Just because I’m agoraphobic doesn’t mean that I’m introverted

My bipolar disorder makes me agoraphobic, not introverted

Maybe you would call me an introvert. I stay in the house for weeks at a time, never sticking my nose out into the fresh air. Most days I wear pajamas all day. My husband does the grocery shopping, picks up my prescriptions, and does most of the other errands. I go out when I have a doctor’s appointment or when Dan entices me out with the promise of a restaurant meal.

I don’t consider myself an introvert, and I do consider myself a social person. So why do I stay indoors?

My bipolar disorder makes me sensitive to noise and crowds. Technically, I think this is more agoraphobia than introversion. I can handle being in small groups of people or audiences, but hundreds milling around, (like at a mall) make me panicky. And forget places that are both noisy and full of people, like Chuck E. Cheese or other family-intensive restaurants.

That said, I like to be social – on my own terms. That largely means Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, various online bipolar support groups, IM, email, Skype, and the good old-fashioned telephone. In the years since I’ve been on Facebook, for example, I’ve connected more deeply with old friends and coworkers, reconnected with old schoolmates and Girl Scout troop members, gained new relationships with friends-of-friends, and discovered things I never knew about my acquaintances. I keep up with birthdays, look at baby, travel, and pet pictures; and cheer on accomplishments, as I would in person. (Except for the hugs. Virtual hugs are just not the same. But my husband takes up the slack there)

Most of all, I stay inside because I can. My husband enables me in this, as when he does the grocery shopping. We tried splitting the shopping, but even with the little runabout scooter-with-a-basket (mobility issues), I was overwhelmed and exhausted after shopping just one-half of the store.

The work I do is conducive to telecommuting. I can sit in front of my keyboard and monitor, in my pajamas, and still be a useful, productive member of society. I have clients and interact with them in the aforementioned ways. I haven’t had an assignment that involves leaving the house in years – not even to do research. I used to have to visit libraries occasionally, and while they’re not known for being noisy and crowded, Google and the internet put virtually any information I need right on my screen or hard drive.

Admittedly, getting out into the fresh air would be good for me. We live in a nice secluded area that would be good for walking, and there are any number of parks nearby, if I want variety. I know that going out and getting at least a small amount of exercise would be good for my bipolar depression, but I haven’t been able to force myself to do it yet. Going outside to walk involves getting out of my jammies into real clothes, and possibly taking a shower, either before I leave or when I get back. And many of you know what a challenge showers are for people with depression, bipolar or otherwise.

But again, this is a symptom of my bipolar disorder and the immobility it causes, rather than introversion. I’m not afraid of meeting people while out walking, or even having conversations with them. Usually “hi” is all that’s needed in these situations, and I have the ability to make a limited amount of small talk appropriate to the occasion. (“Sure is windy today.” “Are those shoes comfortable?”) Since I seem to be riding a hypomanic swing these days, perhaps I’ll be able to get out and walk occasionally. I know my husband would heartily endorse the idea and most likely go with me to offer me encouragement.

But the bottom line is that I can go out amongst people if I want to. I just usually don’t want to.



This is what its feel like introvert

I have a confession to make: I am not the person you imagine me to be. In person, I am not as witty and outspoken as I seem here. Oh sure, I am still funny, hilarious even, but not in the beginning. In the beginning, I will stand awkwardly while making weird small talk that makes everyone uncomfortable. I will say things without thinking them through or just stand like a mute, smiling like an idiot.

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The older I become, the more self-aware I’m becoming also. I know how I act, I see the flaws in it, but I just keep doing it.

Mostly I hate going to social events. I hate small talk and never know who I should talk to. I don’t like going up to people and starting conversations, I’ve never been good at shooting the shit with strangers. Truthfully, I thought it was because I just hated people.

Not you people, obviously, but other people.

But the more I learn about myself, it’s not that I don’t like people, I love people! Most people, anyway. People aren’t the problem, it’s just that I don’t want to be around the people. I’d rather stay home, under a blanket on the couch, away from the people. I like the people in short bursts and then I need a long rest from the people.

