There are omnipresent beliefs about the superior advantages of the so-called “open-plan office”, “group work” or gregariousness. In fact, our culture has valued the boldness and sociability in people’s personality so excessively that ones who tend to be reserved and self-effacing are often disregarded. Fortunately, since the Susan Cain’s most illustrious book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” was published in 2012, there has been growing concern about introversion from people around the world. Though being seen as a “second-class personality trait”, many psychologists, through their research, have confirmed the introversion’s virtue in different aspects (Cain 2012). There is a saying from Mahatma Gandhi, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Indeed, introverts are unique in their own way; they are the paragon of the fact that one does not have to be bold and outgoing so as to be triumphant in life. For that reason, it is absolutely essential for them to be conscious of their own strengths and weaknesses and then find ways to take advantage of it. Thus, this paper, with the purpose of providing helpful information about introversion, will discuss introverts’ challenges and their distinctive strengths helping them to thrive in the extroverted world.
2. Discussion of findings
2.1 The concept of “Introversion”
There has no specific statistic in the introvert-extrovert ratio or clear definition of “Introversion”. Though, psychological scientists are unanimous in some certain points. To distinguish introverts from the extroverted people, the energy source is believed to be the most outstanding trait (Laney 2002, Sword 2002). While extroverts gain energy from the external world by socializing with people, introverts are the “energy conservers” that they recharge energy in their own internal world of ideas and emotion. Another important difference lies in “the concept of breadth and depth”: extroverts are wide but shallow; introverts are deep but narrow (Laney 2002). According to Cain, our social styles towards society are partly defined by our personality traits (Cain 2012). To be more precise, as extroverts are breadth-oriented, they are liable to possess numerous social relationships and little understanding about different areas; besides, introverts, who like depth, prefer small-scale relationships with extreme intimacy and concentration on few topics (Laney 2002). One more essential difference mentioned in Dr. Laney’s book was how people approach stimulation originated from the outside. Indeed, extroverts require greater external stimulation while introverts feel overwhelmed if there is too much stimulation from the outside (Cain 2012). Introverted people learn by observing and only live a fulfilling life after they understand it thoroughly, while the opposite is true to the extroverted ones.
Besides the relationship of opposition with extroversion, introversion also shares the misconception with shyness and high sensitivity. According to Douglas Eby in his article “Shyness, Introversion, Sensitivity – What’s the Difference?” first published in 2016, shyness can be seen as a kind of anxiety, and prone to become more extreme if one person who is considered to be shy also has the characteristic of its similar traits, for example, social anxiety and introversion. In terms of high sensitivity, Eby indicated that highly sensitive persons are profoundly conscious of both others’ feelings and theirs towards people around them (Eby 2016). Unlike shyness which does not exist at birth but emerges at a particular time and develops gradually, high sensitivity is inborn (Aron, cited in Eby 2016).
2.2 Introverts’ Greatest Challenge: The Extrovert Ideal
Like yin and yang, fire and water, it is apparent that every opposite pair has the specialty of conflicting each other. Set in the context of introversion-extraversion relationship, extroverted people are not just simply opposed to their introverted ones, but also appear to be over-dominant over them. This can be attributed to the extroverts’ possession of the assertive and outgoing personality. Cain has her own way to call what is presently dominating the Western culture: the Extrovert Ideal. In the early twentieth century, American society experienced a huge cultural shift from the Culture of Character to the Culture of Personality, according to the renowned cultural historian Warren Susman. In the Culture of Characteristic, people was defined mostly by what they did in their private lives rather than the impression they make to the public as in this current Culture of Personality. Nowadays, people are too concerned about what others think about them. This trend has been suggested originating from the industrialization together with the demographic change that rural people moved to urban areas to find new opportunity. Since then they realized the need of standing out from the crowd so as to be noticed by the public (Cain 2012).
The Extrovert Ideal can risk the introverts in different ways, including the viewpoint of parents on their quiet offspring. Many introverted youngsters have found extremely difficult to live up to their parents’ expectation as they wish them to possess more extroverted traits. Though, due to the fact that hardly does one’s natural characteristic change primarily, it would be a grave mistake of nudging children to become what they are not meant to be (Walsh 2012). In terms of promotion, a deep-rooted bias against introverted employee has existed for people for people taking extroverts seriously. Since the Culture of Personality has influenced people to consciously care about others’ comments about them and admired magnetic personality, companies are “sidelining potential leaders” and making way for extroverts with their noisy features to climb the corporate ladder (The Economist 2016).
