It was Susan Cain’s TED talk on “The Power Of Introverts” that started me thinking about the whole introvert / extrovert question.
I had always considered myself something of an introvert – although I hadn’t really thought that much about how it might or might not impact my effectiveness as an introvert in business.
I’m pretty comfortable in most social situations, but I really don’t like crowds (“a crowd” being anything more than about a dozen people!), so I tend not to do a lot of networking.
I realise, now, that my introversion has manifested itself, throughout my life, as a reluctance to join friends or acquaintances (and yes, there is a difference!) at parties, outings, or meals in restaurants – especially noisy ones.
I could never understand why I always made myself late for these events – to the point where I would phone up and make an excuse about some fictitious crisis that hadn’t actually befallen me, as an excuse for not attending after all.
Now that I understand introversion better, I realise that my dilly-dallying was the result of my unconscious – and unacknowledged – desire to avoid the crowds and stay home.
It’s not that I am unsociable, exactly… I really like people, and there are few things I love more than a good conversation. It’s just that I run out of steam very quickly. And I prefer the company of one or two people (preferably one!) to a group.
But that’s the ironic thing about being an introvert – when we’re with a group of people, we can be the life and soul of the party. Especially if you get us talking about our favourite topic.
Of course, that assumes you can get us there in the first place. And there inevitably comes a point where we’ve had enough. It’s not that we’re bored of the company. It’s simply that the batteries have run down and we need to get home quickly, before we turn into a pumpkin – or something worse!
Now that I recognise my introvert tendencies (and it’s on a sliding scale – almost nobody is a complete introvert), I can be true to myself and acknowledge when I would prefer to spend time alone, than join in festivities – even if I sometimes feel torn, in case I might be missing out on something!
So thank you, Susan Cain, for making the word “introvert” popular, and enabling the introverts of the world to come out of hiding, stop being anonymous, and recognise that being an introvert also has its strengths – just as much as being an extrovert.