I’m an introvert and I never knew it.

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For years I would have said I was an extrovert. Because I’m loud, I’m completely at ease in my circles, and I like going to parties. But I don’t want to talk to people at parties. I want to be loud with my small group of peeps and ignore the rest. I thought I was just a rude extrovert.

Nope, totally an introvert. And it took a few personality quizzes for me to finally accept it, like being an introvert was bad and shameful. I wanted to be the welcoming, friendly, gracious person that goes everywhere and can talk to everyone. But even typing that sentence makes me shudder. I don’t really want that, it’s just that I think it would be cool to be like that. (You know, when I’m daydreaming about how cool I am sitting in my bed reading a book for five hours on a Friday night. I don’t actually want to leave my house or even my bed, but if I did, God help everyone, I would be the life of the party.)

Realizing I’m an introvert has been freeing in a way. I don’t have to think something’s wrong with  me when I really don’t want to go somewhere three nights in a row. When I long for a quiet night at home with just my little family and my snuggly dog. When I want this most nights, actually. Okay, when I want this every night. I like being home and making dinner (or ordering pizza, let’s be honest), organizing my closet, and falling asleep to a good book. I like sitting in my office after the girls are asleep and writing for hours. I like that my husband wants to watch TV all night so I can go off and do whatever my little heart desires. (You know what my heart desires a lot? Puttering. I love to putter around the house, doing random things, completely mindless but calming.)

Somewhere along the way, I got the idea that it was wrong to want these things. Maybe it’s just age that makes me more comfortable with myself and who I am. An introvert that would rather have a few close friends than a million sort-of friends. Someone who gets energy from being by myself.

And that’s hard to do with two little girls that want their mom all the time. And that’s hard to do when I teach needy middle schoolers all day that never stop saying my name and raising their hands with more questions. And that’s hard to do because life is busy, your life is busy and my life is busy.

But now that I’m aware of who I am, what I need, making it a priority is invigorating me and inspiring me in a new way. So I’m here to say proudly that I’m an introvert and I like to be by myself.

Whew, glad I got that off my chest.



I’m An Introvert Mom, And I’m Damn Proud Of It

I love being a stay-at-home mom, but I’ve always been puzzled by certain questions people ask me. The one that probably boggles my mind the most is the typical, “Do you ever get bored?” Bored? Um, no. No, I don’t.

First of all, I have three kids, so boredom is not quite part of my day anymore. If it was, I’d likely enjoy it immensely. How could I be bored when I’m chasing my 1 year old around as she tries to eat out of the dog bowl and splash in the toilet?

Second, I’m an introvert, which means I enjoy calm, quiet activities that others probably find boring.  Boredom is my happy place. I love deep conversation and hate small talk. I despise big crowds and prefer small gatherings to big events. I over-analyze everything to a fault and I need alone time to regenerate when I’m running on empty. Just give me a cup of coffee (or four), a good book and a warm blanket and I’m happy as a clam.

I’m an introvert.  Boredom is my happy place.”

For a long time, I thought being an introvert was going to be a disadvantage for me as a mother. It seemed like most moms were outgoing, uber-friendly, and comfortable in social settings. I, on the other hand, am quiet, reserved and find social interaction draining. I was fine in intimate settings, like family gatherings or small get-togethers, but crowded events, big parties or even play groups made me want to retreat to my warm, cozy bed. I spent years wishing I could be more like my extroverted friends, but now, I’m happy to announce that I’m proud to be an introvert mom.

Before I embraced my introversion, I fought against it for a long time. At the beginning, it was hard for me to combine the world of motherhood with my reserved personality. Talking to other moms always left me feeling like an outcast. Every five minutes, I would receive a children’s birthday party invitation that probably cost more than my wedding invites, with some elaborate title like “Taylor’s Two Cute Tea Par-tea Celebration.” While other moms seemed to actually be excited to attend these gatherings, I was busy trying to come up with a way to get out of them. “Maybe I can schedule an appointment that day,” I’d wonder. “Or maybe my kids would get sick. That would be great! I mean…”

I came to feel that most moms didn’t understand me. I’d get looks of utter bewilderment when I’d suggest going to a house instead of a crowded park, which made me wonder if there was indeed something wrong with me. I was constantly hearing moms talk about their social calendars, as if they were actually happy to have a busy week full of play-dates, appointments and birthday parties. Meanwhile, being busy made me feel tired and stressed out. I was just focused on keeping my kids happy and healthy — preferably, in the comfort of my own home.

