Long Live The Introvert! Why Being “Anti-Social” Is Also A Skill

Editor’s Note: this is a guest post by Lisa Rivero.

You wake up, determined to have a productive and creative day of writing. Coffee brewed? Check. To-do list written? Check. Comfy writing clothes? Check.

You turn on your laptop and enter what has become our new virtual home away from home: the internet. Several emails vie for your attention. You answer some of them, archive a few, click links on others that take you to interesting blogs or articles or videos. You accept friend requests on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and find yourself commenting and replying and sharing. You begin to get that familiar weariness that indicates you should really be doing something else, but you also know that having a dynamic social media presence is important for your writing career. By the end of an hour or two, you force yourself to open a Word document, at which time your mental energy is so low that you minimize the window and make another pot of coffee.

If this sounds familiar, the problem may be more than simply one of time management, multi-tasking, or attention. You may just be an “introvert” who has spent all of your energy supply.

Debunking Common Myths About Introverts

Although introversion is better understood now more than ever, many people still don’t understand what it means to be introverted. Here are three common myths:

  • Introverts are shy.
  • Introverts are selfish and self-centered.
  • Introverts lack social skills.

As a way to get a handle on introversion, let’s look at each of these myths in turn, with an eye toward learning how to write, create, and recharge as an introvert.

Introversion and Shyness Are Not the Same Thing

Shyness has to do with fear, anxiety, or embarrassment, whereas introversion is about interest, preference, and energy. People who are shy want, often desperately so, to mix in and connect with others, but are prevented from doing so by anxiety. Introverts, on the other hand, simply prefer time alone or with close friends over the life of a socialite.

It is possible, then, to be extroverted–to feel energized by frequent human interactions and large social gatherings–and to be shy at the same time, which must be a frustrating experience, to say the least.

Of course, it is also possible to be introverted—to feel energized by time alone and less frequent but deeper personal interactions—and to be shy. In this case, writers and other creators can use social media to begin to reach out more and make those connections that they need but fear. The trick is to do so from an introvert’s and not an extrovert’s center, selectively and in small amounts, your way.

Introverts Can Care Deeply about the World

Just because introverts get energy by going inward doesn’t mean that they are always thinking about themselves. The introvert at the edge of a social gathering may be watching others intensely, listening carefully to what is being said, and more concerned with others than the extroverts who can’t stop talking about themselves. Neither introverts nor extroverts have a corner on altruism or empathy.

Introverts’ Social Skills Are Often the Envy of Extroverts

Introverts can be CEOs, actors and actresses, even motivational speakers. Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell has said that public speaking “has nothing to do with extraversion. It’s a performance, and many performers are hugely introverted.”

Perhaps because introverts have to learn to be actors to a certain extent to fit in to an extroverted world, they often pick up extraordinary social skills through long and frequent practice. Because they tend to listen rather than talk, introverts can notice nuances and details of conversations that others might miss, leading to a richer dialogue. Because introverts may be acutely aware of their own inner life, they might take into consideration the inner lives of others and work to cross boundaries and forge connections between disparate groups.

The Potential Downsides of Being An Introvert

These killer social skills can backfire, however, if introverts don’t pay attention to their own energy levels and needs. If others assume you are an extrovert who enjoys the social prowess you display as you wield hashtags and updates online as though you were born pre-connected, you might find yourself sucked into a time and energy sinkhole, whether offline or online. You might get so good at the social media dance, that you convince yourself you aren’t really an introvert after all, or that you have “gotten over” your introversion. To make matters more complicated, creativity experts tell us that some highly creative people are both introverted and extroverted, depending on what is needed at each stage of the creative process.

The telling point is your energy levels. Does toggling back and forth between social media and your own writing keep your writing tank filled, fueling you for more and better work? Or does it slowly drain your resources, so that by the end of the day you shut down in psychic exhaustion, wondering how you could have written so many words without writing anything at all?

