When Should Introverts Stand Up for Themselves?

Historically, introverts have not been known to be pugilists, physically or psychologically.

Yes, we have heard about the quiet person people steer clear of because he appears menacing without uttering a word.

But that’s not most introverts.

The significant difference is that many introverts convey optimistic energy.

Optimism isn’t threatening; it may sometimes come off as a weakness.

Whereas a quiet but menacing figure conveys a bleak or dark persona where rain clouds seem always to loom large.

This person feels dangerous.

Also, introverts are hypersensitive, which means that any degree of conflict is exaggerated.

A mere disagreement may feel like impending World War III.

I estimate that most people are physically or intellectually driven in their life force.

Just like most people are either introverted or extroverted, with a small minority being ambiverts.

Some people are equally physical as they are intellectual, but not many.

Many introverts are intellectually driven. As children, conflicts are primarily physical, transforming into psychological conflicts as they become adults.

However, introverts don’t forget the conditioned fear of physical conflict as they become adults. They view any level of conflict as a means to low-level violence.

Unwarranted or unprovoked violence is antithetical and unintellectual to introverts.

After all, how does a slight verbal disagreement lead to an introvert being punched in the face?

Some experts suggest that tensions can be lessened by understanding the other person’s point of view.

How to Know When to Stand Up for Yourself

Dr. Leon Seltzer, in a Psychology Today article titled, How, And How Not, to Stand Up for Yourself said,

Although you may not mean to aggress against the other person(s), whenever your bold declarations are imbued with a certain self-righteousness, you can’t help but convey the message that your perspective really is more important than theirs—that it’s superior, and so ought to be given priority. In such instances, you’re unwilling to consider that the other person’s position is—in the world of their experience—just as sincere, authentic, or heartfelt as yours and held with every bit as much conviction. (para. 6).

Although many introverts, particularly strategic thinking introverts, may be guilty of such actions, adverse responses to introverts could often be mere insecurity on the part of others.

In schools throughout the country, introverts are bullied simply because intellect is viewed as a sign of weakness and an ideal trait revered by those lacking it.

Despite the appeal of popular culture, intellect is quietly idolized by actors, athletes, and musicians alike.

Whether it’s a marketing ploy by these entertainers, these individuals honor education and smartness by returning to the classroom to receive a GED or college degree.

Ultimately, they are signaling that despite their entertainment value, they desire to be seen as bright thinkers.

However, they don’t lead with their intellect publicly. They lead with their talent.

Introverts lead with their intellect, and the conventional wisdom is that ill-conceived thoughts and ideas readily surface when people have not honed their critical thinking skills.

Consequently, novices immediately feel insecure when confronted with skilled introverts.

In a sense, Dr. Seltzer places a certain amount of blame on the introvert for not kowtowing to lesser intellectuals.

If we all lead with our strengths, athletes will lead with physical prowess, while introverts lead with intellectual insight.

So, both parties are exhibiting some form of superiority.

Why should introverts alter their behavior, particularly when they bring more educational value to the world’s stage?

Values drive psychological conflicts.

Amy Edmondson, author of Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy, said,

Many conflicts arise from personal differences in values or interests but are presented as professional differences in opinion. For example, if some executives believe that good design sells products while others believe that customers are primarily motivated by price, a conflict that pits design against price is a conflict of values. Values are beliefs we hold dear, and when our values are dismissed by others, even inadvertently, we react with strong emotions (para. 5).

Edmondson’s notion of diverse values cuts to the core of most societal dissension.

There are various metaphorical wars in society, including Cultural, gender, and racial.

So, why not intellectual? 

Each classification of individuals presupposes a worldview steeped in self-interest and a will to power.

And that is the critical determinant and motivation for standing up for yourself and acquiring and maintaining power.

As an aggregate, you know that you have not stood up for yourself when the total of your actions does not transform into self or personal empowerment.

Mind Tools (n.d.) suggested that Personal empowerment is about taking control of your own life, and making positive decisions based on what you want. It’s closely linked to attributes like self-esteem and self-confidence, but true empowerment comes when you convert intention into action (para. 4).

Andrea Matthews wrote in Psychology Today in an article titled, “Power vs. Personal Empowerment,” that “Power assumes the right to control others. Personal empowerment assumes no such power but recognizes complete responsibility for self and the choices made by self.”

The gap between power and self-empowerment has to be bridged to underscore that self-empowerment is fragile and flimsy without the ability to protect oneself from physical and psychological transgressions.

Matthews got it wrong. Power is not about controlling others; power is about not being controlled by others.

Consequently, a person with self-efficacy is self-empowered and conveys actual power where there are consequences for transgressions.

But how do we get there?

And how do you know when to stand up for yourself reasonably?

Here are a few guidelines to consider:

When your moral code has been dishonored

Determine what is your understanding of human nature, and draw the necessary boundaries for everyone to adhere to.

Introverts who have endured years of torment by others know one thing to be true—the world only respects strength. Out of selfishness, individuals tend to act in their self-interest. And any altruism is steeped in the solipsism of the individual.

Because introverts are thoughtful and highly sensitive, they would give a needy person “The shirt off their backs.” However, in a domineering world, that wouldn’t be enough. As a demonstration of power, dominant individuals would rather take the shirt off one’s back than ask for it.

In response to these repeated attacks, some introverts develop a Machiavellian ideology in dealing with people. Instead of catering to their higher angels, introverts may move to the dark side. After years of being victimized, draconian or “An eye for an eye…” retribution becomes part of their moral code.

And anyone who knows them understands that they would never be the initiator of aggression. Once vengeance becomes a part of their constitution, the fate of aggressors lies in the hands of introverts.

When the other person isn’t being civil

Be professional, not nice. This is a difficult one. A police officer once said that when seeking compliance from others, it is best to be professional versus nice.

Depending on the people and situation, being “nice” can be an albatross around your neck.

If exercised incorrectly, kindness can be interpreted as weakness. One of the most effective actions you can take in establishing a position of strength and professionalism is to call people by their last name. This immediately draws the line and controls the interaction.

Even within relaxed work environments, calling people by their last name does not allow the environment to spill over into laxity or familiarity.

When your personal space has been violated

Never allow uninvited guests to enter your personal space.

Introverts are incredibly self-aware of who they are. Consequently, as they develop ways of defending themselves, fear and nervous energy do not leave them. Introverts exaggerate scenarios because they live within their heads.

A threat does not appear merely as someone testing their response. No, a threat feels like severe bodily harm or death is about to ensue.

Consequently, where self-defense practitioners may fight to merely subdue the opponent, an introvert may take it to another level. There have been instances when an introvert “blacked out,” causing severe harm or death in some cases.

Transgressors will always exist because we are still animals at the core of human nature—a higher form of animals, but animals nevertheless.

Someone once said transgressors don’t get the opportunity to determine how they respond to their transgressions.

In a lost world grappling to gain its footing, quite often, it is introverts who create the light in the world.

Such rare and precious individuals have to be respected.

If justice is to be served, let it be done by their hands.

After all, introverts will do it more responsibly than the offenders of the world.

—Joseph Limone


Edmondson, A. (2012, June 6). The psychology of conflict, and four ways to work it out. Fast Company. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/2CUjcXo.

Seltzer, L. (2012, Sept. 5). How, and how not, to stand up for yourself. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/2XXLlJ5.

What is personal empowerment? (n.d.) Mind Tools. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/2HY6pdp.