“Our culture is prejudiced against quiet and reserved people, but introverts are responsible for some of humanity’s greatest achievements. ” Susan Cain
I have had clients who have literally told me that they cannot be good leaders because they are introverts. Some say it as if it were a great obstacle that they had to face that has no solution. That’s when I remind them of certain names like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, and Gandhi, Steven Spielberg, Michael Jackson, and Paul McCartney. These people, along with one in every three or four people (depending on the study) is an introvert.
During the first half of the 20th century, the so-called “cult of character” developed where hard work and patience were exalted. Being an intro or an extrovert was not a special advantage. In the 50s with the rise of psychology and the sexual revolution, the West began the transition from the cult of character to the “cult of personality.” Since then, extroversion and good public speaking have been idolized, and the focus shifted from people’s character to their image. In fact, studies affirm that the main attribute to be president of a nation today is to speak well in public.
But let’s not mistake someone who is reserved for someone who is shy; someone who is comfortable being alone with someone who is antisocial, or somebody who takes a few extra seconds to articulate ideas, with someone who is insecure. Both personalities simply differ in their level of sensitivity to external stimuli, and there is also no one who is completely introverted or completely extroverted.
What happens when someone is introverted (“verted” in)?
- The person thinks more and talks less (what a good attribute for a good leader!).
- Thinks before speaking while selecting and articulating words.
- Is more autonomous and independent (depends less on other´s opinions or company).
- They seem calm, but their minds are soaring with creativity and imagination
- Has few friends, but they tend to develop more meaningful relationships.
- Avoids superficial or meaningless conversations.
- Usually concentrates better.
- Their batteries are recharged by being alone or with a few close friends.
How does the introvert open doors in a world that idolizes extroversion?
First, identify, recognize and polish your attributes. Make a commitment to improve a little every day in what you already do very well. You can improve your active listening to make connections and influence others. Make good use of your ability to focus to devise strategies for the organization. Use your autonomy to fiercely pursue your goals. Focus less on your weaknesses and work on developing your strengths on a daily basis.
Second, take time alone in the few free spaces of a day full of meetings. A few minutes invested in meditation, a walk, contemplating or prayer will recharge your batteries after a lot of social stimulation.
Third, plan your day wisely. If you are attending a meeting where you can ask questions, think in advance about some things that you would like to ask. That way, it will take less time for you to articulate your thoughts. If you hesitate when asking a question, you can apply Marisa Peer’s technique, It consists of encouraging yourself by counting down “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0” and acting (asking the question or raising your hand) when you reach “0”. Exposing yourself will make you feel more comfortable in the discomfort.
Fourth, when you want to connect with someone, don’t worry about your answers but about your questions. Every human being’s preferred subject is themselves. Take an interest in other people with genuine curiosity. Try to remember what they tell you, what interests them. They will soon become interested in you.