In a world of open offices and collaborative projects, introversion is often considered a liability. But those who believe that don’t understand the true strengths of introverts.
I grew up believing the most popular kids – those who were gregarious and made friends easily – were the best. I also knew I would never be one. I preferred the company of my imagination to the interference of other children. I had a few very close friends and was happy in my world.
Then sixth grade came and my entire class was shipped off to a new school, divided up, and mixed in with their students. None of my friends were in my class, so I spent a lot of time happily alone. My teacher saw this as a problem. To help me “adjust” I was placed in a special class to learn how to make friends. I didn’t realize it then, but they were trying to reprogram introversion out of me.
I still remember the silly little characters on the shows we watched, and the rewards for participating in activities that stretched me beyond my comfort zone. Honestly, the program didn’t help fix me, but it made me think something was wrong with me.
It has taken me a long time to realize I’m not broken.
Yes, I panic when the phone rings, hide in the corners of crowded rooms, and am more comfortable writing this blog post than talking with a group of people – even when those people are my family and friends. I despise collaborative projects and am uncomfortable in situations where I can’t anticipate what will happen next.
I am focused, perfectionistic, and loyal. I’m sensitive to my environment and the people around me. I listen more than I talk and will only contribute when I feel safe.
I am an introvert.
An Example From Fiction
Darius reached for the pencil he always kept on the library table beside his chair and began sketching the steam engine in dark strokes on top of the text of a neighboring article contrasting vertical and radial paddle wheels.
So intent was he on his diagram, he failed to notice the woman standing before him until she delicately cleared her throat. He jerked up from his drawing to see a plethora of red brocade skirts draped just beyond his knees. Drat. He’d completely forgotten she was there. Dread sunk deeper into his gut as his gaze lifted to meed her slightly amused eyes.
Drat. Drat. Drat. He’d also completely forgotten her name.
“I’m finished, Mr. Thornton,” she said, holding a thin stack of papers to him. “The pages are ready for your inspection.”
It was Miss Something-or-Other. He remembered that much. She wasn’t married. Though why that fact should register in his brain when his name failed to stick was beyond his understanding.
Darius reminds me so much of my husband – who is also an introvert. It’s my husband who has helped me see the strengths within our quiet exterior and introduced me to Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. If you’re an introvert, this is a must read book.
Strengths of Introversion
Introverts have many strengths that may not be immediately apparent to others.
- Deep Thinker
Introverts spend a lot of time in their heads. We find silence and solitude rejuvenating and enjoy the mental gymnastics of solving difficult problems. Because we are lost in thought so often, introverts are deemed anti-social, but this is not the case. Introverts enjoy socialization in small quantities. We like one-on-one conversations that delve deeper than chatting about the weather. During a party, introverts will likely be found in quiet corners talking about issues that interest us and learning about new concepts from those we converse with.
- Empathetic Peacemaker
Sensitivity to environment and people set the introvert apart. We observe the world we live in and try to understand the clues we see. I try to anticipate what will happen in a given situation before moving forward. I read people and try to discern their emotional state and how events and conversations will affect them. Because of this sensitivity, introverts are empathetic to those around us. We listen and try to come up to solutions that benefit everyone.
- Careful Communicator
Introverts spend a lot of time thinking before speaking. I run different scenarios through my mind before entering into a conversation. If an introvert is silent after a question is asked, more than likely we are trying to formulate the best answer we can. Impromptu speaking is hard for introverts, as it takes time for us to untangle our thoughts. This is one of the reasons why introverts enjoy communicating through writing instead of speaking. Writing give us a chance to edit our message into a stream of thought other can understand.
- Passionate Expert
One image of introversion that jumps to mind is the eccentric scientist lost in his project. There is some truth to that stereotype. Introverts love to immerse ourselves in projects. We can get completely consumed in an idea to the exclusion of all else. This is one reason why introverts do so well academically. The ability to focus and follow thought trails deep into the unknown is, I believe, one of the greatest strengths of introversion.
Introverts have a lot to offer, if everyone else would just be quiet for a few minutes and listen.
Question for You: Are you an introvert or extrovert? What is your greatest strength?