These are challenging times for introverts. Compared to anytime in the past, we are more connected and are living in a world of shrinking quiet spaces. For the same reason, people who are less socially active, people who are happy with less number of friends and those who prefer a less stimulating environment are an ignored community. Is there an inherent bias against the introverts? This post is a case for introverts and to suggest that perhaps many of us have got our notions about introverts wrong. Ultimately, introversion may not be something to be fixed but to be accepted as a human reality. When extroverts largely control the debate, we must look at the whole matter from the other side too.
Introverts in a biased world
There can be many definitions for an introvert. According to one, an introvert is a person who tends to “shrink from social contacts and become pre-occupied with their own thoughts”. Another one defines “introversion as a preference for quiet, less stimulating environments”. This is not to be confused with being shy which is more about the fear of being judged negatively. The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung was the first one to propose an introvert-extrovert axis. He described introverts as preferring to direct their attention inward, to their own feelings and thoughts, and how they lose energy during social interactions. Extroverts, by contrast, direct their attention outward, gain energy from social interactions, and lose energy during periods of solitude. It is also estimated that in population, roughly 1/3rd are introverts and another 1/3rd are extroverts. There is another 1/3rd who are in between and are called ambiverts. These divisions appear innocent until we realise that we are living in a world which is heavily biased against introverts. This is because, by their very nature, extroverts make themselves more heard and visible despite the existence of an almost equal number of introverts in the world. Whether at school, at the workplace or in society introverts have an uphill task to make themselves counted. Recall the burden of the introvert label being carried by many children at school. There is no surprise here as most teachers happen to be extroverts and for them, an introvert student is an aberration and someone to be reformed and corrected. Many of them tend to view things through their prism and in school, most introvert children remain an ignored lot. Most of the time it is the extrovert student who corners all attention and the introvert student, despite being smart is condemned to remain unknown. Also one cannot rule out the possibility that precisely because of these experiences in school, some of these introvert children never achieve their potential.
Coming workplaces, the story is not so different. Most of our offices are dominated by extroverts. The outgoing types happen to be pets of bosses. In most open meetings and forums, it is the extroverts who hog the limelight with introverts despite having excellent ideas remain in the shadow. The casualty is that many a time, people fail to notice the value which an introvert bring to any enterprise. If only the management is ready to listen to them, it benefits the firm immensely.
Many introverts happen to excel in several creative pursuits which are best done in a lot more quiet ambience which is always an introvert’s forte . A lot of the creative work we see around us is perhaps the result of such hard work done in solitude. Coming to modern times, the overwhelming presence of social media in our lives creates the impression that man should always be in the company of others. It is no surprise that many introverts find it difficult and appear less on such platforms. While Social media always favours the one who constantly engages people in such media, we must never forget that there is a world of friendship outside such social media too and many introverts are capable of developing deep and lasting friendships despite their minimum presence in social media or aversion to crowd.
Do not fix it, accept it.
Most of the world thinks that extroversion is the norm and if only the introvert become more extrovert everything will be all right. Added to this, extroverts exercise a disproportionate influence in every walk of life. Our education system and workplaces are designed in such a way that it favours the extrovert. Often the world fails to understand the importance of people who prefer a quiet life and we must understand this deep bias. Every teacher should know that some children in their class prefer less company and are happy if left alone. The teacher must realise that there are children who are not so smart in constantly grabbing their attention.
Similarly, our workplaces need to show greater sensitivity to the introvert employee. The manager should reach out to the introvert employee who is ready to share his idea or opinion in privacy or in writing than in open meetings. Extending it further, whether at home or in marital relationships, an introvert person must be accepted as such. In a family, different children may fall into different categories. If one likes outdoor activities and social gatherings another one may prefer indoors. In our friendships, we must be open to our introvert companions. All of us will have some friends who avoid gatherings or social media but are ready to engage in one to one conversation.
To sum up, the message is simple. Being an extrovert is not the norm. A human being can be an introvert and perfectly normal at the same time and instead of trying to fix an introvert, we must accept him/her. Being an introvert is a part of human diversity and we should understand that this world is not only for the outgoing type but also for those who prefer a quiet life and less social interactions. We must be wary of our biases and acknowledge that there are always people who are unlike us and that is the beauty of human existence.