A reader recently asked me to shed some light on the negative perception that many extraverts have of introverts, and how we can overcome that. I believe that the following article by Jon Mercer answers those questions quite well.
Depending on which research you look at, somewhere between 30 to 40% of the population are introverts. In the United States alone, these statistics represent 75 to 120 million people. Worldwide, the number is well up into the billions. In other words, there are an awful lot of introverts around.
But unfortunately, many cultures do not appreciate introverts as much as they should. The United States, for example, tends to be a very extrovert-oriented society, and even the word “introvert” has historically had negative connotations, as if being an introvert was inferior.
Society often tells us myths like, “you must be an extravert to succeed in business,” or “introverts do not like people.” Both of these examples are completely false, however. And in fact, per capita, introverts probably contribute more to the world than any other single group. So much for their inferiority…
Here’s a good example: who is the wealthiest person in the United States? Bill Gates, right? Does anyone believe for one second that Bill Gates is an extrovert? I didn’t think so. Okay, how about the second richest person in the United States, Warren Buffett? Anyone who has done the slightest bit of research on Mr. Buffett’s background will be aware that he also tends to be introverted.
Interesting, isn’t it? Conventional wisdom says that in order to succeed you MUST be an extrovert; but the two richest people in the United States are introverts. Something doesn’t add up here…
I’ve come across quite a few articles and blog posts lately that raise the question “Is social networking an introverted or extraverted activity?” It’s an interesting topic that I touched on briefly last year in a post called Social Networking: Introversion vs. Extraversion.
An unidentified author at oneIndia claims that social networking sites are turning extraverts into introverts, because people are increasingly using these sites to communicate with friends and family members in lieu of staying in touch by telephone. I have to disagree. For starters, extraverts don’t become introverts simply because they’ve chosen to communicate in writing (an introverted preference) rather than by telephone (an extraverted preference). They may prefer social networking because it allows them to easily communicate with many people and expand their social circle beyond those that they know offline. Actually, any credibility this author may have had was destroyed when they went on to say that people are watching less television and spending more time on social networking sites, since watching television is clearly a more introverted activity than social networking, so I won’t waste any more time on this article, which was brought to my attention by Patricia Weber, Business Sales Coach for Introverts.
Mark Dykeman has just posted an article on The Mighty Introvert blog, called Five easy ways for an introvert to communicate. In it he talks about how we are often underestimated because face-to-face communication is not our strong point, and how the Internet has made such a difference for us.
I have often considered how the Internet has enabled me to run my virtual assistant business, because the technology allows information to be transmitted in ways that weren’t possible as recently as 15 years ago, and this in turn allows me to serve clients in faraway locations. But I hadn’t really contemplated that the Internet has also made me a more successful entrepreneur, because face-to-face (or even telephone) communication rarely takes place until there has been an exchange of emails or conversation on a discussion forum, or the potential client has at least had a chance to visit my website. And yet it seems so obvious, when I think about it!
By the way, I learned about The Mighty Introvert on a Facebook group called Don’t let me fool you. I’m an introvert. The name of the group really appeals to me, because after nearly six years in business, I’ve developed a comfort level in most networking situations, and people are often surprised to learn that I am in fact an introvert. I’ve questioned it myself from time to time, but no matter what test I do, from the MBTI to a simple magazine quiz, it’s always clear that I am an introvert, no doubt about it.
Last year, one of my clients recommended me as a virtual assistant to one of her contacts. When I spoke with her, she was in the midst of a large project and already had admin support in place, so we agreed that we would connect again once that project was complete. She quickly realized she needed another person on her team and gave me a call, however, what she wanted me to do wasn’t admin work at all, but calling employers to invite them to take part in a job fair. My immediate reaction was “I don’t do that” so I told her I wasn’t sure I had time. She realized that it was right out of the blue and told me to think about it, but it was clear that she needed my decision that same day.
When I got off the phone, I realized that although I had committed to working on three other client projects, I hadn’t actually received the work for any of them, and money is money, so I called her back and agreed to work 10 to 15 hours per week. I figured it might not be too bad, because it wasn’t really selling, although I am not and have never been a phone person.