More seriously, even introverts have placed themselves under pressure of inferiority, thinking their own personality traits can be a kind of pathology. In the 1990s, it was authenticated by UK and Europe suppliers in the Myers-Briggs personality type test that even though extrovert population accounted for just about 50% then, more than 90% of test-takers thought that being an extrovert was better (Barford 2012).
2.3 Strengths of Introverts – Thrive in the Extroverted World
Everything has its own value, and introversion is not an exception. Nonetheless, worrying that they only play second fiddle to extroverts, many introverts exert themselves to act out of their natural character. Even if their efforts appear to be efficacious, introverts undeniably feel exhausted and exasperated of attempting to be someone else (Park 2014). Introverts have unusual strengths for them to flourish in the extrovert-driven world. In her article “6 Hidden Strengths of Introverts”, Dreher indicated that introverts were great problem solvers. According to Laurie Helgoe (cited in Dreher n.d.), there is a range of complicated activities in the frontal cortex inside an introvert’s brain which helps solve the challenge straightforwardly. Especially when it comes to taking risks, a great problem solver is no doubt to be the best solution. In search of rewards, extroverts have so burning desires that may reveal their weakness; to be more precise, if they put their aspiration first and their mind later, they will easily fall into efficiency pitfalls (Cain 2012). In these circumstances, rarely are the systematic brains of introverts plagued by threats. Besides, possessing the nature of depth-orientating, embracing solitude and some other distinctive traits, introverts have the potential to become great writers. There is a quotation from the writer of “The Fault in our Stars” that “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” Based on a research conducted by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist, a majority of creative people have been found in the group of introverts (Dreher n.d.). ‘The theory of relativity’, ‘the theory of evolution’, ‘The Cat in the Hat’ and a great deal of other world’s greatest triumphs are brainchildren of the most legendary introverts (Cain 2013). Furthermore, in terms of relationship, introverts tend to narrow down their circle of friends to a small size so that they will not feel exhausted when socializing (Dreher n.d.). Their enthusiastic willingness to listen and share makes them to become the best friends on earth.
It is widely believed that most firms long for extroverted employees with the belief that they can be potential leaders. Contrary to popular belief, Kahnweiler mentioned interesting statistics in her Forbes article that 40% of administrators designated themselves as introverts, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and even President Barack Obama; interestingly, many of successful chiefs claimed that most people around them did not realize that they were introverts. It is in the nature of introverts that they have the ability to think thoroughly before speaking up, they learn by listening not talking, and appear to be calm (Kahnweiler 2009). Unlike conventionally extroverted leaders who get on well with compliant workers on a regular basis, the introverted ones can do their best with the support of self-sufficient staffs. As our planet has grown at breathneck speed that executives may find difficulty wary all matters confronting companies, barely is the employee’s attitude of complying boss unconditionally supported wholeheartedly (Walsh 2012). That is one reason why the world is in need of introverts.
As reported by Walsh, several prudent corporations such as Amazon and Google have been aware of the introverted traits and started off taking steps to focus on potential introverted employees. This may be due to the fact that more and more companies are concerned about the benefits they might gain from improving working systems and assisting introverts at the same time (Walsh 2012).
Apart from the external support, introverts should have their own remedies to take advantage of their nature-born characteristics. It goes without saying that human can do best when they feel comfortable with what they are doing. Introverts are suggested “playing to their strengths” to produce the desired outcome. It is vital to introverts to nurture their self-belief, instead of negatively thinking their characteristics are the hindrance to their success. Only then can they dedicate to their work and “make a lasting impression” (Park 2014).
From the analysis above, it is apparent that introverts had better exploit their unique natural gifts together with triumph over society’s bias to be prospering in the Extrovert Ideal. To most introverts, this may be a “too good to be true” prospect. Not only does the public need to pay more attention on sympathizing and promoting the quiet personality, but introverts themselves should devote a great deal of time and efforts to make this happen. With the positive approach from both sides, it is not an over-optimistic belief that introverts will no longer feel themselves being sidelined from the outer world