Instead of underestimating the introverts, learn from them
Claudia | Photo © John McDermott
"Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again." -Anais Nin.
Mental strength and inner calm are no longer just beneficial qualities for success and performance.
They are actively and consciously pursued and seen as a powerful skill to be developed and nurtured.
How can we go about this? Are there resources within us that we can draw upon?
In a world that seems to be spinning faster and faster, the desire to take things down a notch, to take time and return to a more conscious approach to ourselves is becoming very strong.
Our constant interaction with fragmented and confusing information is not only a loss of our focus, creativity, productivity, and personal safety, but it is also damaging to our intelligence and well-being.
Constant distractions have a negative impact on the way our brains function. Full stop.
"In times of information overload and the accelerated development of new technologies, four skills, in particular, are becoming crucial to success: keeping calm, setting focus, cultivating creativity, fostering emotional intelligence," writes Lilian N. Güntsche for the Zukunftsinstitut (Future Institute) in Frankfurt.
Let’s filter these out again:
- keeping calm
- setting focus
- cultivating creativity
- fostering emotional intelligence
Can you correctly describe the characteristics of extroverts and introverts?
Depending on their personality structure, people deal with "too much noise and input" differently.
In research on personality psychology, one of the most thoroughly researched topics today is the consideration of introverts and extroverts (introversion and extraversion).
Who would have thought?
The terms go back to Carl G. Jung and his typology on personality models published in the 1920s.
Being aware of these two personality types helps us to better assess both our own reactions and those of our counterparts in stressful situations.
This knowledge helps us to deal with mental strength, attention, and inner calm.
Can you correctly describe the characteristics of extroverts and introverts?
Try it. Make a quick mental list.
As usual, people are rarely the one or the other extreme. What often happens is that certain behaviors and characteristics are too hastily assigned to one type or the other.
So, check out this brief description to get it straight next time.
The loud ones
Extroverts are entertaining, decisive, dominant, and have an urgent need to be in company.
They think loudly, talk a lot and listen less. (Great for meetings, isn’t it?)
They have fewer problems with arguments, like to party, and have an issue with being by themselves. (That is worrisome, don’t you think?)
They draw their energy from group dynamics and sensory overload.
The quiet ones
Introverts, on the other hand, have strong social skills, like parties as well, and have no issue with talking in front of 500 people. (I bet you didn’t think that.)
But the difference to extroverts is that they want to withdraw afterwards to recharge their batteries instead of throwing themselves into the crowd for a dozen more conversations.
They prefer the company of close friends instead of anonymous networking or group conversations.
Introverts talk less, listen more, and think before they speak. (Imagine how efficient meetings could be with introverts outnumbering the extroverts around the table).
They often express themselves better in writing than in conversation. Introverts prefer an environment that is not buzzing with sensory overload and draw their energy from alone time.
"Introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation."
-Susan Cain in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Stealing more time for yourself
So, what does the introvert-extrovert thing mean for your well-being and future life?
We can probably all agree on the fact that the world is getting crazier and wilder.
This means you want a strong anchor, a calm place to turn back to.
Introverts, therefore, have an advantage when it comes to "stealing" more time for themselves to process conversations, influences, and what they have seen before moving on to the next steps like planning, deciding, or delegating.
We can pretend that our brains are bottomless suckers for networking, info consumption, and social scrolling.
But then we’d be lying to ourselves.
As much as all the digital progress is helping us in many ways it also has become a curse. People are getting annoyed having to be “switched on” and be non-stop bombarded with information or requests.
For introverts, environments with an excess of stimuli are energy thieves that distract from thinking, working, and focusing.
"Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts." -Jonathan Rauch in Caring for Your Introvert.
Introverts are very good at and used to withdrawing themselves from an overstimulated, noisy environment because they don’t care about being part of the hustle and bustle. So, the much-needed skill to block noise and hectic comes much more naturally to introverts than to extroverts.
If we want to look at our ability to concentrate and attention span as an advantage to working more efficiently, communicating more effectively, or being creative, introverts have an advantage. They can tap into their natural tendency to take time to recharge, sort out thoughts, analyze and develop ideas.
This downtime feels productive for introverts and boring for extroverts.
But don’t forget: Taking time to reflect clarifies your thoughts and prepares you to understand your environment more accurately and act accordingly.
"Nothing has so much power to expand your mind as the ability to systematically and truly examine everything you observe in life." - Marcus Aurelius
Introverts see the Big picture and details
Introverts tend to think in terms of ideas and the "big picture" rather than facts and details.
Research has shown that introverts, unlike extroverts, demonstrate increased brain activity when it comes to processing visual information.
When faced with stimulus overload, they often have a keen eye for detail. They notice things, little things, and connections that others miss.
If we perceive these details in the behavior of other people, or in the description of situations, then we can consciously lead a conversation to a better outcome or we can judge a situation with more insight and understanding. The better a crime scene investigator notices details and connections between seemingly unrelated things, the more precise and objective he can judge the situation.
"While others chat, introverts listen, observe, analyze, and collect impressions." - Laurie Helgoe In Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength.
Not an introvert – but you would like to take advantage of their powerful skills?
Our personality and character are either more on the introvert spectrum or the extrovert side of the spectrum or people can have a balanced mix (they are called ambiverts). The point is to be aware of the characteristics to better understand yourself and the people you work with or live with.
This awareness opens you the possibilities to act, interact and manage situations accordingly.
Consider personality types to be an important factor in the workplace and even find out with new hires what their tendency is. The management-consulting firm Bain&Company for example takes personality tests to find out.
Teams with a mix of extroverts and introverts tend to be more productive than groups made up mostly of one of those types. They have a better ability to focus on tasks and display better social cohesion.
A healthy mix between both introverts and extroverts brings two important characteristics for success to the table: Introverts incorporate more information into problem-solving, and extroverts think and react faster.
Consciously seek introverts as leaders, they are good at leading proactive teams. Their preference for listening means you hear more ideas and leave colleagues feeling more valued.
In an overcrowded, overstimulated, overcomplex world, we must learn to reflect on ourselves in a new way, to develop and draw on our mental strength and inner calm.
If we manage to distance ourselves from serenity and master our thoughts, we can take control of our lives.
This applies to both introverts and extroverts, although introverts already tend to avoid the crazy chaos and enjoy being alone and reflecting.
"I need space from a world that is filled with millions of mouths that talk too much but never have anything to say." – Kaitlin Foster.