If I say to you how do you describe an introvert and if I told you I was one what would you think and say. Most people when you say your an introvert they naturally assume that an introvert is quiet and unsociable, doesn’t have a lot to say and are not leaders or change makers.
The truth is an introvert is someone who gains energy by being on their own and finds social situations overwhelming and draining. Whereas an extrovert is energised by social situations and is probably the sort of person who cannot cope with silence for too long and would get edgy and bored. There are those who lie somewhere in the middle (they are known as ambiverts) but normally there is a dominant trait of being either primarily an extrovert or introvert.
I’m now going to address some of the misconceptions about being an introvert. One assumptions is that they are not sociable. In a group for instance if an introvert is quiet it is deemed they are not engaging. Not true in a group an introvert is fully alert, they are observing, listening and waiting patiently for a spot to put their point of view across or a make a comment. I remember a time when I was at a friends house quite a number of years ago and we had some kind of party I think. After the food we all sat around and plenty of chatter was going on It may have appeared to some that I wasn’t happy, but on this occasion far from it, I was basking in the happy atmosphere of my friends, I was also feeling the joy of the connection I had with the group, I didn’t feel I needed to speak just being in the presence of that particular group of people made me feel content. So don’t assume that if someone you know in a group is quiet don’t assume that they are bored or antisocial , but just make sure that they are ok and having a chance to speak if they want to and most important of all enjoying themselves.
Another occasion where a similar thing may occur is in meetings in a workplace or any other place where a more serious discussion is taking place where important decisions are being made. If a colleague or friend is being quiet don’t assume the misconception I mentioned above. Here’s what happens when I’ve been in meetings, a discussion takes place, I’m taking everything in, observing the interactions between different people, listening to what people are saying and how others are responding, mulling, analysing and processing all that’s being said, by the time I’ve come to some thoughts of my own the chair has moved on to the next topic, this is common amongst introverts, I only learnt this recently, I thought this was me being slow, far from it I just process and handle information differently from external sources. What I used to do in situations like that a few hours or days after that meeting I would go to my boss and share with him or email him some of my thoughts regarding that meeting. So if there’s anyone in your office/church/group who doesn’t appear to be engaging in meetings, either give them a chance to speak or ask them to see you if they have any comments to make regarding the meeting that’s just took place or to send them in an email or speak with them later.
It’s easy to assume from observation that an introverted person should not be considered for promotion or take charge of a particular project that involves other people. Introverts given the right dynamics can really shine in groups, they make good chairs in meetings as that truly is an observational role, they can set the pace, and tend not to shoot from the hip as much as an extrovert is likely to do and consider a decision carefully before opening their mouth.
Introverts love people it’s just the way they interact with others is different and the amount of time required. Introverts generally prefer one to one conversations rather than group discussions, they can become more extrovert in those circumstances and anyone can see that an introvert has a lot to say on many subjects, introverts are less comfortable with small talk and prefer to get into meaty topics of conversation but also like diverse conversations, where the topics are stimulating.
For me as an introvert it can be difficult in groups the conversation flows and I can’t get a word in edgeways, the extroverts are constantly interrupting each other with hardly a breath of space. I can’t tell you how many times I start to say something in a discussion group and I’ve been interrupted or over talked. People will say they don’t hear me, others say that’s not the case they can hear me fine. So I can sit in silence knowing full well that a conversation will take place that I can’t enter into much as I want to. I then feel drained because I’ve say spent a few hours listening to everything everyone else has been saying digesting it all etc, without feeling I’ve participated. People then have the perception that I’m antisocial or aloof, which is not the case.
The additional hearing loss I have doesn’t help, I’m having to concentrate more in noisy environments, I often think if I wasn’t hearing impaired I probably would be more of an extrovert.
Another misconception is that introverts don’t know how to have fun. Well that’s not true. I certainly love having fun, just not in public places and only with friends who I trust, who I can let my hair down with, in those situations I can be just as crazy and silly as any extrovert.
A recent experience for me is a great example of how I can interact as an introvert. Every couple of months or so myself and 3 fellow female friends go to a local Chinese and have a meal and chat. It’s great, it’s a small number of people in not too busy environment (although the environment can be noisy sometimes) we all get chance to chat, share and laugh while having a nice meal. I find my conversation flows easily with others and I don’t feel drained when I go home. I can enjoy myself with a group of people being sociable and its possible in certain situations that people would not even realise I was an introvert because even I can be loud and outgoing.
So next time you see someone or know someone who seems generally quiet but pipes up on a one to one, your most likely dealing with an introvert. If that person tends to refuse invites to large parties or gatherings you may well be dealing with an introvert. If a family member tends to be seemingly passive in a crisis they may well be an introvert.
Generally introverts are better at speaking than writing. I can speak well sometimes if I’m prepared, but not if I’m put on the spot. Introverts are great communicators their style is just a little different. So please don’t assume they can’t do public speaking or write for a publication, you may be surprised what they can come up with, if given some warning!!
Introverts don’t really feel comfortable being in the limelight and find it hard to do self promotion, but again I think it’s down to preparation and timing, just being thrust in the limelight is difficult for an introvert, but if they are given time to emerge gently then they can handle it better.
Finally a note to my extrovert friends. I value you very highly, those bubbly outgoing social butterflies, I think you are awesome. It’s easy to assume that extroverts are thoughtless individuals. Well many of my extrovert friends are pretty thoughtful and caring people. Have recognised my need for one to one time, so I respect their need for loud open spaces. Some of them will recognise that I’m quiet and will ask me if I’m ok or if I have anything to say.