Psychotherapists, including Carl Jung and Briggs Myers, agree that there are two main, legitimate personality types: extroverts and introverts. Introverts have been wildly misunderstood for a long time. Fortunately, people are now beginning to talk about and understand introversion, which is simply a need for some time alone with your own thoughts and feelings.
Jonathan Rauch, in an article for The Atlantic, notes that for introverts time alone with their thoughts is as restorative as sleeping and as nourishing as eating. Introverts prefer to avoid the limelight and thrive on one-on-one interactions. Extroverts, on the other hand, are energized by people and wilt or fade when alone.
With all the discussions about introversion happening online, do you fully understand introverts?
Here are nine things you probably have wrong about them.
People frequently confuse introversion with being shy and even use the two words interchangeably. Shyness has more to do with anxiety and discomfort in situations involving social interaction, while introversion has to do with needing some time alone after social interactions to recharge and regain expended energy. Bill Gates is soft-spoken, bookish and introverted, but is he shy? Of course not. He wouldn’t be overly bothered by what you say to or think of him.
Just because introverts need (and enjoy) time alone more than their extroverted counterparts does not mean that they hate people. On the contrary, introverts love people. They just tend to enjoy social interactions in a different way than extroverts do. Don’t be too pushy or judgmental when at a party—introverts prefer to sit calmly and watch the action from the sidelines. It’s not that they are anti-social or that they don’t want to have fun; it’s just that it’s more fun for them to enjoy the party quietly.
Extroverts might think introverts are neurotic, but this perception is often very far from the truth. Introverts don’t have extreme mood swings any more than extroverts do. They are not constant worriers, nor do they have a paranoid personality. Introverts can cope in any social setting just as well as extroverts can. They will only need some time alone afterwards to re-energize.
Introverts are not any more prone to mental illness than other people. Needing private time to restore your energy and preferring to work on your own over working in teams does not make you mentally unstable.
Historically, introverts have made some of the best leaders the world has seen. Abraham Lincoln was quiet, reserved and dignified. He was revered as a man who did not ‘offend by superiority.’ Mahatma Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, Walt Disney, and Steve Jobs all make the long list of exceptional, introverted leaders.
This misconception likely stems from the fact that extroverts—who draw their energy from being in the company of others—feel depressed and sad when they spend long hours alone. They therefore imagine introverts feel the same way spending all that time alone quietly engrossed in their own thoughts. This might be a genuine misconception, but it is not right to put extrovert feelings on introverts. Introverts enjoy their time alone and are not depressed.
You might not know it, but many of the world’s most successful personalities in all spheres of business and industry are actually introverts. Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, Christina Aguilera, and J.K. Rowling, among many others, are introverts. These people are not losers.
In a highly extrovert world that just can’t stop talking, introverts simply won’t speak unless they have something worthwhile to say. That’s all it is!
Many introverts, like Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and Marcel Proust, are highly celebrated thinkers, but many others are not. Being introverted does not automatically make you more intelligent. It’s just that the best ideas often happen when people are in a more reflective, introverted mindset.
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