Extraversion and introversion are key personality traits. Despite common misconceptions, the trait works on a spectrum, with most people falling somewhere between, typically skewing towards one side.
Even though 50.2 percent of Americans are introverts, society is more favorable for extroverts. Introverts are often misunderstood. As a result, they face disadvantages, particularly in their career.
Introverts get an unfair reputation for being shy, unable to lead—even antisocial. But these perceptions are false. Being an introvert is a gift that comes with several benefits.
Introversion has a PR Problem and changing the conversation around introversion means understanding common misconceptions and breaking stereotypes.
In this guide, we will share the truth about introversion. We will dispel the myths about introverts and work towards eliminating the stigma that surrounds them.
It’s time to shift away from the belief that introversion is something to be fixed. Instead, let’s embrace its unique gifts and strengths!
What Is an Introvert?
You may be wondering what it means to be an introvert.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary’s introvert definition, an introvert is “someone who is shy, quiet, and prefers to spend time alone, rather than often being with other people.”
The dictionary’s definition of introversion includes examples like, “she managed to overcome her introversion to the point that she could stand up on stage.” This creates a negative stereotype around introverts because it makes it sound like their introversion interferes with their ability to perform.
While many believe introverts are shy, this is a common misconception. Being shy and experiencing introversion are two separate things. Introverts aren’t shy, they just don’t need the same stimulation from external sources as extroverts do.
Being an introvert is not a debilitating condition. Introverts are capable of being in social situations. But they are more selective about the situations they devote their energy to.
The History of the Term “Introvert”
The terms introvert, introversion, extrovert, and extraversion became mainstream in the early 1900s because of the work of psychologist Carl Jung. Jung aimed to describe personality types and how they engage with the outside world. But the general public soon misinterpreted the terms.
Besides being mistaken as shy, introverts are often perceived as aloof, arrogant, and unable to connect. The word introvert originated during the 17th century, initially referring to the spiritual sense of turning inward with one’s thoughts.
In reality, introverts are not antisocial or shy. Many introverts enjoy social gatherings. But socializing, especially in large groups, is exhausting for them.
Extroverts experience an energy boost in social settings. But introverts expend energy when they are around large groups. They need time to recharge in solitude.
The misguided reputation of introverts has caused them to struggle with first impressions. They often lose out on job opportunities or promotions because extroverts can network and socialize so well.
Introversion isn’t a flaw – it’s an undervalued strength. Let’s start changing the narrative!
Psychological Impact of Stigma
Extroverts rely on external factors to fuel their energy. But introverts draw power from being alone with their thoughts. They are often deep thinkers who spend much of their time recharging by being introspective.
As a result, introverts may play back social situations in their head, which can lead to overthinking. They turn inward and focus on their internal thoughts and feelings, which makes many introverts empaths. It can cause introverts to be self-critical or a perfectionist.
Because introverts are often more reserved or quieter in large social settings, others may struggle to get to know them. They are not trying to come off as cold or standoffish, but it requires more energy for them to engage in small talk. This can impact their ability to build an extensive support network or professional network in the way that extroverts can.
It can also impact their ability to form romantic relationships because they tend to be more conservative and guarded with their emotions than extroverts. It can be harder for introverts to meet people, and introverts are very selective about who they let into their inner circle. Instead, they prefer to establish a meaningful relationship built on trust, over a lengthy period.
These feelings leave introverts vulnerable to mental and physical exhaustion, which is why it is so important to take time to recharge.
Causes of the Introvert’s Public Relations Problem
There are many misconceptions about who introverts are. Experts believe personality traits are a combination of nature and nurture. People are often born introverted or extroverted due to physiological reasons.
It has to do with the way the body responds to stimulation.
Everyone has reticular arousal system (RAS) levels. RAS regulates how our bodies respond to situations that make us feel a potential threat. Everyone’s levels are different.
Introverts generally have higher RAS levels, which makes them more likely to experience overstimulation. This causes them to retreat from large social situations. It’s not that they want to be in solitude—it is a necessity for them.
This is difficult for extroverts to understand. After all, they thrive off the energy created in social situations. But introverts and extroverts can build solid and lasting relationships by understanding and appreciating one another.
Pop culture is partially to blame for the negative stereotypes and perceptions of introverts.
The media does represent introversion. After all, introversion can create complex characters with a lot of depth. Unfortunately, many of these representations are false.
Popular TV characters like introverts Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory and Abed Nadir in Community are often depicted as cold, abrasive, and awkward in social situations. In the classic film Beauty and the Beast, Belle faced judgment from her entire town for being a creative introvert. These depictions further isolate introverts and make them seem difficult or incompetent.
In reality, introverts are competent, innovative thinkers with a lot of strengths.