I’m slowly learning to make social media work for me, as an introvert, even if that means eschewing some well-meaning advice meant to boost my platform and solidify my brand (advice that was probably written by an extrovert). I aim to strive for quality rather than quantity when it comes to connecting online, and I’m putting together a new working schedule that includes 15-minute blocks of social media time, two or three times a day, rather than having my limited psychic resources escape continually through open windows. What I may lose in numbers of followers, likes, or an online presence, I have already gained in peace of mind, energy, and productivity. That’s a trade I’ll take any day.

Lisa Rivero is the author of four non-fiction books about education and parenting and one historical novel for children about filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. She also writes a blog at Psychology Today and teaches writing and creative thinking to wonderfully introverted engineering students. She’s happy to connect with introverts and extroverts alike on Twitter and Facebook.

Are you an extrovert, or an introvert? How does this aspect of your personality influence your writing and/or your life? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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53 comments on “Long Live The Introvert! Why Being “Anti-Social” Is Also A Skill

  1. Purvi says:

    Loved it coz it explained to me, things that happen to me, when I sit to write. I love this blog and have suggested it to so many.. its very very inspiring. 🙂

    • Lisa says:

      I’m glad that this hit home for you, Purvi. Self-understanding is so important for writers. (Your blog is beautiful, btw. Very soothing colors.)

  2. Thank you so much for this. Somehow, the message that introvert/extrovert has to do with energy was communicated to me in high school. A few of us introverts began to think of large social gatherings in terms of energy flow and decided (in typical teenage fashion) that extroverts were, in fact, energy suckers, taking all of our energy from us.

    Understanding this is enormously useful in dealing with social calendars and forming meaningful friendships with introverts and extroverts alike, but I hadn’t really considered the implications for social media. Now I understand why I feel the need to disconnect if I want to make any real headway writing.

    • Lisa says:

      Yes, I think that understanding the energy connection is huge in terms of being able to manage the ebb and flow of our days. I am still working to wrap my head around the social media aspect–making slow but sure progress.

  3. ceciliag says:

    Oh NO, I just did exactly that. Ran out of mental energy while still on the social side of blog world. (Still here!) Maybe I should do the writing first THEN the blog and things. Soon my internet will go off until tonight though and then i will go into the writing properly. it seems to work. Once i am writing I don’t feel tired because i am somewhere else in my brain.. c

    • Lisa says:

      I love the idea of writing as going somewhere else in your brain.

      When I do my morning writing before catching up on email, Facebook, etc., I am so much more productive. It’s hard, though, because part of my work (teaching, indexing, volunteer work) does depend, some days, on being able to respond to email promptly and frequently. Finding that balance is a continual work in progress, at least for me.

  4. Stewart says:

    Wow, Lisa! Beautitully written. I cannot explain how much of that hit home. It really gives me a lot of perspective about myself that I can use to be more productive. Thanks much for this!


  5. Catherine Johnson says:

    I’m introverted but excited by being in touch with people. People who talk a lot wear me out so online you can read and run which is great. I used to be shy too, but I’m pretty sure I’m over that 🙂
    Great post!

    • Lisa says:

      Read and run–yes! A term I’ve read for introverts who genuinely enjoy and seek interaction, but in controlled quantities, is “social introverts” (as opposed to shy introverts). It makes sense.

  6. Christina says:

    Yay for introverts:))

    May people finally stop thinking we’re hermits and start accepting that we like socializing in small amounts with few people whom we want to really connect to.

  7. Liza Kane says:

    Awesome post!

    This line: “Perhaps because introverts have to learn to be actors to a certain extent to fit in to an extroverted world, they often pick up extraordinary social skills through long and frequent practice.” really resonated with me. I work in retail management, and have often felt that to be effective, I needed to have a mindset of “let’s play the game,” especially when I first started fresh out of college. My rapport with clients is still genuine, but I initially had to feel like I was acting out a role to gain the skill set necessary to be an effective (and eventually, top-performing) sales manager. It’s to the point that my current team now, and anyone who has met me recently can’t fathom that I’m an introvert.

    Also, this:”Does toggling back and forth between social media and your own writing keep your writing tank filled, fueling you for more and better work?” really made me think about my social media presence. Am I really creating the balance between structured novel writing and blogging/tweeting like I think I am? I’m afraid the answer is no, since I completely sympathize with “psychic exhaustion, wondering how you could have written so many words without writing anything at all?”

