If you’re an introvert like me, you’ll know how it feels to be crammed into the box of extroversion. I’m talking about the world we live in today, in which over-confidence, loud voices, and big opinions are often valued over seemingly ‘lower’, ‘less important’ qualities of being reserved, softly-spoken and solitary.
Firstly, as Susan Cain sets out in her Ted talk (which I highly recommend watching), there’s no such thing as a completely ‘introverted’ person, or a completely ‘extroverted’ person. There is a scale and most people have qualities from both sides. But, in short, those who need solitude to recharge are introverts, whereas people who recharge through social interaction are extroverts. Cain questions ‘why are we making introverts feel so guilty?’
Starting university, just the same as throughout my time at school, I’ve often felt bad for being introverted, and as though I need to become more extroverted. But here’s why you should feel empowered, certainly not ‘guilty’ or ‘abnormal’, for being an introvert:
- Introverts aren’t reliant on other people to recharge – extroverts need other people for stimulation, whereas introverts need nothing but to be alone, which can be achieved entirely independently.
- Many of the world’s most inspiring, powerful people are introverts – just think of Sir Isaac Newton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mark Zuckerberg and Rosa Parks.
- Introverts are most creative and revelatory – they come up with their great ideas alone, before revealing them to others. Being able to think independently is a really valuable skill to have.
- Having a quiet voice does not mean your ideas aren’t valued – just because you’re not the loudest person in the group, or the leader of that group (although introverts make great leaders, too), doesn’t mean your opinions are any less important.
- Introverts are great listeners – (but extroverts can be, too) although they may not say as much, introverts are exceptionally good at listening. Whether that’s listening to and following instructions, or simply listening to what the other person in a conversation is saying. This is why many people find it easy to trust and confide in introverts.
Starting university, seminars and group projects can be problematic for introverts, who prefer to work alone. As Cain states:
‘Our most important institutions, our schools and our workplaces, are designed mostly for extroverts, and for extroverts’ need for lots of stimulation (…) The vast majority of teachers reports believing that the ideal student is an extrovert’.
She makes a plea to ‘Stop the madness for constant group work. Just stop it.’ So next time you’re forced to work in a group, consider the introverts. They’re part of the team too, so allow them to work alone sometimes if they need, and give them the space and time to speak.