I had some friends who chose to accept me and my introversion by offering to have play-dates in more quiet, less populated areas, or meeting up at my house. Other moms probably thought I was selfish for not going out more. Don’t get me wrong: I did plenty of birthday parties, park trips, school functions and holiday events that pushed me well beyond my comfort zone for the sake of my kids’ wishes. But sometimes I felt like I was committing to things none of us even wanted to go to in the first place. After all, it’s not like my kids were demanding I take them to crowded places, birthday parties or play-dates.

In the midst of fretting about an upcoming social event one day, I started to panic. My mind raced with “What ifs”: what if my kids don’t behave, what if I don’t know anyone, or what if I say something stupid to another mom? To calm me down, my husband said something that was actually very wise. “We’re just gonna do what we want and everyone else will deal with it,” he said.

To me, those words were freeing. I repeated them to myself every time I saw a sparkly princess party invitation in the mail or answered my phone. I don’t need to live my life to please other people,” I thought to myself.” I don’t need to try to be something I’m not. If our family is happy, than that’s all that should matter.” I finally decided to just be who I was, without worrying about other people’s opinions.

I began to realize that being an introvert has plenty of benefits. For starters, it makes me a great listener, which helps when talking to my kids. It also makes me more observant: I notice every detail around me, including every little emotion my children are exhibiting.

As an introvert, I spent so much time focusing on what I wasn’t as a mother, instead of focusing on what I was. Being an introvert had so many advantages when it came to parenting that I failed to see, because I was too busy feeling self-conscious about what other moms thought of me.  Once I decided to stop caring, I was able to see my strengths instead of my flaws.

I no longer feel shame for being an introvert.  Instead of focusing on all the stuff I’m probably not doing right, I focus on what I am doing right. As much as I admire those extroverted moms out there, it’s just not how I’m programmed, and that’s OK. It took becoming a mother to realize that not only am I content with being an introvert, I’m actually damn proud of it.



10 Surprising Signs You’re Actually An Introvert

Most of us hear about the differences between introverted and extroverted, but sometimes it can be difficult to truly understand the differences between the two. Some people might believe their an extrovert, but they could be exhibiting some signs that they’re actually an introvert. Because there are so many misconceptions about what makes someone an introvert or extrovert, you may have actually been mislabeling yourself this whole time. This is especially true for introverts who happen to be outgoing or comfortable socializing.

“Numerous misconceptions exist as to what makes you introverted,” says Ahmed Awale, founder of Fearless Introvert, over email. “Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy and terrified of social interaction. It just means you have a different core personality than extroverts, and that’s a good thing.”

According to the definition coined by Carl Jung, introverts feel energized when they’re alone, or with people they are comfortable with, and they tend to be reflective and reserved, sometimes forgetting to check in with the outside wold.

Although you can definitely exhibit qualities of both an extrovert and an introvert, some people may actually be more introverted than they even realize. Here are nine surprising signs that you’re actually an introvert, despite what you previously thought about yourself.

1You Keep Your Opinions To Yourself

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Extroverts are more likely to jump into a conversation and share their opinions, but introverts prefer to keep their thoughts to themselves unless someone else has inquired about them. “In a world of instant fame, trolling and everyone having an opinion courtesy social media, introverts are more likely not to share an opinion until asked,” says psychologist Anjhula Mya Singh Bais over email.

2You Really Hate Small Talk

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Most people don’t particularly love small talk, but for introverts, small talk can make them feel bored, intimidated, or even exhausted, according to Psych Central. It’s not that they’re forced to interact with people that makes it so unpleasant, but it’s meaningless of the conversation that leaves them feeling like there’s a barrier between the person they’re talking to, which ends up draining their energy.