    I may need to take up your advice of just blocks of time so that I’m not so drained when I get to my novel writing time.

    Thank you for sharing, Lisa! (and thank you, Ollin, for hosting!)

    • Lisa says:

      Liza, I first understood the acting connection when our son was in a theater program, and I noticed how many of the students were introverts (contrary to what I first expected). Those performance skills have served him well. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! What a treat to hear from others who have similar experiences.

  8. kellyaatkins says:

    Love this post! Right on! Extro’s recharge in crowds. Intro’s (i’m one, too) recharge alone. Once you know it, you can do what you need to. Two ten-minute naps a day works wonders. I work at home, so that’s possible. I also work at home, because I’m an introvert. Thanks for the great post.

    • Lisa says:

      Kelly, I work at home, too (except for part-time college teaching, which also allows for a lot of control over my time), and I can’t imagine having a job that involved conversation all day long. I’d be exhausted!

  9. Ollin says:

    Love this Lisa! Thanks for finally setting the record straight about introverts. I’m an introvert, and I loved what you said about how we are listening and catching nuances all the time. I also was an actor once and was often seen performing. Then people would always wonder why I would be so closed off in person, or didn’t speak up as much. It was because I was an introvert acting like an extrovert!

    Thank you for the lovely post!

    • Lisa says:

      I’m always surprised by how many people assume that most actors and actresses are extroverts, when my experience has been just the opposite. What a pleasure to be here today, Ollin! Thank you.

  10. Nancy Sima says:

    Wonderful post – a true eye opener for me! I will definitely keep all these great points in mind when I feel the pressures of having a platform and an online presence. Thank you Lisa and Ollin!

    • Lisa says:

      Nancy, you are welcome! There is so much to keep in mind (and feel pressured by) for writers today, so anything we can do to relax more into the work is good.

  11. Victoria says:

    Love this: “Introversion and Shyness Are Not the Same Thing. Shyness has to do with fear, anxiety, or embarrassment, whereas introversion is about interest, preference, and energy.” I try to explain this to my extroverted friends (one of which who actually refers to himself as a “recovering introvert” – as if it were an addiction!) but mostly they don’t get it.

    Nice to see such an eloquent post on the topic. I hope lots of extroverts read it and realize both extro and introversion has an upside and a downside. I love being an introvert and have no intentions of “recovering from it” any time soon!

    • Lisa says:

      Victoria, I agree that being an introvert is wonderful! I didn’t always think so, however, which is why I’m on a crusade to inform others. 🙂

  12. Victoria says:

    I am slightly disappointed however that the title references “anti-social.” I think Lisa’s post does a wonderful job at clarifying introverts are not antisocial at all – they just have to pick how they interact and at what intensity and duration.

    • Ollin says:

      oops! The quotes around anti-social were meant to be implied, but I fixed that now. Of course neither I nor Lisa think introverts are “anti social” but I wanted to refer to the common myth people have about introverts that we are “anti-social.”

      Thanks for pointing that out!

  13. Tammy says:

    I love how normal this post made me feel.

  14. […] Long Live The Introvert! Why Being Anti-Social Is Also A Skill, by Lisa Rivero […]

  15. Lisa says:

    Ollin, thank you very much for the opportunity to visit today! This is a topic that is near and dear to me. I’m fortunate that I married someone even more introverted than I am. 🙂

  16. […] Long Live The Introvert! Why Being “Anti-Social” Is Also A Skill Published: October 19, 2011 Source: Courage 2 Create Editor’s Note: this is a guest post by Lisa Rivero. You wake up, determined to have a productive and creative day of writing. Coffee brewed? Check. To-do list written? Check. Comfy writing clothes? Check. Yo… […]

  17. TinaSicre says:

    Thanks for the post. As a performing musician/singer with a bigger than life stage presence, people are always surprised to learn that I lean more toward the introverted side off stage. I enjoy the balance between the two: It truly is that introverted side that allows me to write music that people can relate to…makes me more human. But then, the extrovert gratefully allows me to share it. I’ve always taken comfort in knowing that Cher (love her) was an introvert as well. Nice to learn of so many others out there.

