Are you an introvert? Only a quarter of the general population is, but more than half of accountants are. Some famous introverts include: Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Alfred Hitchcock, Bill Gates and Steve Martin. Although people associate introverts with geeks or nerds (and in the case of Bill Gates – a very wealthy nerd), introverts play an important role in advancing civilization. They are not the gregarious sales and marketing types, but tend to be the quiet analysts and designers who are happy being alone with their thoughts.
Introverts don’t “shoot from the lip.” They work more from long-term memory than from short-term. It takes them longer to find the right words to use in conversation, so they tend to be more taciturn than extroverts, choosing their words carefully and being good listeners. Because of the longer retrieval time for long-term memory, introverts tend to be the people who find that solutions to problems come to them after a good night’s sleep. The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney, explores the characteristics of introverts and explains how introverts can use those characteristics to their benefit. Dr. Laney, an introvert herself, attempts to explain the sometimes puzzling behavior of introverts. Since extroverts have to deal with introverts (she is married to an extrovert), she wrote the book to be valuable to them, too. Her book includes a list of well-known personalities of both types: Katie Couric is an extrovert, for example, while Diane Sawyer is an introvert.
According to Laney, introverts are energy conservers — they draw energy from their internal world of ideas, emotions and impressions, and they can be over-stimulated by the external world. But when they balance their “alone time” with outside time, they keep perspectives and connections. By balancing their energy, introverts can exploit their perseverance and enhance their ability to think independently, focus deeply and work creatively.
Extroverts who work with introverts should realize that while the latter may seem quiet and aloof, they may know more than they reveal. They sometimes need to be asked for their opinions and ideas before they will supply them. They work well with little supervision, but may have trouble remembering names and faces.
Laney includes seven strategies introverts can use to exploit their advantages. For all strategies, introverts may need to make a conscious effort to overcome some of their introvert inclinations. These strategies include speaking up more (extroverts may stop listening when an introvert talks slowly and hesitantly); smiling at people; laughing; and volunteering to overcome excessive aloneness.
• Introverts are not necessarily shy, aloof, or antisocial. They are hardwired from birth to focus inward, so outside stimulation--chitchat, phone calls, parties, office meetings--can easily become "too much." Nothing is wrong with introverts.
• The main differences between introverts and extroverts are how one refuels emotionally (introverts need solitude; extroverts need interaction), and the level of stimulation a person can tolerate (the more introverted, the less stimulation you want or need.)
• Extroverts tend toward breadth - they know a little about a lot of things. Introverts usually concentrate deeply on only a few areas that interest them.
• Introverts conserve energy and save it for meaty conversations, rather than squandering it on idle chitchat. Extroverts feel unsettled by introverts' behavior.
• Scientists have found physical differences between introverts' brains and extroverts' brains. Also, the brain uses different pathways for speaking than it does for writing.
• There are three extroverts for every introvert. An attraction of opposites can actually be good for an introvert, since you can get your more extroverted partner to do most of the "social" work of the relationship. An extroverted partner may expect more of you, however, than you have to give.
• In most workplaces, self-promotion and bustling about are rewarded more highly than quiet efficiency and concise, content-rich speech.
• "Extroverting": when you're absolutely not allowed to be who you really are (for example, when job-hunting.)
• Introverts prefer deep conversation with one person they know well, and extroverts prefer light chitchat about news, weather, and sports. Guess which type of conversation is more common at the typical party?
• Introverts need to de-stress before and after social events; arrival strategies (how to sneak in without fanfare); and tips on finding something to say.
• Even introverts need friends and need to get out sometimes but should not schedule too many events for the same week.
• They can recognize and draw on their inner strengths such as analytical skills, the ability to think outside the box, and strong powers of concentration.
• Introverts can take advantage of their special qualities to create a life that's right for the introvert temperament, to discover new ways to expand their energy reserves, and even to confidently become temporary extroverts.
• Private time is a necessity, not a luxury, for introverted children: "In our Western culture, where extroversion is valued and many activities for children are group experiences, it is extra important for introverted children to have alone time. Being in a bad mood is often a sign they need time out."
• Laney recommends that parents teach their introverted kids to say, "I'm still mulling it over" when extroverts become impatient for an answer to a question. She encourages them to teach extroverted kids to think about the effects their actions have on other people: "What do you think would happen if you talked the whole time and your friend never got a chance to say anything?"
• Studies show that there is a correlation between introversion and giftedness.
As Alexander Pope said, “Know thyself.” He also said, “The proper study of mankind is man.” This book helps with that understanding.