There's a lot of misinformation about what introverts and extroverts are; in a nutshell: introverts are more energised by solitary activities and extroverts find their energy by interacting with others. It's obviously a sliding scale because no one is 100% one way or the other and I personally would probably say I'm only about 55% introverted (i.e. an ambivert with a mild preference!) After watching a TED Talk on the Power of Introverts I thought I'd share the positives, given that it's sometimes portrayed as a negative or a hindrance! I feel the world needs a mixture of different kinds of people so we should appreciate what introverts bring to the table too.
1. Introversion isn't shyness - if we're talking to you it's because we want to
This is the most annoying misconception! Most of us are perfectly happy to talk, but you might have to make the first move. We just aren't always energised by socialising in itself so may not seek it out with new people or in certain situations. Shyness is being afraid of or embarrassed about social interaction, so there's a big difference (i.e. not the kid eating alone because they're scared to talk to the other kids, the one who's sat on their own because they want to read their book). You may have an introverted close friend that you wouldn't even know was an introvert because they're so open around you. That's probably because you guys have so many quality interactions. I like to think of it as being selective but if an introvert is chatting away with you; you can be sure it's because they want to be there!
2. We're very independent
As we don't need lots of social interaction, we are quite happy to do our own thing a lot of the time. Because we spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting before we voice our opinions, they often aren't unduly influenced by others.
3. We're good listeners and don't talk over people
I'm not sure if most extraverts feel this way but one of my extraverted colleagues once told me 'I can talk and listen at the same time!' However to me and probably most other introverts; we like to listen to what people are saying before we offer our opinion so will let you finish having your say before jumping in. Likewise, because we tend to be quite reflective, we're happy to let you do the talking when you need to share something.
4. We tend to think through before making a decision
Again, the reflective nature of introverts mean that we rarely make rash or impulsive decisions. We will usually think long and hard before deciding on something important.
5. We can create a calm working environment
Because we don't crave social interaction as much as extroverts, we're happy to work independently before reporting back to the group or to stay pretty quiet and focussed before having a chat whilst making the tea. This can make working with us a nice, calm experience in a world where so many corporate cultures revolve around who can shout the loudest!
6. Our conversations and friendships may be fewer but they're usually meaningful
Most introverts would rather have quiet than small talk that will never lead to anything more meaningful. However if we can get a good conversation going, you'll find we totally open up to you. We often aren't great at chatting to the taxi driver or making friends of convenience but the friendships we develop are deep and will often last a lifetime. We just prefer smaller groups or talking with people one-on-one.
7. We don't feel the need to fill a natural silence
Introverts often don't see a natural lull in conversation as something that should immediately be filled. Sometimes people seem to talk for the sake of it, however introverts generally won't drag out a conversation when its reached a natural end.
8. We're often creative
Not that all introverts are creative or that all extroverts aren't, however time alone, reflecting on what you've seen and experienced means that introverts are often creative. We're also likely to thrive on creative activities like writing, art and photography.
9. We thrive in smaller groups
A lot of introverts actually really enjoy socialising, we just prefer smaller groups. So when we suggest a few of us go the the pub after work and you invite like 10 more people; that's not ideal! There's something about being in a small group that, even if it's unfamiliar, makes us want to open up more.
10. We're in good company
Well-known figures who are apparently introverts include: Bill Gates, Rosa Parks, Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein, Barack Obama, J.K. Rowling, Mahatma Ghandi, Marissa Mayer, William Shakespeare, Nelson Mandela, Isaac Newton, Meryl Streep, J.R.R. Tolkien, Martin Luther King Jr., Steven Spielburg, Mark Zuckerberg and I'm sure many more. So don't see it as a barrier to you going on to do great things!