Introverts make up a large part of the world’s population, but they tend to be misunderstood and often undervalued. Since extroverts’ abilities tend to be more visible and expressed more readily, introverts can look and feel less capable. The workplace is largely set up for extroverts. Open floor plans, low partitions, more meetings, high levels of noise, and little time for privacy at work are all geared toward the extrovert. Since extroverts get energy from interaction with others, this works great for them. But it can be challenging for introverts.
Clearing up some misconceptions about introverts is key to hiring and keeping these valuable employees on your staff.
By definition, an introvert is someone who gains energy by spending time alone, while an extrovert gains energy from being around others. For introverts, too many interpersonal interactions and activities are draining. On the other hand, extroverts think that too much alone time is lonely and depressing.
Introverts are not usually antisocial; they just don’t refuel through social interactions. They need and enjoy more solitude than extroverts, but that’s not to say they don’t want and like time with others. In fact, introverts tend to have very close relationships; they prefer quality over quantity and choose to focus on smaller groups of friends rather than having many acquaintances.
Extroverts associate happiness with “high-arousal positive affect,” which means feeling exuberant, high-energy, and upbeat. On the other hand, since introverts get over-stimulated more easily, they tend to prefer low-arousal positive feelings like relaxation and peacefulness.
Shyness is feeling discomfort with social interactions and fear of disapproval or humiliation. Susan Cain (author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking) wrote, “Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.” Both extroverts and introverts can be afflicted with social anxiety; the fear of being judged by others is not isolated to one personality type.
Susan Cain is proof that introverts can indeed make great public speakers; check out her TED talk here (it’s received over 14,000,000 views!). At least half of people who speak for a living are introverted, but they practice and prepare well so that they can deliver their messages successfully, instead of just winging it. Again, the fear of public speaking is general based on a fear of being embarrassed or judged, and both introverts and extroverts can deal with that fear.
This myth is based on the perception that introverts don’t speak up as much as extroverts. Just because an introvert isn’t the first to speak, doesn’t mean there is nothing going on inside. They are great listeners and often have a lot of processing horse power, they just don’t voice all of their thoughts. When they do, their comments are often succinct and relevant.
Some of the most successful people in the world are introverts. Introverts can be actors, entrepreneurs, activists, and athletes. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Rosa Parks, Ghandi, Michael Jordan, Steven Spielberg, J.K. Rowling, Emma Watson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Aguilera, and Audrey Hepburn, were or are all introverts, just to list a few. Making your office environment friendly to both personality types and seeing the hidden value in your introverted employees will ensure that you retain these valuable individuals.
To learn more, these books are excellent resources.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney
The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength and Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference by Jennifer Kahnweiler
Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength by Laurie Helgoe