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Saturday, May 5, 2012

“What’s with the introverts?”– What are we and why the World needs us

“There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”Susan Cain

“Telling an introvert to go to a party is like telling a saint to go to Hell.” – Criss Jami

“In an extroverted society, the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that an introvert is often unconsciously deemed guilty until proven innocent.” ― Criss Jami, Venus in Arms

Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race. And the single most important aspect of personality – the “north and south of temperament“, as the scientist JD Higley puts it – is where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.

All my life, I have been the guy who preferred to stay home and read books or watch romantic comedies and the Discover Channel rather than go out to play or as we grow older, meet new people out on dates and social gatherings. It felt nice to build barriers around me, made me feel secure, as if I was in my own small Fort Knox. Solitude was an seductive idea to me and I liked being in my own World. At times I used to wonder if the World suffering from an OCD of making labels have any for my way of life? Unfortunately (or fortunately) it did.

I am an Introvert.

Then again I questioned, am I the only one in this World, or a rare sub-species of Homo sapiens? To my pleasant surprise, I not only belonged to the most loosely knit group of people who like to live in solitude, whose favourite past-time is to think and imagine, who don’t like small talk, who love to be around people with similar thought-patterns, and do things that some accepting extroverts call “mysteriously interesting” while others not-so-accepting ones ruthlessly label it as downright “weird”, but research found that we are almost 1 in every 2-3 persons in the Globe. So I was hence rest assured that I’m not a mental patient of some sorts, or a loser as one of my most hurtfully-close persons once called me, I am just a plain-old introvert. Some labels aren’t that bad, you see.

So what is with us introverts? Why are we who we are? A friend once curiously asked me, “Is shyness introversion?" No, it isn’t. You see, there this thin line between Introversion and shyness. As Susan Cain puts it in her TED Talk about her new book: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking,

“Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about how you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation”

The major distinction between and introvert and an extrovert lies in the stimulus that they feel most comfortable with. Extroverts like energy, they thrive in entropy and crave for stimulation. Introverts on the other hand, love being low-key, we love being at peace with ourselves, our thoughts. We like to be among people whom we’re comfortable with. It’s not like the Introverts can’t go out and have some wild fun, it’s just that we choose not to. We prefer to sit alone, or be with someone close to us to have a conversation. And it’s not like our mind is switched off or something, give us a sunbed on the porch of a quite out-house in the wilderness and our mind will go a mile per minute. While Extroverts express, introverts impress. GO INTROS!

Introverts don’t just are Introverts and same stands for our extroversion-loving counterparts. There is enough science to lead us in our own separate paths. It turns out that Introverts are people who are over-sensitive to Dopamine, so too much external stimulation overdoses and exhausts them. Conversely, Extroverts can’t get enough Dopamine, and they require Adrenaline for their brains to create it. Extroverts also have a shorter pathway and less blood-flow to the brain. The messages of an Extrovert’s nervous system mostly bypass the Broca’s area in the frontal lobe, which is where a large portion of contemplation takes place. (as written in 10 myths about Introverts). So, again, more brain activity and less physical activity is what makes us Introverts different.

“When introverts go to church, we crave sanctuary in every sense of the word, as we flee from the disorienting distractions of twenty-first-century life. We desire to escape from superficial relationships, trivial communications and the constant noise that pervade our world, and find rest in the probing depths of God's love.” ― Adam S. McHugh, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture

So why is there so much negativity about Introversion? Why do the Extroverts get to be the teacher’s pet, the class monitor, the school proctor, the college President and the leaders in an organisation? It’s not the fault of either the Intros or the Extros, it’s the way society has moulded itself into. In schools, pupils are encouraged to outshine, in organisations the most proactive ones are the ones who get to be in the lead. It’s because our society has become used to following the diktats of the most charismatic or the most loud of them all.

Earlier society was one which craved for “Men of Character”. Since the advent of the 20th century when the world shifted from being an agricultural based society to a industrial based society, people left their homes in the villages to cities to look for better life. Proving themselves in front of absolute strangers became a unavoidable necessity. Hence the focus of the society now shifted to “Men of Personality”. So changed the bestselling books from “Character, the Grandest thing in the World” to “How to win friends and influence people” Here since, the Extroverts have been the big gainers, while the average Introvert has more or less been playing catch up game.

Amusingly though, Susan Cain says in her TED speech,

“An interesting research by Adam Grant at the Wharton School has found that introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes than extroverts do, because when they are managing proactive employees, they're much more likely to let those employees run with their ideas, whereas an extrovert can, quite unwittingly, get so excited about things that they're putting their own stamp on things, and other people's ideas might not as easily then bubble up to the surface.”

Our very own Mahatma Gandhi was a proven introvert and look at the revolution he created. When introverts take the spotlight, people look at them with respect. Because they are so driven in what they believe in that even though every bone in their body refuses to, they stand up and fight for it. They do not like “managing” or “directing” people, much like some text-book Extroverts do.

You will be enlightened to see that we are not exactly the label we are attached with. For example, Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. We hate small talk. But get an introvert talking about something we are interested in, and we won’t shut up for days.

Another instance, Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. We want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which again, we find exhausting.

Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What we need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Can the World do without us? To quote Carl King:

“You cannot escape us, and to change us would lead to your demise.”

Here’s why the World needs us Introverts. The Ying cannot self-sustain without the Yang. If the World is left upto the adrenaline-craving extroverts, who will do the thinking? Extroverts are flamboyant, social, or exaggerated beings that are incapable of deep thought or of making important decisions. Introverts are better equipped at thinking out issues and getting to the root of the problems. Although yes, I would admit though that if we Introverts would be allowed to run the world making the fast, straight forward decisions to make the society run smoothly would be difficult to come.

Another aspect of us Introverts is that we intensely value the few friends we have. We can count their close friends on one hand (FYI I have 5) If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. You just need to prove yourself to be a person of substance gain their trust. If you want a loyal and trustworthy friend for life, take the challenge and befriend us.

Introverts primarily look inward, paying close attention to our thoughts and emotions. We don’t follow the crowd. We’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. We bring the depth this World needs to sustain

Marti Laney suggested these 10 advantages of being an introvert in his blog:

10) Work Well With Others, Especially In One-to-One Relationships

9) Maintain Long-Term Friendships

8) Flexible

7) Independent

6) Strong Ability To Concentrate

5) Self-Reflective

4) Responsible

3) Creative, Out-of-the-Box thinking

2) Analytical Skills That Integrate Complexity

1) Studious and Smart

We like our peace, we go at our speed, yet we do not fail to thrive in this World driven by face value. And that is enough reason on itself for us to say that yes the World should take us seriously.

Its the character of a man that lives behind after he goes to the grave. Personality is appreciated until it fades away in time. No one praises Adolf Hitler, but everyone praises Abraham Lincoln. Do the math people.

To my fellow Introverts reading this humble piece of my mind:

“Always remember that you are unique. Just like everyone else!” –  Margaret Mead


Special thanks to Susan Cain, Carl King, Marti Laney. GO INTROS!!

1 comment:

Anamika said...

What a comeback into the blogging World. Aft 7 months of filling your blog up with romantic poems, you're back doing what you did best, rip off a thought n fill it up with your sharp analysis. Grt piece. Amazing