LET'S FIX SOME DEFINITIONS
I don’t like stereotypes because I think that every person is unique. Nobody fits neatly into these silly categories we come up with. Humanity is more complicated than that. The same goes for these highly overused labels – extrovert and introvert.
We usually associate these terms with how chatty people are and how much they like to socialize with others. In reality there is a broad spectrum between “Oh, I am so excited to be in this huge crowd that I want to talk non-stop with all these random people!” and “I don’t want to say another word or see another human being ever again!” Where people are on this continuum can fluctuate from day to day and might depend on the situation, environment, or other people around them.
IT TAKES BOTH SIDES
What I have noticed is that people whom others call introverts are often misunderstood and under-appreciated.
It happens because reserved people find it harder to express themselves to others. They also take longer to open up and reveal the gifts they have inside. At least I do. A lot of people don’t want to do the work it takes to get to know somebody who might not appear as eager to have a conversation. But a little bit of patience on the part of an extroverted individual and a little bit more effort on the part of introverted one can go a long way. At the end both sides might find that they benefited from the interaction.
WE CAN ALL IMPROVE
Growing up I never liked being in the center of attention. I preferred a few good friends to a crowd. I felt really awkward starting a small talk with people I didn’t know and gravitated towards meaningful conversation with people I was already close with. Nothing wrong with this, but at times it caused me to miss out. Now I try to step out of my shell when necessary. I see capable adults being bypassed at work or church due to their inability to put themselves out there. Being able to connect with others and to present yourself is a skill that can be learned. For some it takes a lot of effort but it can still be done. People, who discovered how to overcome this obstacle, can enjoy being introverts at other times.
YOUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD INTROVERT
That said, I think there are a lot of benefits in being introverted (internally focused) and the world can use more individuals who fall into this category. I want to point out some things that might encourage my fellow introverts and, maybe, change a few opinions of extroverts.
1. Being quiet in public and with new people is not a measure of person’s intellect or ability to speak.
It is not a measure of anything. When people tell me: “Why are you so quiet?” (the most useless and annoying question in the world!), I usually say: “Because I am. What’s wrong with that?” People are quiet for different reasons but mostly because they think more than talk. I might not speak up because I am not interested in the conversation. I also despise the small talk but gladly engage when I have something meaningful to say. I prefer to listen to others and wait for the right moment to step into the conversation. It doesn’t mean less talkative people have nothing to say - on the contrary. It might take a considered person to pause and ask them the right question. It might require a one-on-one talk instead of a panel discussion. Test it and you will be surprised. In a heated conversation when everybody is interrupting each other sometimes the quietest person can have the wisest input if others would only give him or her a chance to speak up.
2. Avoidance of social interactions is not an indication that the person is unfriendly or does not want to connect with others.
Introverts are not necessarily shy people, but their unwillingness to constantly be with others is often viewed as unfriendly or strange by extroverts. It is not the case. Most introverts feel like large loud gatherings suck the life out of them, so they can’t wait to run home and hide in a peaceful place. It doesn't mean they never want to interact with others. They are just not as eager to share their life with the whole world and are careful in choosing their acquaintances. It is not because “there is something wrong with them.” They just don’t want to live as an open book but as a private collection of rare volumes. Once access is granted, people learn that introverts are the most faithful, reliable and supportive friends. The same usually goes true for their place of employment. They often bring peaceful presence to any gathering and over time earn the respect and trust of others. They are also good listeners and everybody can appreciate that. A smart employer would utilize their strengths instead of pushing them to be more outgoing.
3. Introverts do not need to be more like extroverts.
This is my biggest concern that in this world we often value certain personality traits more than others. We need to learn to appreciate our differences and realize that everybody is needed and that it is always good to have a mix. I can’t imagine what would it look like if this planet was full of only extremely talkative and hyper people. We would all drive each other crazy. Also it won’t be much fun if all of us were very solemn and reserved. But life is interesting because we were all created custom-made. We tend to gravitate towards people who are more like us and keep out those who appear less familiar but I would challenge that. Where our weaknesses are, another person might have strength and we can all compliment each other.
So, if you are an introvert, don’t judge the chatty person and think he or she is a show off, shallow or self-centered because you feel left out of the conversation. Make an effort to engage yourself. If you are an extrovert, don’t assume that the quiet person next to you has a problem or in a bad mood or is a bore. Instead of asking if they are Ok (implying there is something wrong with them), find a meaningful way to connect them in a conversation. A little bit of patience will go a long way.
IT'S FUN TO BE AN INTROVERT
To all my fellow introverts - accept ourself. You are unique and your qualities are needed in this world. It is good to step out of the comfort zone from time to time, but there is no need to force yourself to be somebody you are not. On the contrary, you need to discover your own strengths and be yourself in order to be successful.
There were a lot of famous introverts. One of my favorite, Eleanor Roosevelt, was private and shy, but despite that she gave hundreds of speeches and lectures. She was a United Nation representative and fought for human rights. Same goes for other inventors, artists, scientists and public figures who made a difference in the world. Sometimes being an introvert means that a person is able to spend a lot of time alone creating things that end up benefiting lots of people... such as writing a new blog that might change your perspective :).
For more examples of famous introverts go to this link. You might be surprised who you find there.