Sep 11

Non-Introverts Need Love Too: Giving Them Their Due

We’ve been hearing a lot about introverts lately, but what about the non-introverts, often incorrectly only described as extroverts? (Read to the end to see the other kind that’s often omitted from discourse.)

It’s often estimated that there are a lot more extroverts than introverts. Why doesn’t anyone write a bestselling book about them?  Could it be that the champions of this population are just too busy talking?

What is an extrovert anyway? As explained by Jack Falt in an article about the Extraversion-Introversion dimension measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), it’s mostly about energy: “Extraverts get their energy from the outer world and feel drained when they are by themselves too long…Think of Extraverts like solar cell batteries. They need to be in the sun to get charged up. Introverts are more like rechargeable batteries. They need to by by themselves to restore their energy…” (Note about spellings: both “extravert” and “extrovert” seem to be acceptable.)

Another thing about these non-introverts known as extroverts? There’s this commonly held belief that they’re more friendly and introverts the opposite. But, nay: “Those with a high Extraversion score are not necessarily individuals that are more outgoing and lively. Rather, it means that they have a clear preference for Extraversion, i.e. practically everything they do will relate to the outer world. Similarly, a high Introversion score does not mean that these individuals are quiet and withdrawn, but that they usually go inside to think things through before they respond and need a lot of time by themselves.”

On the other hand, it does seem to be generally true that extroverts will prize having a bunch more friends than an introvert would ever care to have.

On the other other hand, there are extraverts who are shy; there are introverts who are socially assertive.

On the other other other hand, while extroverts may be more likely to get involved in such people-oriented fields as politics where they can try to change the world, introverts may be more likely to be preoccupied with trying to figure out how to understand the world.

Is this too confusing? Well, here’s another way to look at extraversion versus introversion. Falt uses the following quote (from an unknown source) to sum up one of the main things that differentiates these two types: “If you don’t know what an Extravert is thinking, you haven’t listened. If you don’t know what an Introvert is thinking, you haven’t asked.” This is because extraverts tend to think out loud, whereas introverts’ thoughts often stay internal.

What if you’re not just an extrovert, but kind of off the charts about it? Countering an article about the “secret powers” of introverts, Carol Pinchefsky writes in Forbes that she’s an “extreme extrovert.” She then shares her opinion about the “not-so-secret” powers of her own ilk:

  1. Our thrill-seeking temperaments benefit society.
  2. We’re easily bored…and that can lead to innovation.
  3. Our social network keeps us employed.
  4. Our many friendships keep us healthy.
  5. We’re happier than introverts.

She backs up each claim with supporting proof, of course. Check out the above link for more info.

But the group we really haven’t heard much from at all are the other non-introverts, the ambivertsAmbiverts? What the heck are they? Well, as extraversion/introversion actually represents a continuum, and not a binary system, it does stand to reason that most people won’t fall squarely on either end. That leaves room for a whole lot of people somewhere in the middle, in a not-so-clearly-defined world where one can have traits of both extraversion and introversion.

So, who’s really in the majority now? Maybe of the types of non-introverts, it’s not actually the extroverts, as we’re often led to believe, but the ambiverts. But do they even know that?

As it turns out, I think they might need a book of their own most of all.

Feb 09

“Quiet” by Susan Cain: It’s Okay to Be Introverted

Introversion is alive and well in a new and well-reviewed book, Quiet by Susan Cain.

Says Kirkus Reviews: “Cain provides fascinating insight into how the United States shifted from an introvert-leaning “cult of character” to an extrovert-leaning “cult of personality”…Readers will learn that the tendency for some to be reserved is actually hardwired, and as every evolutionary biologist will tell you, innate characteristics are there for a reason—to help humans survive and thrive.”

Introversion in a nutshell, per Cain in a Scientific American interview: “Introverts prefer quiet, minimally stimulating environments, while extroverts need higher levels of stimulation to feel their best.”

If you are indeed an introvert, you’re in good company. Some of the better known introverts are Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, Rosa Parks, and Eleanor Roosevelt, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Johnny Carson, Julia Roberts, and Steve Martin, just to name a few.

The statistics? According to Cain, one third to one half of the population are introverts. However, many  are “pretend-extroverts.” Cain elaborates on this issue in an interview with Amazon:

…Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to ‘pass’ as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and, ultimately, happiness.

Pretend-extroversion is also featured in number five of Cain’s “Manifesto for Introverts”:

  1. There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers.
  2. Our culture admires risk-takers, but we need our “heed-takers” more than ever.
  3. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
  4. The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.
  5. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There’s always time to be quiet later.
  6. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and work that matters.
  7. Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk.
  8. One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
  9. It’s OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
  10. “Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron.
  11. Love is essential; gregariousness is optional.
  12. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”—Mahatma Gandhi

Selected Quotes from Quiet by Susan Cain

Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.

Many Introverts are also “highly sensitive,” which sounds poetic, but is actually a technical term in psychology. If you are a sensitive sort, then you’re more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or a well-turned phrase or an act of extraordinary kindness. You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness, and you likely have a very strong conscience.

The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions–sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments–both physical and emotional–unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss–another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.