The last few years, I’ve noticed a surprising phenomenon. Have you tried asking someone if they are an introvert or an extrovert? It’s a reasonably straightforward question that typically comes with a simple answer – until now.
An extrovert will still answer the question with, “I’m an extrovert.” An introvert with answer this same question with one of the following phrases. Some with say, “I’m an extraverted introvert.” Others will say, “I’m an introvert, but I’m not weird.” And, some will say, “I don’t know” in an effort to avoid the question completely.
Both introverts and extraverts have qualities that all companies need. They both bring good things to the table. The biggest noticeable difference is typically the way these groups express themselves. Being one or the other doesn’t mean you’ll be better at your job. And, if public speaking is involved, an introvert can sometimes present so well that you’d assume they’re an extrovert.
I’m just not sure how we got here. How did half the population become uncomfortable with themselves in this way?
And frankly, how did companies decide this line of thinking makes sense? A few years ago, I interviewed for a job at a well-known financial services company. During the job interview, the hiring manger told me about the team I was to manage. He explained that one person on the team is an introvert, so I may want to get rid of them. He said that introverts don’t do well at that company. I turned down that offer. I didn’t want to work for someone who believed this.
This wasn’t a one-time observation though. Many companies prefer extraverts. There are times when management may gauge the quality of your work by how much you talk. Rather than just look at the results you deliver, air time in meetings becomes critical to success.
As part of the working world, we need to do something to change this stigma. Being an introvert does not mean you’re shy, or that you have anxiety. Being an introvert means that you recharge alone, while extroverts recharge around people. It’s where you get your energy from.
When an introvert is quiet in a meeting, it does not mean they’re not participating, or that they aren’t listening. Sometimes, it means they’re thinking. They may be more productive, or may be coming up with even better ideas than their extroverted peers. And, just because they might not speak up in front of a big group doesn’t mean they aren’t working behind the scenes. Many introverts prefer to lay the groundwork by talking to people individually, rather than in front of a big audience.
If you’re a manager, take the time to appreciate your introverts, and normalize this personality trait. It’s not a drawback. It can be a strength. If you’re an introvert, it’s time to stop buying into this message. Being an introvert is not a personality flaw.