A Passionate Introvert Speaks Up

Dr. Brian Little’s TedX Talk, Confessions of a Passionate Introvert is great fun and highly relatable. Dr. Little was profiled in Susan Cain’s book Quiet. He also made a few points that resonated with me and a few that I question.

1) Many people don’t believe he is an Introvert. I constantly am told this from Introverted leaders.  This is all because they act “as if” they are confident and expressive. Dr. Little calls it acting “out of character.” Introverts tell me that playing an outgoing role is required in most organizations and so they play the part.

2) Extroverts and Introverts respond to optimal levels of arousal. This has to do with the Neocortex in the brain. E’s often are depleted when there is not enough going on. I’s on the other hand are happy when the stimulation is low.  I learned in my research that there is even a term called “bathroom solitude. ” Introverts will escape to bathrooms as a respite from all the noise they encounter. My introverted husband Bill visibly winces when he is quietly cooking dinner and I enter the room with talk, turned on light switches and music:)

3) Extroverts get personal more quickly. They move close in conversations and get familiar faster. “Charles” becomes “Charlie” in that first meeting. Introverts on the other hand, take their time in getting to know you and “Charles” remains “Charles” until given permission to use a nickname like “Charlie.” I also often encounter Introverts who wonder why Extroverts move into their physical space. Extroverts are frustrated trying to connect with Introverts through eye contact and light touching as they make their points.

4)  Introverts are less direct than Extroverts. He cites the example of his colleague who wasted no time in describing someone as an “___hole” whereas Dr. Little beat around the bush in describing this person. I don’t agree with his view on this difference. I know plenty of Introverts who get to their blunt point quickly! I suspect there are other personality factors at play here.

5) Introverts have less sex than Extroverts. He shows a chart that indicates that both male and female Extroverts have more sex than Introverts. While this is intriguing I wonder about his research. Like most sex research, it was most likely self-reported and we know about the questionable reliability of that data!  Perhaps the Extroverts exaggerated their numbers? Dr. Little did mention that in addition to quantity we need to consider quality.  I will have to ask my friend Sophia Dembling, author of The Introvert’s Way and the upcoming book Introverts In Love  about her opinion on this one.

I give Dr. Little points for his stance as a “Passionate Introvert”. This “Passionate Extrovert” is glad we can bring humor into the discussion of our differences. The Comedian Victor Borge was right when he said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”

4 thoughts on “A Passionate Introvert Speaks Up

  1. Sophia Dembling

    What a delightful talk! His bathroom anecdote is so right on–although I always thought what I call “the courtesy flush” was a girl thing, I didn’t realize it was an introvert thing.

    As for the question of sex–I don’t know ’bout that. Many introverts are, for one thing, fairly reticent about discussing personal issues publicly. When I started blogging, I promised that I would never, ever discuss my sex life and I have kept that promise.

    Also, I have to wonder about whether the respondents to the sex question were in committed relationships or free range. If the latter, then it would make sense that extroverts would have more sex, since they typically connect with more people in general. But if we’re talking committed relationships, it seems to me, among other things, that it would depend on whether the couple is introvert-introvert, introvert-extrovert, or extrovert-extrovert. (And in the research for my book, I found introverts happily in relationships with extroverts, and introverts equally happy with other introverts. It depends on other things.)

    Finally, I found some interesting research that indicates (not surprisingly, when you think about it) that extroverts are more likely to be hyperbolic than introverts. (Is Hyperbole Really Happiness?

    So, like so many other aspects of the introvert/extrovert discussion, my gut feeling (and I am not a professor, like lovely Dr. Little, so take it for what it’s worth) is that it all depends.

    1. Jennifer Kahnweiler Post author

      A thoughtful response as usual, Sophia! Thanks for the reference to this article. I think the point that E’s may circle more extreme answers makes perfect sense. This is probably true when referencing the boardroom or the bedroom! I think your new research sounds intriguing as well; I agree that other variables enter the pix when determining the happiness quotient of couples. Right on with your gut feeling…it depends is correct in many arenas. Please do keep up your excellent contributions to this vibrant dialogue.

  2. Winnie Anderson

    Great response to his fantastic video.

    I never realized I was an introvert. I assumed after conducting a workshop or interviewing people all day I was just tired. Dr. Little’s talk helps me see that I’ve really danced the Ambivert / Introvert line for longer than I thought.

    I was in a car accident in 1999 and the brain injury I sustained left me solidly in the introvert camp. I still love conducting workshops but it takes much more effort for me to “perform”.

    As for the “introverts are less direct than extroverts” I’m unsure about that myself. I’m pretty direct and my husband the extrovert finds it difficult to be direct unless he’s at work. Then he’s very direct and no-nonsense.

    1. Jennifer Kahnweiler Post author

      Winnie – You show a great deal of insight and awareness…Good point about directness. I agree that it may not be related to the I-E dimension. E’s can talk a lot but no be direct! Thanks for commenting and best of luck with your health.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *