I’m a huge introvert.
During my first weeks of primary school, I actually used to hide in the classroom Wendy House during the lunch hour!
As I got older, my hiding place became the school library. When I needed a break from people, I’d always cloister myself somewhere quiet. (Ideally, surrounded by a large and comforting pile of books!)
What it means to be an introvert
There are lots of misconceptions about us introverts. We’re often pegged as ‘shy’ or ‘awkward’. But introversion doesn’t mean you’re those things. We can be very good at dealing with people.
Introverts simply prefer calmer environments. In contrast to extroverts, we are more sensitive to stimuli and tend to feel drained after prolonged socialising. Susan Cain, author of ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’, says: “The key is about stimulation: extroverts feel at their best and crave a high degree of stimulation. For introverts, the optimal zone is much lower.”
Yet we live in a society that doesn’t always value the more reflective, quiet personality. It idealises those who are bold, always gregarious and comfortable in the spotlight.
As researcher Adam Grant has pointed out, to succeed as leaders, introverts may have to overcome a strong cultural bias. In a 2006 survey, 65% of senior corporate executives viewed introversion as a barrier to leadership, and other studies have shown that highly extroverted U.S. presidents are perceived as more effective.
However, introverted personality types have unique and powerful strengths. If you are aware of and harness them, they can become superpowers!
The top four introvert superpowers
Here are the top four assets I think introverts bring to the table:
Introverts want to fully understand another person’s perspective before formulating their own. This trait makes them very likable, and well suited to tasks like negotiation and sales.
As Steven Covey points out in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, high-quality communication involves seeking to understand others before trying to be understood. Many of us think we listen, but we don’t. We’re usually formulating a reply in our heads, rather than truly paying attention to what’s being said by the other person. For the introvert, deeply listening to people is a skill that comes naturally and that’s a huge asset.
2. Accomplished writers.
Writing is a solitary exercise requiring reflection. Given an introvert’s natural propensity to enjoy these things, they tend to be very good at putting their thoughts together in written form.
The ability to write persuasively is an enormous asset to anyone’s career or entrepreneurial dreams. Looking for venture capital? You won’t get it without the ability to write an incredible pitch that secures those dollars. Need to build a website that really sells your product? You’ll need top-notch copywriting skills to develop something amazing. Introverts have skills like these in spades.
3. Receptive leaders.
Introverted leaders tend to listen more carefully and are more receptive to suggestions from employees. They are more likely to let talented employees run with their ideas rather than demanding to put their own stamp on things. That makes employees feel more valued and engaged. Researchers Adam Grant, Francesca Gino and David A. Hoffman demonstrated this through their study, which showed introverted leadership was associated with higher productivity particularly from proactive, vocal teams (i.e. high performers).
4. Highly creative thinkers.
Psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist suggest that the most creative people in many fields are usually introverts. This is probably because introverts are comfortable spending time alone, and solitude is a crucial ingredient for creativity.
J.K. Rowling, Meryl Streep and inspirational composer Frederic Chopin are examples of famous introverted creative thinkers. Chopin, for example, was so introverted that he gave only about 30 public performances in his lifetime. Playing for small groups of friends was his preference. He made his living by selling his compositions and teaching piano. Chopin’s most quiet and troubled times have become known as his most productive composition periods.
These are only four of the amazing gifts that introverts bring to their careers. Are there any others you can think of? Let me know in the comments!