If you’re an introvert, you may often feel plagued by a sense of inadequacy; especially when you’re in a room full of extroverts who appear to confront social and intellectual issues with such ease and talkative confidence. At times, you can’t help but envy them.
Numerous books and articles have recently delved into the subject, often penned by introverts themselves — as though the quiet folk of the world are suddenly standing up for themselves and hoping to be heard. For example, lawyer and self-proclaimed introvert Susan Cain examines the biological and environmental causes behind personality and temperament in her book, Quiet. She explains why it’s been so difficult for people like her to feel comfortable in a world that places so much value on big personality, charisma, and the ability to speak well in front of big crowds. She refers to a Western world in particular, which values outgoing qualities rather than reserved ones, especially in business and politics.
Cain writes about the “Culture of Personality,” which places more emphasis on a sparkling smile and charming discourse than character, which is defined by values like honesty, duty, and discipline. Character can be, quite frankly, more boring than charm in today’s day and age. Perhaps this is why stereotypes about introverts are often steeped in images like the nerdy or anti-social kids in high school; hermits who avoid human beings, choosing instead to dwell alone in the woods; or mute bookworms who seem unable to make human connections. Extroverts, meanwhile, are often stereotyped as brainless party animals who like to yell and drink a lot; or else as manipulative and charming business executives who use slick words and a dominating personality to get what they want.
Here’s the thing, though: No one is entirely an introvert or an extrovert. It’s a scale; if you’ve always identified yourself as an introvert, you probably do have some extrovert qualities in you, and vice versa. There’s always a balance involved: Introverts need to recover from stimulating social experiences by withdrawing into their quiet homes, but they also need human interaction and closeness just as much as the next extrovert — just in smaller and less frequent doses.
If you’re an introvert, you might identify with some of the qualities below.
INTROVERTS ARE EXHAUSTED BY SMALL TALK
People who are introverted tend to prefer “heavier” conversations pertaining to philosophy and ideas, rather than small talk. Indeed, introverts can get easily intimidated, bored, or exhausted by small talk. They would much rather be “real” with someone and talk about more weighty things. Of course, that’s not to say that extroverts aren’t capable of having in-depth discussions; they are as well, but are more likely to add some excitement and lightheartedness to the conversation.
“The description that introverts seem to relate most strongly to is the idea that Jung presented, that introverts are drained of energy by interaction, and gain energy in solitude and quiet, whereas extroverts gain energy in social situations with interaction,” Sophia Dembling, author of “The Introvert’s Way: Living A Quiet Life In A Noisy World” told The Huffington Post. “It seems to be most strongly an energy thing –- where you get your energy and what takes it out of you.”
If you’re talking to an introvert one-on-one, they’re more likely to open up to you, as long as you’re willing to listen to what they have to say. In bigger groups, however, introverts are more likely to withdraw and become observers and listeners. There’s something positive about being a good listener, and introverts are quite good at it, mostly because they don’t have the energy — or desire — to be the ones speaking themselves. This ultimately ends up benefiting them, however, as they’re able to take what they observe and learn, and use it to better solve problems and be creative.
THE HOMEBODY BOOKWORM
Introverts tend to turn inward when solving problems or observing the world around them. They process stimuli better internally, rather than reaching out and socializing with others. Where extroverts become energized from social interactions, introverts regain energy through alone time. After going to a party or spending time forcing themselves to network, introverts often feel drained from the stimulation and must go home to recharge.
They’re more likely, in general, to want to stay home with a good book and a cup of tea, rather than go out and experience the night through partying, loud music, and meeting new people. But just because they gain energy from being alone doesn’t mean they’re shy or socially anxious. Social anxiety and introversion are two different things. “The number-one misconception about introversion is that it’s about shyness,” Dembling told The Huffington Post. “The best distinction I’ve heard comes from a neuroscientist who studies shyness. He said, ‘Shyness is a behavior — it’s being fearful in a social situation. Whereas introversion is a motivation. It’s how much you want and need to be in those interactions.’”
THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS
It’s true, introverts become over-stimulated easily. But the good thing about that is their ability to observe more deeply than others. Introverts are highly sensitive to details, which they’re able to piece together to make sound, rational decisions when extroverts are more likely to be blinded by the excitement of the chase.
But all this talk about how great introverts are is apparently leaving extroverts in the shadows. Of course, extroverts come equipped with their own skillsets and gifts, such as an ability to make people feel comfortable and welcome in their presence, and a talent for bringing people together. They’re also able to tackle risky or scary situations with ease and confidence. They’re capable of having their own introverted moods, when they can be incredibly creative as well. In short, whether you’re an extroverts or introvert, you have a unique skillset that can make you an excellent leader. So use those skills wisely. And learn how to appreciate the powers of people who are the complete opposite of you. Sometimes we need an introvert to think up the plan, and an extrovert to go and execute it.