Since extroverts make up the majority of the population, it has become the ideal by default. Introversion is just beginning to be understood, and therefore, we have a misunderstood minority that has been forced to try to live in a world made by and for an extroverted majority. This means that many people who are introverted have been required to behave as if they are extroverts or feel as if there is something wrong with them. This doesn’t benefit anyone because society as a whole loses the valuable input of a sizeable segment when it ignores introverts.
The Value of Introverts
When Susan Cain wrote her New York Times bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, she got people around the world thinking about introverts and how recognizing and respecting the unique characteristics of introverted people is enormously important. The subsequent TedTalk empowered introverts around the world to start thinking about their own value and how many of the spaces and activities in our culture are designed by and for extroverts. In particular, Cain addressed the way that collaboration and group work has taken the place of independent study and work in many university classes and corporate office environments, and how that may be highly detrimental to innovation, as the most dominant voice in a group is likely to influence the others on a team. Extroverts like to talk through ideas in meetings, whereas introverts need quiet space to think through an idea. This means that introvert voices and opinions can be completely drowned out and lost in group situations.
Why does this matter?
Besides the fact that about a quarter of the team goes unheard, introverts are deep thinkers and tend to process matters more thoroughly, so losing their input means losing very thoughtfully considered opinions. The different brain wiring of introverts also makes writing a very valuable means of communication for them. Writing uses different pathways in the brain that speaking does and this form of communication comes naturally to folks who are introverted, allowing for high levels of fluency. Meetings and group projects don’t offer the same space for writing as independent work does, therefore eliminating the ability for introverted individuals to work through problems and in turn, losing their valuable input. Recognizing the introverts in your work and school environment, will allow you to capitalize on their deep thinking and maximize the value of your teams.
We live in a world that is rich with diversity of all kinds, the more we recognize all the different approaches to thinking and being that exist, the more amazing our world will be.
Wondering if you may be an introvert? Take Susan Cain’s informal quiz to find out.
Dr. Eileen Wynne