,Bonjour to you. Usually I am a dreadful insomniac but slept beautifully last night. I totally agree with you on the loudness which is prevalent in our country.Paris as populated as it is, people are respectful and do not talk loud at all. When on a major road like the Champs Elycee, one could be outdoors at a cafe, during rush hour, and truly have a peaceable moment. My favorite haunt is Rue Cler, where everyone is respectful and cell phones are hardly seen. I was shocked by how quiet Scilpol Airport is in Amsterdam. The loudness is not related to being an extrovert or an introvert, just dreadful manners. I hope we meet up again on the blogs.

      March 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    Omit my "when" before "before I was..."
    @ dazzle:
    Bonjour if you're like me and sleepless.

    March 20, 2012 at 3:38 am | Report abuse |
  6. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    I've just seen another insomniac's manifestation of grammatical carelessness in my long post just above this.
    Maybe I should stop trying to write on a Blackberry: the screen is too small to write with any imagination.
    I only like Hemingway/journalism style for summary.
    Hemingway "improvements" are great for handling business: "from the kitchen window, Jane saw Spot. She shot him"

    March 20, 2012 at 3:59 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      You write with great insight, foresight, and imagination...I can only wonder what you would write if your screen was bigger! 🙂

      March 20, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mary

    I really enjoyed your posts
    "The best conducting of symphony orchestras is done with a baton and a pistol in your pocket."
    and Hemingway's quote
    "from the kitchen window, Jane saw Spot. She shot him"

    Please add some of these to your future posts.
    Have a beautiful day! 🙂

    March 20, 2012 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    @ Mary;
    Thank you. Have a great day.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |