Picture this: you are in class and about to present in front of everyone. Everyone else is taking their turn to present and yours is fast approaching. Your heart races, your palms begin to sweat and you begin to fidget. Now picture this: you are at a house party. You may have not wanted to be there in the first place. You may be there because your friend pressured you into going. The number of people there begins to overwhelm you. The sound of talking, laughing and shouting is deafening. You retreat to the least crowded corner of the house, where it is just you, a drink and peace and quiet. If you relate to these two situations, you are probably an introvert. However, if you do not relate or find any problem being in such situations, chances are you are an extrovert.
An article published by Medium describes an introvert as someone who is more focused inwards and does not rely on too much external stimuli to be energised. Rather, they are drained when there is too much external stimuli. In other words, while extroverts are recharged by external stimuli, introverts are drained from the same thing. The term introvert was first introduced in Carl Jung’s Psychological Types in 1912. Jung further stated that introversion and extraversion exist on a spectrum, where one may be an introvert but still do well in a social environment. He also used the term ambivert to describe people who are in the middle. Introverts are also different from extroverts biologically. Psychology Today states that from observing the size of the brain structures, like the medial orbitofrontal cortex which are responsible for sensitivity to rewards and coding the reward values of incoming stimuli, you are able to differentiate introverts from extroverts. The amount of stimuli needed for an extrovert may be overwhelming for an introvert while that of an introvert may not be enough for an extrovert. This was evident when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everyone was urged to stay at home. Those who are extroverts are most likely to have had a hard time dealing with being isolated at home as there was a lack of stimuli to energise them. On the other hand, introverts who do not need much stimuli were not as affected.
Introverts can be easily pointed out as the outliers of any social environment. You can find them in their own corners, blending into the background and hoping they will not have to talk to anyone. When working as a group, introverts may end up fading into the background and let the more extroverted group members speak up and contribute. At large events, you can find the introverts stuck either in quiet areas, on their phones or to their extroverted friends. After occasions that involve speaking with other people, it is common for introverts to feel drained or depleted.
According to VeryWell Mind, it is estimated that 25 to 40 percent of the population is made up of introverts. It is very likely that you may know a few introverts within your own circles. So if you are an extrovert, how can you do your part to make the world comfortable for introverts? When you want to approach an introvert, imagine that they are surrounded by a bubble. This bubble is their safe space, where they feel comfortable and to a certain extent, separated from the world. They are very particular about what enters their bubble. If you are too enthusiastic when introducing yourself to an introvert, it may overwhelm them and scare them. If this happens, they may start to put up walls and retreat back into their bubble. Introverts also very rarely initiate a conversation and for some, it may take an immense amount of strength to open up. So if someone you know who is an introvert is trying to engage with you, pace yourself and understand their communication style by asking questions. By understanding their communication style you will be able to lay the foundation for deeper connections and converse effectively with them. If you are an extrovert working with introverts in a group, you may find it difficult to communicate with the more withdrawn team members. In cases like these, you can take time to familiarise yourself with them and make sure that they know that they are in a safe space and should not be afraid of speaking up. If your friend who is an introvert does not feel like attending certain gatherings, do not pressure them too much, as they may find such activities to be draining and exhausting.
The world can be a scary place for introverts to live in. If introverts could have it their way, things like job interviews, presentations or even the salespeople who follow you around the store would not exist! It is understandable how introverts may have trouble when it comes to adapting to situations that require communication with other people, but not all of these situations are avoidable. In college or university, you will have to work with other people on assignments and presentations. When you join the workforce, you will have to go for job interviews and your job may involve communication with other people. In situations such as these, introverts have no choice but to step out of their shells. While this may seem daunting and scary, stepping out of your shell can help you unlock your full potential. In an interview with Scientific American, author Susan Cain stated that a common misconception that people have of introverts is that they are not capable of being leaders. In her book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, Cain describes Gandhi and Mother Teresa as great leaders who were introverts. A lot of great creatives and inventors are also introverts. Yes, stepping out of your shell can be scary, but you will never know what you may discover about yourself if you do not try.
The world needs its introverts. A lot of influential people in fields such as technology, politics, science and music are introverts. Imagine a world without Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and Abraham Lincoln. You can never know what an introvert may be hiding in their metaphorical Fortress of Solitude. It takes time to get to know them and understand them, but once you do, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised. So for the extroverts, look out for your introverted peers and do what you can to create a comfortable environment for them so they can thrive even when they are not in their bubble. As for the introverts, do not let the world see your silence as weakness. Do not be afraid to show the world the power that lies within your silence.
By Daniel Leo