It seems at times like you’re living your life looking from the outside in. When you’re asked to describe yourself, words like these come to mind: “quiet,” “contemplative,” “reflective,” “creative,” “thoughtful.”
You’ve never taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, so you’re not sure if you’re included in approximately 50% of of the U.S. population that are introverts. (Estimates range from 35%-51%.)
Are you an introvert? Chances are great if you relate to the following preferences:
1. You’d rather write a paper and communicate via email than communicate verbally. Your forte is writing papers because you have the time to research the topic and write down your thoughts. You have the ability to concentrate on the topic at hand, take time to formulate your sentences and paragraphs.
Group discussions can go either way for you; great because you’re hitting each point, or poorly because you prefer to think before speaking, unlike your counterpart, the extravert. If the class is being dominated by the extraverts, you may have a hard time speaking up. You have the correct answers but hesitate and miss your opportunities.
Note: Times like these will be a good lesson for when you enter the workforce where the extraverts can dominate the meetings, unless you find those small breaks in discussion to express your thoughts. No, don’t bother raising your hand.
2. You’d prefer to work alone or with one other classmate. While many people–mainly extraverts–think teamwork and brainstorming are the key to creativity, other wiser people know creativity can come from individual work. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, asserts that creativity has little to do with group collaboration:
“There’s a lot of nonsense floating around these days about how creativity is fundamentally social act. Ignore this. Yes, creativity is social in the sense that we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us….But for many people, the creative thinking process is a solo act,” she writes in a blog post.
Note: In the workplace a great deal of emphasis is placed on working as a team. You’ll have to contribute to your team’s efforts, ignore the useless prattle that may ensue. Take time alone to decompress from the many meetings and brainstorming.
3. Parties aren’t your thing. Alone you enter a crowded room blaring with loud music, scan the scene for a familiar face or two; and not recognizing a soul, simply leave unbeknownst to the host. Or you’ve been at a party for two hours and feel it’s time to leave, even though your classmates are just warming up. You’re tired and weary of making small talk that feels shallow to you.
Here’s a different scenario that is more palatable: some close friends ask you if you’d like to spend Friday night going to a movie or sporting event and then going back to the dorm room to engage in deep, meaningful conversation. Even though it’s 12:00 am, you’re thoroughly enjoying yourself.
Note: Your job out of college might include attending networking events, where you’ll have to engage in small talk. Always make sure you’re ready with talking points about current events, industry news, even sports.
4. You have fewer but deeper friendships. You marvel at your extraverted classmates who seem to know someone wherever they go. But when you look closer at their relationships, many of them are superficial and merely acquaintances. Your friends, on the other hand, know each others’ idiosyncrasies, secrets…in other words, know the whole self.
The drawback to having fewer but deeper friendships is that when the urge strikes you to go out for a party or a movie, your close friends may be too busy to hang out. This leaves you alone to go out for a quiet meal or a cup of coffee.
Note: You may be expected to interact with your future colleagues, lest you come across as aloof. Short conversations will be your preference with your acquaintances, so learn the art of breaking away smoothly.
5. You’re called a great listener. Your acquaintances marvel at your ability to listen to their problems and provide solutions. Justin’s girlfriend is showing signs of indifference, perhaps breaking off the relationship. You suggest not jumping to conclusions because the girlfriend is deep into her Engineering finals. You’ve become Justin’s, an extravert, new best friend, as he and his girlfriends are making amends.
Note: Similar to Justin’s story you don’t want to be cornered listening to your colleagues’ problems or simple chatter. Politely tell them you have work to do.
6. Tell her I’ll call back. It’s Mom calling, but you don’t have time to get into a long conversation about your sister’s wedding plans. You love Mom. But you hate the phone. At least if feels that way at the moment. Introverts have an aversion to the phone, because there are no boundaries when you talk with someone over the phone, not like e-mail.
Note: In the workplace customer relations often develop through telephone conversation, followed by face-to-face interactions. You’ll have to push yourself to pick up the phone at times to make or answer a call, even if it’s Mom.
7. There are times you’d rather…read. “Come on,” your dorm mate says excitedly. A bunch of your classmates are going out to do whatever. They’ve all agreed that they’ll let the wind take them where it may. It’s not like you’re not adventurous; you’ve shown the wild side of you in the past. It’s just that you’ve had a long day and would like to read a great book and maybe start another. This is your alone time and how you recharge your batteries.
Note: To fit in the organization, you may have to suck it up and go out to socialize with your colleagues, even the night before a workday. Do this sporadically to keep in good stead with your colleagues.
These are seven signs you might be an introvert. Your preference for introversion is not something to dread; rather it’s something to embrace, it’s you. I suggest you read Susan Cain’s book. It’s the best one I know of that explains the benefits of introversion in layman’s terms.
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