Have you ever walked into a job interview and felt that you weren’t able to fully show your potential the way an extrovert might? Did you ever grow up receiving school reports with repeated statements a long the lines of: she needs to come out of her shell. It’s clear just from these two examples, that in society, introverts are very often viewed negatively or less compared to extroverts. The way we might see someone who is talkative, outgoing and friendly immediately attracts most people. Whereas, someone who is more reserved, quiet and takes time to open up, are often not given a chance from people to show more of their personality.
There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. When I was younger, I had teachers who would say I’m too quiet and not confident enough. It’s interesting how people believe being loud and extroverted equates with confidence. An example was when I received a high mark for my speech exam after preparing for it for several days. Being quiet does not necessarily mean one is not confident. It simply means we express our confidence in an internal way. Introversion is not a flaw or something to suppress and make right. It is just a part of who we are as a person. When people think of an introvert, they might think of the following words: shy, quiet, loner, socially anxious or anti-social. What I cannot stress enough, is that all of these do not define the word: introvert. Any individual could have those traits regardless of being an introvert or an extrovert.
We live in an outgoing and noisy world. Introverts are often thought of as someone who doesn’t like to talk. They may even be assumed to be a rude person. The truth is many introverts love to talk, but they process their thoughts more longer and like to speak when they have something to say. That is, they prefer talking about a particular topic that they are interested or passionate about. As for coming off as a rude person, this is often misconceived from the way most introverts don’t like to pretend to act outgoing and energetic. They want to be honest with their feelings. Other times they are genuinely interested in what you are saying but do not outwardly show it. For some introverts, many situations requires one to act a little more extroverted. That added stress to fit in for many introverts, can be draining in many social settings.
Introversion is often assumed with having difficulty with social interactions. It’s not the difficulty, but the preference for certain social settings. We may prefer a one on one conversation as opposed to a group situation. Some may like a meaningful deep conversation as oppose to small talk. There is that assumption that extroverts are strong and introverts are weak, through the common thought of a person being loud or quiet. It really comes down to the way we internalise many things and the importance of having alone time to recharge from social interactions. There is a stigma towards being alone. Sitting down and having a meal alone, going to the movies alone or going to the beach alone. However, many introverts may find enjoyment in these activities.
We live in a world that makes extroversion the ideal personality. It’s only because it appears that way, but it doesn’t mean that it is. Introverts and Extroverts each have skills that are special to their own. In a fast paced world, most people don’t take a lot of time to really get to know someone, and may find Extroverts are easier to judge their personality from a first impression. Whereas, introverts tend to take time in order to open up their personality to specific people. An example of introverts often not having their thoughts expressed, is the ideas and actions that are often over taken by extroverts. I remember sitting in a group situation, and all the loud people wrote down the ideas and lead the talk.
I used to work from home and have numerous daily phone calls from the manager. He was an extrovert, who was extremely talkative and tend to repeat points in meetings, on the phone and in person. At moments he would also go off topic which would cause a lot of miscommunication. I tried to listen as much as possible, but felt that my ideas weren’t being listened to when I was speaking. In another previous job, it was far different and I had a very fair manager who would value my opinions. Susan Cain from New York Times bestselling book,Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking said “If you take a group of people and put them into a meeting and have them talk about something, the opinions of the loudest person, or the most charismatic person, or the most assertive person— they’re the ones that the group tends to follow. And yet, researchers have looked at this—there’s no correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
There is a common image of attractiveness that makes being happy, outgoing, confident and friendly the sort of person you want to be around. The media, movies and magazines depict this image. Popularity is often defined by having lots of friends and being outgoing. In many films, introverts tend to be seen as the book nerd, mathematician, music genius or scientist. They may be seen as the loner or the one who is seen as different from fellow classmates. It’s easy to see that very often extroverts are praised for their personality, more so than introverts.
It was mistakenly assumed that the most talkative person has the skills to lead which is often is not the case. Even as an adult, introverts are less considered for high managerial roles because they are deemed too quiet. Many people in the workplace have the stereotypical belief that a manager should be loud and pushy to motivate employees to produce. Oftentimes, the opposite is more effective and true. There is this common thought that having a lot of friends is ‘cool’ and it means you are a more likable person. However, many introverts tend to have a smaller circle of friends but their friendships are often extremely close. They value quality over quantity in relationships.
The worlds most influential people are a fair mixture of introverts and extroverts. Neither more or less. As a society, it is extremely important to have a positive attitude from childhood into adulthood towards introverts. As someone who grew up wondering if there was something wrong with me, I was often asked when I was quiet, “Is there something wrong?” or “Are you okay, Katie?” It’s a massive relief to know that introversion is just another part of me. Instead of treating introversion as unhealthy or negative, we should focus on establishing learning and working environments in which introverts can flourish, be treated equally and reach their full potential.