Recently a colleague posted this article in a LinkedIn discussion: How an Introvert Can Be Happier: Act Like an Extrovert. Just the title ticked me off, but I chose not to judge until after read the article.
So, I read the article by Sumathi Reddy of The Wall Street Journal. Here is my judgment of Reddy’s terrible advice.
The basic idea of telling introverts to act more like extroverts is degrading and unproductive. Introversion and extraversion are naturally occurring personality traits that all of us have. Most people are more extroverted, but that does not make introverts bad or wrong.
People are happiest when they have confidence in who they are and are free to be themselves. We should encourage and support people to play to their strengths, not chastise them for not acting like someone else.
Introverts gain energy from spending time alone or in small groups. Extroverts gain energy from interacting with people, often in bigger groups. When introverts are tired or stressed, this article suggests they should seek social situations, instead of trusting their instincts and taking some quiet time to recharge their batteries. Who does this benefit?
Introversion is not the same as shyness or social anxiety. While many introverts (myself included) prefer small groups and not large crowds, we are not social misfits. A person’s ability and enjoyment of speaking in public has nothing to do with introversion. Many introverted job seekers have found they enjoy making new connections and developing relationships within their professional communities.
Introverts also make good leaders and communicators in the workplace. For example, I enjoy giving presentations and collaborating with people. The difference between myself and someone who is more extroverted is that I need some quiet time after a social event, and an extrovert would feel energized by those interactions.
Each of us has different styles of communicating and socializing. People should be encouraged to know what works for them, and what doesn’t, and not be expected to act like the other people, as The Wall Street Journal article suggests.
How do you think introverts should behave?
More info for and about introverts
- Introverts in the Office: How to Work Well in an Extrovert’s World (Forbes)
- 12 Most Expeditious Ways to Alienate Your Introverted Colleagues (12 Most)
- The Perks and Pitfalls of Being an Introvert in an Extroverts’ Workplace (CareerBliss)
- Susan Cain: The power of introverts (TED Talk video)
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