We live in a world that prefers the bold and the brash. After all, there’s the perception that those who are outspoken and assertive make the best leaders. In fact, about 65 percent of senior corporate executives believe that introversion prevented people from thriving in a leadership role, according to a 2006 survey by the Harvard Business Review. However, this has shown to be false in several incidences, as known introverts like Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, and J.K. Rowling have taken the reigns successfully.
Introverts have become a phenomenon lately, especially with Susan Cain’s novel, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Within this enlightening read, Cain tackles the many false perceptions that people have about introverts through the use of psychology and neuroscience. She begins by stating that about one-third to one-half of Americans are introverts. She even states that some of the most common mistakes are believing that introverts are shy, isolated, and sensitive when they are actually insightful and helpful.
There is such a negative stigma that surrounds the aforementioned characteristics, that it tends to affect career, social and academic progression. The most harmful one out of them, is the idea that shyness encompasses an introvert’s personality. Introverts actually enjoy and are at ease in the company of others. The only difference is that they need some alone time to reflect upon themselves, as a way of maintaining social balance. For example, they usually prefer to strike up an intimate conversation with a small group of people at a party than befriend everyone in the room.
The perception that introverts make poor leaders is also false. Many studies have shown that introverts may actually be able to foster a better team environment due to their abilities to listen carefully and compromise. USA Today cites four out of ten CEOs as being introverts. In fact, an introvert’s ability to focus and prepare also makes them excellent speakers, according to Sophia Dembling, the author of The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World.
Aside from the corporate world, these misconceptions exist in the classroom. Many professors and teachers emphasize the benefits of group work and cooperation. Yet, they tend to overlook and even undermine individual work. While everyone admires independent individuals, independence has become a skill that people think that most people naturally have. As in, it is not as impressive to have completed an assignment by yourself than a project with a group of people.
A college student by the name of Brittany Rudolph for The Arizona Wildcats has addressed this question in an article she has written. She discusses her personal experiences as an introvert in a classroom setting and what she believes should be changed. As Rudolph states, “Professors assign such projects to mimic the real world, but outside of school, we usually have more control over the jobs we do. I can choose what jobs I apply for after graduation; I cannot dictate the particulars of a professor’s syllabus.” Also, many professors privy those who participate without considering that those who are quiet are simply finding the right time to speak. While introverts do not participate as much, it is because they relish the appropriate moment and they ponder over their answers long before they decide to speak.
While active participation is admirable, the type of inner reflection that introverts bring deserves merit. In a world that is always speeding up, perhaps it’s time to slow down.
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