Friday, May 25, 2012

Yes, there is an upside to being an introvert

It's commonplace to think that introverts have it tough. They appear to feel awkward in company, they prefer to stay silent in classrooms and at work, and, so, they risk being thought of as not very smart, not team players, not leadership material,

All downsides, right? So what is the upside? Is there an upside?

Yes, there is, writes Bryan Walsh in Time magazine.

Walsh, a self-confessed introvert, begins his article with a description of his experience at a diplomatic party in Tokyo. "Small talk with stiff-backed strangers at a swanky cocktail party is by far my least favourite part of my job," he writes. "Send me to a famine or a flood and I'm comfortable. A few rounds of the room at a social event, however, leave me exhausted. So now and then I retreat into the solitude of the bathroom, watching the minutes tick by until I've recovered enough to go back out there."

We then learn that, by some estimates, 30 per cent of all people fall on the introvert end of the temperament spectrum. But what does the label actually mean?

...introverted does not have to mean shy, though there is overlap. Shyness is a form of anxiety characterised by inhibited behaviour. It also implies a fear of social judgment that can be crippling. Shy people actively seek to avoid social situations, even ones they might want to take part in, because they may be inhibited by fear. Introverts shun social situations because, Greta Garbo-style, they simply want to be alone.

So being introverted can be very different from being shy. I didn't know that.

Walsh also discusses why simply being an introvert can feel taxing...

...especially in America, land of the loud and home of the talkative. From classrooms built around group learning to open-plan offices that encourage endless meetings, it sometimes seems that the quality of your work has less value than the volume of your voice.

That last sentence is sure to find resonance in many workplaces in India.

But Walsh's piece is about the upside of being an introvert so he goes to meet Susan Cain, author of the new book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, who tells him that there's indeed a subtle bias against introverts, "and it's generating a waste of talent and energy and happiness". It may be time, Walsh writes, for America [read "all of us"] to learn the forgotten rewards of sitting down and shutting up.

What, then, are the advantages of being an introvert? There are plenty — and you can read about them here: "The upside of being an introvert (and why extroverts are overrated)".
  • Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Answer these 12 questions to find out: "Quiet Quiz".
  • Also read: A former CEO who uses his shyness to forge close relationships and build trust with employees now often stands in front of a roomful of people and tells them how they, too, can be leaders. His advice: "Introverts can be leaders too".
  • Photo illustration: Zachary Scott, courtesy Time

1 comment:

  1. Here's another one that I thought was good insight on a loner -

    I've been in Walsh's situation (the diplomatic party in Tokyo) many a time. But I've found a way to quietly step back and be present at the same time. I once read somewhere that you don't learn anything by hearing yourself speak, so being quiet is not really a bad thing.


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