Since I made a TedX talk about being an introvert and began teaching about the calm power of introverts at The School of Life, people I meet directly start conversations with the topic of being an introvert. However, I realized over the years that 99% of their well-intended small talk is based on wrong assumptions. Let me go through some, explaining with my personal story:
Wrong assumption 1: Introverts suck at building relationships.
That was the case for me for a long time. I had a poor social life BUT, not because I lacked people skills. Instead, introverts rock on empathy, listening, being genuinely interested in people. All the characteristics listed by Dale Carnegie’s classics are our natural power.
HOWEVER, it takes a lot of effort and time to take our natural power to the scene and show those qualities to the outside world. When the introvert remains silent -which is the most natural form for her- and the extrovert performs at 3/10 in relationships, the extrovert indeed gets the credit. Any performance is always better than no performance.
BUT, if an introvert chooses to work on transferring her natural talent in relationships to an operational level, she will rock. The ‘how’ part is a long story that can be summed up as ‘you won’t be as social as an extrovert unless you discover, accept and embrace your authentic communication style.’
Key takeout for introverts: Make sure you don’t underestimate your social skills just because you don’t show them yet and naturally don’t get credited for them yet. Embark on a journey to find this courage within you.
Key takeout for extroverts: Contrary to the widespread execution, it’s not always extroverts who will teach how to be better at communications to introverts. In fact, if you are an extrovert, extrovert resources on how to refine your communications skills won’t add much to your existing skillset. Instead, try talking to an introvert and see the topic from a whole different perspective.
Wrong assumption 2: Introverts miss all the fun outside.
What we luckily miss is actually the dependence on the outer world. The fun, pleasure, pain, and all emotions that may be mostly coming from outside for most people, are all within our heads. Therefore we are less dependent on social praise, money, status, appearance, etc., which sets us free in a desirable way.
Many people tell me, ‘It’s courageous to put yourself out so transparently in your articles, while you have an entourage at work.’ For me, it requires zero courage to do that because external validation is secondary for me. I’m interested in writing in an ambition to transfer what’s in my head to my words. And the rest is up to the reader.
The same is true for social events: We miss many because that’s not where we find our intellectual and emotional treasure. A calm environment is where our authentic nature blooms. Therefore it’s correct that we may be missing all the fun, from your point of view, because missing too many parties might be your nightmare; but not ours.
Key takeout for introverts: Stop putting this pressure of ‘being more social’ on yourself; this is not your game. Instead, focus on feeling more nourished after any experience and pay close attention to whatever makes your soul flourish. Then repeat. Don’t count how much of these were social activities vs. alone ones.
Key takeout for extroverts: We know that you honestly worry that we miss all the fun, but please don’t. We don’t feel sorry because you don’t spend hours reading books in quiet rooms with candles. We don’t regret you not writing in your journal daily. You probably won’t find this exquisite pleasure in our daily activities, just like we won’t in yours. And that’s OK, for both of us.
Wrong assumption 3: Introverts are drowned in their thoughts.
We do love getting lost in our heads, just like we adore daydreaming. However, especially with knowledge, experience, and age, one learns how to regulate this unique inner journey. The truth is, our battery is dead much quicker than yours in social settings, and therefore, we need to recharge more often.
In my case, you won’t see me daydreaming at work, not at all. But you will do see me shut down sometimes, especially towards the end of a crowded meeting. Or in the middle of a big company event. Like a phone, I will shut down immediately once my battery dies because if I don’t, I will get nervous, stressed, burned out, and even physically get sick! Shutting down is turning into my world, not talking for a while and, in a sense closing my invisible door to the outside world. It’s not my bug. I do it because I need it.
Key takeout for introverts: Make sure it’s not your crowded head who runs you, but the opposite is true. Always remember you have complete control over your thoughts. It’s equally important to understand and practice regulating your social moments. Shut down, take a break, or leave whenever you need to. Remember that you are not an extrovert who can perform publicly for a long time, and that’s OK.
Key takeout for extroverts: Accept that we live much more in our heads than outside. However, also accept that this doesn’t make us daydreamers who are out of control and unable to perform daily tasks. When we use it efficiently, our significant thought word expresses itself as fascinating art.
A special note:
This article is one part of an introvert series that I have just begun, and I’d like to know if you are particularly interested in any introvert topics!