“Society is itself an education in the extrovert values … and rarely has there been a society that has preached them so hard”- William H WhyteWe live in a world where extroverts have taken over the personality spectrum. Although many societies tend to undervalue introverts due to their quiet and humble nature, some of the most successful leaders and trailblazers in history are introverts.
In Australian culture, those who are talkative are generally perceived to be more intelligent than quiet ones. Quick-talkers are also considered to be more appealing and more capable than slow talkers. When working in a group, for example, we tend to gravitate towards and follow the opinions of the most vocal. As a result, valuable ideas suggested by the less outspoken people can often be overlooked.
Within universities, for example, most courses require tutorial participation as part of your final mark. Students with extrovertial qualities are often in a better position to actively engage in group discussions, voice opinions and achieve higher participation marks. Similarly, in some industries, potential employers require applicants to undergo personality tests to assess suitability for a position and your ability to gel with company culture. In many cases, extroverted applicants are at an advantage.
But there is a clear difference between being able to speak well in a group or in public and having sound leadership qualities. Good talkers do not automatically possess good ideas. Sure, being able to command a room is a valuable trait, but it is easy to mistake confidence with ability.
Since surviving in a world filled with extroverts can sometimes feel overwhelming, here is an insider’s guide to better understanding yourself and embracing your inner introvert.
What Is It Really Like To Be Introverted?
- You Dislike Crowded Places
You enjoy going out with a group of friends to parties or gigs but often feel anxious to get home and recharge your battery. It may take several days, weeks, or even months for you to be ready to socialise again.
When it comes to social interactions, you tend to prefer intimate one-on-one conversations over group sessions because within this space you can easily express yourself without fighting to be heard. It may also be difficult for you to find people that you genuinely like and feel comfortable with so starting off with one person makes it easier for you to get into a good social flow and warm up to a few more.
- You Loathe Small Talk
You let out an internal exasperated “sigh” whenever people ask you what you study or where you grew up.
While extroverts are happy to chat at length on pretty much any topic, you think that small talk is an impediment to establishing a deeper and more meaningful level of friendship.
You strive to discuss, debate and engage on topics such as life, big ideas, theories and other interesting subjects.
You place a high value on the art of listening since this is your way of showing respect and appreciation for who you are communicating with.
For you, it is often the case that these seemingly casual conversations morph into meaningful and lasting friendships.
- You Think Before You Speak
Think, think, think.
You never stop thinking. Your head is full of thoughts and ideas and you tend to choose your words carefully before communicating them aloud. Whereas extroverts tend to think on their feet and formulate an opinion as they are discussing it, you need time to quietly weigh the merits of each approach.
Once you have had time to process your thoughts, you can then clearly communicate exactly what you intend to say.
- You Express Yourself Best In Writing
Writing through texts or emails gives you the time and space you crave to clarify your thoughts.
Sometimes you find it difficult to talk to people without thinking about what you want to say first. You just don’t want to feel embarrassed if you end up saying the wrong thing!
Writing is an excellent reason for you to spend time alone where you can brainstorm ideas and put your creative plans into action. In general, introverts work best when they work alone.
- You Are Observant Of Your Surroundings
Since you observe the world before interacting with it, you practise a greater awareness of your surroundings than most people. You remember small details about others because you want to really know who you are interacting with.
Although this is the case, you normally guard your own personal space and select who you want to speak to very carefully. By being very observant, analysing before you act and not letting people in easily, you avoid many negative or toxic interactions.
At this point, you are probably asking yourself – how can I survive and thrive in a world filled with extroverts?
Launch Your Own Startup Or Pursue Something Creative
Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, spent many hours working alone on a prototype which enabled letters to appear on a computer screen through a keyboard. He believes that groundbreaking inventions are not made by committee members but instead by artists who work best alone.
Introverts prefer to work independently and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation” – Hans Eysenck, an influential psychologist.
Since introverts perform best in solitude, use your alone time to discover your authentic talents, unleash your creativity and build something you are passionate about.
This could take the form of starting your own online business, authoring a book, using your skillset to work as an online freelancer, starting a niche blog and becoming an expert in your field, or even creating an app.
Learn How To Say No
Never be afraid to set boundaries and say no to meetings, or any other gatherings, that you don’t want to attend.
Go easy on yourself – the wonder of technology means that many things can be taken care of without the need for a face-to-face meeting. In the long run, you will be glad that you prioritised your own needs over others.
Remember that you don’t have to experience that uneasy feeling in your stomach when you agree to do something out of obligation and social propriety.
Digital communication is a fantastic way to stay connected with your friends and family.
For introverts, social media is a perfect way to talk to lots of people without ever having to leave the luxury of your room.
Talking to ten friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Skype throughout the day is nowhere near as daunting as catching up with ten people in the same room. It is also a great way to boost your confidence and practice your social skills for when you engage people face-to-face.
Enhance Your Communication Skills
Instead of focusing on the disadvantages of being an introvert, dedicate your energy towards developing your existing skills and abilities.
If you are an introvert, you are probably a great thinker. This does not necessarily mean that you hate public speaking – some of the best leaders and public speakers in the world are introverts. What it does mean is that you are more inclined to present your ideas, whether in a study group, tutorial or work meeting, clearly, succinctly and accurately.
Using your incisive thinking skills, you can convey your core message without the need for expansive dialogue. Presenting ideas as shortly and sweetly as possible can minimise the opportunity for people to engage, challenge or start a discussion.
When It Comes To Finding Your Authentic Voice
“Be yourself, because an original is worth more than a copy.”
You don’t have to worry about not being the most vocal in a group or not possessing the best presentation skills.
Our personalities are not static, which means that as we go through adulthood we often change and develop depending on our experiences. While right now you may be on the extreme end of the introversion spectrum, in five years time, after working in a challenging professional environment, you may find that you have become a borderline extrovert. The same principles apply to extroverts who can often become more introvertial with time.
The bottom line is that being an introvert is not an obstacle to success or achieving greatness. Introverts have an important place in this world so remember to embrace your introversion!
You’re not the only introvert who has doubted yourself or wondered where they fit in. The following inspiring books about famous and highly successful introverts are a great way to understand yourself and your strengths better:
Susan Cain takes a scientific view of introverts in a society that grows louder everyday. This book is full of real and memorable stories about successful introverts. Among them are Steve Wozniak, Dr. Seuss and Rosa Parks. Quiet helps empower introverts to understand themselves and to change the way others see them.
Similar to Susan Cain’s book, the Introvert’s Way encourages introverts to accept their nature and traits. Although extroverts outnumber introverts, living an introvert’s lifestyle is not wrong in any way.
In her book, Laurie Helgoe asserts that introverts gain power and energy through reflection and solitude. Introverts see the pressure to enjoy parties, and other interactions as a problem rather than an opportunity. Therefore, she encourages introverts to use their traits and inner power to their fullest advantage.
Jim Collins tells the story of Darwin Smith, the head of Kimberly-Clark, who transformed the business into the leading paper company in the world. This book tries to make a point about the value of quiet leadership and how this characteristic of leaders enables them to thrive in comparison to extroverted leaders.
**The list of books above is not exclusively for introverts. Most extroverts can find value in a better understanding of introverted personality types, how it differs from their own, and be in a better position to enjoy more harmonious relationships with family, friends and colleagues.
Are you an introvert? What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in a world dominated by extroverts? Share your experiences below!