3You Like When Other People Approach You First

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When in a social situation, an introvert prefers to be approached rather than to approach others first. They may be interested in socializing, but their energy levels have dipped below a level that they need for a comfortable interaction. “As such, introverts projects this experience onto those that they intend to approach,” says Remus Zhong, author of The Introvert Teacher, over email. “They think that the other person may be apprehensive, like they are, about being approached, so they would rather hang back and let the other person make first contact instead.”

4You Seek A Lot Of Me Time

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Everyone needs some time to themselves, but introverts actively seek alone time as it can be more rejuvenating or fulfilling. “The defining characteristic of an introvert is in the way they generate and replenish their energy reserve,” says Zhong. “An introvert does so in solitude, with minimal external stimulation.”

5You Do Things To Disconnect From The World Around You

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If you’re someone who avoids eye contact, likes to put on you headphones, or buries your head in your phone, you may be an introvert. “Introverts are more likely to want to use ear plugs to drown out all that is around them,” says Bais.

6You Stick To Talking To Your Friends At Parties

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Just because you’re introverted does’t mean you won’t go to parties, but once you’re there, you prefer to stay close to your good friends.”Introverts often appear extroverted or outgoing when they are in situations they are familiar and with people they are comfortable,” says Leah Lesesne, MA, CSP over email.

7You Pay Close Attention To Details

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Part of being so reflective involves noticing details that others might not pick up on, and that’s because introverts process information differently than extroverts. Research shows that introverts exhibit increased brain activity when processing visual information, which allows them pick up on more details, according to Live Science.

8You’re Better At Expressing Yourself Through Writing

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If you prefer text messages to phone calls, or emails to long conversations, you’re probably introverted. Introverts are often better at expressing themselves through writing, as there’s more time to put together their thoughts, and writing removes the possibility of nerves and hesitation.

9You Get Distracted In Busy Environments

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If you find that you have a hard time focusing while at a big event, it’s not because you don’t have discipline — you’re just likely an introvert. Because introverts tend to get overwhelmed in situations with a lot of action, they tend to get easily distracted, according to a study from the Journal of Personality and Psychology. Because of this, quieter and more intimate environments are often preferred.



Why Being an Introvert May Be Better for Your Mental Health

It’s official: we’re worn out. Scientifically knackered. Two-thirds of adults told researchers at Durham University that they need more rest, in a global study that surveyed 18,000 people. This is hardly surprising, though, since scientists have warned that our working hours are leaving us sleep-deprived.

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But, less predictably, we seem to need to be alone to fully rest. Reading and spending time alone were listed as some of the most restorative activities, topping 58 percent and 52.1 percent of the polled people’s restful activity lists. Weirdly, this makes it sound as though more people might benefit from an introvert’s approach to life, where you recharge by spending time on your own. Since at least half of the population are extroverts—who don’t need much alone time—I wanted to figure out if pop science has it all wrong, and if it isn’t just introverts who need to shut themselves off from the world now and again.

The researchers from Durham University measured the participants’ personalities, and found that introverts were more likely to find doing nothing and being alone to be restful. “But even extroverts viewed these solitary activities to be far more restful than socializing with friends,” says Professor Felicity Callard, who led the study. “Across the sample as a whole, more sociable activities, such as spending time with friends and family, and drinking, tended to rank lower down. This certainly suggests that time alone might have beneficial outcomes for everyone.”

Sanna Balsari-Palsule, PhD student in psychology from the University of Cambridge, says we all need time to restore and re-energize, and while that might be in different ways, we’re all much more similar than we might think. She sees a difference between rest and what she calls “restorative niches.” While rest, as a basic human need, looks similar to all of us, restorative niches are the places, activities, and states of mind that let people recharge. In her research, Balsari-Palsule discovered subtle differences in what introverts and extroverts perceive as restorative niches.

