An interesting incident occurred recently during a conversation that I was having with a friend. We were discussing introversion and extroversion, and when I voiced that I identified as an introvert. My concerned acquaintance began to offer a slew of tips and advice on how to be more social. While I knew my friend’s intentions were good, I could not help but feel slightly offended.
Society has equated introversion with shyness and social ineptitude. It seems an extroverted personality is admired, coveted and believed to be found often in the business school, while the introvert is the awkward kid reading a book in a library cubicle. After conversing with others who also identify themselves as introverts and reading articles on this topic, I have reached the conclusion that, for many people, the idea of an introvert triggers several myths.
The first misconception is that introverts do not know how to socialize. However, I, like many other introverts, find amusement in passing time with friends. I enjoy meeting new people and I add them on Facebook like everyone else. So how is the introvert different?
Unlike extroverts who find energy in socializing with many people, introverts enjoy and often feel invigorated when they are alone with the time and capacity to create their own agendas. In many social situations, we are often forced to cater to our peers—participating in conversations that may not always be interesting or perhaps giving up what we want for dinner that day for what our friend wants instead. However, introverts understand that when alone, we answer to ourselves with no obligations to anyone else. It is precisely in this kind of environment that introverts thrive.
The second generalization is that introverts can have trouble speaking up. The image of the introvert is the quiet, standoffish kid who stammers and sweats when addressed or asked a question. This is most definitely not the case.
There are many introverts who possess a great talent in public speaking or in articulating their ideas. What separates them from extroverts is that introverts do not speak when they have nothing to say. Conversation about the weather or the traffic will not encourage the introvert to participate, because they simply are not interested in small talk. However, when asked about something they genuinely care for deeply, many introverts will be eager to share insight on the topic and will do so skillfully.
The last stereotype is that introverts are not fun, exciting people to be around. It is assumed that because introverts are quiet and enjoy time alone, they have nothing interesting to contribute. Nothing like an awkward, quiet introvert to ruin a good time, right?
Wrong. Introverts find pleasure in going out with close friends and having a good time just as much as the next person. They may be more careful to avoid any drama connected with social outings, but won’t be opposed to enjoying themselves.
In terms of conversation, they often offer incredible insights and a greatly individualistic mind, stemming from their many moments of self-reflection and inner-searching. A conversation with an introvert can be fascinating and rather enlightening.
Therefore, the introvert is not a charity case. Not all introverts have difficulty befriending people or holding a conversation. Sometimes people look at an introvert who may eat a meal alone or choose not to go out on a Friday night, and they “feel bad for them.” However, in actuality, the introvert is probably really enjoying his or her time alone.
Alone does not necessarily equate to loneliness, and the introvert is not lonely. These moments of solitude are simply times of rejuvenation for the introvert and are far from signs of social ineptitude.