The Truths About Introversion Both Introverts AND Extroverts Should Know
There is so much bad information floating around regarding introversion. Not only do extroverts assume this information is correct, but most introverts do as well. But believing in these falsities only makes it harder for us to champion our introversion. So let's set the story straight!
MYTH #1: DEFINITION
Open up any dictionary or thesaurus and you are likely to find words like wallflower, loner, anti-social, icicle, and even narcissist. My favorite is "opposite of extrovert" because, defining introversion by its opposite, implies there are no true strengths of introversion itself.
The reality is that introverts have many amazing strengths. We need to explore, embrace, and apply them at work and at home. Over 2100 people have taken our Introvert Strengths Quiz which helps to identify your strengths and how to grow them. The most common strengths are preparation, observation, learning, balanced analysis, and thoughtfulness, but yours may vary. These talents are needed in meeting rooms and dinner tables. They aid in developing deeper, more tangible relationships and in testing ideas that are all too often shared by others without much consideration.
The best definition for introversion I've found is two-fold:
How we think: extroverts tend to think outside their head. They shoot from the hip and share thoughts that are not always well thought out. Meanwhile, introverts think inside our heads so we consider options, pros and cons, and how we want to share our unique perspectives with others.
How we re-energize: at the end of a busy day or week, extroverts tend to re-energize through social interaction - often several during the weekend. Introverts would find this overwhelming. Instead, we typically energize with some alone time to relax, read, paint, write, walk, or exercise.
MYTH #2: WE ARE ALONE
Many of us grow up feeling alone and different. We can't pinpoint it, but we just feel like we don't fit in. Even after we connect with the term "introversion," we often relegate ourselves to the stereotypical definitions above. As a result, our self-esteem suffers and we crawl even more inward.
So it's no wonder we feel alone because most introverts are quiet and overly self-conscious. But in reality, roughly half of people in any group are on the introvert side of the scale. We are part of the Hidden Half, but when we know our strengths and power in numbers, we realize we are not alone. There are many of us quietly observing and learning.
MYTH #3: INTROVERT BY CHOICE
Many people believe we have merely chosen to be introverts and, as a result, we can now aspire to become extroverts. I find this myth understandable but disturbing. When we are in the depths of trying to figure ourselves out while surrounded by seemingly energetic, carefree, and successful extroverts, it's no wonder we wish for that. However, it's just not in the cards.
In fact, introversion and extroversion are part of our DNA...it's who we are. Extroverts crave dopamine. The chemical receptors in their brain need lots of dopamine and quench this need from feedback, recognition, and social interaction. Introverts get overwhelmed with too many of these activities.
Introverts are not immune to chemical cravings. We need acetylcholine to satisfy our needs and can trigger acetylcholine release, not surprisingly, from introspective and creative activities.
So neither introverts nor extroverts "choose" these chemical needs or can change them during their lives. Introverts can learn about our strengths and talents and how to apply them to become confident and successful in traditionally challenging situations like socializing/networking, meetings, and leadership. At times, we can thrive in these situations, even to the point of others identifying us as an extrovert, but we are still introverts at our core. We are just mastering these situations our way!
MYTH #4: INTROVERTS ARE JUST SHY
This is a common misperception as well but they are two very different things. As we stated above, introversion is sparked by chemical cravings in our brains. It is hard-coded into us. We can certainly thrive by leaning on our strengths and experiences but we will not change our classification. Shyness, however, is a social anxiety construct often spurred by discomfort in crowds or in being the center of attention. Like introverts, shy people often lack the skills or experience to master those situations, but with practice, they can overcome their shyness, if they wish.
Many introverts are also shy, but this is not always the case and they don't have to come in tandem. Often, by championing our own introversion, we can also manage or mitigate our shyness.
MYTH #5: INTROVERTS ARE NOT SOCIAL
Often introverts believe in this myth. We can find greater comfort in the back of the room, observing instead of doing, and in staying within our introspective comfort zone. But the thought that introverts can't communicate, can't socialize, or don't want or need to socialize are all wrong. Sure, COVID isolation may have been a bit comforting, but most of us got to the point of needing some quality interaction.
We just need to socialize on our own terms. We like "quality" interaction. Chitchat for its own sake is frustrating. We'd rather have a bit deeper conversation with others to truly get to know them and find some commonality.
The key, I've found, is adhering to the Social Formula:
If all 4 are available, we tend to be quite comfortable to participate. If some of these conditions are violated, we get less comfortable. For instance, if we are in a large group of strangers, we can find it nerve-wracking. So strive to create situations that adhere to the social formula. We are good communicators with lots to share, we just need the right environment that is conducive to our participation.
Thriving with introversion is all about understanding the true definition, embracing our strengths, and creating the best environments to participate. When we accomplish these steps, we will no longer "wish we were extroverts" but champion our true selves.
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