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 Forbes’ Jenna 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?