As I read this fascinating article about introverts, I couldn’t help but think of Lady Gaga’s song “Born This Way.” [As an aside, click here to find out why Weird Al won’t be including a parody of that song on his next album]
When I was young, everyone said I was shy and perhaps I was. But I always loved people and loved talking to people and loved debating with people and loved listening to people. “Shy” wasn’t quite right… I was told I needed more confidence or needed to get outside my comfort zone to be more outgoing. Because everyone should be outgoing, right?
I wanted to please people. When paired with an extrovert, I often got the proverbial “short end of the stick.” If the pizza slice I was to share with them was cut unevenly, I insisted they take the larger portion. I often kept my opinions to myself–either because I couldn’t find the words to conform to my thoughts or because those sharing ideas were louder, more assertive, more commanding of attention…how do you compete with that?
Some years back, my employer brought in a specialist and tested everyone using the The DISC Personality System. After everyone learned about themselves, we spent time learning about each other. The most useful part of the exercise was realizing that just because someone approaches a problem differently than you would, does not mean their approach is less right or less valuable. This was especially powerful when a manager discovered he or she would take a different approach than their subordinate or vice versa. My supervisor actually apologized to me for having evaluated me negatively for my propensity to e-mail rather than call a contact. If you’re experiencing communication difficulties in your organization, this exercise is extremely worthwhile!
Something changed in me when I was in college. I’m still an introvert, but I’m no longer willing to be taken advantage of–I’ll have the large slice, thank you very much! If I have an opinion, I’ll speak it and I’ve become less worried about saying something wrong.
As the article points out–there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. We should embrace it and realize that we really aren’t outnumbered. We should stop letting our culture tell us we’re doing something wrong and that we’re not as good at something as an extrovert would be. We have a lot to contribute and our culture needs that balance. Introverts, unite!