Grab a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable. In this letter, I want to share with you what an introvert is, my experience of being an introvert and why being an introvert is awesome.
I have always been an introvert and to be honest never really thought it too much about. I thought about it as often as I stop to think that I am human and twenty-two years old! That was until I watched Susan Cain’s Ted Talk called the Power of Introverts. Her presentation really got me thinking about my own experiences being an introvert and how that has influenced my behaviour in certain situations.
For example, Susan discussed how she forced herself into crowded bars when we would rather be with a small group of friends. For me, even as a student, I would rather be at home reading a book or watching a DVD with a friend than go out clubbing (is it even called clubbing these days!?).
To clarify what an introvert is, as there are lots of misconceptions. According to the Oxford Dictionary, an introvert is;
A person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.
It is important to be clear the no one is completely introverted or extroverted, as with most human characteristics we are all on a spectrum.
For me and many other introverts, we feel more comfortable and better able to focus when we are alone. As we find external stimulus such as people draining. This is an apparently because introverts tend to process a broader and more in-depth information in any given situation. It is for this reason that we tire more easily from overstimulation. If I don’t make time to be alone I often start to feel anxious and exhausted leading to brain fog.
Apparently, according to Susan, 1 in 3 people are introverts which surprised me. As Susan goes on to discuss this is due to introverts being taught from a young age that being an extrovert is the best way to be. She believes this is due to a cultural shift from working in family businesses to working with strangers were personality and gravitas is more important. As a result, most workplaces are designed for extroverts with open plan offices and a focus collaborating ideas even though this often means we influence each other’s ideas so have a less varied brainstorm. For example, I know I act more extravert in interviews than I naturally am as I know it receives a better response. Reinforcing the idea that you need to be extroverted to be ahead of the game.
This is not the case though as there are several benefits to being an introvert including (but not limited too!);
Being a Good Listener
I think this is because we are able to take in more information than extroverts. I am often the person my close friends and family come to chat through. I happily sit and listen to them and understand that sometimes all you need is to feel heard.
Being an Observer and Taking a more Considered Approach to Situations
My Dad tells me that when I was a child I used to observe social situations for a while before joining in which, to be honest, I still do now. I think this is one of the reasons I developed a fascination with understanding human behaviour through Psychology and why I went on to study it as my degree. A positive outcome of this is that I am often the first to notice if someone is upset or struggling.
Being a Compassionate Leader
Psychology shows we often follow the most dominant leader which is where introverts can often fall short so are often overlooked for promotions. However, there is no correlation (according to Susan Cain) between being loud and having the best ideas! Introverts often make more compassionate leaders they also able to learn each team members strengths and weakness. As well as being less like to take risks!
Having a Rich Imaginations Leading to Increased Creativity
I think this is part of the reason I love reading as I love escaping into my own imagination. I have always been a creative getting stuck in art projects, playing the flute and baking as a child. Now I still love baking but also do photography, blogging and I am part way through writing a fiction story. The only negative is that I can sometimes scare myself with my own imagination!
I hope if you are an introvert you take away from the letter that it is ok to be an introvert. I mean Eleanor Rosevelt and Gandhi were introverts so we must be doing something right. It also a gentle reminder to listen to your gut more often.
Now if you are an extrovert. I don’t mean to make you feel bad and I hope this letter has enlighted you on the introverts in your life.