In a World where Extroversion is Highly Valued, is Introversion Undervalued?
Extroversion and introversion fall at opposite ends of a spectrum.
Extroversion is when people like to be involved in a world surrounded by people, busy places and activities – so naturally, they learn best when they are actively communicating with different people. However, those who lean towards introversion, draw their primary energy from an internal world of information and ideas. When a situation requires an excessive amount of attention spent interacting with the outside world, introverted individuals will want to retreat to a more private setting to recollect their thoughts and recover the energy spent in interactions.
Extroverts gather energy communicating with others – naturally, they are often comfortable taking charge of a room, communicating and sharing their ideas with people, and planning their time off in the company of others. Introverts are more likely to absorb information internally, are less likely to be positively stimulated in the presence of others and prefer to spend some down time away from too many people.
Unfairly, society in general may lean towards favouring and rewarding extrovert qualities, sometimes at the expense of introverts. Think about it – whether you have tons of friends, generate multiple ideas in one meeting or actively participate in conversation, society values social skills over silence.
But if society has long rewarded extroverted behaviors – does a preference for a selected few social interactions leave no room for integration? Or can individuals and organisations incorporate the differences between extroversion and introversion with the same regard?
First, let’s take dive into what introversion can look like – keeping in mind that even introverts do not all share the same characteristics and can differ from one another
What is Introversion?
Introversion can often be misperceived as one or more of the following:
- Low self-confidence
- Lacking social skills
But introversion is so much more than a mislabel mirrored by socially accepted behaviours. Introversion is a personality type: an introverted person is someone who feels more comfortable focusing on what’s happening internally – their thoughts, emotions and ideas – than on what’s happening externally.
Unlike many common misconceptions, introversion is not synonymous with loneliness – rather, introversion is when someone may feel overstimulated or overwhelmed by their external environment and need time alone to recharge their batteries.
Introversion can look differently in different contexts:
- Spending time alone to reflect thoughts and ideas
- Working alone in a quiet room to focus on an assigned project
- Catching up on movies after a weekend away with clients
- Participating in one conversation at a dinner party rather than with everyone at the same time
- Planning intimate outings over large group gatherings
- Prioritising personal time and space
Introverts actually enjoy spending more time with themselves or with smaller groups as opposed to their extroverts who are fuelled – or at their best – in the company of others. Introverts may feel drained after engaging in frequent social interactions; their mood and productivity can be affected by their environment – whether at home, work or within a social setting – and they want to protect enough quality time spent with themselves so that they may feel productive, energised and effective in the company of others.
So, how can organisations understand and integrate introverts into the workplace?
Introversion and the Workplace
People communicate, absorb information and make decisions in different ways. After all, aren’t those the key practises in any organisation?
Let’s take a look at some of the preferences in work situations between extraversion and introversion:
People with a preference for extraversion will need constant action and interaction to learn. They prefer to work in teams and with others – sharing ideas from across a room [or Zoom call] and bouncing off each other’s ideas. They prefer working in large, open spaces where they can openly discuss ideas and communicate frequently with others. Extroverts may feel impatient with tasks that require their immediate attention – they often prefer to take on fast-paced roles where they can use their engaging personalities to produce a final outcome.
People with a preference for introversion are more likely to learn best with time for reflection. They prefer to work alone or with small groups of people. Introverts cannot generate multiple ideas on the spot – they may feel overwhelmed with the short period of time they have to respond without time for reflection. Introverts are more comfortable working in smaller, more intimate settings – they can concentrate better with less distractions and external noise around them. They are more likely to work better on projects and tasks that require their full attention for a long period of time – like a research or writing task – and are most effective when they gather ideas to produce a final outcome.
So, when it comes to introversion in the workplace – do introverts feel like they are struggling? Can we help shape a more positive learning environment where personality styles are understood and appreciated? Are we doing everything we can do maximise their potential? And are we doing enough to find them roles where being an introvert is a strength?
