One out of three people we know are introverts. And yet we talk little about introversion – at least as a good thing. And even less about wanting to exercise more of the attributes of introversion. Susain has some supremely interesting observations to offer in her book.
Western society adores the extrovert ideal as the behavior and communication type we are all meant to strive for. A Western classroom will be full of group exercises and invitations to speak up. A Western workplace trends toward an open floor plan where everyone is constantly in the presence of everyone else and immediate communication is expected.
Interestingly, Eastern society, in places such as China, holds up bookishness as the ideal. There is more of a tendency there to respect a speaker with listening and to only speak as much as necessary to communicate and to avoid banter. Ideas are more about content than presentation.
Surely there are all sorts of exceptions. These are interesting generalizations of culture and geography, where wholey different ideals are sought after.
Introversion does not mean anti-social. Introverts, like all humans, need and appreciate relationships – fewer, deeper relationships.
Introversion does not mean shy. Shy is what parents and teachers label an introvert whose world is within, thoughtful, and where people gain a misconception of themselves – that they are somehow wrong, not fitting the extrovert mold expected in their culture.
Introversion is not something to be grown out of. Introverts should be more comfortable in their own skin. Society should do more to support introverts as a whole for the great characteristics and abilities that they are more likely to offer.
Susan does a fantastic job giving a perspective of appreciation for introversion. There have been many people whom we revere for their great works – Rosa Parks, Steve Wozniak, Chopin, etc – who are introverts. Introverts are not monk-like hermits. But they do need reprieve from public life. And there is evidence in these times that great innovation and creation comes in those personal moments.
Studies have shown that mastery of subject and performance is mostly acquired in independent study and practice.
Introversion does not even mean an inability to do those tasks that are seem to require extreme gregariousness, such as selling. Introverts’ ability to be empathetic, ask questions, and relate to others makes them potentially powerful in even these types of roles.
In all, Susan does a great job of helping introverts feel more ok about being true to themselves, even appreciated for their special contributions at work and in families. She shows, with great effect, how society can be benefited from using the strengths of introverts. Extroverts and introverts both have much we could learn from one another.