A talented trumpeter who toots his own horn winds up playing to an empty theatre. A talented trumpeter who lets others recognize his talent winds up a legend.
I’m planning to attend the Online International Virtual Assistants Convention next month. It’s an introvert’s dream come true – tons of learning and networking opportunities, all from the comfort of your own home!
One of the presentations that caught my eye is called Dare to Be Different: The Extrovert Approach for the Introvert. When I first read the title, I was quite excited to have a session just for us introverts, but when I read it again, I felt quite differently. I acknowledge that as a small business owner, it has been necessary for me to step outside my comfort zone on many occasions, either to do public speaking, or to mix and mingle with strangers. However, I consider myself to be fairly successful, but it hasn’t happened because I took an “extrovert” approach. It has happened because by being true to myself, I have attracted clients who value me for who I am. Many of my clients are also introverts, and are quite happy to communicate primarily via email or instant messenger rather than by telephone or face-to-face.
So, although I am curious as to what the presenter has to say about the subject, (the seminar description doesn’t tell me much), since there are so many wonderful topics to choose from, I think I’ll have to give this one a pass.
Among my introvert pastimes is a radio show on Monday evenings, featuring a French priest on Bible studies. I’m not particularly religious, but I like the Bible and I am absolutely a sucker for a beautiful voice. This priest’s voice is a little bit of heaven. I’m there every Monday evening enjoying my quiet time with the radio.
In January, he apologized for his voice. He had caught the flu. Oh, what a terrible flu! Of course he turned this to good account, because we’re studying the Book of Job. He could relate to how Job felt and suggested that we could, too.
He went on to tell us of the most unfortunate moment, on a Sunday morning, when he was so sick that he couldn’t fulfill his responsibilities at the monastery where he lives. He explained (in French) that he is “responsable du chat” – responsible for the cat. He was so sick that he could not meet this responsibility.
And yet, how charming of those priests to make this poor (old?) man feel useful – they put him in charge of the cat. It’s sad and sweet, in a way. And then the poor soul got sick and couldn’t look after the cat, how awful. He felt that he’d let the Community down. Another priest commiserated with him and said, much like one of Job’s comforters, ”If you’d looked after yourself you wouldn’t be sick.” Which made him feel even worse.
And then I realized.
He didn’t say “chat” – he said “chant.”
He’s not responsible for the cat – he’s responsible for the Gregorian chant – the choir.
I wonder if there’s such a thing as a loud introvert. Since introversion and extraversion have to do with how we recharge our energy, I can’t see how ‘loud’ should come into it. Although it must have been an introvert who originally said, ‘Be quiet, I can’t hear myself think.” And the extravert would have the one thinking out loud.
I guess those are stereotypes. Extraverts aren’t necessarily shallow and introverts aren’t necessarily deep.
When we were teenagers, my brother wanted to apply to a military academy. So Mom set him up with his very own special study space, where he would go after dinner and remain until … well, the next morning. The rest of the family kept very, very quiet. Bro eschewed all sports – that’s like me eschewing books – as well as TV and radio. The result: his grades went down. Today I think I know why. Bro is the family extravert. The rest of us are introverts. We didn’t know that being alone was distracting for him, just as distracting as being with people would be for the rest of us. Bro was not recharged by solitude. He was drained by it.
Since then I’ve had the example of Emily and Brandon, my niece and nephew. Emily studies in the kitchen, the action center of the house, with the radio going, the telephone ringing, neighbors traipsing in and out, everybody talking all at once – and she studies right out loud. When her parents check her homework they find it’s well done. Brandon, on the other hand, is an introvert. He’s young and wants to stay with everybody else. His parents allow that for a while. Then they check his homework. Sometimes he’s accomplished almost nothing, so he has to finish studying at his desk in his room. They try very hard to make him know he’s not being banished. Sometimes he polishes off his homework in half an hour, if he’s alone.
I think of washing instructions that come on tags for clothes. Wouldn’t it be helpful if people came with instructions?