“I found that both introverts and extroverts report that having lunch with their colleagues is a restorative niche for them during a busy working day. It was only when I probed further that I found that for introverts, lunch with one colleague is restorative, while extroverts report that having lunch with three or four colleagues is restorative. Also, both introverts and extroverts listed running as a restorative niche, but it was only when I examined more closely I found that introverts listed running alone as a restorative niche, while extroverts listed running clubs.”

So do extroverts need restorative time alone, too? Not necessarily, according to Balsari-Palsule. “For extroverts who already spend a large portion of their day engaged in introverted roles and having to act out of character, I would expect that seeking out time alone would be an additional strain,” she says. “On the other hand, extroverts who purposefully seek out alone time may be more productive in a work setting. Time alone can translate into time away from distractions and some of the strengths associated with introversion are the abilities to be introspective and to think things through.”

It’s no coincidence that 34-year-old Rebecca Lynch, creator of “introjis”—so-called emojis for introverts—calls herself a “super-introvert.” But she disagrees with Balsari-Palsule, and says even if extroverts have to force themselves to spend time alone, they should. “I think extreme introverts are more aware of when they need to shut off and be alone for a while, because they get physically tired around others. Extroverts can just keep going,” she says. “But alone time is important for everyone; that’s when we do our deepest thinking, when we make creative discoveries. I know creative extroverts who struggle with that and have to force themselves to be alone.”

Extrovert and English teacher Jack Dobson, 25, sees more of a balance. “I need a lot of social contact in my life, and the idea of spending time interacting with people, whether I know them or not, doesn’t phase me. That said, being an extrovert doesn’t mean you can’t suffer from social burnout—it merely means you can handle a lot more social activity before you reach your limit. I think we all need time for self-reflection and to do our own things. I enjoy spending time on my own and I feel it gives me clarity of thought and much-needed rest. Although, I do find too much time spent alone can make me crave social interaction, and if that isn’t forthcoming, can make me feel pretty down.”

Our society generally rewards extroverted behavior more, and as you’re navigating school, first jobs and university (for those who go), spending time by yourself is easily looked down on as lazy or boring, rather than important for your mental health. But according to Robert de Vries, lecturer in quantitative sociology at the University of Kent, we should act more like extroverts, not introverts.

He analyzed previous studies and found that extroverts tend to be more successful, and are 25 percent more likely to have high-paying jobs. “Several of the studies we reviewed tracked people through their teenage years through to adulthood and found that people who were more extroverted as teenagers were more likely to do well in career terms as adults,” he says. “Extroverted people are more confident, sociable, and assertive. It’s easy to see why these qualities might help you both in terms of doing well at school and in getting on in your career.”

Rather than saying we all need time alone, de Vries says it depends on the person and their circumstances. “Most of the academic research on time alone focuses on the negative side, like loneliness and a lack of social support,” he said. “On the other side of the coin, there are lots of people who are overwhelmed by constant social interaction,” he says.

Until the research catches up, we’d do well to try and pick the best from both worlds. So many of us are deprived of rest that we can’t “have it all,” but meeting somewhere in the middle seems as a good a place to start as any. We could end up better-rested and happier at work—and find it easier to say we’d rather just stay in sometimes.



Why Introverts Hate Small Talk: The Myths And Misconceptions About Our Quieter Companions

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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.


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.


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.’”


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.



Three Reasons Closeted Introverted Leaders Can Stop Pretending To Be Extroverted

Introverts. Ambiverts. Extroverts. The social conversation about how misunderstood they are is all the rage these days. Research on misconceptions about extroverts making stronger leaders, and the need to value the contemplative nature of introverts has raised important questions about how our cultural narrative has long over-prized extroversion…perhaps to our detriment.

I spoke with Susan Cain, renowned expert on the power of introversion and best-selling author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, about why so many people feel compelled to appear more outgoing than they really are. Her TED talk, with nearly fifteen million views, has helped fuel her “Quiet Revolution” that is liberating the strength of introverts from the oppression of a society that over-reveres extroverts. Personally, as an introvert working in an extroversion-demanding career, I found Susan’s wisdom deeply comforting. Says Cain, “Since the industrial revolution, when we became a society where you have to work alongside people to whom you had to prove yourself, we have become a culture of personality. From the earliest age, our children have been reinforced with messages suggesting that if you want to be loved and successful, you have to be more extroverted than you really are.” Some research suggests that many introverts are uncomfortable even admitting their introversion.

