You are in good company – “Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Gandhi — all these peopled described themselves as quiet and soft-spoken and even shy. And they all took the spotlight, even though every bone in their bodies was telling them not to.” (Susan Cain, author of QUIET, the power of introverts).
Similarly, Dr. Marti Olsen Laney (author of The introvert advantage) notes that introversion is both common and normal (30 to 50% of the population are introverts).
Furthermore, many creative individuals, thinkers and distinguished leaders were introverts. Amongst them:
- Thomas Edison
- Charles Darwin
- Albert Einstein
- Abraham Lincoln
- Alfred Hitchcock
- Bill Gates
- Mahatma Gandhi
However, being an introvert in extrovert oriented culture can be a painful experience. One of my client shared with me, how she often feels out of place in a world that’s so heavily geared towards being social and vocal, taking action and hogging the spot light. She recalls how at school she would feel more comfortable with a book at her desk than joining in the raucous banter with her classmates.
In contrast to commonly held believes, introverts are neither shy, nor do they lack confidence or social skills. They simply respond differently to stimulation than their extroverted counterparts. This is very apparent when it comes to learning conditions. While introverts do best in quiet environments, extroverts thrive with more noise (Colin DeYoung, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota).
“Introverts have social skills, they like people, and they enjoy some types of socializing.. .[they] enjoy one-on-one conversations, but group activities can be overstimulating and drain energy” (Laney, p.43).
In Carl Gustav Jung‘s typological theories (1923), underpinning the Myers-Briggs personality test, introverts are defined as being drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, while extroverts are stimulated by the external life of people and activities. However, he noted that no one is a pure extrovert or introvert, they exist on a spectrum, depending on the situation.
As an introvert you have your own set of assets, so how can you leverage your strengths?
- Use your capacity for reflection by examining your thinking patterns
- Find an extrovert to promote your strengths
- Apply your skill for self-directed learning
- You are likely to be very detail-oriented, have great writing skills and are able to focus on what needs to be done.
- Usually plan what you are going to say before you say it, think things through and make informed decisions based on fact finding.
- Skilled at solving complex problems as you are taking the time to carefully analyze the issues at hand.
Want to hear more?
In her inspirational TED talk, Susan Cain, an accomplished lawyer and best-selling author shares her own lived experience as an introvert along with common myths about introversion.
Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. New York, NY: Crown Publishers.
Jung, C. G. (1923). Psychological types. Edinburgh, G.B.: The Edinburgh Press.
Laney, M. O. (2002). The introvert advantage: How to thrive in an extrovert world. New York: Workman Publishing. I73