In Western society, introversion is commonly misunderstood and undervalued. Extroverted skills like acting and speaking quickly are highly valued, leaving introverts feeling inferior and less capable. The workplace is largely set up for extroverts. The average amount of space per employee has shrunk from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet now. Open floor plans, low partitions, excessive meetings, high levels of noise, and little time for privacy at work are all geared toward the extrovert, who thrives with maximum group interaction.
Why are extroverts catered to more than introverts? There is a lack of understanding of what an introvert is, and there are several misperceptions in existence that make people think negatively about introversion (including introverts themselves). Clear up the confusion and continue reading to learn the facts.
Introverts vs. extroverts
By definition, an introvert is someone who gains energy by spending time alone, while an extrovert gains energy from being around others. Introverts get their energy from within, while extroverts get their energy externally from people and places. For introverts, too many interpersonal interactions and activities are draining. On the other hand, extroverts think that too much alone time is lonely and depressing.
Common myths about introverts
Unfortunately, there are a number of myths believed about introverts in Western society that are simply not true. Because many of introverts’ strengths aren’t seen externally, they are often given several negative descriptions based on assumptions from others.
Myth: Introverts are antisocial and don’t like being around people.
Introverts are not usually antisocial, they just don’t refuel through social interactions. They need and enjoy more solitude than extroverts, but that’s not to say they don’t want and like time with others. In fact, introverts tend to have very close relationships; they prefer quality over quantity and choose to focus on smaller groups of friends rather than having many acquaintances.
Myth: Introverts aren’t as happy as extroverts.
It’s not that extroverts are happier than introverts, they’re just happy in different ways. Extroverts associate happiness with “high-arousal positive affect,” which means feeling exuberant, high-energy, and upbeat. On the other hand, since introverts get over-stimulated more easily, they tend to prefer low-arousal positive feelings like relaxation and peacefulness.
Myth: Introverts are shy.
Introversion is commonly mistaken for a synonym for shyness. Shyness is feeling discomfort with social interactions and fear of disapproval or humiliation. As Susan Cain (author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking) wrote, “Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.” Introverts don’t feel fear in social situations, they simply need alone time afterwards to recharge and gain energy. On the flip side, extroverts might feel insecure or uncomfortable groups but still always seek others’ company.
Myth: Introverts don’t make good public speakers or leaders
Susan Cain is proof that introverts can indeed make great public speakers; check out her TED talk here (it’s received over 14,000,000 views!). At least half of people who speak for a living are introverted, but they practice and prepare well so that they can deliver their messages successfully, instead of just winging it.
Myth: Introverts are inattentive and passive.
This idea is a complete illusion. Just because an introvert isn’t the first to speak, doesn’t mean there is nothing going on inside. They are great listeners and have a lot processing internally, they just don’t voice all of their thoughts.
Introvert strengths that can’t always be seen on the outside
The difference between introverts’ strengths and extroverts’ strengths is that the first are often seemingly invisible to outsiders. They are more subtle, but they’re just as valuable and benefit professionals in all fields, especially in leadership positions.
- Introverts think before they speak. Instead of blurting out the first thing that comes to mind, they take the time to listen carefully to those around them, and then come up with ideas that are thorough and well-thought-out. Even in casual conversations, they often take a moment to reflect before speaking. They are generally good listeners; they don’t need to be at the center of conversations, so they learn a lot by listening.
- Introverts are often great writers, researchers, listeners, and strategizers because of their patience, focus, and persistence. Author Bruna Marinuzzi explained, “One of the greatest advantages introverts have is their ability to stay focused, where others around them might be distracted. They’re generally not afraid of solitude, because they know it’s fruitful. It gives them opportunities for self-reflection, thinking, theorizing, observing, planning, or imagining…It improves our ability to think.”
- They can be extroverted too. When needed, they can be outgoing, talkative, and the center of attention, they’ll just need some calm alone time later to recharge. Because of our society’s general preference for extroversion, many introverts have learned to take on the role of the extrovert at times, and they may even enjoy it. They just need a little recovery time after.
- Introverts take the time to prepare well. Instead of winging it, they use their alone time for deep thinking, consideration, careful planning, and thorough preparation.
- Since introverts do a lot of thinking, they often times do more self-reflecting than extroverts and recognize the areas in which they need to improve. This personal evaluation often leads to continual striving for improvement and challenging oneself to be better.
- Introverts have a talent for developing close relationships. They build genuine trust with others and often have great relational skills.
You’re not alone
Not only are you not alone, but as an introvert you are grouped with some of the most successful people in the world. You’re sure to recognize the names of these famous introverts: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Rosa Parks, Ghandi, Michael Jordan, Steven Spielberg, J.K. Rowling, Emma Watson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Aguilera, and Audrey Hepburn, just to list a few. Introverts reach the top in all fields, so don’t be wishing you were any different. Don’t let common misperceptions or our culture’s emphasis on extroverted skills get you down. Use your strengths as an introvert to excel in whatever line of work you’re in.
To learn more about introversion, consult some of these excellent books:
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney
The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength and Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference by Jennifer Kahnweiler
Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength by Laurie Helgoe