Thoughts & Things

The introvert’s world

August 2, 2020

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.  

6 Comments

  • Reply
    Jerry
    August 2, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    True. This is a normal scenario which you will come across in every day life

    • Reply
      Boby George
      August 10, 2020 at 7:35 pm

      Yes, man. But what is obvious may not be obvious to many.

  • Reply
    Sheena
    August 5, 2020 at 6:20 am

    Well said Boby, “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”

    As I was reading I thought of a friend who lived with me for two years. She talks to ‘Alexa’ as though she is talking to a person.
    Sometimes she asks ‘ Alexa’ what’s the weather and she will tell ‘ Alexa’ why she is asking that.
    I really wondered and never believed if Alexa really cared about her reason for asking. But being with her I realized that my extroverted friend doesn’t necessarily expect me or even want me to respond to everything she is saying.
    Extroverts respond to rewards is compared to introverts is different. When extroverts engage in social interactions their brains respond with the production of dopamine or “feel-good hormone”( neurological study). This occurs even my friend just receiving a reply from Alexa.

    On the other hand neurological study also pointed out introverts have longer neural pathways. So it takes time for them to consider their internal thoughts and feelings
    So it is good to be aware that the difference in social interactions between introverts and extroverts is due to differences in brain chemistry and rewards that occur in the brain.

    We need both extroverts and introverts. if we are able to understand each other then we can balance each other very well. The old saying goes opposite attracts ….. probably this attraction is to compensate each other.

    .

    • Reply
      Boby George
      August 10, 2020 at 7:27 pm

      Fine thoughts , Sheena. My primary aim was to invite attention to the reality that a sizeable portion of human population are introverts and we must understand them. As you rightly put, the point is in understanding each other.

  • Reply
    Fr. Jijo Kandamkulathy
    August 10, 2020 at 5:36 am

    Sorry Bobby, this response comes a bit too late….

    Bobby….. I am a fixed introvert. The demands of my life does not permit to be secluded and reclusive as much as I would love to. So, I taught myself a few skills against my nature to interact and communicate more readily. But, I re charge myself with my quiet readings whenever time permits.

    But, I think, the internet and social media are ospaces for the introverts to express themselves a little more freely. A lot of introverts find their voice through internet.

    • Reply
      Boby George
      August 10, 2020 at 7:33 pm

      There you are. You get recharged in quietness. In fact many do and that’s the pleasure for any introvert.

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