Understanding introverts

Sam Bromberg

Our societal structure is becoming increasingly biased toward extroverted individuals, leaving almost 50 percent of the population, introverts, at a disadvantage, especially when it comes to leadership roles. When Carl Jung coined these psychological phrases, it was implied that there is a type of scale on which each person may find himself, that no one is completely introverted or completely extroverted and to be one or the other would not function. But we do tend to identify with a certain personality type that defines our experiences.

According to the website fractalenlightenment.com, an extrovert is more likely energized by the outside world while an introvert finds stimulation in the internal world. Although it is often assumed that introverted is synonymous with shy or antisocial, this is not the case. Rather, introverts simply thrive in a quieter, more contemplative environment where they can express and develop inner thoughts.

However, the environments in which introverts are able to enjoy their natural inclinations are becoming fewer and fewer. Upon the publication of Author Susan Cain’s novel, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” there has been increased discussion regarding introverts’ experiences. 

“So many introverts who I interviewed told me about a secret sense of shame they had about who they were and how they prefer to spend their time,” Cain said. 

Some of the most important establishments we have, like schools and workplaces, blatantly lack the opportunity for introverts to flourish, leaving introverts feeling underappreciated and unworthy. 

In the classroom, desks are set up in groups of four or five, rather than rows to foster group discussions and active learning. There is an emphasis on group projects and collaborative learning, even in subjects like creative writing, that would typically require singular, deep thought. No longer are the days of quiet reading or personal reflection. Children are constantly geared to engage in group thought. 

“The kids who prefer to go off by themselves or just to work alone, those kids are seen as outliers often, or worse, as problem cases,” Cain said.

The workplace has endured a similar phenomenon with open plan work-spaces and an environment built for relaxed conversations to bounce ideas around. And when walls do exist in the contemporary office building, they are so often glass, epitomizing the lack of privacy that introverts cherish. 

Further, the conventional image of a leader is outspoken, charismatic and assertive so the introvert is generally disregarded for leadership positions. These extroverted leaders are praised for their large presence or ability to speak swiftly and persuasively. However, intensive research by Wharton Professor Adam Grant and other scholars has shown that introverted leaders in the workplace actually tend to be more powerful. 

“By being receptive to employees’ efforts to voice ideas, take charge to improve work methods and exercise upward influence, less extroverted leaders can develop more efficient and effective practices that enhance group effectiveness,” Grant said. 

To clarify, extroverts are indeed integral to society, and group collaboration should be strongly encouraged as we all are social creatures. We undoubtedly need and should admire those with the courage and skill to empower others through outward energy. At the same time, introverts should not be made to feel like outsiders but should be celebrated and given the opportunity to succeed.

We are blind to the intuitive minds of half our population, minds that can make an impact or influence our lifestyle. Introverts have insights and creativity blooming just under the surface waiting to be heard, but we must give them the chance to comfortably share these perceptive thoughts.