Our culture extols extroverts. Outgoing, personable people are praised, while introverts are often derided as antisocial. But introversion is not what people tend to think it is. Introverts have skills that often are overlooked—and the challenges of introversion usually can be overcome.
Examples: Warren Buffett, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi are among the introverts who have achieved incredible success.
Here’s what introverts and those around them need to know…
WHAT IT REALLY MEANS TO BE AN INTROVERT
At least one-third of us are introverts. Being introverted is not the same as being shy, although the two do overlap. While shy people live in fear of social disapproval or humiliation, introverts simply feel overwhelmed when faced with competing demands for their attention. They prefer quiet and solitude to interacting with people—not because they’re antisocial but because their brains have trouble handling all the information that bombards them when they’re in a group. Introverts can have just as much trouble coping with competing demands for their attention that have nothing to do with other people.
Example: If loud music is playing, introverts typically have trouble reading.
But recent research suggests that introverts have crucial areas of strength…
Introverts are better than extroverts at absorbing knowledge. A study of college students found that introverts knew more than extroverts in 19 of 20 subjects tested. Introverts also win a disproportionate share of National Merit Scholarships and Phi Beta Kappa keys. Introverts aren’t smarter than extroverts—the IQs of these groups are roughly equal—but they have stronger powers of concentration and less temptation to choose social activities over work and study responsibilities.
Introverts are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the spectacularly creative. Extroverts’ social nature makes them prone to creativity-killing “group think.” Introverts are more likely to work—and think—independently.
Introverts are better than extroverts at leading creative employees. We tend to assume that extroverts make the best leaders—their charisma fits our mental image of what a leader should be. But creative employees actually produce superior results under introverted managers, according to research by Wharton management professor Adam Grant, PhD. Introverted managers are significantly more likely to listen to what innovative employees have to say. Extroverted leaders often are interested in pursuing only their own ideas.
Introverts take fewer foolish risks than extroverts. Introverts tend to think more before acting. The risks they do take usually are calculated and thoughtful. As a result, introverts’ marriages are less likely to be damaged by affairs…their careers and businesses are less likely to be derailed by impulsive missteps…and they endure fewer life-threatening accidents.
Example: A study by a psychologist from Newcastle University in the UK found that extroverts are significantly more likely than introverts to be hospitalized as a result of injury.
SUCCEEDING IN AN EXTROVERTED WORLD
Introverts are most likely to prosper when they find workplaces and living arrangements that offer plenty of time for quiet thought. But we all must deal with crowds and interpersonal interactions from time to time. Strategies that can help introverts through these situations…
Learn confident body language. Take careful note of your body position and facial expression the next time you feel calm and confident. When you later find yourself in an uncomfortable social situation, adopt the same pose. The mind takes cues from the body, so striking a confident pose can make you feel more comfortable.
Seek out “restorative niches.” Spending extended time surrounded by crowds or cacophonous noise can be draining for an introvert. Excuse yourself occasionally and spend five minutes alone in a bathroom stall…or use your lunch break to walk through a nearby park. Even a few minutes of solitude and quiet can be healing.
Example: Robert Rubin, an introvert who served as Secretary of the Treasury, always selected a seat slightly off to the side during Cabinet meetings. He found that being just a few feet removed from the group created a sense of separation that made him more comfortable.
View large gatherings as a series of one-on-one conversations. Introverts tend to be better at coping with one-on-one interactions than big crowds. When you can’t escape a crowd, find one person standing alone with whom you can chat for a while, ignoring everyone else. When you must give a speech, tell yourself that the audience is a single unit, not a large number of individuals. Many introverts report that they actually enjoy public speaking once they master this trick.
Have deep conversations. Introverts might not be great at making small talk, but they tend to be better than extroverts at having one-on-one chats about serious topics. Discussing weighty subjects tends to forge deeper connections than small talk anyway.
Remind yourself that you’re not under attack when you argue with an extrovert. Extroverts often debate issues in a way that seems confrontational to introverts. Meanwhile, an introvert’s tendency to become quiet during conflicts often gives extroverts the impression that they have won the point. Don’t be afraid to take your time. Do your best to be assertive when you confront an extrovert. If you do fall silent, explain that you’re not yielding—you just need time to respond properly.
Find ways to contribute during meetings that don’t require you to voice ideas on the spur of the moment. Introverts generally like to take time to mull things over. That can make them seem uninvolved during fast-paced meetings. If you can’t keep up, find another way to speak up. Raise thoughtful questions…or volunteer to serve as the meeting’s moderator, a role many introverts don’t mind.
Make friends online. Social-networking Web sites offer a great opportunity for introverts to meet new people without feeling uncomfortable. When you chat online, you filter out most of the information that introverts find so overwhelming when they meet people for the first time. You can focus on what’s being said without distraction.
GETTING ALONG WITH AN INTROVERT
Introverts and extroverts often are drawn to each other—in friendship, business and especially romance. These pairs can enjoy great excitement and mutual admiration, a sense that each completes the other. But it also can cause problems.
Probably the most common and damaging misunderstanding is that there’s “something wrong” with introverts, which, of course, is not the case. What psychologists call “the need for intimacy” is present in introverts and extroverts alike. It’s just that introverts are more likely to think quality over quantity. Extroverts need to respect their loved ones’ need for solitude and not take it personally.
- Introverts no longer the quiet followers of Extroverts (forbes.com)
- Hurtful Misconceptions Across the Introvert-Extrovert Divide (psychologytoday.com)
- Top 10 Myths About Introverted People (healnowtherapyhypnosis.blogspot.com)
- Hells Yeah, I’m an Introvert (kaneconsulting.biz)
- Most of us still have no clue what makes a good salesperson (brickseller.wordpress.com)
- Revenge of the introverts (link2bert.wordpress.com)