“There’s a difference between preferring books to parties and preferring sixteen cats to seeing the light of day.” -Lauren Morrill

Introversion is often misunderstood in our culture. The media and the structure of our society tend to idolize the attractive, magnetic and gregarious characters. But what if you or your child is a soft-spoken, reflective type? To appreciate our differences, it’s important to know what introversion is and isn’t.

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like people. Introverts prefer less stimulation and tend to spend time with friends, family and colleagues 1:1 or in small groups. Many introverts have a deep compassion for humanity and want to contribute in their own way. Gandhi is a great example of an introvert who loves people and contributed to society in his quiet, committed way.

Myths #2 – Introverts don’t have social skills and can’t enjoy parties. Quieter, reflective types can have tremendous abilities to relate and connect with people at parties, work, or events. After a while, they do prefer to go home and recharge their batteries.

Myth #3 –Introverts are shy. Both extroverts and introverts can be shy. Shy people turn inward, partly as a way to manage their anxiety around socializing. Many introverts may become shy as a result of receiving feedback that there’s something wrong with their preference for reflection.

Myth #4 – Introverts can’t be leaders. Because this personality type relays heavily on listening, asking questions, and collaboration, they are highly successful in leading initiative-takers. Employees often feel introverted leaders are open and receptive to their ideas which motivates them to work harder.

Myth #5 – We should teach introverts how to be outgoing so they can be successful in life. Many studies have shown that children that observe interactions or situations (sometimes for weeks or months) before participating actually relate better than their peers when they do join in dynamic social interactions or groups. Scientist attribute this to their ability to observe and learn complex systems before they engage making them well equipped to navigate challenges that arise.

About 50% of the world’s population is introverted. This number may seem high as extroversion is often sold as the ideal in our culture. Because of this ideal, many introverts play a “pseudo” extroverted role particularly in the school and workplace. Another reason it may seem high is that introverts can be passionate and incredibly engaging when discussing topics and ideas that they think and feel deeply about, thus appearing extroverted when being their passionate selves.

Not sure if you or someone you love is an introvert? Below are characteristics of introversion:

  • Enjoy solitude
  • Prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities
  • In classroom setting, prefer lectures to seminars.
  • Prefer to express yourself in writing
  • Dislike small talk, but enjoy talking in-depth about topics that matter to you
  • Described as a good listener
  • Not a big risk-taker
  • Often described as “soft spoken”
  • Prefer to celebrate birthdays on a small-scale (one or two close friends)
  • Wait to discuss your work with others until finished
  • Do best work on your own
  • Often let calls go to voicemail
  • Feel drained after being out and about, even if you’ve had a good time
  • Tend to think before you speak
  • Prefer weekends with absolutely nothing to do than one with many things scheduled
  • Dislike conflict

If you are looking for a good read on introverts, I suggest Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Many ideas from this blog came from this book.