The talkative introvert

Lately I've been getting some interesting feedback from someone that I spend a fair amount of time talking to, for various reasons. Typically what will happen is that she will ask me about something related to politics, history, travel, economics, current affairs, guns, sports, or any one of about several dozen different fields in which I maintain some form of active interest. And then we end up going through that topic at some length.

We once ended up chatting on video for, like, 2 hours on subjects ranging from silly management fads like Six Sigma, to electric and even flying cars, to artificial intelligence and the "Industry 4.0" concept, to God only knows what else.

Now normally, if I had to talk to anyone for 2 hours straight, I'd likely be on the verge of a psychotic breakdown. But with people that I truly care about, having long, deep conversations is not in the least bit stressful or tiring (except on the vocal chords)- provided that it is followed up with some solid "alone time" afterwards.

It may be a huge surprise to extroverts, but it will come as no surprise at all to most of you introverted types, that this seeming paradox is in fact perfectly normal for us.

My interlocutor finds this paradox somewhat... annoying at times. She insists that, contrary to my oft-declared status as an extreme introvert, I am in fact highly extroverted.

This amuses me immensely, because it demonstrates exactly what highly intelligent introverts have known about extroverts since, well, pretty much forever:

They DO NOT understand us.

And they never will.

Indeed, commenter Bob Wallace put it best several years ago back when I first started writing articles about what it means to be an intelligent and highly introverted man in the modern world:

"Introverts understand extroverts a lot better than extroverts understand introverts, just the way the smart understand the stupid a lot better than the stupid understand the smart."

This lady that I converse with, who often expresses amused exasperation at the fact that I can go on for hours about a huge range of topics, is of course an extrovert. She happens to be quite an intelligent one- not as smart as me, but no pushover either. (You don't get a Master's in computer science from any halfway-decent technical institute in Eastern Europe by being an idiot. There is a reason why the Russkies were the first to get to space and the first to orbit the Earth during the Cold War.)

Specifically, on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator spectrum, she registers as an ESTP. As a result, she likes to laugh and is quite blunt by Western standards. (Which is not surprising given that she is Eastern European- they tend to have a "F*** your feelings" attitude over there. I have to admit, I rather like that approach.)

I, on the other hand, register as an off-the-charts INTJ, usually considered the rarest of all personality types. I routinely score in the 90% range for introversion. Apparently I also exhibit some very mildly sociopathic tendencies from time to time. According to the Big 5 personality test, though, I score pretty low in terms of both Macchiavellianism and narcissism. I am withdrawn even by the standards of most INTJs, which is saying something.

Given the sharp contrasts in personalities, you can see, therefore, where some misunderstandings might arise when a reasonably cheerful and practical-minded sociable extrovert talks to an extremely private, intelligent, driven, and well-read introvert with hermitic tendencies.

The most fundamental misunderstanding expresses itself in this silly belief that introverts are not talkative.

A quiet introvert with a chatty extrovert

I have good reason to think that my work is disproportionately read by introverts, so I am pretty sure that every one of you has experienced this disconnect in the past.

The reality is that we introverts simply view, understand, process, and express information very differently from extroverts.

Whereas extroverts are externally focused and gain energy from talking to people, introverts are internally focused and gain energy from non-verbal sources.

However, it is that difference in focus that often becomes our greatest strength, because of the difference in the way that introverts use externally derived information.

For introverts, the information that we process is weighted according to its complexity, its usefulness, and its relevance to our own personal interests. Extroverts do not view information the same way that we do.

The result is that introverts place very high value and utility against information that matters to us, that comes to us from sources that challenge our minds and which we respect, and that is of practical use to us.

But because extroverts gain energy from the presence of other people, the information that they value has more to do with the context in which they receive it than on the utility of it.

The result is that extroverts place value on talk for the sake of talk, because the talking takes place in an environment that makes them feel good. Introverts, by contrast, place value on information that actually matters to us and that was gained, more often than not, through hard sweat of the mind.

And because our brains are wired so differently, we find the act of transmitting specific bodies of deep knowledge to be actually quite enjoyable.

What annoys us, beyond all capacity of extroverts to understand, is having to talk about meaningless fluff. To our minds there is no value in such nonsense, so we simply don't bother to do it. The most introverted of us can find the task of engaging in small talk to be almost physically painful. We do it because we have to, not because we want to.

But when we are asked to relay or interpret information upon which we place a high value, it can be difficult to get us to shut up- because now we are being asked to engage in what we consider to be a highly useful activity.

In my own case, because I maintain strong interests in a large number of different areas, and because I am blessed (and cursed) with an exceptionally good long-term memory, it is easy for me to put together cogent analyses that are as generic or as specific as I need them to be for a particular situation.

I have seen something similar at work with other deep introverts that I know.

One of my martial arts instructors- the young man who wrote at some length on the difference between someone who has a low level of skill in self-defence, and a true martial artist, in fact- is also an extreme introvert. His true passion in life is fighting. He lives and breathes it. His knowledge of the fighting sciences is extraordinary. You can ask him almost any question about any realistic style of combat and he will proceed to quietly amaze you with the sheer depth and brilliance of his encyclopaedic knowledge on the subject.

Because he knows so much, if you ask him to explain to you exactly how to apply a particular technique or get out of a particular choke or hold, you might just be listening to him explain things for a good five minutes. And that is because he knows so much and has so much to share.

Even then, you're only receiving a fraction of his insight and understanding.

And that brings us to a hidden secret about deep introverts.

If you are an extrovert, and you have found a deep introvert, and have managed to break through the shield wall of his reserved nature and gain his trust, then you will likely find that he wants to talk to you, and that he actually enjoys it.

This is because he likes and trusts you. There is no greater compliment for an introvert to bestow upon anyone than this.

It means that you are worth his time. Very, very few people can ever claim this status. And it is not to be treated lightly or with disdain.

In fact, the surest sign that a deep introvert no longer trusts you, values your company, respects you, or is interested in you, is if he simply ignores you completely.

And the surest, fastest way to anger an introvert, to the point where he shuts you out of his life, is to fail to treat him seriously when he attempts to share ideas or knowledge with you.

We do not share our most cherished ideas and thoughts with people that we do not trust or respect. They are not worthy- as the Good Book says, "give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you".

We will only do so with people that we genuinely care about- and there are not too many such people.

Because of this, it hurts us deeply when those that we thought were worthy of our respect, turn out not to be.

Hopefully, then, this little missive will help our extroverted friends understand that, if they are part of a deep introvert's life and he deigns to spend a lot of time and energy on them, then this is not something to be treated lightly.

If they fail to heed that lesson, of course, then so be it. Introverts are, after all, at our absolute happiest when we are simply left alone to do our own thing.


  1. Eduardo the Magnificent29 June 2017 at 23:03

    Oh, come on, Didact. We just need to get out more and quit being so antisocial. That'll solve everything!

    1. That, or we could just demand that extroverts all have brain surgery and become introverts, thereby LEAVING US ALL THE HELL ALONE...

    2. Eduardo the Magnificent30 June 2017 at 12:37

      *Mills Lane voice*

      I'll allow it!


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