Here are a few ideas to share with your People Managers on how organisations can start to integrate – and benefit from their introverted employees:
- Allow time for introversion reflection
Introverts are not unprepared – they may, however, feel overwhelmed by the pressure to respond, “right here, right now”. They do not like to be put on the spot – rather, they thrive when they have enough time to research and prepare their thoughts.
Introversion in the workplace can look like needing extra time to contribute to a final outcome
By allowing time for reflection, introverts can feel confident, driven and focused on a given task – and in turn, an organisation can ensure an effective delivery for optimal success.
- Create space for your introverted employees
Introverts’ quieter nature can often leave them feeling left behind. Their socially outgoing counterparts are more likely to receive more – intentional or unintentional – attention from colleagues and employers, which may sometimes result in a hesitation to contribute ideas.
Introversion in the workplace can often look like needing an intimate space to contribute ideas
Although it may take an effort to engage with quieter individuals – if you’re looking to get the best out of your team, it is essential to create a space for introverts to also feel heard and appreciated.
- Highlight introverts’ strengths
Introverts cannot be expected to communicate and deliver in the same way as extroverts. But introverts have so many different – equally positive – qualities that make them a valuable asset to an organisation – they can be highly analytical and observant – and they have high attention-to-detail, are highly focused and creative and make better listeners than speakers.
Many introverts do not feel comfortable public speaking, but they may thrive at writing or event planning
Working towards finding tasks and roles that better suit introverts’ strengths can reinforce their work ethics, and boost happiness and overall productivity within the workplace.
- Diversity and inclusion
Hiring both extroverted and introverted employees encompasses a diverse workplace of both personality types.
But are organisations recognising the worth and abilities of all their people? Are they including and empowering introverts, too?
Inclusive organisations promote a fair sense of belonging and valuing of all people, regardless of their differences. So, including introversion in the workplace goes beyond tolerance – it means actively working towards listening to your employees, understanding their needs and accepting their differences in fostering an equally cohesive and inclusive workplace.
- Keep an open mind
We are all wired differently, but we are all capable of understanding and appreciating each other’s differences. After all, if we all had the exact personality type – life would be predictably boring, wouldn’t it?!
Taking the necessary time to get to know your introverted employees and colleagues can be the key to unlocking their full potential
If we can challenge our thoughts or unconscious biases, we may be happily surprised by what we may discover.
Finding Joy in Introversion
We now know that extroverts are more outgoing and have more active social skills – but do extroverts experience more positive emotions than introverts? Is being more social and outgoing correlated to higher emotional health?
Introverts are not unhappy – but they may sometimes experience lower levels of happiness than extroverts. This may be a result of less frequent social interactions since having close and meaningful connections plays an important role in our happiness.
Here are some tips and tricks for boosting happiness and emotional health in introverts:
- Accept your introversion
You do not have to be extroverted to be socially accepted – authenticity is a trait appreciated universally!
When you are accepting of your personality, your needs and boundaries – you are more likely to build personal growth and find genuine happiness both internally and within your relationships.
- Embrace your introversion
Tap into the things that make you happy.
Whether you’re learning new skills or cultivating your creative side, embrace all the qualities that make you unique
When you can appreciate your own interests, your needs and your limits – you are more likely to feel higher levels of happiness within yourself and your relationships.
- Discover the extrovert to your introvert
Do you ever feel like connecting with others – without having to socialize much?
There are plenty of things you can do – with friends or loved ones – to get enough human contact without exhausting yourself emotionally: going to the movies, joining a painting class or planning a day hike altogether.
If you already love doing these things, including others to join you will feel effortlessly fun!
You are more likely to build confidence when you are enjoying your time with others – while staying authentic to yourself.
- Choose who you want to spend time with
If you are an introvert, spending time with a lot of people may not be as fulfilling as spending time with the right people.
Find the people who appreciate your introverted personality – with people who make you feel empowered. When you are surrounded by people who make you feel good, you are more likely to build stronger and healthier interpersonal relationships.