Our culture values extraversion. It's obvious. “Don’t just sit at home alone! Go out and play!” – parents tend to say to their children from an early age. “He/she is so small but so wordy! He/she will definitely succeed!” can be heard at schools or in the streets. Everywhere we can hear that only people who are very articulate, assertive, confident and sociable can win out. Louder people are better, cooler and smarter. Do you really believe in that?
Roman Jones / romanjones.deviantart.com
I have also asked several people in our company to answer my question “Who is an introvert?”. And here is what they told me. The first thing that came to their mind was: a recluse, a thinker, a bore, a man of few words, a loner, someone who is withdrawn, inward-looking and meek. One person even said: “It’s just me” :)
We used to think about introverts as people, who are quiet, shy, don’t believe in themselves, have nothing to say and probably don’t have many friends. When someone doesn’t want to go to a social event, spends almost all day long at his desk with headphones on, is afraid to give presentation in front of a big audience or isn’t a master of small talks, prefers one to one meetings rather than expressing their opinion in a group, we ask them: “why are you so serious?” or “are you okay?”.
30-50% of people on our planet are introverts. So, it’s more than certain, that your colleague sitting next to you, your several-year-old child, your girlfriend or your brother-in-law is an introvert or … pretends to be an extravert because it’s more socially acceptable. I shall even go further than that: they are very good actors at behaving like extroverts but it costs them loads of energy and they need to recover in peace and quiet afterwards. Such a situation can be observed especially among men because the Alpha Male leads among them. People do not accept their own nature because society seems to give unfair opinion about them. They want to be like everyone else and such words as: “You have to be tough in life” are killing people, who are introverted. Introverts are not like that and it leads to an internal conflict.
I think that introversion is just as important and necessary as extraversion. Our world needs people, who are mellow and can think deep. Especially in crisis situations, when greater confidence is gained by those less charismatic, who are more careful and cautious, and such traits are rather the domain of the introverts. I have an inner discord when people appreciate showmanship over authenticity. What values do the introverts bring to us? So they…
- …have a very good sense of observation. Introverts see things, which are not obvious for other people and I mean the subtle signals given by the environment.
- …are always well-prepared for the meetings. Most of them do not have the skill like incessant chattering and can catch you on the hop due to their knowledge of the meeting subject.
- … like to explore the topics - quality is more important than quantity.
- … deal with tasks requiring focus better than extraverts. Introverts are more patient and devoted than extraverts.
- …like difficult tasks on which they can focus all of their attention and make things done.
- …build deep, not superficial relationships – and again quality is more important than quantity. They just enjoy social interaction in a different way than extroverts do.
- …are very creative – especially when they can work alone.
- …are excellent listeners. They do not interrupt in mid-sentence and focus on their interlocutor.
- …are deep in thoughts and often have something very interesting to say, when you ask them for their opinion.
- …do not speak much, but when they talk, it makes sense ;)
- …aren’t masters of small talks but they can talk with you for a long time on topics that are interesting for them.
- … think before they speak.
- … are careful and often have a plan B.
And last but not least, introverts are great… leaders. Susan Cain in her book: ”Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking” says that introverts do exceptionally well in managing a team, whose members show initiative. They listen to what others have to say - especially during the 1-2-1 meetings – and put into practice all good suggestions they had heard. This is due to the fact that the introverts do not need to dominate over the group. They use talents and good ideas of their team members, motivate them to even more active and innovative attitude. In this way, the introverted leaders create a kind of special climate around themselves, favourable to activity and taking initiative by employees (it is the self-propelling, so-called virtuous circle). She also underlines that we do not need combative people with extremely bloated personalities, but the leaders, who depend not on development and strengthening of their egos, but on development and strengthening of the organization they lead.
I wish that all of us would appreciate more authenticity over showmanship. So let introverts be and develop themselves, let them spread their wings, let’s create environment in which they can use the gigantic amounts of untapped talent – we have nothing to lose, rather we can benefit – it’s a simple win-win solution :) And you – introvert – be yourself! If you don’t grasp it, you will be eternally torn apart and very unhappy. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about ;)
At the end, I would like to encourage you to watch the TED talk of Susan Cain, who in a passionate way tells us about the power of introverts :)
And here you can find 17 Graphs That Are Way Too Real for Introverts which are understood especially by introverts :)
* I wrote this post inspired by Susan Cain's book: "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" and on my own experience and observations.