If you’re somebody who isn’t naturally very outspoken or conversational in a group and who focuses more inwardly on your thoughts, you’ll know how easy it is for outgoing colleagues to make assumptions about you as a person. If you’re naturally outgoing, you might think colleague sitting quietly in the corner is shy or just being anti-social. Unfortunately, these are common mis-beliefs about introverted people. This can be half the issue for people with introverted qualities, as you can often end up feeling misunderstood by your more extroverted colleagues.
Here’s a roundup of some of the misconceptions around what introverts are like, the myth busters to put them straight and how you, as an introvert, can benefit your employer with these myth-busting qualities.
How many times have you heard colleagues tell you ‘oh, you’re so quiet’ or ‘I didn’t notice you were there’ because you’re so quiet’? Sound familiar?
Introverts are shy
It’s unfortunate that many people associate being quiet with being shy or unsure, when the two are entirely different things.
Shy people tend to have less confidence and may be reluctant to go out in a group or take a while to work up the courage to express their opinion — yes, this will make them quiet. However, you can be quiet and yet still be confident, which is often the case if you have introverted qualities.
It has been proven that, although introverts say less than their more extroverted counterparts, when they do speak it is a point that gives real value and insight.
Benefit to Employer: Managers, get ready for the moment when your introverted staff member comes out with a statement that will prove valuable and will make the team sit up and think from a new perspective.
2. They don’t like to socialise
It isn’t true that introverted people don’t like to socialise, but they don’t like to do it for as long as some other people. This is to do with their dopamine levels — the chemical connected to the feel-good factor in the brain. A study has shown that the science behind this is that the brains of introverted people are such that their dopamine levels are higher than extroverts and, as such, do not require as much of the ‘feel-good’ factor though socialising. The other point is that introverts prefer to socialise in small groups of people, or on a one-to-one basis, where they feel they can really connect with somebody and have a meaningful conversation.
Many introverts also like to get their stimulation and excitement through hobbies, reading or in their own company in the comfort of their own surroundings. Scott Barry Kaufman, in Scientific American, highlights that extroverted people are motivated by conversation and interaction with others, whereas introverts are less motivated by that.
While it may appear that introverted people don’t like to socialise because they don’t talk as much in the office, it may actually be because they become more easily over-stimulated than other people.
Benefit to Employer: While your outgoing co-workers are busy gossiping about the latest co-worker’s business, you are quietly getting on with your work and will have the task done in time for the manager’s deadline!
3. They don’t like to be around people
Introverts are quite comfortable with their alone time and having time to tune into their own thoughts, but this doesn’t mean to say that introverts don’t like being around other people. In fact, they crave the company of others with the same interests as them and those they can discover the world with or share their innermost thoughts.
Extroverts are more stimulated by outside conversations and banter. If alone for too long, extroverts may quickly become restless or bored and actively need that interaction with others.
The reason behind introverts being happier in their own company may be because they have a naturally higher ‘arousal’ level embedded in their brains, according to the 1960s researcher, Hans Eysenck. This means that when in a group of people, they can quickly feel over-stimulated. Extroverts, on the other hand, have a lower ‘arousal’ level, meaning they have more of a need to seek stimulation from the outside world to achieve the same levels.
Benefit to Employer: In team meetings, it may seem like the introverted person is quiet and has nothing to contribute, but the truth is, they are being internally stimulated and are carefully thinking through the ideas being generated. Assume that the introverted team member will come back to you for sure at a later time with their ideas.
4. They can’t lead a team
Don’t underestimate this one.
There seems to be some common belief that those in a senior or managerial role must be loud, outspoken or immediately decisive to be effective at running a team.
Sure, introverts may appear quieter and take longer to process information, but that doesn’t mean they do not have the confidence to chair team meetings, take on senior tasks or even make decisions on projects. There are many successful leaders in different industries who, while being good at what they do, also take a more thought-processing and introverted approach to their way of working. Barack Obama and Bill Gates are both said to have introverted qualities who communicate with great passion about what they do.
Benefit to Employer: Well-thought out decisions when it comes to moving forward as a team, knowing that they have taken the time to come up with a strategic and detailed plan.
5. They don’t like to talk
Again, it’s not that introverted people don’t like to talk — the leaders above disprove this myth. It’s just that, where there may be times when introverts talk less, it means they are listening more. Some talkative people can be so chatty that they don’t make the time to really listen to what the other participants in the conversation are saying. With introverts, the internal part of their mind is switched on and they are taking in everything going on around them, enabling their thoughts to gradually develop into opinions and ideas.
Benefit to Employer: Introverts have proven to be great at skills such as writing and researching, which means they are more often than not capable of taking on these types of tasks!