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 Though the temptation to do so is understandable, the consequences for leaders hiding their introversion and feigning extroversion are hardly trivial. Says Cain, “We live in a culture that prizes self-presentation, confidence and charisma. The word charisma originates from “magic” – we associate charismatic leaders with magical qualities of making us feel optimistic about the future and ourselves. Who wouldn’t want to be known as that kind of leader?” But as it turns out, it is a mistake in our cultural wiring to attribute so much to them. Research shows that charismatic leaders don’t necessarily deliver great results. Cain suggests, “Quiet leaders can create just as much gravitas through their quiet nature.” In fact, one new study from the University of Chicago, Harvard and Stanford reveals that introverted CEOs ran companies that outperformed their peers.

Selection and promotion systems within organizations have also been hijacked by our natural gravitation toward outgoing personalities. Introverts are twice as likely to be passed over for promotions or plum assignments because they appear to be more cautious and risk-averse. Plus, the attention-seeking behavior required to self-promote gets extroverts more noticed among a sea of candidates for advancement. To counteract this, Cain suggests organizations talk about real role models within their management ranks who are both introverts and highly-effective leaders. Says Cain, “At LinkedIn, where we have done work to help the organization harness the talents of introverted leaders, Pat Wadors, LinkedIn’s Chief Human Resources Officer, talks openly about being an introvert, the value of quiet reflection in a busy job and their importance to the organization. Organizations pay attention to the examples you hold up.”

So for you introverted leaders feeling obligated to don more gregarious dispositions than might come naturally, here are three important reasons to simply play to your true strengths, quieter though they may feel.

1.You Can Offer Your Greatest Impact 

Introverts can teach the organization, especially their extroverted counterparts, how to listen attentively, avoid interrupting and ask questions to draw out better ideas. Instead of forming quick judgments, introverts can model what it means to make measured judgments. Cain warns, “There is no correlation between doing the most talking and having the best ideas. If you watch, you’ll notice extroverts are doing a disproportionately higher degree of talking during a meeting.” By contrast, introverts have the benefit of more readily listening closely to what’s being said. Absent the need to put their mark on all ideas, they can build the confidence of those hesitant to compete for air time to have their ideas heard.

2.You Won’t Confuse Your Colleagues

Having assumed a learned set of extroverted behaviors, it’s possible for introverts to send mixed signals to their colleagues. When their inherent need for quiet solitude goes unmet, they can feel exhausted, even irritable. Cain cites social psychologist Brian Little, “He talks about reputational confusion which occurs when your reputation among your peers is different from who you really are. You create expectations among those you lead and you start to feel you are letting them down if you don’t live up to that reputation.” The result can be a self-perpetuating cycle of confusion and uncertainty in key relationships. To alter the cycle requires open conversation between people to reset expectations and shift the reputation.

3.You Can Avoid Unwanted Stress 

When introverts’ legitimate needs for solitude and autonomy go unmet, it causes stress. For many leaders who’ve convinced themselves they are more extroverted than they really are, this stress may be unconscious. A few weeks ago, I was with a large client group for the weekend, with more than 150 Sales people having their typical socially-packed, high-energy offsite. About two-thirds into the weekend, I quietly walked out of a session and went back to my hotel room. It was like an autoimmune response, as reflexive as sneezing. I simply needed to be alone and quiet and away from people. Many introverts tolerate such stress for fear of being misunderstood. But Cain suggests, “You can normalize the conversation about preferences. You can say, I really love to work uninterrupted for hours at a time. Please don’t take it the wrong way.’” Many introverts fear being perceived as weak or without conviction. Again, this is a misconception only introverts can help correct. Says Cain, “If you are operating from a place of true conviction, people will know it. Soft-spokenness isn’t a diluter of conviction. You can practice this – listen to how you are describing a movie you loved or a book you were moved by. Humans can detect many things through the social cues you send, not just the volume or intensity of your words. You send signals you aren’t even aware of.”

