If you’re an introvert, chances are at some point in your life, you’ve been criticised for it.
Maybe you had a teacher at school that was determined to get you playing with the other kids, even though you were happy by yourself. Perhaps you had a friend who didn’t understand why you preferred to turn down social engagements to stay at home with a book. Or maybe you’ve had a boss pull you aside and tell you that you need to improve your communication skills in order to be better at your job.
This type of criticism can hurt and leave you questioning yourself, or your place in the world around you.
It can even make you feel like you’re wrong, or defective in some way.
But here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert.
I’ve received my share of criticism over the years by people who perceive me as ‘quiet’. This is a term I hate. Describing somebody as quiet is like saying they are fat, it’s subjective and means something different to everyone.
And usually, when someone describes you as quiet, they mean it as a bad thing. They see you as the shy one in the corner who doesn’t speak up in meetings, or is afraid to ask questions. They don’t trust you to deliver a presentation or to have the confidence to lead on a project.
But the problem is, these people tend to be confident in themselves, outgoing and sociable. To them, that personality type is normal. They see you as different and automatically assume you must be lacking something. They believe that to be successful in business you have to fit their mould. If you don’t, they tell you to change.
Instead of making us feel defective by focusing on the skills we don’t have, these people should focus on the things we’re good at.
A strong team isn’t made from people with exactly the same strengths and weaknesses, it’s made from people with different skill sets who complement each other. A good manager will look at their team – even their weaknesses – and ask how they can work together more effectively.
Asking someone to change their personality is never a strategy for success, especially for someone introverted or with low self-esteem. It just becomes a niggling voice that eats away at them over time, as they wonder why they are never good enough.
If good enough means becoming like the chatty girl who sits at the desk next to you, or the guy who tells everyone who will listen about what a great job he’s doing, then you’ll probably never get there. Because you aren’t that person.
You sit back while others talk and only share your ideas when you’re really sure about them. You don’t shout over those around you, you prefer to listen and consider before you speak. You aren’t pushy and find it hard to be confrontational.
But what’s wrong with being kind or considering other people’s feelings?
Nurture an introvert and you will get a loyal friend and supporter. Criticise them constantly and you will get a nervous, unhappy person seething with resentment and self-doubt.
So don’t believe everything bad people say about you. Don’t let them make you feel bad for being an introvert. There are so many amazing things about you to be proud of.