The Introvert as an Observer

While introverts do not like to constantly interact with people they strongly gravitate towards observing others.

Watching intently what people do in crowds or social situations demands no input from the introvert and can furnish better more reliable information than chatting.  In a conversation, any given person is going to say a lot of things about themselves.  Are these things true?  Are they exaggerated?  Are they being deliberately misleading, or does the given person have a flawed self concept?   Hard to say.

To answer these questions it is far more reliable to watch what people actually say and do, to observe what they wear, their body language, and how life decisions have shaped/aged their body.

Because introverts are accustomed to operating underneath the surface and fulfilling their needs without anyone knowing, it is second nature to learn everything possible about a situation through observation.  With skill, one can learn everything they need to know without revealing themselves.

Contrary to popular wisdom: introverts enjoy crowds.   That is, a crowd in which one can float anonymously, like a ghost.  Watching people pass by is a pastime in itself.  One can fixate on an individual among the many and wonder where they are going, what mood they are in, what their life story is…
Of equal interest is watching for trends in the crowd.  What patterns are in common and for whom?

As an example for myself:
An extrovert asks for directions to figure out where they need to go.  Usually several times.  They typically send out a ping with their social radar every block or so.
I find my way to major attractions or busy areas with all the cool shops by merely observing what everyone else is doing.
I call this tactic:  “following the ant trail”
If I want to get to that famous church I watch for tourists and follow them.
If I want to get to the busy shopping area or marketplace, I follow crowds of locals.
If I want to figure out where night life is, I watch for young people dressed up to go clubbing.

When it comes to selecting a restaurant, watching where the locals go is a good bet.

I generally do whatever possible to avoid approaching people.  If I don’t know where to go, I study the map and memorize what I need to know so there’s no further need to consult anyone.

Another example:
I found an outstanding blog post by an introvert describing how much there is to learn from watching crowds:

“Then there is the check-out which is always long so I take this time to covertly study the faces of everyone else as they wait in line trying to see if I can guess who will lose their patience first. I’ve gotten good at spotting them because they are the ones who give the impression that they are in complete charge of their situation and it’s quite obvious that they are not. This has got to be one of the most perverse pleasures of an introvert, someone who derives so much pleasure from bearing witness to the social pathologies in their local grocery store.”

full post at:

Since an introvert is inherently removed from Surface society from youth, it becomes second nature to see the surrounding crowds in terms of trends.   These currents and eddies a Subtle person perceives are no less than a force of nature – one that is potentially quite dangerous.
Yet in a crowd the introvert feels safety while looking out upon the activities of the many.  The feeling is very like viewing fascinating terrain for miles around from the top of a secure stone citadel.
This security comes from what a computer person might call ‘security through obfuscation.’  One is in the open and in theory perfectly vulnerable but
-if no one knows who you are
-if everyone is surrounded by too many people to notice any single person
then one might as well be invincible and free to fulfill one’s needs without fear of attracting attention.
Watching the frantic activities of everyone else at peace in the crowd is very like watching a blizzard while sitting indoors by a crackling hearth.  An introvert peers with delicious pleasure and fascination into milling crowds as one might peer into a hypnotic cascade of countless snowflakes.

Zygmunt blogs at Kingdom of Introversion.

The Introvert as an Observer appears here by permission.

[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]

on 03/28/11 in featured, Society | No Comments | Read More

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