10 unexpected ways to spot a highly introverted person, according to psychology

How well can you spot an introvert?

It’s not always as easy as we think, especially when they act in more subtle and low-key ways. 

The same can be true of ourselves if we tend towards introversion:

It’s not always easy to see and understand who is a highly introverted person or not, and sometimes the signals they (or we) send out can be confusing. 

Let’s take a look at the most surprising indications that psychologists say indicate an introverted person… 

1) They prefer to text or write than to speak

Introverts often prefer to text, email or even send a letter than to talk on the phone or face-to-face. 

They like to have the time to think through what they really want to say and to process and respond to things at their own speed.

Even though their messages themselves may be very outgoing, the mode of communication tends to be less in-person if they can help it. 

As Canadian philosopher and theorist Marshall McLuhan famously said, “the medium is the message.”

2) They engage in many non-verbal activities 

Those who are deeply introverted don’t always appear so on the surface. 

They may smile broadly, be energetic and love physical activities. 

But if you look closely you’ll see that many of their activities are non-verbal and also tend towards the solitary:

Whether it’s reading, writing, weightlifting or planting a lovely garden, a lot of what they do doesn’t involve talking or socializing in a group.

“Introverts find social interactions enervating; they leave the introvert feeling exhausted and seeking solitude to recharge,” notes Professor William Irwin, PhD.

That’s why a key to noticing an introvert is that when left to their own devices they naturally are inclined towards non-spoken activities and endeavors.

3) They have exit strategies for social situations 

Introverts often choose to sit near exits at events or meetings, so that they can get out on short notice. 

This is something they get accustomed to doing in case the group atmosphere and socializing start to leave them feeling overwhelmed. 

As mental health writer and physician Susan Biali Haas, MD. points out: “As an introvert, being around other people drains me (as opposed to extroverts, who gain energy being around other people). That doesn’t mean I don’t like being with others, in fact I love it – but I can only do it for so long before I have to go into my cave and refuel.”

This is why an introvert may not look different than anybody else at a large social gathering or work event, but if you look closely you’ll see that they’re positioned quite near the exit door. 

That’s not by mistake! 

4) They are intense listeners who speak carefully and sparely

The introvert may nod enthusiastically and have an interest in what other people are saying in social situations

They will often seem very engaged, absorbing and reflecting on conversations deeply.

However they don’t usually interrupt or give their own views and input without being asked. 

“Introverts may be particularly good listeners and may be especially helpful to others in one-on-one conversation,” notes Irwin. 

Absorbing what’s being said and taking it all in, the introvert gives weight to the experiences and emotions of others.

This is especially true in one-on-one situations, where they are often highly trusted friends and loved ones who are seen as deeply empathetic.

5) They avoid small talk and bow out of chit chat and gossip

Active listener 10 unexpected ways to spot a highly introverted person, according to psychology

Introverts tend to steer clear of shallow or surface-level conversations, but because they are more listeners this is often in the form of simply leaving. 

They may tap their watch or talk about having to get to something:

Really this is them bowing out of an interaction that isn’t absorbing much of their interest or attention and is actually draining their energy. 

They tend to have a preference for more meaningful and substantial discussions, which they are especially interested in having one-on-one or in small groups. 

This ties directly into the next point: 

6) They interact more in one-on-one situations than in groups

Introverts tend to thrive in deep, one-on-one conversations rather than large group discussions.

This goes in both professional and personal contexts. At work and at home they like more intimate talks.

It’s not because they’re shy or don’t have self-confidence, it’s because they find these interactions more meaningful. 

“To be shy is to be diffident and unassertive, to be reluctant and later regret it. The introvert may be none of these things, especially in certain social interactions,” observes Irwin.

Introverts can thus be found talking a lot in certain small, trusted circles of friends or coworkers. 

They love contributing and being a meaningful part of worthy discussions which they care about. 

But you can spot them by how they avoid larger group discussions or social situations that are quite out-of-control and random.

7) They have a subdued and understated social media presence

Their social media activity tends to be quite minimalist and not self-focused. 

They share things selectively and without seeking to cause a stir or get a lot of engagement and controversy. 

They don’t like to post about their personal life, either, and are quite shy and uncomfortable getting sexual or romantic interest online. 

The introvert tends more to things like sharing nature photos, inspirational quotations, occasional selfies and snapshots of times and places that have touched them.

But they are hesitant when it comes to sharing much of themselves online on public platforms in the form of photos or videos.

If anything they save that for in-person or online friends in smaller forums, exclusive communities and chats and those they already trust. 

8) They display subtly reserved body language 

While they may talk in a friendly and seemingly outgoing way while serving in a public-facing role such as customer service, it’s key to watch body language

The introvert will often have subtly reserved body language such as crossing arms or legs and maintaining a smaller personal space. 

They take a while to “warm up” and become comfortable, especially in public or scenarios like a bar or nightclub (which they tend to avoid anyway).

“Restrained or reserved introverts prefer to ‘think before they speak or act’ and ‘might take a while to get going,’” explains Bella DePaulo, PhD.

If you see somebody who avoids animated gestures and whose body language is fairly closed off, they are likely to be a highly introverted person, regardless of the outer role they’re adopting. 

9) They take cat naps and small breaks during social situations

In addition to sitting near the exit, introverts can often be seen subtly sneaking out for a cat nap during the day. 

They excuse themselves to go to the bathroom and splash their face with water…

They step outside for a cigarette or to “get some air.”

What they are really doing is recharging their social battery and finding a quiet space alone for a moment to collect and center themselves. 

Even if they’re going all-out at their job or having to socialize a lot, they put a priority on these small breaks more than non-introverts, and it’s noticeable if you look closely.

10) They are keen observers and highly perceptive of subtle details 

Introverts usually notice small details in their environment or in people’s behavior that less-introverted folks miss. 

They also notice many things about themselves and their own thoughts and feelings, pointing to their self-reflective nature. 

As Irwin explains: “The introvert may be unusually introspective and self-aware in the sense of following the Delphic injunction to ‘know thyself.’”

This reflects their inward focus and keen observation skills, which make the introvert very gifted at analyzing and understanding life and human nature. 

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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