I'm An Introvert, Not a Sociopath
Whenever someone finds out I'm an introvert I always get a strange look to go along with a response like, 'oh you're one of those'. What is that supposed to mean? First of all let's make sure you extroverts clearly understand what the word introvert means. It means that I'm motivated from within by things that are truly important to me. Instead of talking I am the one listening to all the facts and looking at the big picture. Having 20 BFFs would probably give me a nervous breakdown. Extroverts have no fear, I'm not after one moment of the attention which you fight so hard to have and keep. I don't want it. Satisfaction doesn't come from being Employee of the Month. My work speaks for itself so I don't have to 'sell it' to you. And don't worry, even though I know the answer I know it means much more to you to answer the question than I do. I am confident, not cocky or arrogant. I know what I know and that's a fact. I also know what I don't know and have no problem admitting that either. Please don't mistake my lack of excitement as being disengaged or careless either. Just know that I'm cheering on the inside while thinking through our plan. Now I hate to speak for all introverts, but the ones I do know are pretty sharp. I don't want to wear matching outfits and scream real loud. Give me a Sudoku puzzle and a quiet room instead. Being introverted doesn't mean I'm shy or incapable of public speaking. It's actually the opposite. Whew! I really needed to get that off my chest. I hate the fact that being an introvert has such a negative connotation.
There are times when being an introvert is uncomfortable. Writing my resume and outlining MY accomplishments are extremely hard for me. I fear coming across as arrogant while instead I probably come across as the sacrificial lamb. I've done most if not all the work on projects but just can't bring myself to take credit for it. There's that part of me that feels like my work will speak for itself and it does. Sometimes it gets lost in the roar of the extroverts. The one interview question I always struggle with is "What is your greatest career accomplishment?" It's not that I don't have accomplishments, I just don't want to come across as cocky. Networking has also been a struggle for me. Though I know a ton of people, asking them to write me a letter of recommendation or refer me for a job makes me cringe. I've never had an issue with public speaking, making friends or fitting in, but I've also never been the girl who got a job because of who I knew. I used to wear that as a badge of honor because I landed the job solely on talent. I realize that sometimes it's a mix of who and what you know. As the world continues to become more social becoming more outgoing is my only choice. Since I am a self-aware introvert I am actively working on it.
In an office where I am definitely outnumbered I have to put on my extrovert hat at times just to stay in the mix. The quiet power of introverts to solve problems is one of the greatest assets. At my last company we did a team-building exercise where we all took the Meyers-Briggs test (INTJ!) and performed several exercises as a team. One of the exercises was to build the tallest tower out of paper within a certain timeframe. My extroverted teammate was ready to dive right in, while I sat back and examined all of our options, calmly and methodically. We compared game plans and decided to use my idea. Not only did we finish before the buzzer, but our structure was the tallest! Score one for team introvert. With so many extroverts in one office vying for attention it's great that there's one less person in the mix. I get to sit back a watch the drama unfold from my quiet little corner. Someone has to come up with the ideas to give them something to brag about. Extroverts aren't all bad. When you can get a mix of both together who truly understands how the other thinks you can really generate some great ideas. The first step to that is removing the stigma that an introvert is a negative thing. I have this picture posted at my desk so extroverts know the rules of engagement as they approach me.
What have you learned about interacting with the opposite personality type (introvert vs. extrovert)?
What are some drawbacks to your personality? How are you working to overcome them?
- Q&A: Author Susan Cain on "the power of introverts" in business and beyond (smartplanet.com)
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (lumbertribe.wordpress.com)
- Introverts Can Still Innovate (business.time.com)
- Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World that can't stop talking (mythginger.com)
- Another Thing Introversion Is Not (psychologytoday.com)