The subject of introvert vs. extrovert seems to be popular at the moment; I’ve even written about it myself a few times.
But I find the subject fascinating. I have a lot of introverted personality traits and enjoy spending time on my own, reading and writing, lost in my own thoughts.
One of the most interesting things I’ve read about introverts and extroverts is the idea that it’s not so much about personality; it’s about where we harness our energy.
An introvert needs plenty of quiet time and finds busy social situations exhausting. In contrast, an extrovert gets a buzz from talking to new people and interacting. This post gives a brief overview of the theory behind this idea.
Sadly, introversion is still considered to be a negative thing in many circles, where an outgoing and vivacious personality is the ideal.
Some people have all kinds of unfortunate ideas of what it means to be an introvert.
Introverts are shy
It’s easy to assume that quiet means shy, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Talking to new people can be challenging for an introvert, because it forces you outside your comfort zone, meaning you use a lot of energy.
When you’re networking, it helps if you’re good at small talk. This doesn’t come naturally to everyone; some people don’t like to chatter unless they have something they want to say. And if you have two people together who find small talk a challenge, then there are bound to be some awkward silences.
I’ve never been very good at approaching people, but over the last couple of years I’ve become much better at carrying a conversation, just by practicing and being brave.
TIP: If you’re going to an event or a party where you don’t know many people, have a few questions prepared that you can ask if there’s a lull in conversation. That way you can get somebody else chatting about themselves while you listen.
Introverts are poor communicators
An identifier for introversion is the preference to communicate in writing, rather than verbally, which can be a problem in the workplace. In fact, it’s one I’ve experienced personally. Some people assume that because you choose not to speak up every time, you lack the ability to do so. Not true.
I don’t like talking on the phone and prefer to use email to contact people wherever possible. I’ll use the phone if I need to, but I find I express myself better in writing because I have the option to play around with the words until they’re just right. It’s much harder to get it spot on first time during a conversation or a presentation.
TIP: If you’re not very good on the phone, follow up your work conversations with an email so you can make sure you include anything you forgot to say or weren’t clear about initially.
Introverts are anti-social or socially inept
If a person finds it difficult to interact naturally with others, it can create a stigma among those that don’t know them very well.
It’s usually seen as a bad thing to be a ‘loner’; if you’re an introvert, others might assume that you just don’t like people or enjoy socialising.
TIP: If you find it difficult to cope with groups of new people, try and focus on one-to-one conversations. There is bound to be someone else who would be relieved to have a quiet talk away from the crowd.
Introverts are aloof or rude
Quiet people often have a rich internal life. They may not appear outwardly friendly if you catch them in the moment, walking down the street or typing away at their computer. But that doesn’t mean they’re ignorant or they don’t want to talk to you, it just takes them a minute to change their thought process and switch to conversation mode.
Or they might be self-conscious or uncertain. Haven’t you ever had the moment in the street or the supermarket where you see someone you knew at school or a vague acquaintance and you’re not sure whether to say hello? Will they remember you, will they say hello first? You overthink it and fluff your lines. They think you snubbed them. It’s not just me, right?!
TIP: Practice smiling and saying hello to people in the corridor at work or school. Most people will smile back and it will become more natural.
Introverts are bad at management and public speaking
This one ties into the idea that introverts have poor communication skills. A softly spoken person might be seen as lacking authority or the ability to deal with confrontation, which would affect their approach to management. Crippling shyness might also make it difficult to give confident presentations.
TIP: Take any opportunity to showcase your communication skills, so people have the chance to see you shine.
Introverts need to change their personalities
This is something that, quite frankly, has always pissed me off. I’ve encountered a few people who have tried to push me to change my personality and be more outgoing, when that simply isn’t who I am.
Would the world be a better place if everyone was loud, chatty and outgoing?
So why should everyone aspire to the same personality traits. We all have our strengths, and we should be able to use them and build on them, rather than abandoning them to fit the mould of what someone else wants us to be.
TIP: Don’t force yourself to change. Play to your strengths, work on your weaknesses if you need to, but be true to who you are; you’ll be happier that way.
Introverts and extroverts: what assumptions do people make that annoy you? Share them in the comments!