Do Introverts Lack Initiative?

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Have you ever felt the pressure to take more initiative? Maybe evaluations you’ve received at school or at work have given you good marks in the “works well independently” category but said that you need improvement in the “takes initiative” category. Or maybe you just feel slow to act compared to other people who always seem to jump right into action and take advantage of the principle of “the early bird gets the worm.”

Whatever the cause, a lot of us introverts have the sinking feeling that we’re not taking initiative enough, and we often find ourselves feeling pressured to take action before other people call us out for being too slow or for not making the first move.

The big question, though, is whether or not we introverts really lack initiative or whether it just seems like we do because of our preference to think first before acting.

We’re Deep Processors, Not Slow

Introverts have a tendency to observe first before jumping into action, and our brains are wired to process information at a deep level. We’re not slow thinkers, but information travels the longer acetycholine pathway in our brains rather than the shorter dopamine pathway usually used by extrovert’s brains so it takes us longer to process the information that we take in from our environment.

This post has some fascinating information (and some fun illustrations too) that explain more of the differences in the brains of introverts and extroverts and the effects that neurotransmitters have as well as the ways we react to them differently.

So when it looks to others like we’re not responding quick enough or that we’re just sitting around doing nothing instead of jumping right into action, there’s a good chance we’re just still in the processing stage. We’re observing and we’re thinking.

It’s true that we might not rush right into action as quickly as some extroverted people would, but that not necessarily a bad thing. There are times when our “look before you leap” strategy can really pay off, and the world needs a balance of different people so that some can act quickly and others can observe and reflect.

Give Yourself Permission to Take Time to Think

Because we’ve often felt the pressure to act more quickly and we’re worried about seeming too slow or too lazy, that pressure can make us freeze up and make it even harder for us to transition from the processing stage to the action stage. The more we feel that underlying sense of guilt for not taking enough initiative, the longer it takes for us to process our thoughts and to take action.

One of the best things we can do is to give ourselves permission to take the time that we need to think, to observe, and to reflect. And sometimes we might have to try to explain to others that we just need a little time to think so that they know that we’re not just being lazy and doing nothing.

Even if others don’t understand our need for processing time, though, and even if we still feel the pressure from them to act more quickly, if we are able to release the internal pressure we put on ourselves, it will free up our minds to be able to process information more efficiently and make taking action a little easier.


Even though observing and thinking can be very helpful, sometimes we introverts really do stay in the thinking and reflecting stage for too long. Sometimes we spend so long planning things out in our minds that our planning turns into continual procrastination and we never end up taking action at all. (Like when I staring working on the draft for this post several weeks ago but never made it past the title because I was planning procrastinating . . .) So that’s just something for us to be aware of and to look out for.

Have you ever felt pressured to take more initiative? 


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