Update: While I wrote this article 7 years ago, the well-trodden topic of introversion is making another comeback as current circumstances test even the most intro of verts! I loved re-reading the comments at the end, so many great points of view shared.
I had somewhat of a revelation recently when I watched Susan Cain’s TED talk outlining the ideas in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
When I announced to my wife the discovery that I was an introvert, she said words to the effect of “Uh… durh!” Actually, those were her exact words.
Call me slow, but I’d always just lumped ‘introvert’ into the same category of the many familiar terms – positive and negative – that I’d heard growing up such as ‘quiet’, ‘reserved’, ‘soft spoken’, ‘awkward’, ‘studious’, ‘aloof’, ‘anti-social’ or even the dreaded ‘shy’. But I’d been wrong all along.
This is the definition that struck a chord with me: Extroverts are energised by being around other people, while an introvert is drained by it. Indeed, introverts are energised by being alone.
This definition helps make it clear why I:
- Don’t get into brain-storming sessions
- Prefer to read and write emails than talk
- Avoid meetings unless absolutely essential
- Rarely answer my phone unless I know who it is
- Think of answers to questions five minutes after the conversation’s moved on
- Am most productive when the rest of the house is asleep
- LOVE working from home
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Cain goes to great lengths to explain that she loves extroverts – indeed she married one – and that teamwork, charisma and collaboration are all very important in business.
“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
However, in her book she argues that modern society undervalues introverts dramatically and that our schools and work places are biased towards extroverts and collaboration, despite more than one third of people identifying as introvert.
Her presentation concludes with three actions for extroverts, introverts and those in between:
- Stop the obsession with group work and encourage more privacy, freedom and autonomy.
- Unplug and find your own wilderness, get inside your head and have your own revelations.
- Share your ideas and have the courage to speak softly.
I must admit at this point that I haven’t yet read the whole book, but I can’t wait to curl up in the corner and read it by myself.
Do you identify with introversion? Or is it perhaps just an excuse to hide behind? Tell us (quietly) in the comments.
Peter Crocker is a copywriter and content strategist at Business Copywriter, where he partners with digital agencies and corporate clients on websites and digital content. He’s the co-author of Flying Solo Revisited: How to go it alone in business.