I have been writing about introversion for 10 years now. That’s a surprising number of words about being quiet. It seems that a lot of introverts are finding their words these days. With so many of us taking up our keyboards in recent defense of our disposition, I would wager that there are more words dripping with introversion than ever before.
While I, of course, celebrate that, I am troubled when introversion conversations drift in a particular direction, and that is in pointing out what we are not. I cringe when I see links to articles with titles such as “Why Introverts Hate Small Talk” or worse: “I Am an Introvert, Leave Me Alone!”
My concern is that we are giving the world the impression that ours is an orientation defined by what we lack. We aren’t gregarious, excitable, or charismatic. We dislike crowds and loud stimulation. We have less energy. Sometimes it’s even implied that we don’t like other people. It seems that extroversion gets to be defined by what it is, but introversion is too often defined by what it isn’t.
I know the confusions circling about the introverted temperament in an extroverted society, and I understand why we introverts can feel defensive about our social patterns. But our temperament is now part of a broader cultural dialogue, and my hope is that we can move away from a defensive posture into a more constructive one. Now that we know that up to half of the population falls on the introverted side of the spectrum, we no longer have to fight like we are backed into a corner.
I think it’s time to shift the conversation by celebrating the positive side of introversion. The more I have settled into my introversion over the past few years, the more I have come to appreciate its gifts. At this point, I wouldn’t want to be any other way.
Introverts bring a bounty of gifts to the table:
Finally, introverts listen. I saved this one for last because I believe listening to be an exquisite gift and one that our world is desperate for. We all long to be heard—truly listened to without being judged for what we say or how we think and without being treated as a mere interruption in another person’s story. There is much more to listening than not speaking, but not speaking is certainly a good start.