Introverts don’t like to go out in public

deerThis is the seventh in a weekly series debunking myths about introverts.  (See last week’s post.)  The basis of the 10 week series is the article written by Carl King.  I will show his thinking, add mine and then encourage all of you to contribute your thoughts on the subject.

Don’t know if you’re an introvert or an extrovert?  Take Susan Cain’s quiz.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.

Carl:

Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Chris:

This is a favorite myth of mine.  It has a partial ring of truth about it.  All of us like to go out in public.  We’re alive, aren’t we?  We just get satiated too quickly.  A little goes a long ways with introverts.

Going out means an exercise in managing our energy reserves.  Since no one has created the wonderful battery recharge meter that was in this week’s cartoon, we make choices about our outside time.

The problem with introverts is that we partake too much.  We don’t just “go out”.  We go out and notice Every Little Thing.  We suck in data at what is often an overwhelming rate, and usually without noticing how much of it we are imbibing.  We’ve been doing it from childhood, after all, so we don’t know any other way to function.  What would be a pleasant Saturday afternoon at the local shopping mall to an extrovert is like a Christmas Eve shopping rush to an introvert.

An introvert can come back from a half hour in a shopping mall and be able to tell you about all the shops and what was in their windows.  They have noticed all the people walking around, man and woman, young and old, families, loners, groups of teens, baby strollers, the person in the wheelchair, the lovers holding hands, the couple fighting, the ones laden with purchases, the ones eating a snack and just strolling, the hurried one running an errand.  They’ve recorded the smells of the food court, the scratching of the chairs on the concrete floor, the lines of people waiting for food, which food is the most popular, which tables have crying and hungry children, which tables have solo eaters reading a book.  They’ve registered snatches of every conversation that has wandered by them.  They’ve noticed where it is light and where there are shadows, and where the light is bouncing off shiny metal.  They’ve felt the spaces where the air was still, where is was stuffy, where there was a breeze as someone moves by them quickly.  They’ve smelled every perfume, cologne and body odor, including the three pack a day smoker, and the residual of the cleaning products on every surface near them.

Just reading this has probably exhausted a lot of introverts because they’re reliving every associated memory they have, as they are nodding their heads in agreement.

A half hour in a shopping mall for an introvert is an automatic collection of many billions of data elements that must be analyzed and cataloged.  It’s not a choice.  It’s how we are hard wired in our brains.  We just come like that when we are born.  We don’t know how to turn it off, and it’s exhausting.

That’s why when we go out in public, we prefer simpler spaces.  A quiet coffee shop where we can people watch.  Small stores where we can enjoy our shopping, or large stores in the off hours where we can be pretty much on our own.  Museums.  Beautiful parks.  Nice hiking trails.  Botanic gardens.  A bike ride.  Getting together for a meal in a charming little restaurant with a few close friends.

I think that since we don’t seem to be able to restrict the amount of information we take in, we learn to limit our exposure to it.  Hence the myth that we don’t like to go out in public.  We just are selective about our experiences, and when we reach our maximum level of stimulation we have to retreat to our quiet place to decompress.  If we don’t, we feel like we’re going to explode.

Where are your favorite places to go?   What is your public world like?  Share with us.

Have a quiet day!

Hi.  I’m Chris.  I’m an introvert.  Look for my ongoing series debunking the introvert myths (Sunday) and introvert cartoons (Wednesday), plus anything else interesting that I find in the meantime.  Come and share with like-minded introverts.  I also contribute to the new food blog Three’s Cooking, learning to cook from the heart, for the soul.

33 thoughts on “Introverts don’t like to go out in public

  1. I’m finding these posts so enjoyable and they’re really helping me understand me. I don’t like associating myself with a label but ‘introvert’ seems to explain all that I had thought was wrong with me. As a result of these posts I am embracing my introvert and really appreciating the peace that it brings. My favourite new past time is going to a coffee shop on my own, with a book and being part of the world without partaking in it. Going with a friend is just too much hard work trying to focus on their conversation with everything going on around me. Thank you for helping me enjoy my introvert rather than battling against it.