Cain urges against broad generalizations. “While people often correlate introversion and humility, or extroversion and self-centeredness, those aren’t always true. There are arrogant introverts and humble extroverts.” She also reminds us we can adapt our natural fixed traits to suit work environments. “It’s perfectly ok to step outside your comfort zone and adapt to the requirements of your environment. Introversion and extroversion are a continuum and we can broaden the range on which we participate.” Sometimes it is necessary for introverts to become more assertive than they might be comfortable with, just as some extroverts may have to pull back their participation to allow others to offer new ideas. She concludes, “As long as you are doing so mindfully and with intention, it’s fine.”

If nearly half the population are introverts, we are missing important contributions if they are hiding from their quieter natures, feeling obligated to assume personalities they believe others expect. Fellow introverts, let’s leave extroversion to the true experts – the extroverts. Let’s come out into the beautiful light of introversion and assume our rightful place as leaders…quietly.



4 Ways Introverts Excel As Leaders

What do Charles Darwin, Candice Bergen and Michael Jordan have in common? They’re all said to be introverts.

So are Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg. When we think about the personality traits that effective leaders need, we typically think of people who are charismatic, dominant, and outgoing. We think of extroverts. Especially in the U.S.

A study by researchers at Stanford suggests that Western cultures value excitement, and that these values carry over into the behavior of leaders in those countries. Author and TED Talk contributor Susan Cain agrees. In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, she writes,

“The U.S. has become a nation of extroverts. The extrovert ideal really came to play at the turn of the 20th century when we had the rise of big business. We moved from what cultural historians call a culture of character to a culture of personality. During the culture of character, what was important was the good deeds that you performed when nobody was looking. Abraham Lincoln is the embodiment of the culture of character, and people celebrated him back then for being a man who did not offend by superiority. But at the turn of the century, when we moved into this culture of personality, suddenly what was admired was to be magnetic and charismatic.”

At a time when our headlines are full of messages from brash, assertive, outspoken leaders who love their own press, it may be time to consider the virtues of their quiet counterparts. Here are four ways introverts can turn their love of solitude and keen observational skills into effective leadership skills:

1. Listen first, talk second. Extroverts talk first and think later, because they express themselves more easily verbally. Yet according to Susan Cain, “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” Rather than rely on witty repartee, introverts listen intently to what others say and internalize it before they speak. They’re not thinking about what to say while the other person is still talking, but rather listening so they can construct the best reply.

2. Leverage your quiet nature. Remember the meetings where everyone was clamoring to be heard, until Bill ― who never said a peep ― chimed in? Then what happened? Everyone turned around to look in awe at how Bill owned the moment by speaking calmly and deliberately. He was tapping into the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln who said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

3. Soak up the ‘me’ time. Introverts spend a lot of time in their own heads. And they need this time. It’s how they turn information into knowledge, and knowledge into insight. So set aside ‘me’ time every day. Find a quiet spot to sit down and reflect. Even if it’s 15 minutes. Let the thoughts flow through your head and jot down any new ideas that percolate.

4. Let your fingers do the talking. Introverts tend not to think out loud. Speaking extemporaneously is not their strong suit. Take advantage of opportunities to prepare your thoughts in writing. You’ll have time to choose compelling and persuasive language that you can refer to when you’re speaking and can leave with others to make sure your key points stick.

In a world where being social and outgoing are highly prized, it can be difficult to be an introvert. But introverts bring extraordinary gifts to the leadership table that should be celebrated and encouraged.



Creative Thinking and Being Introverted or Highly Sensitive

A number of writers and researchers associate the personality traits of high sensitivity and introversion with creativity, and find that creative people are more likely to be characterized and impacted in various ways by having these qualities.

Elaine Aron, PhD, author of the The Highly Sensitive Person, thinks “HSPs are all creative by definition because we process things so thoroughly and notice so many subtleties and emotional meanings that we can easily put two unusual things together.”Creativity coach and therapist Lisa Riley notes, “Throughout my practice, I have encountered a connection between highly sensitive people and their own creative impulses…

“Creatives often feel and perceive more intensely, dramatically, and with a wildly vivid color palate to draw from, which can only be described as looking at the world through a much larger lens.”

