Do you prefer a one-on-one conversation or a group discussion? A fan of solitude, or more interested in being around people? Would you be described as “quiet” or “loud”?
Depending on how you answer these questions, you can categorize yourself as one of three things: introvert, extrovert, or ambivert. These three personality types have a significant role: each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
We don’t typically acknowledge this, as it’s easy to imagine that being outgoing and vocal—characteristics of an extrovert—are the keys to being successful in life. That’s a veil, however, that should be lifted from our faces.
Without even realizing, introverts and extroverts alike add to the illusion that being extroverted is better. Even professors portray the ideal student as one who can do group projects and presentations with little or no difficulty whatsoever—in other words, one who has the skills of an extrovert. Introverts are, therefore, often pressured to be more extroverted in the classroom and beyond.
In her article for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Horizons Newspaper, Chesley Mendenhall challenges the stereotype that exemplary leaders are extroverts. She provides information that leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln were actually introverts; being that they had great composure and stayed calm during very stressful times. Being naturally quiet allowed them to think their ideas through.
Furthermore, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking Susan Cain presented research done by Adam Grant, a professor from Wharton School, at a 2012 TED conference, which showed that introverted leaders usually deliver better results than extroverts. For example, when these leaders manage proactive employees, they let every participant voice his or her ideas, which helps them determine which employees fit certain tasks.
Cain also mentioned that, when people work in a group setting, they are likely to blindly follow the extrovert’s ideas, as the extrovert tends to have a domineering personality. Yet, if introverted people were able to spend some time alone, create their own ideas, and share with their peers in group, whatever task the group was assigned will be better completed.
Writer Christina Park referenced Cain’s work in an article for Forbes, using a quote from Cain’s book that reads: “extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.” This is absolutely true. We’re all guilty of doing this, unintentionally of course, because we have this belief that having extroverted characteristics is the norm.
Introverts can feel ashamed if they don’t live up to that, which they shouldn’t. They have their own unique traits that must be embraced rather than pushed aside. One way of embracing their traits is to “prepare;” Park says that introverts like to prepare for things, like presentations or speeches, instead of “winging it,” which in turn allows them to be more organized.
Few are aware that there is a third type of a “vert:” an ambivert. Ambiverts are people that have characteristics of both extroverts and introverts. In the TED talk, Cain pointed out that “they have the best of both worlds.” The extroverted side simplifies any challenge where public speaking is required, while the introverted side helps in the group setting and organizing.
Being an introvert myself, I often envision how life would be easier if I was more vocal with people instead of being quiet. But nobody should change to become something they’re not. Cain mentioned that society should be more balanced; instead of places like school or work being orientated towards extroverts, there should be settings where being introverted is completely welcomed.
As the semester draws to a close, and group projects approach, it’s important to remember: Any vert can be a leader. So, if you’re the introvert who still wishes to be an extrovert, remember a quote from Quiet as you enter finals week: “Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured… Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.”