Introverts are Misunderstood (& Undervalued).

Introverts get a bad rep. The common opinion is that introverts are shy or dislike social interaction. As a result, society favors extroverts, beginning in elementary school and continuing throughout the workforce. Participation is rewarded, group projects are mandatory, and children seen as “loners” have the negative connotation of being an outcast.

Introverts are undervalued in the workplace. “Their lack of seeking attention is often misconstrued as lack of ambition, lack of ability to connect with people, or lack of being able to influence and lead others.”

As an introvert, I am going to do my best to debunk these falsehoods. Introverts are simply people who get their energy from spending time alone. Extroverts feel recharged after social events, while introverts feel most energetic in times of solitude. 

It has been my experience that extroverts unknowingly step on the toes of their quieter counterparts, particularly in the workforce. Introverts are routinely passed over for leadership positions due to their quiet nature. It is a myth that introverts may not have the “people skills” to become managers. In actuality, introverted leaders aren’t as outwardly bubbly as their social counterparts, but are more attuned to emotional cues and sensory details.

It is also easy to mistake our reserved nature as disinterest or uncertainty. This is quite the opposite. If I am quiet in a meeting or group setting, it is usually because I am thinking of a solution. I tend to let other people talk, comprehend what they are saying, and make an informed decision based on all variables. I don’t like to share half-formulated ideas or simply speak to fill space.

Studies have shown that introverted leaders are more likely to listen to and process the ideas of their team. Extroverts are more likely to do most of the talking without listening or implementing shared ideas.

“Extroverts get attention, but introverts get stuff done.” While this is oversimplified, it reiterates my point that introverts are often overlooked. 

I also want to point out that a large percentage of the population are ambiverts, a balance between introverts and extroverts. I identify as an introvert, but I am definitely more “extroverted” in certain situations. My close friends consider me to be talkative. That in itself is reflective of my introversion. I am more reserved in group settings but don’t hold anything back in casual encounters or with people I am comfortable with.

I’ve been encouraged by mentors and even friends to simply “speak up more” or “be more outgoing.” Not only is this insulting, it’s incredibly difficult. Scientifically, introverts and extroverts are neurologically wired differently. Extroverts are more motivated by external factors, such as receiving a pay raise, taking a bigger office, and gaining a new title. They get more of a dopamine “rush” by these things than introverts do. Introverts have increased levels of acetylcholine, which is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system. This is essentially the “calming” system of the body and when acetylcholine is released, it allows us to focus for long periods of time. This is linked to introverts’ tendency to reflect inwards and process internally.

The purpose of this article was not to knock extroverts but to recognize the value that different personality types bring to the workforce. Rather than encourage others to change, we should all be more accepting of those who may not think the same way we do. 

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