One of the personality types identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is “ISFP” – which refers to people who lean toward Introversion, Sensing, Feeling and Perceiving. Some well-known people that researchers consider being this personality type include a number of artists such as Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Streisand, Paul McCartney, Auguste Rodin, and Mozart.

Cain adds there have been many times in her life when she “got the message that somehow my quiet and introverted style of being was not necessarily the right way to go, that I should be trying to pass as more of an extrovert…”

And, she adds, “Now this is what many introverts do, and it’s our loss for sure, but it is also our colleagues’ loss and our communities’ loss. And at the risk of sounding grandiose, it is the world’s loss. Because when it comes to creativity and to leadership, we need introverts doing what they do best.”

In her Scientific American article The Power of Introverts: A Manifesto for Quiet Brilliance, Cain writes, “Most schools and workplaces now organize workers and students into groups, believing that creativity and productivity comes from a gregarious place.

“This is nonsense, of course. From Darwin to Picasso to Dr. Seuss, our greatest thinkers have often worked in solitude, and in my book I examine lots of research on the pitfalls of groupwork.”

Introversion or sensitivity

Dr. Aron comments that Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, “is actually more about HSPs (highly sensitive people) than social introverts” and “Her discussion of ‘introversion’ throughout is almost identical to what has become the standard definition of high sensitivity—deep thinkers, preferring to process slowly, sensitive to stimuli, emotionally reactive, needing time alone, and so forth, all as described in the first scientific paper specifically on sensitivity, published in 1997, where it was systematically distinguished from the most common scientific definitions of introversion, which emphasize the social side.”

From my earlier Creative Mind post Are Introverts More Creative?

Do you consider yourself introverted and/or highly sensitive, as well as creative? If so, how does that impact your creative life?

 The photo is, of course, “The Thinker” by Rodin. It is from the page (on her site) called Manifesto by author Susan Cain on which she makes several statements on this topic, including:

‘There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers’; ‘Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our “heed-takers” more than ever’ and ‘Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.’

In her TED video (below, and at the site: Susan Cain: The power of introverts) she talks about finding summer camp “was more like a keg party without any alcohol. And on the very first day our counselor gathered us all together and she taught us a cheer that she said we would be doing every day for the rest of the summer to instill camp spirit.

“And it went like this: ‘R-O-W-D-I-E, that’s the way we spell rowdie. Rowdie, rowdie, let’s get rowdie.’ Yeah. So I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why we were supposed to be so rowdy, or why we had to spell this word incorrectly. (Laughter) But I recited a cheer. I recited a cheer along with everybody else. I did my best. And I just waited for the time that I could go off and read my books.



What the Heck Is an Introvert, Anyway?

What, exactly, is an introvert? The word has gained real popularity recently and people around the world seem to be coming out of the woodwork to declare, “That’s what I am! I’m an introvert!”

Google Trends for the Term "Introvert"

Here at Riskology, we consider ourselves introverts but, if we’re being totally honest, we don’t all agree on what that means and often struggle to explain it in elegant terms when someone asks us, “What do you mean, you’re an introvert?”

So, we set out to answer the question once and for all.

We dug into the history of personality science. We scoured the latest research and analyzed pop culture references. And we interviewed highly credentialed professionals in the field.

If we could break it down into three key findings, we’d say introverts:

  1. Have deep, rich inner-lives. It’s hard to overstate how “inside their own heads” introverts are.
  2. Prefer solitude to busy environments. Introverts are most at home… at home.
  3. Enjoy people, but prefer fewer, deep relationships. It’s all about quality over quantity.

But boiling down an entire personality type to just three bullet points can’t begin to explain the complex and fascinating traits of introverts.

What follows is a deep, multi-faceted look at what it means to be an introvert. Not just in the academic sense, but in the “How does this affect my daily life sense?”

So, where to start? How about at the beginning.