Pop culture also depicts introverts as characters with a lack of self-confidence. Introversion is not a lack of confidence, but rather an abundance of self-awareness.
We live in a society that’s designed for extroverts to succeed.
From a young age, children are encouraged to speak up in large classrooms, engage in group work, and lead class presentations. This is unfair to introverts who have a lot of value to contribute in other ways.
As adults, we hold extroverts to a high standard. They are more likely to get promoted. They often get paid more than introverts.
In recent years, success has often been defined by the ability to engage with a large group of people. This can be determined by the amount of social media followers someone has, or their ability to host an engaging TED talk.
Being an extrovert is not necessary to achieve success. Some of the most popular leaders of our time were introverts. This includes Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and actress Meryl Streep.
Common Myths About Introverts
Before the conversation around introverts can shift, we need to address some of the biggest misconceptions that surround them.
These myths have followed introverts for decades, creating social barriers in their lives and careers. Being an introvert is not a negative thing. It’s a gift that comes with a lot of benefits.
Introverts have a lot to offer society. But they operate in a different capacity than extroverts. Here are some of the most common misconceptions they face.
Introverts Can’t Lead
Too often, senior executives overlook introverts for management positions because they believe introverts can’t lead. Extroverts gain energy from fast-paced, high-stimulation environments. But introverts prefer to take on projects on their own.
But best-selling author Susan Cain says introverts have characteristics that make them exceptional leaders. Cain says introverts are more cautious when it comes to taking risks. They tend to be more creative and strategic, providing creative solutions.
Introverts are often more empathetic leaders. While they may not speak up as often, it makes them better listeners. Introverted leaders provide a caring environment for their team and are often supported by their employees.
Although extroverts are less likely to get passed over for job opportunities, they are not more likely to perform better in the role.
Introverts Are Shy
Contrary to popular belief, introverts are not shy. They do not fear social interactions. They prefer to limit social engagement in large groups or extended periods because they expend energy.
Introverts enjoy being with people, but they prefer smaller groups, usually with people they are close to.
Introverts Struggle to Build Relationships
While many believe introverts have the inability to build strong connections, this could not be further from the truth. Introverts may struggle to build immediate relationships because they take a bit longer to open up to people.
Instead, they prefer to build meaningful, long-lasting relationships with an intimate amount of people. They may have a small group of close friends they have known for many years.
Introverts don’t enjoy making small talk. They would prefer to engage in deep conversations in intimate settings.
They build stronger relationships over time. This is because of their ability to listen, understand, and acknowledge the people they engage with. Many introverts can develop lasting relationships with clients and coworkers.
Introverts Are Rude
Because introverts do not interact the way that extroverts do, they are often labeled as “rude.”
It’s not that introverts are rude. They would prefer to live in a world where everyone avoided surface-level conversation and small talk and opted for honesty. But that approach may seem impolite in most social settings.
So introverts struggle to fit in and follow social norms in situations where they need to be anything less than authentic. And that can be exhausting for them.
Introverts Would Rather Stay Home
Introverts enjoy being out in public places. They don’t like to do it for as long as extroverts do.
Because their RAS is higher, introverts take in a lot of stimulation quickly. They need to retreat to a place where they can be alone to process their experiences.
Introverts Are Aloof
While introverts are often perceived as detached, or distracted in social settings, they are actually deep in thought. Introverts are more stimulated by what is happening in their mind than by what is happening around them.
While they may not choose to relax in busy environments, they will relax and enjoy themselves in more serene settings. Often this means curling up with a good book, listening to a podcast, or going on a long hike.
Introverts Aren’t Team Players
Introverts prefer not to engage in group work or team meetings. They would rather work on one project at a time on their own. But this does not mean they aren’t team players.
They can focus for long periods, and they are exceptional listeners. They can absorb a lot of details that extroverts may miss.
Even though introverts may not contribute during group discussions, they have several skills to contribute to a team in other ways. They can take on complex problems, brainstorm strategic solutions, and prove empathy to clients.
Introverts Don’t Like to Talk
It’s not that introverts don’t like to talk. They prefer to focus on internal dialogue. They may take longer to respond because they are formulating their thoughts.
Because they turn inwards to their thoughts and feelings, introverts are more likely to think before they speak. They will choose to speak when they feel they have something meaningful to contribute, rather than speaking spontaneously.
This may discourage employers to hire them for jobs that need a lot of social interaction. For example, introverts in PR, marketing, or HR may give the impression that they won’t be willing to deal with difficult discussions. But this is also false.
Introverts have no issue talking about topics they’re passionate about and knowledgeable about.
Introverts Like to Be Alone
Introverts enjoy time alone to be deep in their thoughts. They will often pursue topics that interest them and deep dive into their hobbies.