    • Lisa says:

      Tina, yours is an excellent example of how introversion and extroversion are both necessary for creativity to thrive and be shared.

  18. Lisa says:

    Great post, Lisa. I totally identify with this. There are times when I’m tempted to just leave social media altogether, but I usually manage to restrain myself. I have left a couple of the main platforms for the very reason you describe — too much of it simply drains me from other endeavours.

    So true about introverts putting on a “performance” in public. I have often felt that I was on the outside of a group, until I was the center of attention — at which point I was totally “on”. Prior to my life as a homeschooling mom, I was a trial lawyer and often felt like I was “getting into character” before heading into court or delivering a paper to lawyers’ conferences. It was highly effective, actually.

    • Lisa says:

      Lisa, your thoughts on being a lawyer are fascinating! I’d never thought about it that way before. I wonder how many other lawyers feel that way, too?

  19. Elise says:

    Bravo, Lisa! I felt like you were speaking right to me. I especially resonated with the social skills that introverts tend to develop, because they’re more contemplative and introverted. I test right in the middle between “E” and “I” on the Myers Briggs, but I’ve always been more introverted. This has really encouraged me to remember how much I need to value recharging myself. Thank you!

    • Lisa says:

      Elise, you are very welcome! Sometimes all we need is someone to reflect back our own experience in order to understand it better.

  20. Martin says:


    I find subjective relief in how you reveal introversion and extroversion as two personality characteristics that shouldn’t be limited to black and white descriptions, especially when applied to a specific person. Instead, they are two characteristics that share a sort of symbiotic relationship, flowing and ebbing with the nature of a person’s energy levels, current activities, overall temperament, etc. As an introvert myself, I only wonder that when a person devotes such great amounts of introspection to understanding aspects of their personality how easily it might be to become a person that bases their identity in being an introvert. Which could very easily lead to misplaced pride and ,hopefully not, to that person becoming an enigma to those closest to him or her. Either way, very enlightening piece. Thank you!


    • Lisa says:

      Martin, I absolutely know what you mean! Introvert can become a limiting label like any other, as well as a liberating path to self-discovery. Ah, that tricky balance… Thanks very much for this thoughtful comment.

  21. Jan Simson says:

    Awesome post, Lisa! I’m an introvert myself, and I agree 100% with everything you mentioned in this post. Thanks for sharing this, Ollin! Cheers.

  22. Jane says:

    I struggle within myself with the idea that I am being selfish and self-centered because I’m an introvert. I guess I was brought up with a bunch of “shoulds” that have kept me living up to everyone’s expectations but my own. [I’m an introvert who everyone thinks is an extrovert because of my finely honed acting skills, and it’s taken a toll. :0) ]It’s nice to read that selfish introverts are a myth, because it implies that just being who I am doesn’t automatically make me a selfish person. Still sorting this one out. Can you tell?

  23. This really hits a chord with me, as a shy/introvert combination. I get so weary of extroverts trying to “cure” me, thinking if they just drag me into their social life I’ll see how wonderful it is and morph before their eyes into a replica of them. As a fairly successful writer (50 books and counting) I was early on often asked to speak to groups. I always said no, terrified at the very idea. But one day it occurred to me that while I could never do such a thing, the public “persona” that had her name on those books could. In my head it became “I could never do that, but she can!” In a way, I suppose I became an actor, putting on a role to play. I ended up teaching at UCLA and appearing on CNN, but I never “morphed.” Nor do I want to. But I love that image about the energy escaping through always open windows. It makes such sense. No more leaving a Twitter window open all day for me!

  24. Thank you for another view of the introvert. Now that you mention it, I know many people, and there are many celebritites also (don’t know them), who are introverts but give awesome performances as needed.

  25. Jodie says:

    Thank you for writing this. I’m an introvert, I enjoy losing myself within my own thoughts. That’s were I seem to get my sparks of creativity, which only seems to magnify when I draw them out into the real world. I have no shame in this and who I am, but I get frustrated when the people around me make comments like “you need to talk more/speak up.”, “not be so shy or scared.” “Why can’t you be like everyone else?” So, I’m glad that people are starting to talk about this other side of life, and showcasing it’s strengths instead of apparent weaknesses/oddities.

