Friday, January 13, 2012

Introverts: Living in Noisy World

Sometimes I always think that extroverts have easier lives. They can talk any time they like, they seem to have no hesitancy to express their feelings rather than those of us who place more value on peace and quite. The recent culture that I usually consider as a pop culture appears to be attached with noise, speed, vivid, high energy, fast-paced, and sometimes it makes me dizzy, and how I wish the world could stop just for a second to give me space to think clearly. I read a lot of books when my colleague, best friend yet another introvert, AN, introduced me with the term introverts. Those books told me that with some planning, it is possible for introverts to succeed and find contentment in an extrovert's world. I used to live with simple thought that this world is too noisy and I wonder how I live the life in this noisy world.

Jane Collingwood said in one of her writings that the extroversion-introversion axis is a way of thinking about differences in personality. Traditionally, a contrast is made between the assertive, self-expressive, and generally dominant personality, and the withdrawing, secretive, and more yielding personality.

According to the psychologists Allport and Allport in 1921, an extrovert is one whose mental images, thoughts, and problems find ready expression in overt behavior, whereas an introvert dwells largely in a realm of imagination. Introverts, given sufficient ability, may become visionary poets or artists, they suggest. The distinction was originally made by Freud and has since been widely used as a concept to help us understand one another. Tests to measure introversion and extroversion have been devised, but the rich internal life which defines an introvert is difficult to detect and measure.

I also got a rough guide to determine whether you are an introvert or not:

  • You prefer spending time alone or with one or two close friends, especially when tired. 
  • You concentrate best when alone, and often give the impression of being quite, calm and even mysterious. 
  • You feel that you gain energy and strength from being alone. 

Life as an introvert is not as easy as written. We have to make it work for us. There are tools you can use to overcome the barriers that introversion can present. How about learning a trick or two from the extroverts? Developing slightly more outgoing traits can help you cope "amid the noise and haste" and stand your ground in busy crowds of people. Here are some ways to boost your confidence. I got these from Jane Collingwood's writing:
  • Notice and copy social skills of outgoing people you admire. In time it will come naturally. 
  • Speak out. The more you make your voice heard, the more positive feedback you will receive, and the easier it will become. 
  • At parties, try playing the role of the host. Introduce people to each other. Let them begin the conversation that is not about you, so you can relax. Ask open-ended rather than closed-ended, yes or no questions. 
  • Develop your networking skills. Use your memory for details to put people at ease and develop friendships. 
  • Don't put yourself down or make excuses for you shyness. Others usually can relate to feelings of awkwardness, so it is okay to talk about it. 
  • Above all, don't let yourself retreat from the world and avoid situations you think you might enjoy. Stay positive and remember you can always leave if it's becoming a trial. 

I am more interested to find out what the introvert really is because I believe that the most important thing in life is knowing yourself more rather than judge people around you. Their problems are theirs, not yours. As an introvert you may find you have a greater appreciation of subtlety and understatement, talents that, when harnessed, can become great strengths. When people ask me questions, sometimes I take longer time to answer and it is not a personality flaw, but means that you're making more mental connections and your answers are likely to contain more substance. Extroverts would have to make an effort to think as deeply as you do naturally. 

Your self-sufficiency also can be an advantage, as you don't habitually judge yourself in terms of how others rate you. On the contrary, you are able to focus clearly on your day's achievements. Without the pressing need to be sociable or gain attention and approval, you can spend time on relationship and close friendships, which are more profound than those shared by extroverts. 

How about in the workplace? Here your more restrained nature can really pay off. Many employers value classic introvert approaches, a calm, measured, and thoughtful attitude both toward work projects and interactions with colleagues. Without strong impulsive tendencies, you consider your actions and others' opinions rather than acting first and thinking later. You listen carefully then develop your ideas independently, with reflection. They say we should be proud of this :)

Perhaps in the modern world extroversion is overestimated. While it's true that extroverts get their energy from relating to other people, that doesn't necessarily make them good company. Nor are they always the best people at delivering messages, although viewed as natural communicators, if they are always on "send", others can struggle to "receive" the message and get a word in. So, I think we should be proud of our introversion and work with our skills. We never know, we may inspire others to have more consideration and perseverance, or even become a "visionary" poet or artists :)

I write this based on Jane Collingwood's writing in Psychcentral.

References and further reading:
Allport F.H., & Allport G.W. (1921). Personality traits: Their classification and measurement. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol. 16, pp. 6-40. 

Thanks! and hope it helps.

Picture is taken from and edited by myself.