As a culture, we are excluding the ideas and contributions of 50% of society. Introverts are undervalued and often ignored.
How can we turn our ideals around to include 100% of employees’ contributions?
Why I am an “expert” on both Introversion and Extroversion
I have always been an ambivert: a mix of introvert and extrovert.
Over time, my social behavior has changed to “fit in” with the expectations of society.
When I was young, I was outwardly quiet and inwardly expressive. In public, I would keep to myself. But, I loved to share every event and emotion in my life with my close friends and family.
Now, I am outwardly expressive and inwardly quiet. I no longer see my friends daily. The majority of my life exists in the public sphere. And so, I speak less about what matters to me and more about what others want to hear.
I understand the power of introversion.
To be Quiet or not to be Quiet
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about introverts and extroverts because of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts. It has flown off the shelves and into conversation like lightening.
So, would you describe yourself as an introvert or an extrovert?
Why the dichotomy? I don’t think you have to take a personality test, label yourself, or choose to be forever more or less social.
The problem is that society mainly values extroverts.
It’s time to break the stereotype that quiet people are shy, socially awkward, and unconfident.
In fact, through research, Cain found that quiet people are:
• Better, more inclusive leaders
• More creative
• Deeper thinkers
There is a direct correlation between creativity and solitude.
Moving towards an All-inclusive Business Strategy
Unfortunately, we have collectively forgotten how to value individual thought and introversion.
I don’t mean that you can’t be an extrovert.
You should be exactly who you are. Cain’s book is essentially about finding what you value, not what society tells you to value.
If you don’t like presenting on stage, tell people about your business in small conversation groups instead. If you are more inspired by the mad flying of ideas across a boardroom than stuck in your own office, hold a meeting. There is no right answer.
Be true to yourself. Only then can you lead from within to guide yourself and others to your goals and visions.
Take some time to realize what inspires you.
When do you enjoy speaking with others?
Do you like meeting new people?
What kinds of things do you like to talk about? What would you rather keep to yourself?
When you are creating something, what part of the process is better to do alone? What part of the process needs people?
Working in groups provides immediate feedback for what’s popular and relevant. It also helps people get unstuck and improve their ideas through the contributions of others. But, as Cain says, groups are subject to “Group think”. This is the notion that people in a group melt their opinions and ideas into one, not thinking independently or individually at all. So, be weary of who your creative team is and encourage free expression. Let everyone lead themselves and discourage hierarchical attitudes.
Working alone can give way to absolute focus and sincere thought. But, for some it is distracting and uncomfortable. Find out where you work best alone and what kinds of ideas arise when you are uninfluenced by others.
You may want to challenge yourself to work in a way you haven’t before, either alone or in a candid, opinionated group.
Once you understand what you truly need, just breathe. Realize that you can do what makes you happy. You can work alone or in groups, as long as you form groups with people who benefit from the teamwork. You can also tell people that you’d rather be alone. That’s empowering.
When do you value time alone? How does separating yourself from others help you work better? Leave your comments below.