The Power of Introverts
I am an Introvert. I am an Extrovert. I am in-between. Which one of these sentences resonated with you? It’s actually quite important to know which you are, not to nail yourself into a box, but to learn how to harness the unique power you have inside you. How do you re-charge? When are you the best version of yourself? If you find that you feel the most inspired and connected to yourself when you’re alone, if you have to gear up to be in large groups of people, if you enjoy solitude and quiet reflection, you may be an introvert. If you find that your batteries charge in large groups of people, if you’d rather be out than at home, if group collaborations are how you get inspired, you may be an extrovert. Now it’s important to note that being an introvert isn’t the same thing as being shy. You can be incredibly personable and enjoy going out and meeting people, and still need time alone each day to re-charge and re-connect in a quiet space. Susan Cain, author of “Quiet Power: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” digs into this in her thought-provoking TED talk. “It’s different than being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgement. Introversion is more about: how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation?”
So why is it important to know where you lie on the spectrum? Because all of our traditional societal institutions have been rigged to favor one side. “Here’s where the bias comes in: our most important institutions-- our schools and our work places-- they are designed mostly for extroverts, and for extroverts’ need for lots of stimulation.”
If you’re an extrovert, society actually works in your favor. Think about how our traditional school systems work.
“Picture the typical classroom nowadays. When I was going to school, we sat in rows and we did most of our work pretty autonomously. But nowadays your typical classroom has pods of desks- four or five or six or seven kids all facing each other- and kids are working in countless group assignments, even in subjects like math and creative writing, which you would think would depend on solo flights of thought. Kids are now expected to act as committee members. And for the kids who prefer to go off by themselves or just to work alone-- those kids are seen as out-liers often, or worse, as problem cases.”
This structure also transcends into the work place. More extroverts are placed into leadership positions, even though research by Adam Grant has found that “introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes than extroverts do because when they are managing proactive employees, they’re much more likely to let those employees run with their ideas, whereas an extrovert can quite unwittingly get so excited about things that they’re putting their own stamp on things, and other people’s ideas may not as easily bubble up to the surface.”
Is this fair? No. Especially because, as Cain remarks, “A third to a half of the population are introverts. A third to a half! So, that’s one out of every two or three people you know.”
This is why things like online schools and personalized education exist: to create a flexible environment where students can learn and thrive regardless of their preferred style of learning. Learning and discovering one’s purpose should be an adventure, and no adventure should be crammed into a one-size-fits-all box.
So, which are you? Introvert? Extrovert? Ambivert? The important thing isn’t in the label, it’s in knowing yourself and then tapping into your own brand of unique power to touch the future you dream of.