Introverts: The Crocuses
The common misconception about introverts is that they are all shy or aloof. Not only is that not the case, but the association is pejorative. Society uses words like guarded, loner, taciturn, and self-contained to describe introverts, words that connote misanthropy and closed emotions. For women especially, being an introvert carries negative implications. While men can get away with being the “strong, silent type,” Rauch notes that we are more likely to perceive introverted women as “timid, withdrawn, haughty.”
On the contrary, introverts can be very outgoing—they just need to break up their social interactions with time alone, or they get tired and moody. How much solitude each person needs differs, but the right amount leaves introverts feeling refreshed, revived, and ready to get back in the game.
Introverts need to be honest with others, as well as with themselves, about their need for personal space. Because of the social stigma that comes with being a “loner,” they tend to try to hide their desire to withdraw, exhausting themselves and frustrating those around them with their grumpiness. How much happier would they be if instead they acknowledged their needs and didn’t push themselves to socialize just because they thought they were expected to?
Not only would they feel better, but introverts at their best have a lot to offer the world. Just because extroverts tend to assume leadership positions most often doesn’t mean they’re the only ones with strengths in those areas. Forbes.com’s Jennifer B. Kahnweiler reports that 40 percent of executives identify as introverts, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Barack Obama is one, too.
Introverts think before they speak and offer thoughtful, reasoned comments; they also tend to impress and reassure others with their cool confidence, and have a talent for written communication, which helps them to better articulate their positions and is an advantage in this age of online social networking.
A World of Hybrids
Most of us are neither entirely sunflower nor entirely crocus, but somewhere in between. The key to a happy life and healthy relationships is striking a balance between these two personality types and countering our strengths and weaknesses. Introverts don’t have to be loners; they simply need to recharge now and then. And extroverts will benefit from building up some reserves of their own.- Molly Mann