Negative Stereotypes and Stigma against Introverts
When struck by the terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ our brain instantly judge’s a person’s character traits. If introverted, we think of them as a nerd or socially awkward and if extroverted, we think of them as a party animal or narcissistic. However, these stereotypes are not always true, as an introvert could be narcissistic whilst an extrovert could be a nerd. What these terms define is the type of personality an individual carries rather than their character traits.
Introverts can be described as individuals who gain energy by spending time alone (Breit, 2018). This doesn’t mean that introverts don’t enjoy being around people, however, they lose energy in stimulating social environments; therefore, they re-energize themselves by spending time alone. Introverts tend to be good listeners, reflective, observant and have a small group of close friends (Chung, n.d.).
On the other hand, extroverts gain their energy by being around people and feel isolated when they spend too much time alone. An extrovert is often described as friendly and approachable; they enjoy being the center of attention at social gatherings and have a large circle of friends (Santos, 2015).
Understanding personality types is crucial for managers in the workplace today. As every individual needs to be managed differently for them to be efficient. Marketing is no doubt the most creative department in any organization and every individual has their own creative process that managers need to understand and respect. While extroverts would thrive in group meetings and brainstorming sessions, introverts would do their best work with fewer people or in their own personal space (Ali, 2019).
Globalization today has let more people work in other countries than ever before. This poses as a challenge to managers today as they need to be able to understand the environment their employees come from. The cultural background an individual comes from immensely influences the type of personality they carry. In a TED talk about introverts by Susan Cain, she talks about how eastern countries are introverted and western countries are extroverted (Cain, 2012). Asian and African countries tend to be introverted due to their traditions and conservatism (Chon, 2014). On the other hand, Cain points out that America is extroverted because they experienced a major economic shift from agriculture to corporates in the 20th century. This shift forced people to move out of their comfort zone in order to succeed in the big cities (Cain, 2012).
The 20th century began to overshadow introverts and made the world believe that being extroverted is the only way to succeed. With nearly 96% of business leaders being extroverts, the needs of introverts were rarely looked over (Smart, 2015, p.34). In contrast today, organizations around the world are recognizing the potential introverts hold and are willing to amend their operations to suit their style of working.
To create a comfortable work environment for introverts, managers must understand that they might not voice their opinions as spontaneously as extroverts do and would often not speak at all, but they always stay involved by listening, observing and thinking (Moore, n.d.). An introvert would only speak up after they’ve well thought out what they want to say; their thinking process should be respected by managers as their suggestions are often insightful and detailed. During group discussions managers should ask introverts for their opinion as they would have something to say but might feel awkward or uncomfortable joining the discussion themselves. Encouraging follow-up one to one meetings gives the introverted individual some time to think critically about the discussion and would make them more comfortable sharing as they wouldn’t have to talk to a group (Caramela, 2017) (Moore, n.d.).
Whilst introverts don’t often express their feelings and are rigid to form new relationships, they are also very emotional and invest deeply in relationships after taking their time to get to know a person. Managers can take advantage of these traits to improve their working life and increase their productivity by frequently engaging them with the same group of people.
Over the past years’ organizations have encouraged collaborative work environments and restructured their offices to be more free and open (Barford, 2012). While this is biased towards extroverts as they excel in such environments, it is not quite comfortable for introverts. These work environments can be over-stimulating for introverts as it lacks the personal space they’d need to be productive. A smaller working space instead, would not only give individuals more space and solitary time to think, but employees would be able to form close friendships that make their work life more enjoyable (Cunningham, 2013).
A new practice at amazon is that all meetings begin in silence and all attendees are asked to read a memo before they start discussing. Such practices in organizations improve the outcome of meetings as it creates a balanced discussion between introverts and extroverts (Gino, 2015).
Reading the article “People like me don’t normally speak up” reminded me of my primary school teacher who called my mother in, after the first week of grade one. My teacher recommended to get me checked for disabilities and when my mother asked, what the problem was? She had a list of complains: I behaved differently than all other students, every morning I came in and sit in the corner, I did not talk to anyone in class, I didn’t go to play during recess and I just stared at her whenever she tried talk to me. I was too young to explain myself to anyone then. However, my reason for behaving like that was: I did not know I was supposed to behave like everyone else, I found the corner seat cozy, I did not know what to talk to about, I preferred to eat in recess and I didn’t respond to her because I was scared of her. Therefore, she came to the conclusion that me being quiet and reserved was a problem; which leads me to a quote from the article I strongly agree with ‘it is time we get rid of the idea that it’s a drawback to be an introvert’ (Smart, 2015, p.32).
However, my mother did not believe my teacher. She explained to my teacher that I get quiet sometimes but otherwise I am a fun loving child, naughty and all children in the neighborhood love to play with me; so the question of having any disabilities doesn’t arise. It was as if I had two personalities, the first was who my mother knew and a second that my teacher knew. As I grew older, I became aware of my behavior and realized I behave differently with one group of people and differently with another, some-days I wouldn’t talk to anyone in school and another day I’d be punished for talking too much. My split personality couldn’t make me agree more with a point made in the article “no one is pure introvert or extrovert”.
I identify myself as an introvert, because I get drained out by being around people and need few hours alone at the end of the day. However, the article portrays introverts as individual that are less confident, socially awkward in large groups, hate being in the spotlight and “efficiency machines” which I strongly disagree to. Being an introvert I have a strong passion towards acting and theatre, I enjoy being in the spotlight, I am a confident public speaker and I am always late for important events; therefore, in no way am I an “efficiency machine” (Smart, 2015, p.34). I like to refer myself as a confident introvert; as someone who is not socially awkward and can hold a conversation at the same time I also tend to be quiet, observant, listen more and be selective about the connections I make.
After critically evaluating my personality and identifying the character traits I carry, I firmly believe that I will become a great leader in the future. As a confident introvert, I am a good listener, highly observant, critical thinker, honest, opinionated, caring, reflective, respectful, talented, visionary and grateful. However, as an introvert, thinking too much has gotten me interested in various industries such as fashion retail, real estate, media/advertising/film and education. I have very personal reasons for choosing each industry and I do not know which of them will workout in the future, however, I am optimistic and hopeful that I will be able to work out all of them one after the other. What poses as a challenge is that as an introvert I tend to spend too much time with myself and lack discipline. I have identified this gap in my personality and hope to fill it over a period of time. Another hurdle I need to overcome is to be more open and make an effort to build a genuine network of friends, mentors, teachers, suppliers and clients.
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