For all the introverts out there, this one is for you! Please close your eyes and change the lyrics from Beyonce’s very popular song; Single Ladies… to introverts; All the introverts, all the introverts, now put yo hands up!
According to the UK thesaurus, alternate words that can be used to described an introvert are; shy, withdrawn, reclusive, timid… and my favourite; shrinking violent!
In contrast, when describing an extrovert the words are much more positive; outgoing, friendly, social, gregarious and livewire.Does anyone spot the imbalance there?
It’s no surprise then why so many people hide this aspect of their personality. It would seem that admitting to being introverted is essentially the same as declaring yourself a hermit!
To begin, let me dispute a few myths about introverts from my experience:
- There’s a difference between being quiet and being shy. Introverts aren’t necessarily quiet because they feel timid.. it’s generally because we prefer to listen rather than dominate conversations. In work related situations I tend to listen to as much information as I can, in order to make better decisions later on.
- We are not anti-social. In fact we’re very sociable people, but tend to prefer smaller groups. If given the choice between having drinks with a small group of friends & family, or going out with a large group… I’ll choose the first option every time. I prefer to have deep conversations, rather than light chatter with multiple acquaintances. This is not to say that I actively avoid big groups. I can natter as well as the next woman, and I enjoying meeting new people. But I’m much happier in smaller groups.
- I’m not a recluse, I just value my quiet time. Like many introverts, after a few hours of social interaction I become mentally over-stimulated and need some time to recharge. For example, sometimes I’ll return from a party or work event which I have really enjoyed, but I’m also completely drained of energy and lose the ability to speak! In the past my boyfriend would ask me about my evening and the only response that I could muster was; It was good (even if it was the best night of my life!) He now understands my need for 15 minutes recharge time before I can participate in any conversation!
From an outsiders perspective I can certainly appreciate that this might seem odd, and it has definitely caused confusion on past holidays or weekends away. For example, I recently went on a hen do and stayed in a house with 12 others girls for a long weekend. Often during the day, I would disappear for an hour to read or listen to music. My best friends understand this about me and barely register it. But some of the other girls thought it was weird and continually asked whether I was ‘OK?’ I think there’s a general asumption that alone time = bad mood.
- We are not loners. In fact, we tend to form very close bounds with people, as we value security. Two of my best friends are natural born extroverts. This might seem unusual, but it’s actually very common, and is as simple as the ‘opposites attract’ rule. We spot qualities in each other that we appreciate and it links us for life (hopefully.) I adore their lively personality, natural charm and endless amounts of energy! I’m not sure what they’re attracted to in me.. but it has to be something good, as it’s been 15 years now!
- We’re not pushovers. We might not be outspoken or bullish, but we’re more than capable of standing up for ourselves. According to Susan Cain (who I love) introverts are stronger negotiators than extroverts. This is simply because we listen more and ask lots of questions before making a decision. We’re information gatherers!
So why is ‘introvert’ still such a dirty word? Why is it something that we’re actively encouraged to hide from potential employers? You won’t find any introverts at managerial level – a colleague once told me. Is this true? I’m not sure that I agree.. this is the twenty first century for heaven’s sake. I have to believe that we’ve evolved past drinking all night with your boss to secure a promotion or verbally attacking another colleague to assert your dominance. Sometimes I’ll be sat in a meeting only to wonder why the previous person has just spoken, when often all they’ve affectively said is; Look at me, look at me! It’s puzzling… But who knows, maybe I’m the one with the problem.
In contrast that are a lot of things that we can learn from extroverts and I am certainly not attacking this personality type. A strong female colleague once told me; You can’t just presume that everybody else in that room knows how good you are. Some people need to hear it outloud. Make sure that they hear your voice occassionally whether you have something valid to contribute or not. I really appreciated this advice. It’s very easy to become stuck in your ways and sometimes pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is important.
To finish, according to Susan Cain the following people are/were introverts… and the list might surprise you:
Not bad huh?!
Hope everyone is enjoying the bank holiday!