Introversion Comes Out Of The Closet

Since author Susan Cain published her groundbreaking book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” there has been an abundance of information about introverts and introversion. What it means. How it is different from extroversion. And, lists of many famous people who are known to be introverted.

One thing that has emerged — something I had not really thought about before — is the long-standing negative connotation of the word “introvert.” I think about the great number of people who carried the “stigma” of that label and how important it is for all of us to shift that perception.

I decided to do a bit of research about what it means to be introverted and to dispel the all-too-frequent misunderstandings about introverts. By the way, some of the famous introverts include Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Adele, and Salvador Dali. Clearly achievement is not necessarily related to personality and/or temperament. So, here are a few thoughts.

  • One of the most common misconceptions is that shyness and introversion are the same thing. According to Cain, shyness is the fear of negative judgment and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments. Even an extrovert can be shy.
  • The classic distinction between introverts and extroverts is that introverts recharge their batteries by being alone, while extroverts recharge them in company — often, a lot of company. Many introverts have great social skills, but they still feel depleted by too much socializing.
  • Quiet, thoughtful and occasionally skeptical people, introverts can appear to not like people. However, most introverts can be quite social. They are often quietly content when alone and value calmness, serenity and enjoy being with people in smaller doses than do extroverts.
  • Introverts really do like to talk, but prefer to think before speaking and to listen closely to what is being said before contributing. If too many people are present, introverts will sometimes have a hard time entering the conversation and will decide to remain silent. This sometimes happens to a friend of mine at professional meetings. To be “heard” she will often write a report about her thoughts and suggestions after the meeting and distribute it to participants.
  • Quietness does not equal stupidity, just as loudness does not equal intelligence. If folks really pay attention, they would realize that introverts often have a great deal of useful knowledge and information to contribute.
  • Although introverts can work in groups, they often do their best work alone. While they will sometimes shut down in larger groups of people when they feel their voice isn’t being heard, introverts do excel in small group situations.
  • Introversion is not an affliction or something that can be “cured.” It is an inborn deeply embedded personality temperament, mostly determined by genetics.
  • Introverts are thought to be poor public speakers; however, while some may not like speaking in large group settings, many introverts are naturally gifted speakers. They also generally spend more time preparing for speeches and presentations rather than “flying by the seat of their pants.”
  • Although not necessarily comfortable in crowded spaces, introverts love experiencing new places, people, and things.
  • Most often introverts function on a much more even keel than extroverts and are able to acknowledge multiple perspectives objectively, even during times of stress.
  • Because they are good listeners and don’t complete with extroverts, introverts can be quiet but confident leaders.
  • And for those who might think that extroverts are happier than introverts, personality type does not pre-dispose you to be either happy or unhappy.

The good news is that now, introversion is “out of the closet.” Business leaders, educators, scientists, and others are, indeed, rethinking the workplace environment, the classroom, how we brainstorm, and how include quiet children, to name just a few shifts in the changing landscape. No matter how quiet or reserved introverts might be, their voices are now more understood, acknowledged and clear.

Life As An Introvert

Several months ago, I recommended author Susan Cain’s TED Talk: “The Power of Introverts.”  It struck a deep chord with many people, especially those who are introverts, and gave a greater understanding of their behavior and, in many cases, a sense of relief.

My friend Anna has often grappled with her natural way of being in the world — quiet and reserved. Although she is funny and loves to laugh, Anna has a serious demeanor. After watching the TED Talk, she said to me, “Susan was talking to and about me. I am an introvert. That is the core aspect of my personality, and what a relief it is to finally understand that it’s okay.”

I thought it would be interesting to interview Anna about her “life as an introvert.” She agreed. [Read more…]