    • And that is why I write these posts. I know that the more I understand me, the more I can embrace what is special and wonderful about me. I dislike labels, too, and “introvert” has a bad reputation as shy and withdrawn. We need to change that, so keep spreading the word. Some of the world’s best leaders, artists, thinkers and entertainers have all been introverts. We’re a great bunch of people, once we let you get to know us.

  2. I love going out. I can spend my entire day outside, actually. I love hiking, exploring, seeing new places, going sightseeing. In fact, I like going to a new place every time to see what’s there. I do take in everything I see. I remember much of it a few years later. My wife likes to come with me, but when I’m out for a hike or spending time exploring, I prefer going alone. I sometimes miss things if someone’s talking to me. I want to focus entirely on my surroundings, not on conversation.

    • Sounds a lot like me. 🙂 Even when we go exploring together, Cee and I will split up. She goes off and does her photography thing and I do my thing and then we share when we get back together. I like the quiet of my own thoughts, so that arrangement works for us.

      • My wife and I both like photography. I’m always taking pictures, and so is she. However, we share a single camera at the moment. I guess I could get my old camera out, but it’s got lower quality colour.

  3. This is so true. I go yearly to a huge fair on my home island, and while it takes my dad the entire day to see everything, after an hour to an hour and a half, it’s like ‘okay, I’m over this, let’s go home’.

    • 🙂 I understand that, Asta. I feel that way every time I have to go into the city. I can’t wait to turn the car south and head for the quiet of my little town and my home. Hugs to you.

  4. I have spent a long time feeling bad about simply being happy in my own company, as if I should be wanting to be around others all the time, as seems to be the case with many people. This positive look at being an introvert is very helpful. No one should pretend to be something they are not just to please others, you are wasting your precious time alive if you do this

  5. You know with it is not the going out, it is crowds and getting mixed up in the melee’. Going back to my teens to 20’s I used to have a best mate who was very extrovert. We both played guitars and I would sit back playing quietly while he took the limelight. But when I actually started to play in bands, without him, I became a different person on the stage. People say to be in band, rock or blues or what ever style one must be extrovert. But this absolute rubbish because most people I met were laid back quiet people, and when on stage they became a Tiger, they wanted to entertain. I still play in folk clubs and I am shy until in front of the people, I tell stories and happy to play and sing. .. I do believe that introvert can be confused with shy and laid back type people…. Love your Introvert series.

    • I need to publish a list of famous introvert entertainers. Introverts might be naturally quiet, but get us in our passion zone, no matter what it is, and we turn into instant extroverts. If we’re comfortable with something, we shine.

  6. Malls have always exhausted me, but I never understood why until I read Cain’s book. Grocery stores, too. But somehow I love Target. In fact, it’s best I don’t grab a cart there. I’ll come home with half the store if I do. I think they seduce and hex us there. 😉

  7. Shopping is exhausting for me because I hate shopping (although I must agree with Carrie, I love Target 😉 ) Otherwise, about 30 minutes is my limit. But I don’t want to buy stuff or to hang out in a mall without purpose ever. This is so boring. I want to get on with my errends or get back home and get busy with work/projects.

    I love a girl’s day out with a good friend or two, exploring new places. And always enjoy long conversations with friends. What I find draining is meaningless chit-chat, too much electricity (literally) and often crowds. I pick up on the individual energies of the crowd and this is draining.
    Enjoying your posts and comments 😀

  8. Hahaha you nailed me with this one: “Just reading this has probably exhausted a lot of introverts because they’re reliving every associated memory they have, as they are nodding their heads in agreement.”
    You know that cool tree Cee is wondering the name of? That would be my favorite place to hide – from the time I was barely able to walk, I loved hiding up in a tree! Can’t do that so much anymore, but a chair up on my roof works great these days!
    http://aishasoasis.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/rooftop-gardening-our-first-tomato/

    • Always great to hear from you, Aisha. I never realized that winter in Egypt could be so cold. When the houses aren’t built for that, I bet it feels much colder than it sounds. I’m loving seeing your rooftop garden. What a different life you are leading. It fascinates me. Hugs!

