When I browse sites lending themselves to introverts, I find that they tend to be filled with women — not that this is a bad thing. Tea-drinking, cat-loving, indoorsy women with whom I relate to instantly. Yes, these are my people!
But as I look around that digital room, I quickly notice that I’m in the minority. In other words, there don’t seem to be many of us guys floating around the introvert interwebs. Again, this is okay, but it makes me wonder: Are other guys not really concerned with their personality traits and why they may or may not fit in with the rest of their world? Why do some men avoid the “introvert” label at all costs?
Now, I know I may receive some push back on this statement as being a generality. But I don’t really think it’s that far off. I suspect that more men align themselves to the extroverted side because it’s seen as a strength — especially in the business world, in my experience. So I’d like to share some things that I wish other males knew about introverts. Maybe they can learn a thing or two — and stop seeing introversion as a weakness and an identity to be avoided.
What I Wish Other Men Understand About Introverts
1. Quietness isn’t a sign of weakness.
As I’ve already mentioned, many men seem to view extroversion as the “right” personality. To be seen as a leader, especially in the fields of sports and business, they feel they must constantly be full of social energy, as well as a part-time cheerleader. This isn’t so, and in fact, makes me tired just typing it. If someone is quieter and leads by silent example, that does not make them a weak leader. That does not make them a weak person. Verbal dominance does not equal strength.
It’s okay to sit back and listen. It’s okay to take things in and just be. Sometimes that is when the clarity comes. That is when you can best see what the results should look like. It is in the moments of letting your mind be silent that you are able to hear what you are missing.
And indeed, many powerful and well-respected male leaders are introverts, from Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Steven Spielberg to even Abraham Lincoln — and many more. Also, it’s been reported that 40 percent of executives describe themselves as introverts. These are the men who know their own quiet strength.
But, sadly, these men aren’t the ones who are normally associated with strong leadership. Instead, we hear of the “type A” personalities who make great leaders — but only after they burn the bridges on their way to the top.
2. There’s nothing wrong with showing your feelings.
We all know that many men keep their feelings on lock down and don’t like to be seen as the emotional type. While you can choose to live this way, if you are truly an introverted soul (especially a highly sensitive introverted soul), you are just doing damage to yourself. You may not see it on the outside, but inside, you are hurting.
Bottling up feelings tends to lead to self-abusive behaviors later. These may come out in social ways, like drinking a little too much a little too often. But it can also lead to seemingly “healthy” albeit destructive behaviors — like over-exercising or spending too much time in solitude.
For example, we all know that an introvert’s dream weekend is staying in, maybe streaming a movie or getting caught up in a good book. Personally, I love spending time at home, because it helps me recharge.
But I’ve learned that I need balance. Too much time alone, and I can land in depression, getting trapped in my own unexpressed thoughts and feelings. That’s when I know I need to reach out to a good friend and have an open conversation. Or, at the very least, journal — as a way of verbally throwing up my emotions and frustrations. I always feel a sense of relief, even though the only “person” I told was my computer screen. It’s still out of my head and into the world.
3. Social events can be small. Even solo.
When planning my “massive” Super Bowl party this year, I invited all of four people. It was my two sons and their respective girlfriends (as well as my wife and youngest, but they live here so they’re an auto-invite). And that was enough.
I’ve held soirees in the past that involved way too many people who I really didn’t even want to see — and as an introvert, it became exhausting. I’ve learned that it’s okay if the number is small.
And you don’t have to stay out late and get inebriated to call it a successful gathering. These are things that even as I get older (just crossed the big 5-0), still seem to be important to my male friend group. How late can we stay out and how hammered was I? These are not necessarily things that make for a good time.
Instead, as an introvert, I enjoy really connecting with someone, even when that means my social circle is becoming more a social “line.” I know that my relationships are now deeper even though they are fewer. I’ve also found that quality has by far surpassed quantity when it comes to social events. I’d rather look back on my year and see that I attended very few, but very meaningful events with family and friends, as opposed to hitting the city every weekend for another meaningless night out.
Guys, remember, it’s okay to go to the movies alone. It’s okay to go to dinner alone. It’s okay to take a day off from work just to recharge. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. As men, we often think we have to do it all and be it all, and not show “weakness” by slowing down.
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Now, I want to be clear I’m speaking to my introverted male fellas who feel like they have to live the extrovert’s life to be seen in a good and “normal” light. If you’re an extroverted chap who needs to be big and bold and loud, more power to ya, just don’t assume that we’re all cut from the same cloth. And don’t act like there’s something wrong with introverted guys. We are not weak, we are silently strong.
Our world has become an odd place for introverted guys to live in. Although introversion is more socially accepted than ever before, it’s still a work in progress for folks to understand us. I know that our fellow female introverts suffer from some of the same prejudices, and it’s not easy for them either — but they may have more of a built-in support network than us.
Guys, we need to be there for each other and for our partners. If we let ourselves not be true to our introverted personality, we are only hurting ourselves.