Myths about Introverts

ImageYou may have read my previous post on the Social Bully of Retention Plans, on the discussion of introverts and extroverts at social gatherings at the office. I received some very interesting replies, including a couple personal emails from bloggers who seemed to want to tell me, “how it really is”. One of my very good friends is an extrovert, we do a lot together both in the community and at home watching movies. When we are together, it is very difficult to tell who is the introvert and who is the extrovert because of our flexible and accommodating personalities. There are myths that introverts are “missing out”, “don’t know how to have fun”, are “cold” and “antisocial”, lack creativity, are shy, don’t like people, don’t like to talk, are only “book smart”, and more…. these are simply not true. All of these traits have no preference for personality, they can belong to anyone. Discerning the difference between the two is not as simple as outgoing and shy. There are many misconceptions between these two personalities, and unfortunately, because extroverts make up 70% and more of the population, introverts have been labeled unjustly. This post is intended to clarify the personalities in a positive light, and give more background information on why introverts should be valued in the workplace, not shamed, but encouraged to be themselves- just as extroverts are.

Myth #1) Introverts are Shy. Shyness implies a fear of social interaction- introverts are not any more afraid of people than extroverts. When I worked for a large IT company, there were mass company events, or “social gatherings” rather, once a week. The Director of Events would speak in front of aproximately 2,000 people and more over the course of the day with a team moral booster speech, act as MC, and so forth… And every morning, he would put anti-anxiety pills in his coffee about 20minutes before going on. He was an extrovert, and he could barely speak in front of a crowd without his meds. Shyness is unique to the person, not the intro-extro personality.

Myth #2) Introverts don’t have fun. I would be very interested to know what group of introverts came forward with this information. Introverts go paintballing, are horse enthusiasts, do extreme sports, belong to clubs, go to concerts, and take the train to work just like anyone else. Just like extroverts, there are high energy individuals and low energy individuals. Some introverts don’t like the outdoors, but like cooking instead- others thrive when mountain climbing but don’t like books. Introverts make their fun how it meets their own needs and what is good for them. Which leads me to the next myth, that introverts can change to be like extroverts- and it would be better for them.

Myth #3) Introverts can change to be like extroverts- and it would be better for them. Introverts cannot change, just as extroverts cannot change. Depending on the field of work that each goes into- they may adopt traits that assist them in their environment. Even more so if the individual is passionate about their line of work, and has a dynamic character. In this instance a strong introvert can be an Event Planner, and a strong extrovert can be a Librarian. Although it is a tad unusual for these, as the majority ¬†dominates the opposite personality, it is not unheard of, and will not hinder the personality’s success. If introverts are forced, coerced, or made to believe they “must be an extrovert”, it can take a severe toll on them expending more of their energy, kind of like a jaguar pretending to be a dove all day- it’s just harder. This may be why some people think introverts tire out more easily or are extra quiet- it could just be because they have used up all their energy sporting their extrovert skills.

Myth #4) Introverts make poor managers and don’t connect with employees. False. Introverts in the office are typically in the “know” for the office pulse, but tend to fly beneath the radar undetected. No doubt that extroverts make a point of their presence being noticed- however introverts as managers sport a reliable, trustworthy open door policy, as opposed to a fluttering social butterfly get around. For professionals that have worked into middle-but for sure upper and senior management, they can attest that the differences between intro-extro at these levels become very difficult to spot. This is because a good manager climbing the ranks typically has to have a dynamic personality and character to effectively manage a diverse group of individuals. A tunnel extrovert cannot manage an introvert, and a tunnel introvert cannot manage an extrovert. Either/or, the fact remains that the stats flip for management- upper management is made up of 70% introverts > this says a lot. Introverts are more sensitive to employee relations and culture which makes them valued managers. This is primarily due to the more easy going nature of introverts who enjoy exploring different types of stimulus at varying degrees as opposed to a lot of stimulus at one degree all at once.

introvertMyth #5) Introverts only want to be alone. Believe it or not, just like extroverts- there are “world class introverts” just like “world class extroverts”. There are different sub-levels and degrees of each, kind of like the difference between being outgoing and obnoxious. There are world class introverts (kind of like myself) that can go days without being in touch with the rest of the world, even without a phone or computer. Sometimes I just really enjoy reading, writing, contemplating, and being creative on my own for a bit. Usually I want to share this with someone when I’m done my time alone, and I love sharing with other introverts who do the same thing. But believe me, not all introverts like to be alone. There are a lot who enjoy talking and sharing regularly throughout their day. Typically though, introverts prefer groups of 1-3 of close friends who they have sincere, close relationships and connections with as opposed to 5-8 people (again- notice the increase in stimulus) when together at once. It’s not that they want to be alone- it’s that they require lesser stimulus overall. Introverts get lonely for company and relationships just like anyone else.

Myth #6) Introverts are not creative. A lot of this stems from the myth about introverts having their noses in books, and being quiet all the time. Introverts can be very creative, in fact, there is not a statistic that can tell you who is more creative. Each personality enjoys art, music, food, languages, culture, and everything in between. Each personality expresses their creativity differently- writing, reading, drawing, painting, playing an instrument, designing a web page, marketing, blogging, social networking, public speaking, community networking, and the lot to follow.

I hope this helps you in your journey with understanding the differences, and how to positively work with, and understand introverts. Perhaps even for some of you (30%) you recognize yourself, and can see the qualities.

Happy Office Politics.

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2 thoughts on “Myths about Introverts

  1. sometimes it is harder to promote introverts to senior technical positions, they need to have reach across an organization into different departments. This usually requires a bit of social moxie.

    In our case ( technical positions, moving a person from engineer to principle engineer ) we sometimes had to “craft” projects and assignments to allow the person to show their skills across departments. We also did alot of coaching on personal skills to help them build consensus.

    • I’m glad you pointed this out because it shows (at least to me) how well intro-extro compliment each other. From my background in HR with an IT company, I can see that you can get stellar engineers who are all intro (but sometimes by hiring process, they somehow all end up being world class intro’s-) and this puts the prospected leader in an awkward position. A whole department of intro’s can flourish under the facilitation of an extro-and I do believe depending on the other character traits of the extro-it can also help them with what it is you’re talking about- that “reach”. However, on another note, I would also say that even I have been fooled at the office who is an intro/extro because they do such an excellent job mirroring employees, and have great dynamic characters. I think the social moxie is a character thing, and less of a personality trait for the intro/extro- but I would even disagree with myself on a whole other note again as I have been recently working with a company doing a 40% staff overhaul, and the job descriptions they write scream extrovert, and to be honest I don’t think an introvert could survive their environment- and I don’t think that’s a bad thing either. Their culture is thriving under a very unique bar. But again, I think you’re onto something.

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