I’m an introvert.
What does that make you think? Was your first assumption that I’m quiet, get lost in a room full of people (metaphorically) and don’t like being around people?
If so, join the list of practically everyone that thinks that way. The definition of an introvert is literally “a shy, reticent person,” but the connotation is so much more. If you asked someone to describe introverts he or she would probably say one of the following phrases:
They don’t like being around people.
They stay inside all day.
They’re hard to talk to.
I could go on, but you see where I’m getting at here. People have a negative connotation of introverts, when in reality the difference between introverts and extroverts boils down to one thing—energy
It’s all about energy
I’ve always considered myself an introvert, simply because I am more of a quiet person. Yes, I talk (and I like to think I’m pretty funny sometimes), but if I don’t have anything meaningful to contribute to a conversation, then I won’t. I don’t prefer being the center of attention, and I am not too fond of public speaking (although I’m pretty good at faking it).
It wasn’t until this past fall, in my last semester of college, that I learned the true difference between an introvert and an extrovert. I gained this newfound information in one of my classes, when we took various tests to find our personality characteristics. It was sort of a “find yourself before you go out into the real world” type of deal.
One of the components of the test indicated whether each of us were considered introverts or extroverts. (As it turns out, more than half of the class were introverts, and we all were PR/communications majors.) That’s when the professor broke down the difference between someone who is introverted and someone who is extroverted.
Introverts get their energy from within, while extroverts get their energy from the outside world. A good example of this (one that I experience frequently) is in talking. Introverts like to think about what they want to say before they say it. They think about the right words and how they want to portray those words to their audience. Extroverts think as they speak. They figure it out along the way depending on how their audience is reacting to their words, and they draw energy from the audience to figure out just the right words to say.
That’s why most of the time, at least for me, it’s hard to get my words in, in the midst of the conversation. I’m too busy thinking about what I want to say than actually saying it. I know, it’s just how it is.
Introverts need time alone to rebuild their energy levels, whereas being in a large group of people is like injecting caffeine into an extrovert’s veins. They thrive off of the people around them, and use it to fuel them. That’s why if you’re introverted you feel drained after spending long amounts of time with big groups of people, and if you’re extroverted you feel drained after you spend the day alone.
It’s all about energy.
Why is being introverted bad?
If the difference between being an introvert and being an extrovert simply boils down to energy, why is being introverted viewed so badly?
It’s because when you tell someone you’re introverted, they automatically assume you just don’t talk. They think you like being in a quiet room by yourself. That you struggle to make conversation with people. And that you hate social settings.
If that were the case, then I can promise you that I sure as hell wouldn’t be in the career I’m in, considering my job is literally to communicate with people.
The issue at hand is that people assume. They notice that you don’t insert yourself into conversations as easily or as frequently as others, so they write you off as someone who just doesn’t like to talk to others. What’s so incredibly sad about this is that they never see you at your true self, they only see you as who they view you to be.
They don’t see you when you are truly engaged in a conversation, talking about something that means the world to you. They don’t see how you completely open up when you talk about something that you truly feel passionate about. How your hands wave around a mile a minute and your eyebrows raise and twist as you’re getting deeper and deeper into conversation.
You see, introverts have this magical ability (Okay, not necessarily magical, but it’s pretty cool) to appear extroverted at times. It just takes the right situation and the right topic to bring it out.
You’re probably confused, so let me give you an example. About a year ago, when I started working at Goodyear, I had the opportunity to meet experienced communications professionals across the company. I had brief one-on-one meetings with these professionals, where we talked about communications, how I see myself fitting into the communications field and so on.
One of those meetings was with someone pretty high up in the company (Yes, I was terrified). I talked to him about what I saw myself doing as a career, asked him questions about his experiences and listened as he provided great insight into the field. It was pretty cool, actually.
A few days later, I sat down with my manager, and he said something to me that I never thought I’d hear in my life: “He said you were very outgoing.”
*Cue the GIF of the man incessantly blinking* That was me. Never in my life had anyone called me outgoing, but in that situation, I was. You see, when I get to talking about something I’m passionate about, there’s no stopping me (or shutting me up).
My fellow introverts…
Next time you find yourself in a group of people, remind yourself that the difference between you and someone who has the ability to talk nonstop is simply your energy levels. Neither one of you is better than the other, and neither one of you is more capable of opening up and sharing your thoughts.
The only difference is that one of you will feel drained at the end of it and the other will feel energized. You can be just as outgoing as your extrovert friends, I promise. (Or not. It’s really up to you. Just don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do [or be]).