Introverts are not broken extroverts — they just have different needs, like requiring more alone time.
The terms “introvert” and “extrovert” are buzzing around more than ever. Since Susan Cain kicked off the quiet revolution with her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, introversion, specifically, has been getting more attention. (But oh no, we don’t want that!)
All jokes aside, I think we still have quite a way to go when it comes to the general public truly understanding introversion and appreciating it — not just tolerating it. Extroverts, how many of you truly are curious about the introverts in your life? Whether they’re in your home, work, or school environment, how often do you really consider what it’s like to be them?
Here are a few common things that people don’t understand about introverts — but I really wished they would.
5 Things People Don’t ‘Get’ About Introverts
1. They like people; they just connect with them in different ways than extroverts.
Extroverts may think introverts don’t like people and prefer to be alone all the time. But that’s not true. We introverts long for connection in the same way extroverts do, albeit in different forms.
We’d love for others to understand that there is more than one way to socialize, more than one way to connect with others, and more than one way to care about and empathize with others.
Extroverts, instead of assuming we’d act like you in a given situation (especially socially), please acknowledge and appreciate the ways we do these things in our own way. If we prefer a one-on-one catch-up with a friend instead of talking to several people at a big party, so be it.
Just because we go about socializing differently does not mean it’s “wrong.” Societal acceptance of a behavior or belief does not make it “right” or “wrong.” Personality and expression are very much an individual thing and should not be generalized as we see in our schools and Corporate America. Remember: One size does not fit all.
2. They do not have a disorder (just because they don’t socialize or speak every possible minute).
Introversion is not a disorder; introverts are not broken extroverts. Extroversion and introversion lie along the same spectrum of human temperament. We are all a little of both, although we tend to have stronger biological leanings toward one or the other.
Misconceptions about introversion lead people to think that introversion is the result of mental illness, child abuse, personality disorders, and/or low-self esteem — which are all false. People of any temperament can be affected by any of these factors.
Please know that these, or any other erroneous assumptions, can show up in your behavior toward introverts. And, as a result, this can keep introverts from opening up to you — not because they’re standoffish, but simply because they don’t feel they can be themselves around you. They do not feel appreciated or “seen” by you. Consider this: Would you want to be in the presence of someone who forced you to be someone you’re not in order to be around them?
3. They are intelligent — they’re just deep thinkers and usually don’t like drawing attention to themselves.
I think people tend to underestimate introverts. But we introverts bring a wealth of knowledge to bring to the table and are often quite emotionally intelligent and in tune with others, despite popular belief.
Leaders within schools and workplaces often misjudge and label us as unintelligent based on our quieter nature. I think this leads to them having lower expectations of introverts, which can then result in a lack of opportunities, rejection, and neglect for the introvert. This can manifest itself in the form of poor performance, lack of interest, or other negative behaviors in the introverted individual.
Until school and workplace leaders recognize an introvert’s strengths — like their panache for research, planning, and getting things done — instead of focusing on something that’s more challenging for introverts — like speaking up in meetings or being excited about group projects — I fear this underestimating-introverts cycle will continue.
Overall, introverts connect best when we feel seen and understood, so please be willing to jump into our shell (our inner world) as much as you’re asking us to come out of it. We will happily repay you with equal effort.
4. They like to talk — but please don’t interrupt them or tell them to “speak up.”
Being soft-spoken, one thing I experience to this day (even in my late 30s) is extroverts talking over me, not allowing me to finish a thought or automatically assuming what I have to say is irrelevant or invalid because I didn’t speak loudly.
Instead, let’s make sure everyone’s voice is heard. We are all created differently, some with louder voices and others with softer ones. In no way is my soft voice related to my level of confidence or intelligence: It is what it is. And in no way should anyone (introvert or extrovert) judge the content of someone’s character based on the volume of their voice or how much they speak. After all, there are many ways for introverts to build a good reputation without saying a word.
In work and classroom settings, wouldn’t it be amazing if “quiet ones” got more uninterrupted time to speak? (If they wanted to speak, that is.) And certainly don’t tell them to “speak up.” The thing is, we introverts just need time to think through our responses instead of blurting out the first thing that pops into our minds. Plus, since we tend to overthink things, we need time to distill all these thoughts down.
Introverts also perform at their best when they can learn or work in an environment that respects their needs. If you have a need to hear from them, approach them after class or the weekly meeting and privately ask if they’re okay or if they need anything. They’ll appreciate you for it, and you’ll probably see them begin to open up more once they actually feel like they have a safe space in which to be themselves.
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5. They are not “weird” for wanting more alone time than you do.
Going back to how introversion is mostly due to biological factors, others shouldn’t fault us for the way we are, like how we prefer more low-key social gatherings. (Just like I wouldn’t fault someone who loved talking to every single person in the room at a large party.)
Of course, a big thing we introverts need is alone time to recharge, which is hard for some people to grasp. In school, for example, if a student needs time alone, please don’t assume they are plotting a threat against the school or avoiding others to be mean. They may just need some solo time to regroup. That way, when their social battery is recharged, they’ll be able to be social later (if they so choose).
So whether you have introverted students or employees, or an introverted roommate, partner, or family members, give them the time they need to be alone and don’t take it personally. It is about them, not you!
Introverts Don’t Have to Behave Like Extroverts to Be a Valuable Part of Society
Extroverts, I challenge you to approach the introverts in your lives differently from this point on. But please — be yourselves! We introverts actually do love your energy and expression, and the world needs this, too! Please just keep in mind that introverts do not have to behave like you to be valuable; our different nature is just different than yours, nothing more. We just have different values and ways of thinking and feeling. Let’s learn to appreciate each other for who we are, authentically. This will lead to much more fulfilling relationships for all of us.
You might like:
- 5 Things People Get Wrong About Introverts
- The Top 8 Misconceptions About Introverts
- 3 Things Your Introvert Friends Want You to Understand
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