Do Introverts Have a Pulse?

Being wired as an introvert is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it has tremendous advantages – we all, as a society, simply need to better understand how introverts (typically) operate with their built-in makeup (for background, see my post last week: How I Manage My Introversion).

We may be quieter, but yes, we do have a pulse, thank you very much!

There are several helpful ways to better understand how introverts handle the stimulation of human relationships (compared to their more extroverted companions). In fact, one way is to think about relational involvement in terms of pulses.

One pattern common to introverts is a need to withdraw for periods of quiet and solitude. While extroverts tend to feed off of a steady stream of human contact, introverts typically are wired with a more frequently-used On-Off switch. When “On” with other people, introverts can appear little different from extroverts – we can be engaging, outgoing, and glad to talk to people (though often tending to favor smaller groupings or one-on-one discussions rather than the milling crowd). But our cup of interaction fills up pretty rapidly – we may have a coffee mug’s worth of interaction capacity, while our extroverted friends have a super-sized Slurpee-cup-capacity to mingle and chat.

We introverts then need a break to process and re-charge. Introverts often prefer to handle stimulation in a pulsed fashion, with more On-Off control, while extroverts are typically energized by higher levels of human contact.

Not being an extrovert, I cannot speak with as much certainty, but I suspect the red bars would tend to be significantly higher and wider, while the blue bars might be a bit lower and narrower – and the green “quiet times” probably shorter and less frequent. What do you think?

(by the way – I fully realize that I’m generalizing in any post like this, and that there are always variations and individual exceptions. What we’re seeking to identify here are broad trends!)

Introverts aren’t being anti-social when they avoid some social settings (or feel the need to spend a shorter time in them). We’re just instinctively avoiding overload, and taking the time to think through what we’ve seen and heard. In my particular case, my mind is constantly analyzing, atomizing, systematizing, categorizing, figuring out alternatives – and I’m learning to give myself that space. It doesn’t stop me from in-depth interactions, pro-actively building an extensive network, selling my services, speaking publicly – but that all has to occur in pulses, or the boat becomes unbalanced and starts to totter.

If  you tend more toward extroversion, hopefully this will help you understand those of us who seem to need more quiet. If you’re an introvert – what are your strategies for keeping up a healthy pulse?

(Light switch image: Ugly graph: I take full responsibility)


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Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> How I Manage My Introversion

>> In Six Words, Some of the Best Business Advice Ever


About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

12 Responses to Do Introverts Have a Pulse?

  1. Shockermom says:

    Thank you! I used to be an extrovert. Now I MUST have my alone time; I quickly go into sensory overload. Being ‘on’ is mentally, physically, emotionally & psychologically draining; after a party or event where I must interact, I will fall into a ‘coma-sleep’ to recharge. Social interaction scares me to death anymore!

    Thank you for putting into words what I haven’t been able to do.

  2. For certain, alone time as you are mentioning here is my number one coping action. A close second is exercise like kick-boxing. That tends to take the energy that’s stirring inside me, making me crazy, out of me, like popping a cork off a bottle.

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  4. cazzj17Caz says:

    A great post. I need my alone time. I don’t like large groups of people, loud noises, crowds. I’m not a social person and although I don’t have difficulty talking with people – I’d still rather my alone time than being with other people. I guess I dream a lot and have quite an imagination and also have a great ability to see through people plus I have a strong empathetic sense for other people. If I don’t have my alone time I begin to feel very drained and have a great need to re-charge.

  5. As an extrovert, your graph looks upside down! However, I too need time to recharge – but find that most of what energizes me is found in interaction. In crowd situations, I don’t think I have an overload setting. Weird, right? It’s just my wiring.

    As a result of my own personality profile, there are several things I’ve realized:

    1. Connecting with folks IRL is vital to my well-being. Too much social media and keyboard time is like a slow poison!
    2. Celebrating differences: I make it a point to gather feedback from as many folks as possible. Everyone has a pulse, an opinion and some insight – part of my personality is not wanting to miss anything. In my experience, sometimes the best guidance can come from the quietest place!
    3. Adjusting the dial – since my extroversion can be viewed as a negative by many, I work hard to make sure that who I am doesn’t get in the way of what I’m saying.

    It’s all about managing our personal styles and recognizing others for their unique gifts – not labeling our differences. There’s never been a greater need for collaboration, and that can’t happen if we’re isolated by preconceptions and personalities. Thanks for breaking down some borders with your insights, Steve – I really appreciate the viewpoint!

    • “It’s all about managing our personal styles and recognizing others for their unique gifts” – couldn’t be a better summary than that, Chris!

    • Vicki says:

      > I too need time to recharge – but find that most of what energizes me is found in interaction. In crowd situations, I don’t think I have an overload setting. Weird, right? It’s just my wiring.

      Chris – you just defined Extravert 🙂
      Interaction charges your mental “batteries”.

      I like to think of introverts as having metaphorical battery packs that need to be plugged in and extraverts as solar-powered (where the “sun” in this case is other people and stimulating activity). For us introverts, people and stimulation drains the batteries (much like talking a lot on a cell hone or running an iPod for a while). For the extraverts, the same situation just keeps adding charge.

      Extraverts can still get tired (too much work, not enough sleep) and need to crash but not usually in the middle of a party (omg, a party. I rarely make it to the middle of a party. 😦

  6. A few months back, I’ve read about introverts on the HBR blog, then, there’s that mind-moving video on Ted’s about the power of introverts. I think that with all the digital noise around, it takes tremendous willpower for someone to make it and I’d take my hat off to those who are focused to win it.

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