I am an introvert. It’s one of the least interesting things about me.
Like being a brunette, right handed, and a mother, it’s just a quality that describes a part of me, but in no way totally defines who I am as person.
And yet, when I share this information with people (which I do, a lot), their reaction always surprises me. They’ll lean in and whisper, “I’m one too!” or say, “I would have never guessed!” almost as if I’d confessed some deep secret about myself, like being a kleptomaniac or a furry.
The reaction is not surprising really, considering that most of what we read about introverts in the news, books and blog posts* seems to imply that being one is a challenge that will haunt us personally and professionally for the rest of our lives — that “in spite of it,” we can accomplish big things. Or worse yet, in articles targeted toward extroverts, where we’re sold as some sort of mythical beast they might encounter someday, who actually might have something valuable to contribute to society. (Wow! Imagine that!)
Why are there never any posts like that written about extroverts?
- Like how to deal with the wayward extrovert who excels at making connections and yet fails to produce any return on those business relationships?
- Or how to deal with the extrovert who continually shows up in brainstorming meetings with no actual ideas to share because they’re expecting to develop them off of the energy they get from the rest of us in the room?
- Or the extrovert who never remembers anything you discussed in a meeting since they were busy tweeting and IMing contacts the entire time you were talking?
While I’ll admit that these too are generalizations, they are also real challenges I’ve encountered working with extroverts, but no one seems to want to talk about them. Since extroverts are in the majority and usually have positive connotations associated with their personality (they’re “outgoing,” “gregarious,” and “social” — even when they are actually being ” inattentive,” “chatty,” or “preoccupied”), it seems like society has decided that it’s okay to sweep those challenges under the rug.
And, I’d like to take a moment to say that this is bullshit.
I am not a deficient human that needs special care and attention to be successful. I am not afraid of other people. I am not a social leper.
What I am, is a force of nature.
Yes, I like to work in seclusion (and I produce a ton of amazing deliverables doing it). No, I am not in love with cocktail parties (but I go to them anyway and socialize my little ass off). Yes, I need a break after talking with people for many hours (but snuggling down with a good book at the end of the day instead of a good friend hardly makes me a freak).
These are simply qualities that describe how I work and live my life — as similar as saying that I like to have a cup of tea in the morning before I start my day or that I prefer to keep my desk clean.
Listen, I have nothing against people who provide advice and support to introverts. For many, this can be a helpful resource. But let’s accept that personal coaching, professional development, heck, even therapy, are great resources to help ALL of us grow as individuals and professionals – introverts, extroverts, ambiverts, whatever-vert you are.
Let’s move past the assumption that introverts are all people who are deficient in greatness. That they are all shy and quiet. That they are all antisocial.
Not only are those sweeping generalizations with a unappreciated negative connotation, they are also inaccurate.
Being an introvert is not the same thing as having a learning disability or a mental illness (I can’t tell you the number references I saw to being “diagnosed” as an introvert in researching this post. What the hell?) CEOs are introverts. Presidents of United States are introverts. Hollywood celebrities are introverts. It simply describes how we draw energy from our world. Nothin’ more.
Let me make this perfectly clear, if you are an introvert, you have absolutely nothing to apologize to society about. And you don’t ever need to whisper about it when you’re around me.
As far as this introvert is concerned, you are a unique individual who is blessed with special gifts and powers. You are an asset to society. You are someone the world needs.
YOU, my friend, are a force of nature.
*I had a dickens of a time finding even one positive pro-introvert article to hyperlink to for this blog post. Seriously, go Google “introvert” and “leadership” or “management.” Hell, Google “introvert” and anything. The results may surprise you.
NOTE: When I uploaded the video summary that goes with this post (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4LwrJPENHY), on YouTube, it automatically grouped it with videos about “similar topics” — you know, like “curing” homosexuality and assisted suicide. RI-DIC-U-LOUS.