But they also crave connection and conversation with people. They just prefer to connect with one person, or smaller groups when they do it.
Introverts Are Prone to Depression
Many believe that introverts are more likely to grow lonely or depressed. This is not the case. Mental health can impact anyone and extroverts are just as vulnerable as introverts.
Introverts are not lonely. They need solitude to recharge and reset, particularly after social interactions.
They do not suffer from self-confidence, either. Introversion is not a lack of confidence, but rather an abundance of self-awareness.
Regardless of your personality type, if you find yourself withdrawing from situations you used to enjoy, or you are exhibiting negative thoughts, low energy, or sleep issues, you may be experiencing depression and should seek medical attention.
Introverts Don’t Get Along With Extroverts
Because introverts and extroverts have so many differences, many believe the two cannot get along. But introvert and extrovert relationships can be deep and meaningful.
For the two personality types to work well together, both parties must understand the other person’s needs. When this happens, introverts and extroverts can form lasting bonds.
Often introverts and extroverts will form romantic relationships as well. They balance each other out. As the saying goes, opposites do attract.
Tips for Overcoming the Stigma
So what is introversion and why are we discussing it? Introversion is a personality trait that is a result of neurodiversity. It is not a choice or something that is in our power to change.
Even though this is the reality, society has been built to give extroverts an advantage. In the workplace, introverts are often passed over for opportunities for growth such as jobs or promotions. They’re told they are “too reserved,” “too independent,” or that they are “unable to command respect from peers.”
This is more than a misunderstanding. It is a form of bias—one that’s been part of human resources for generations. It creates a barrier for introverts, regardless of their level of work experience or performance records.
In a world where discrimination is prevalent in every workplace, this is another form of discrimination. Changing the conversation eliminates one barrier, improving equality in one area for those faced with inequality in the workplace.
Finding Creative Solutions to the Problem
Workplaces can improve inequality for introverts. They can make the workplace fairer by providing equal opportunities for everyone to succeed.
Provide detailed agendas before meetings or group discussions. This will allow introverts to consider the points they would like to contribute.
Avoid forcing employees to speak up during staff meetings. Instead, allow them to share their thoughts and ideas in emails following the meeting. You can also introduce digital collaboration platforms like Slack so team members can share ideas in a variety of ways.
When hiring team members, consider including other elements to showcase knowledge, rather than just an interview. This may include inviting candidates to submit proposals with their vision for the role.
Consider allowing employees to work on independent projects from home. You may find they are more productive in an environment without distractions. And avoid interrupting an introvert when they are deep in thought, or in the middle of a project.
Benefits of Being an Introvert
Introversion is a feature, not a bug!
Introverts have been getting a bad reputation for years, and it’s completely unfair. Being an introvert isn’t a hindrance, it is a gift! Introverts can offer a lot of value to those around them, particularly in the work environment.
They are introspective, innovative, and creative, often providing unique solutions to problems or contributing strategic ideas.
Introverts are excellent listeners. They learn through observation, making them ideal candidates to train and mold the way senior management feels is best for their role. They can work independently and can focus for long periods.
Those who are introverted speak only when they have something meaningful to say, leaving plenty of time to absorb details and formulate their thoughts. They are empathetic and compassionate with team members, and they build lasting relationships with people they grow close to.
Changing the Conversation
Change the conversation in the workplace. Instead of putting pressure on introverts to engage like extroverts, encourage extroverts to better understand introverts.
Extroverts can learn a thing or two from introverts. They can consider thinking before speaking and contributing independent ideas and strategies. Fostering an environment where the conversation is conducted by more than a handful of big voices will help avoid group thinking.
Making changes to the workplace can improve the experience and workplace culture of introverts. Consider offering quiet workspaces, in addition to open-office plans. You may even consider limiting the number of meetings your office holds, and instead opt for other collaboration methods.
Introverts should feel encouraged to speak up and share their ideas without the fear of being judged. They should be included in conversations about making the workplace a more equal environment for everyone.
In order for workplaces to achieve the most success, it is crucial to strike up a balance where introverts and extroverts have equal value. After all, it is a blend of both ends of the spectrum that create the ultimate personality. Senior executives and CEOs who understand this make better leaders with more well-rounded teams.
Reflecting on the Power of Introversion
More than half of Americans say they are an introvert. But extroverts continue to reap the benefits of a society built for their personality type.
Introverts continue to face barriers to their success as a result of a negative stigma that follows them in every aspect of their life. By changing the narrative and gaining a better understanding of who introverts are, we can create a fair society.
If you’re an introvert who feels your introversion is limiting your professional success, you may enjoy introvert success coaching. Contact us today to find out more.