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Debunking Five Common Myths About Introverts
We live in the world ruled by the extroverts. "People's people" thrive in our society -- the quiet types get overlooked. There is a stigma attached to being an introvert. Introversion often seems to be considered something akin to mental illness -- or at the very least as an unfortunate and undesirable character trait -- a sign of a boring, grumpy, slow, or antisocial individual. But contrary to the popular opinion, we are neither misanthropes nor dullards.
Myth #1: Introverts Hate People
Because introverts tend to limit their social interactions, extroverts often assume that introverts are anti-social misanthropes who hate people. This is absolutely not the case. The difference between extroverts and introverts is not in the amount of liking they have for people, but in the way the two types interact with others. While the former are energized by a whirlwind of social activity, the latter are tired out by it. Most introverts enjoy interacting with others, but unlike extroverts, they find social activities draining rather than invigorating, and need alone time to recharge their batteries. This has nothing to do with dislike of people -- merely the way their neural pathways are wired. It has been shown that extroverts and introverts have different brain structures and engage different parts of the brain while thinking.
Myth #2: Introverts Are Shy
While some introverts may be shy, shyness and introversion are not synonyms. While both shy people and introverts may shun many social situations and activities, they do it for different reasons. A shy person does so out of fear and apprehension. Introverts do so simply because they have no interest in certain activities and types of social interactions -- they find them not exactly scary, but merely boring, meaningless or thoroughly exhausting.
Myth #3: Introverts Are Arrogant
When an introvert's reserved manner is not mistaken for shyness, it may be regarded as haughtiness. Introverts who are regarded as confident and intelligent are especially prone to be misidentified as aloof snobs. And it is easy to feel snubbed when an introvert mumbles a one-word response to your friendly question and turns away. However, the great majority of introverts do this not because of disdain for other people, but because constant social interactions tire them out, and they prefer to save their energy for talking about topics they are passionate rather than spend it all on light chit-chat.
Myth #4: Introverts Have No Friends
Nothing can be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, it can be argued that introverts make the best friends. Unlike extroverts, who effortlessly make numerous but relatively superficial social connections, introverts are usually far more selective when it comes to befriending people. However, when they do reach out to someone, they tend form very deep, meaningful and long-lasting bonds. That is not to say, of course, that all extroverts are shallow or phony -- of course they nurture close and meaningful connections as well. However, they do tend to spread themselves more thinly when it comes to social interactions simply because of sheer numbers of people they are acquainted with. Introverts have fewer connections to maintain, which means they have more time and energy to nurture and cultivate their close friendships.
Myth #5: Introverts Are Dull and Have Nothing to Share
This is not an uncommon misconception and, frankly, it's difficult to blame the extroverts for it. After all, when that lonely guy just sits quietly in the corner all by himself when everyone else is engaged in friendly banter at the party, what are you to think? When your co-worker is doodling away during a meeting, amidst an excited discussion on how to best move the project along, it's gotta be because he has nothing to contribute, right? Because of this, some extroverts wonder if relating to introverts is even worth it.
The truth is that many introverts are incredibly talented and creative people -- certainly no less so than extroverts. Because they are drawn more towards introspection and deep thinking, they often come up with original and uniquely creative ideas. However, those ideas may often go unnoticed, because introverts present them to the world differently from extroverts. Brainstorming, which is generally lauded is a great way to get creative energy flowing, is something many introverts detest -- tossing around a bunch of half-baked ideas is distracting and irritating to an introverts because they prefer to process and formulate their thoughts internally before speaking up. And once an introvert has formed an idea, she may find it incredibly challenging and draining to communicate it when the conversation tends to be constantly overtaken by those with bigger mouths and she feels she can't get a word in edgewise.
However, in the right setting, the introverts can flourish. Give us a meaningful topic we care about, time to think about our opinions on it, and a way to express those opinions without having to fight for "air time" with the group's chatterboxes -- and you may get a lot of useful input. As an introvert, I have over the years surprised many teachers, bosses, co-workers, and acquaintances who mistook my "thinking" look for a "bored and distracted" look, and were amazed when I suddenly chimed in and offered productive suggestions and valuable insights.