Introverts have tremendous powers and abilities. In their silence, they observe the behavior of others and thereby learn and understand more about them than they ever could if they joined in and did things with them. They are diligent, hard working, they look at every possible outcome and angle and try to understand as much about something as they can before making any moves or decisions. Generally the world doesn’t appreciate this. You’re the slower performing kid in school who never gets their work done as quickly as the others and you ask far too many questions about something while the other kids just happily take things on the surface level and run with it. At work, you do your own thing, in your own time, and take each task on in depth, ensuring every possible aspect is perfectly dealt with. Meanwhile others rush through their tasks and end up getting five times as much done at the end of the day. The boss looks at this and, as is typical with most companies, quantity beats quality and the fast worker ends up getting the promotion and the nod of approval. We live in a society where speed is everything. You have to churn out more, faster than anyone else in order to be considered an asset. In the modern world, extroverts are the soldiers on the battlefield. They go in guns blazing and worry about the greater consequences later. They don’t need intricate instructions, just point them in the direction of the end goal and they’ll run off without a second thought. Introverts, however, are the chess players plotting out the entire war strategy. From the very inception, they will already be thinking about not just the outcome, but all the possible variables of what could happen between start and finish. Introverts are analytical, strategic, curious and never quite okay with settling with only half the information. It’s no surprise then, that introverts tend to be the people who suffer from depression far more often. Depression is an intelligent person’s disease. Think about it. When’s the last time you saw a carefree, loud-mouthed person who doesn’t quite have that much between the ears, sitting down pondering life and becoming saddened by things?
World leaders stand on podiums and speak to the masses, with passion and conviction that lead nations to get on their feet and follow them. But when they step off those podiums, who do they call on to be their advisors and counselors? Not the loud-mouthed drinking buddies they go play a round of golf with. Not the other members of parliament who also go out to spread the word to the people in their states. They turn to the thinkers. The teams of introverts who sit in think tanks or by themselves, carefully monitoring and studying everything that’s happening and strategizing the next, most advisable step to take. There have been very few times where world leaders were clearly introverts. Barack Obama is one of the very few who has risen to this position and he is met with a great deal of opposition because he’s so stern in his convictions and has a habit of leaving early at most social gatherings.
Perhaps introverts rise to incredible successes in life for the very reason that they’re used to not being or needing to be the centre of attention. It’s much easier to deal with people telling you you’re taking what you’re doing too far and you don’t have a life, when you’ve always been accustomed to doing things alone anyway. Others might give up on the way to trying to achieve a goal because they miss partying, because they can’t stand putting so much of their time into one thing and suffering a loss of a social life as a result.
The problem is it’s become so ingrained in our society that everyone is expected to be physically and verbally expressive and lively. Everyone sees the charismatic person who captures everyone’s attention with what they have to say, as an ideal person, someone they’d like to be like. Perhaps now the tide is turning slowly, but even now, in order to be successful in the world, introverts have to train themselves to act extroverted in order to get places. You have to push yourself to be more of a team player, to keep lines of communication open, to show up at social events and join in.
Some of the biggest misconceptions about introverts, and there are many:
1. They are shy and insecure – This isn’t necessarily the case at all. Shyness and insecurity don’t play a role in many introverts’ lives. I, for one, used to be shy, no doubt about it. I could barely talk to people without fearing I’d blush or stutter at any stage and I was petrified to open my mouth. But that passed when I outgrew my awkward teen years. In fact, I’ve seen a whole lot of extroverted people who clearly showed huge signs of insecurity, which they try desperately to mask by being loud and expressive.
2. They are antisocial and just don’t like being around people – Introverts have nothing against anyone else, they just don’t really care that much for socializing. Spending time with other people in groups doesn’t give them a rush and as much as extroverts feel that need to go out and socialize, introverts feel the need to just be alone and have time to think and enjoy a hobby.
3. They’re stuck up and arrogant – This one has probably happened to most of us. The quietness tends to be mistaken for a ‘mightier than thou’ attitude and people take offense way before they even bother to take the time to just come and talk to you. Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t immediately rush up to greet you, chances are they’re just so caught up in thinking about something that they forgot they’re meant to do the whole talking thing again.
4. Boring – Well, we’ve covered this one earlier. You’re considered boring because you don’t express yourself as loudly. Meanwhile extroverted people tend to be pretty boring to introverts because they can’t have a decent conversation about something meaningful for very long.
And then there are some realities about introverts:
1. We have no problem being alone. It gives us the time and opportunity to think, read and learn…all the things we just love doing.
2. We can have conversations for hours – literally. But we prefer one on one conversations to having to make small talk with a whole group of people. You end up feeling like you’re spreading yourself thin and ultimately get very little satisfaction out of the whole experience.
3. We prefer having less friends, but the bonds we have with those few are far stronger and deeper than what you could ever have by having twenty friends. Since it’s an introvert’s nature to want to deeply understand things, it makes sense that we’d rather know all about one person than a fraction about five people.
4. We get exhausted by being in social settings. Seriously. It’s not something you should take offense to, it’s just that we’re wired to charge our energy up in nature and in solitude or with the one or two people we love dearly. My personal limit, I’ve discovered, is four hours. By the end of that time, I really need to courteously say goodnight and head home.
Ultimately the world needs all kinds of people in order for it to work. We need thinkers and we need doers. Most of all, however, we need to have understanding and acceptance for both types and the strengths they have in life.