Introversion in an Extroverted World

April 26th, 2013 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Introversion in an Extroverted World

Susan CainMost people are familiar with the terms “introvert” and “extrovert,” and you probably even identify yourself as one or the other. According to Meyers & Briggs, the terms introversion and extroversion were originally coined by Carl Jung, to describe the way in which a person finds energy. Extroverts tend to recharge by looking outside of themselves, with other people and external activities, while introverts tend to recharge within themselves, through their thoughts and time spent alone.

Most people have elements of both extroversion and introversion, but have a tendency to lean towards one or the other. It’s also possible to be somewhere in-between, a term known as an ambivert.

Most studies show that 75 percent of the general population is extroverted, and reward systems and job recognition are generally set up to value extroverts. Extroverts get rewarded because their work is apparent. They talk openly and often about what they’re working on and how busy they are. You see them and they just look like they’re getting things done. Lots of meetings, people to see, places to rush off to. Whatever they’re doing seems very apparent. Extroverts thrive on the world around them, so the world around them knows what’s going on with them.

Introverts, on the other hand, like working in quiet spaces, enjoy working independently, work well without supervision, think and reflect before taking action and have an excellent depth of knowledge. Unfortunately, these characteristics can come off in a negative light. Introverts can appear to not be “team players.” They may seem aloof, slow, serious, or lacking ideas. They may appear not to be as busy or productive as extroverts, nor outwardly stressed enough given the pressured circumstances.

The difference between extroverts and introverts will often be highlighted in the workplace, particularly in today’s work environment where the attributes of extroversion – group interaction and spontaneous decision-makiing – are rewarded and the attributess of introversion are often considered as liabilities rather than strengths.

Susan Cain – a former corporate lawyer and negotiations consultant and also a self-described introvert has written a book about the differences between introversion and extroversion – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Cain argues that we design our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions for extroverts, and that this bias creates a waste of talent, energy, and happiness. She also explains why introverts are capable of great achievement, not in spite of their temperaments – but because of them.

The video below is a TED Talk given by Susan Cain – an excellent overview of introversion – the value it can bring to our extroverted culture, and how understanding introversion and incorporating introversion into our culture (and yes our workplace) can provide us with new insights and many untapped benefits.