Raising awareness about…introverts?

Mar 22

Are you energized by social situations and tend to be an assertive multi-tasker who thinks out loud and on your feet? Or do you prefer less stimulating environments and enjoy quiet concentration, listening more than you talk, and thinking before you speak?

If you answered “yes” to the second question you may be an introvert – an often underappreciated personality type.

According to the Myers & Briggs Foundation, the institution behind the popular personality test, being an introvert means you focus your attention on and get your energy from your inner world of ideas and images.  Conversely, extroverts get their energy from the outer world of people and things.  While everyone spends some time “introverting” and some time “extraverting,” we all have an innate tendency towards one or the other.

So why do we need to raise awareness about introverts?

Well, according to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, introverts are getting the short end of society’s stick. Cain posits that today’s culture idealizes and accommodates extroverts: children learn in groups, “people skills” are a requirement on any resume, talkers are considered smarter, and many workplaces are designed to foster interactivity. As a result, introverts, who represent as much as half of the population, are overlooked and underappreciated. Cain believes introverts’ strengths, like seriousness and reflection, go unrecognized, and she compares them to women in the 1950s—discounted for a reason that goes to the very core of who they are. While many introverts have learned to adapt to what Cain calls the “Extrovert Ideal,” she argues that introverts aren’t able to be their best selves under these circumstances.

Cain underscores the importance of raising awareness of the power of introverts and erasing the “anti-social” stigma that accompanies this personality type. She also advocates for behavior change. For example, she encourages schools and workplaces to revisit the way they are structured to ensure they are meeting the needs of introverts, creating an environment in which the shy kid at school is given equal opportunity to thrive and where the quiet, reflective employee is just as frequently groomed for a leadership position. In an interview with ForbesJenna Goudreau, Cain elaborates.

Do you agree with Cain that our culture is biased towards extroverts? If so, do you think a social marketing campaign could level the playing field?

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 at 10:10 am and is filed under Behavior Change, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Raising awareness about…introverts?”

  1. Karen Costa says:

    This is a wonderful post. As an introvert, I really appreciate Cain’s approach and push for changing the perception of this personality type.
    This is not a new insight, and something that has been discussed in college psychology courses for years. Society tends to give greater credibility to those who are outgoing and extroverted. It is my belief that this is not necessarily because society agrees with their actions or opinions, but instead because it was simply vocalized. We live in a society that emphasizes the need to get ahead, get seen to be seen. It gives the perception that these people are active, constantly moving, and getting the job done. But while these individuals are busy getting the job done, there are also people getting the same work accomplished, just via a different approach.
    For instance, Albert Einstein, Al Gore, Warren Buffet, Larry Page (Cofounder of Google), Matt Lauer, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Meryl Streep, and Martin Luther King Jr. were/are all introverts. Being introverted is only one aspect of a person’s overall personality. There are still categories of thinking, feeling, intuition, sensing and judging that account for the whole. There is a saying; “There is more than one way to solve a problem.” Well there is more than one way to approach life, and one personality is not better than the other.
    While I’m not sure simply a social marketing campaign can completely level the playing field, I believe it is a step in the right direction to give equal appreciation to everyone.

  2. At first I was certain I was an Extrovert, but then it became clear to me I am an Introvert. Learning this about myself has been extremely beneficial because I “manage my energy”, making sure that if I’m extroverting, I take time out to spend some time alone to recharge. Just by taking this simple step, I’ve stopped having the crippling tension headaches I used to get that put me in bed for more than a day at a time and no amount of medicine would cure.