You may not hear them, but they are all around you, listening, talking, laughing, smiling, thinking and often watching the clock while scoping out the nearest exit. Yes, I am talking about introverts in the room. The terms introvert and extrovert were popularized by psychologist Carl Jung in the early 1900s. Introvert means to turn inwardly or to direct inward and refers to expression or energy.
An introvert is someone whose social fuel tank gets drained by people and gets refilled by being alone. I am an introvert and typically after a networking or social event I retreat to my lair to refuel. This is a stark contrast to my friends and colleagues who are extroverts, they are charged and energized by being around other people. There are many misconceptions about introverts that I think hinder meaningful connections and often degrade communication within personal and professional environments. In my experience, there are three common myths about introverts that must be debunked.
Introverts are social misfits
Introverts are not social misfits. Even though introverts prefer small group or one-to-one settings, they are perfectly able to socialize in large group settings. It is only that if we were to measure social fuel tanks after large social events or long social engagements, the readings would be close to empty for an introvert. Most introverts are quite aware of this and therefore may shy away from attending long social events or may elect to leave early, especially events where they do not know others in attendance.
Introverts can’t be effective leaders
Being an introvert, extrovert or ambivert has nothing to do with leadership skills. There are many effective and strong leaders who are introverts. Sadly, there is a common belief that the most successful leaders are loud, bold, and abrasive, and since introverts tend to be the opposite of these traits, introverts must be poor leaders. Rubbish. Leadership is a skill that is learned. Being an introvert or extrovert is built in our DNA, it is how we are hardwired. According to the Myers Briggs Company, 56% of the population are introverts. Introverts are excellent leaders in business, families, and communities.
Introverts are shy
It is a common mistake for people to categorize introverts as shy or apathetic. Unprovoked, introverts are not typically loud, aggressive, or seekers of the limelight. Rather they tend to be even tempered and reserved, especially in group settings. In social environments, introverted behaviors may be misinterpreted as passive or docile mainly because they are conserving their energy. However, if you take a closer look, you will also see that introverts are not shy or fearful, they typically speak when asked a question or feel there is something of value to contribute to the conversation. Talking for the sake of making noise or to be seen is not common among introverts. Before buying into myths about introverts, I encourage you to take the time to have a meaningful conversation. Just remember to keep it short and interesting!