Introversion is an often misunderstood personality trait, assumed to mean a person is simply shy or lacks social skills.
However, further understanding over introversion has revealed there’s so much more to consider.
Coming from Latin, intro meaning ‘inward’ and vertere meaning ‘turning’, there is more of a desire for introverts to focus on their internal feelings, than openly express themselves as an extrovert might do .
Scientist Albert Einstein, businessman Bill Gates and author JK Rowling have made their mark on the world, challenging work in their respective fields, they are also self-proclaimed introverts. Proof that your introversion doesn’t need to hold you back in life.
But while there is no doubt that introverts can be just as successful as extroverts, sometimes they need a bit of extra encouragement to really shine in the workplace.
Introverts vs extroverts
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary an extrovert, meanwhile, is “an energetic, happy person who enjoys being with other people”.
If you don’t feel this describes your personality, you might feel you are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a job and advancing in your career.
But that is not necessarily the case, there are many famously successful introverts – others include former US President Barack Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. While they consider themselves to be introverts, they posses the necessary qualities that can make them highly effective leaders.
These qualities include:
- They plan ahead, allowing them to avoid making rash decisions
- They form deep, meaningful relationships; rather than charming many, they gain the trust of a few
- They work independently, meaning they don’t need their hands held
- They listen to colleagues and take their ideas on board
- They tend to be better at managing their emotions
- They have original ideas, often because they are less concerned about following the crowd
- They do “one thing well” rather than being constantly attracted by new initiatives
- They share the glory; introverts do not generally seek the limelight
Here are some pointers on how to harness these great qualities and make your natural reserved nature work in your favour.
Having a defined role to play helps reserved people to feel more confident about being heard
Play to your strengths
Some may feel that certain jobs could be more suited to extroverts than to introverts.
Sales roles, for example, that require constant contact with other people, are almost certainly more likely to appeal to outgoing, gregarious individuals. A computer-programming role, on the other hand, is more likely to interest those who enjoy their own company.
However, while most people are happiest in a role that suits their personality, being naturally introverted does not have to determine what sort of job you do.
Now a dentist, Saavan Shah was very reserved as a young man but has found talking to patients has helped him to overcome his shyness.
“It was a part of the job I found very difficult at first,” he said. “But I actually now enjoy chatting to my patients, and think being forced to be more sociable in my working environment has made me a lot more confident generally.”
Find your true calling
Having to talk to people at work can make it easier for introverts such as Shah, to enjoy interacting with others. But a lot of people who are very successful in their working lives continue to be struggle in social situations.
According to psychologists, this is because having a defined role to play helps reserved people to feel more confident about being heard.
That was certainly the case for former American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, another self-proclaimed introvert.
Withdrawn and lacking in confidence as a young woman, after discovering a passion for social causes she became a United Nations delegate, a human rights activist, and a lecturer who averaged 150 speaking engagements a year throughout the 1950s.
Bill Gates too believes being able to work in a field he was passionate about was key to his success.
“If you’re lucky when you’re very young, you find something you’re passionate about,” he told a reporter who asked him about being a successful introvert. “I did when I was 13 years old. I found computers and software. It took me another five years to figure out that was my life’s primary work, but that’s a lucky thing.”
Don’t ignore your need for “me time”
Spending time alone is a great way to get your creative juices flowing.
As Einstein is widely quoted as saying: “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
So don’t be afraid to ask your boss if you can work alone on a creative project or a problem that needs solving if you think it will yield better results.
Human resources manager Sarah James said: “Some people work better alone; others work better as part of a team.
“I have both types working for me, and I would always encourage them to go about a task in the way they feel is best suited to them.
“I also try to ensure the more introverted members of the team get the chance to air their views, even if it’s in a one-on-one chat after a meeting rather than in front of everyone.”
Jessica Bown is an award-winning freelance journalist and editor..