  26. I’m an introvert… and proud to be one! 🙂 great guest post!

  27. Lisa says:

    I’m in NYC this week (an introvert’s nightmare or haven, depending on how you look at it), and love taking a moment to catch up on these fantastic comments!

    Jan, you are welcome. I see will be doing NaNoWriMo. Have fun!

    Jane, I know excactly what you mean. I’m still sorting it out, too, but it does get easier (and clearer) with time and though.

    Justine, ah, yes, the idea that introversion can (or should) be “cured”!

    AWIC, so many actors and actresses represented or mentioned in these comments… sounds like a good focus for another post. 🙂

    Jodie, the “Why can’t you be like everyone else?” attitude frustrates, me, too, and not just when it comes to introversion/extroversion. Good for you for knowing and valuing who you are.

  28. inkspeare says:

    What a great post! One that every writer should read – Awesome!

  29. Harold says:

    Being an introvert and often misunderstood; this resonated with me more than anything I’ve read in a while. My four year experiment with social media has been mostly a train wreck. I’m naturally curious but that does zap the energy needed for even the daily chores of life. Thus the writing comes in fits and starts which makes it difficult to make progress. To top it off I’m also an INTP (Thinker) on the Myers Briggs scale of personalities. Bake that together with raising eleven children and you have recipe that falls apart. Faith has been the only thing to keep me putting one foot in front of the other. Thanks for writing “Long Live the Introvert”, it’s a great perspective.

  30. Insightful post. You hit the nail on the head for me. Thank you for the idea of 15 min intervals…I’ll be trying that out immediately!!

  31. Mel Corbett says:

    I love it because I am definitely an introvert, and my husband the extrovert does not understand the quiet me time i need to recover from constantly being on and around people.

    I also like how you included the quote on public speaking being a performance, which is so true. I can be in a play, do karaoke, or any kind of performance, but a real interchange between me and maybe 3 or more people who aren’t super close friends (or even who are sometimes) is just a huge energy drain for me. Where the performance, is not. I do enjoy interacting with others, but I need that quiet time to myself too.

    And that quiet time to myself is the perfect time for artistic creation.

  32. clarbojahn says:

    I agree with those who said it’s their public persona who actually play the part when they get out in the world whether it be jobs or promotion of their books.
    As a nurse in the hospital before I started writing children’s books, I would need time alone to recharge by writing in my journals. Now I am seeking to make that private writing public in personal essays and creative non fiction pieces. As a nurse I would slowly lose energy as the week went on. At the end I would actually not be able to sleep till I had some alone time no matter how tired I was.

    The reason I now see is that I am an introvert. Thanks for sharing that social media is another drain on an introverts energy. I had not thought about that till you shared that. It makes sense that I don’t go there till I’ve had time by myself . Writing first thing in the morning works best for me, too, before giving time to social media.

  33. Lisa says:

    Inkspeare, I’m very glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks.

    Harold, the fits and starts aspect of writing is frustrating for me, too (and you have such a busy household!). Just knowing that others have the same experience is helpful for giving myself permission to do things differently with social meda.

    Lillie, the 15-minute trick really does work for me. Let me know how it goes

    Mel, I know a few marriages in which one person is an introvert and one is an extrovert. Would your husband be willing to read a book such as THE INTROVERT ADVANTAGE? Thank you for sharing your experience with performance and conversations.

    Clar, I can imagine that a profession such as nursing would be very draining for an introvert. I wonder how many people simply don’t understand that aspect of themselves and, instead, assume they aren’t dedicated or aren’t working hard enough… (when, in reality, they are working double-time to go against their natural need for more alone time).

  34. […] Long Live The Introvert! Why Being “Anti-Social” Is Also A Skill Editor's Note: this is a guest post by Lisa Rivero. You wake up, determined to have a productive and creative day of writing. Coffee brewed? Check. To-do list written? Check. Comfy writing clothe… Source: ollinmorales.wordpress.com […]

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