      • Thanks very much Chris! The electric grid is not built for much more than light bulbs either, which means too many space heaters can crash the whole country in about ten minutes on a cold night! Rolling Brown-outs are a normal part of daily life, so it’s way easier to just put on the layers and go mess around in the garden! Or lately blog from under my blanket lol that’s quite cozy and enjoyable too! xoxo ;^)

  9. I hate shopping as well. It tires me. I have to save energy, and then I might expend all of it with some fun thing or necessary shopping or something along those lines; then I need a day or two to spend alone. One of my favorite places to go is an old track stadium. It is often empty (when I go) and it is very peaceful and pretty.

  10. I always try to talk myself out of gatherings involving people I don’t genuinely know or am not truly bonded with. Because then I have to put on a pretentious, forced persona which in the end exhausts me. But if it’s people who know me well and who I can carelessly be myself around, even if those people are a small percentage of the gathering, I am totally fine with partying as if I am the most sociable person ever. I think truly on the inside I am not a shy person; it means a lot for me to feel like I am an important part of things. But it just wouldn’t come out if I’m with new people. I’d be so worn out when I’m home. In short, give me close friends or I’m more than happy with my own self. :p

    • Yes, very much this. In addition, I have a hard time befriending people in party type situations because everyone wants to make small talk and it’s too loud and hard to hear and just everything all at once.

    • There ARE degrees of introversion, Emilio. That is certainly true. You might belong more toward the middle of the intro -extrovert scale. (Some people call those ambiverts but I don’t like the word. I prefer omnivert myself.) I’m writing for people on the far end of the scale, and things resonate with people differently, but there is enough in common that they can still see themselves in it.

      The label isn’t what is important. What is important is that if you need your quiet time, you should take it without feeling bad about it or putting yourself down. Just be yourself, and feel good about it. That’s the message here.

      Thank you for continuing to read and share with us. And thank your wife for the new chart. I’ll use it in a post this week. If she pinned it and will give share it with me, I’ll give her the credit when I blog it.

      • Thank you for your response. It was very thoughtful. My wife admits now that when we were first dating, she thought something was wrong with me when I would retreat on Sundays. Now we retreat together. Even though I may be borderline I will continue to read your blog. it does help! Thank you.

  11. I usually tell people sort of jokingly that I have a two-hour limit on human contact. If I’m in a situation where I have to be somewhere for a long time, I’ll just sneak outside and have a breath of fresh air for about five minutes.

    I always explain this to people if I go to a party with them. If they get it or manage to be okay with it, we usually stay friends. If they just don’t understand, the friendship doesn’t always last because they think I’m being a jerk. It’s not on purpose, guys. I promise!

    • I don’t know if I could even manage two hours, Ali. It would depend on the people and the setting, I suppose. After 45 minutes with random people I’m looking for the exit!

    • Funny! On those extremely rare occasions when I’m asked to a social gathering, I “warn” the host that I’ll be there for two hours. And I AM watching the clock. Then they’re surprised when I say goodbye for the evening. I think they expect me to have so much fun, I’ll stay for hours longer. But introverts can find each other at these things. I have a knack for finding the other introvert(s), and we end up running out of steam around the same time.

  12. Yes! My husband is a big extrovert and I’m an introvert. He loves to go out places and spend hours looking at things, but after I’m there for a short time, I’m ready to leave and go home.
    Also, a favorite place to go is on quiet walks, which helps re-energize me.

  13. Due to disability, I rarely go anywhere anymore. I used to love to sit out on the balcony of our last apartment because I had a beautiful view over a manmade lake – I would watch the geese & ducks come in during the Spring & leave again in the fall. Our new apartment balcony faces another apartment block – I have never yet sat outside at all. There is too much information to absorb because I’m facing too many windows where other people live their lives. I can always tell when my husband has been out in public (he’s currently unemployed) either shopping or going on a job interview – he talks too loudly when he gets back & I have to ask him to turn down his volume (he’s an extrovert BTW).

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