Lady Gaga. Emma Watson. Mark Zuckerberg. Barack Obama.
Christina Aguilera. Bill Gates. Abraham Lincoln. Mahatma Gandhi.
What do they have in common? Well, not the following things.
Introversion is a commonly misunderstood personality type. There are so many popular misconceptions surrounding what it means to be an introvert, many of which could not be more false. In my previous post, I explained what it truly means to have an introverted personality. Now, it’s time to debunk the common myths surrounding this personality type.
Introverts can’t be outgoing, fun, or friendly
Introversion and shyness are not synonymous, and introversion and sociable are not mutually exclusive. Introverts can be outgoing and extroverts can be shy – none of these traits can be attributed to either personality type. Introverts just may have fun in different ways than extroverts. We often have a limited amount of energy to do intense socializing, so we often enjoy calmer nights with just a small group of friends or a simple movie night. We just may have fun doing things others consider boring.
Introverts can’t speak to people, and definitely not to crowds
If that were true, the world would be much more silent (actually…we might kind of like that…). I identify very clearly as an introvert, and yet I have been in several positions that involved speaking to groups of people: a tour guide, a teaching assistant, a RockStar. I guarantee you there are plenty of introverts in similar positions all around you. Introverts can be great public speakers, actors, musicians, and everything else you’d think only extroverted personalities could handle.
Introverts don’t want to speak to people
Introverts don’t avoid talking to people because they don’t like it. Not most of the time, anyway. (If we’re talking about small talk, then perhaps. On more than one occasion, I have said small talk is the bane of my existence. I know it’s cold outside, you know it’s cold outside, everyone knows it’s cold outside. I, along with many introverts, don’t feel the need to say empty words to each other. Please don’t make us. *End rant*) If an introvert isn’t talking to you, it’s most likely they just don’t have anything to say or just need their time to be silent. Introverts often prefer to really think about something before they say it, and other times they just prefer to listen to others and absorb what they’re saying.
Introverts don’t like people
I will admit, I have been known to say this. It’s most often when I’m walking through the hallway and others are refusing to move at a reasonable pace, or I’m grocery shopping and someone is taking up the entire aisle. But I don’t truly hate people, and other introverts don’t either. We just typically prefer a few close friendships to tons of acquaintances, and a few good conversations to tons of shallow ones. We like people-ing (yes, that’s a verb in my world), just not in large doses.
Introverts can’t be leaders
It’s true that many introverts are happy to work further away from the spotlight, but many others love to lead and thrive doing so, including the 40% of CEOs who identify as introverts. Introverts lead, they just lead differently. We may prefer to lead more by example than by command, or more through collaboration than direction. Certain parts of the introverted personality, like the ability to listen rather than talk and think of new ideas rather than follow the old ones can make introverts powerful leaders
Introverts need to fix themselves
Alright, it’s time to drop the sass and get serious. This is the one that gets to me the most. It isn’t typically stated explicitly, but it’s always there. The prevailing viewpoint is that introverts would be more successful and happy if they could just become extroverts. It’s true that it can be useful to be able to turn on the extrovert switch when needed, but introverts in no way need to train the introversion out of themselves. It’s not possible, and would only lead to an unhappy introvert and a loss of all an introvert has to offer. Introversion can make things more difficult, but it also gives a person so many advantages that aren’t as common in extroverts. To all the extroverts out there, don’t try to fix us; to all the introverts out there, don’t try to fix yourselves.
Which sets the stage for my next Confessions of an Introvert post (segue alert): how introverts can recognize their strengths, and how they can use those strengths to their advantage.