The question above is a bit misleading because the name literally creates the definition. Highly Sensitive Peerson (often shortened to HSP) are individuals who are thought to have a much higher sensitivity to stimuli of physical, emotional, and/or social natures. But it’s not just a choice for these individuals. It is believed that they’re different at the deeper levels of the central nervous system.
The term itself was coined by psychologists Elaine Aron and Arthur Aron during the course of their research into this phenomenon. The pair published a book in the mid-1990s entitled “The Highly Sensitive Person” that has gone on to form the backbone of biological and psychological research into this unique type of trait.
According the couple’s research, roughly 20% of people are thought to be in the Highly Sensitive category. While that number may seem a bit high, it’s likely that many people who are actually HSPs have not yet been classified as such or have even admitted it about themselves. That’s not surprising considering we’re living in a society that prizes loud, boisterous, colorful individuals over the shy, silent types. (Learn more about the Extrovert Bias and how it has affected your life whether you know it or not.)
Nobody has a definitive answer for that yet. Experts suggests that it’s likely a combination of factors including genetics, social education (especially during early childhood), and our environments.
Interestingly, scientists have pinpointed that children who are raised by parents who are cold or aloof, or those who have suffered a significant trauma are much more likely to become highly sensitive and carry those traits through to adulthood.
However, it’s also been proven that you’re much more likely to be a Highly Sensitive Person if the traits run in your bloodline.
As with most things, the most likely explanation is that some people are born genetically primed for High Sensitivity and something in their early childhood experience triggers it or leads them down a path where these sensitivities are heightened.
How is a Highly Sensitive Person Different from an Introvert?
Strictly speaking, yes. While many an introvert will exhibit traits that are similar or identical to those of a Highly Sensitive Person, there is a major distinction. Introverts are overwhelmed almost exclusively by social stimuli—say being forced to attend a big party with dozens or hundreds of people. A Highly Sensitive Person, on the other hand, can be overstimulated by just about anything from social situations to loud noises to flashing lights.
However, there is an interesting correlation between ebing a Highly Sensitive Person and introverts. Research shows that 70% of those classified as a Highly Sensitive Person can be objectively classified as introverted (via personality tests like the Meyers-Briggs that we’re all familiar with.)
Are You a Highly Sensitive Person? You are Not Autistic
Another question that pops up often is whether or not a Highly Sensitive Person falls on the autism spectrum. Autistic people often struggle with sensory input issues. However, scientists who have studied both phenomena have found marked differences that lead them to believe a Highly Sensitive Person is not autistic.
How Can You Tell if You’re a Highly Sensitive Person and Not Just Introverted?
Cry when they experience something of profound beauty (such as a song or a photograph)
Become agitated when watching television shows or movies that feature a lot of actions, visual stimuli, or dialog
Be very centered around their inner life—living deeply within their own heads.
Experience anxiety when wearing uncomfortable clothing
Limit their social circles to just a handful of individuals with whom they develop very deep relationships
As you can see, determining if you’re an HSP or introverted can be difficult. However, introverts are individuals that get overwhelmed easily in social situations. The key component is the social aspect of the overwhelming stimuli. Introverts don’t normally experience heightened anxiety or emotional instability when faced with cute puppy videos or tight jeans (unless they too are an HSP).
See if You’re an HSP
These days there is an online quiz for anything. Much like the Meyers-Briggs personality assessment which can tell you if you’re an introvert or extrovert (And what kind of either you are), there’s an online HSP test too!
Elaine Aron has created the test herself. It can be found here.
It should come as no secret to you, my fellow introvert, that people’s opinions of you—of the things you do, the things you say, and the things you like—has a very real emotional impact on you. People that showcase a positive response to you almost always become friends (or at least a person we hold in high regard). Those who let slip even slightly negative impressions fall somewhere on a spectrum that spans between Minor Annoyance to Mortal Enemy.
While many of us learn to devalue other people’s opinions at a surface level and insulate ourselves from harmful negative energy, what we don’t often see is how that negativity insidiously inserts itself into our brains. Even as we tell ourselves that we don’t care what people think, we’re reevaluating ourselves at a deeper level and are much more likely to shield our true selves from people in the future.
But that’s not just a grumpy introvert talking. Science (specifically psychological studies) have shown that the opinions of others are massively important in our lives even if we don’t realize it.
“Humans and animals use the reactions of others to help determine what is valuable: what to eat, what is dangerous, what is attractive, and (for humans) what to wear, what medicine to take, and for whom to vote—to give but a few examples. Each object, from food to parliamentary candidate, has a perceived value, which can be changed through social influence. Consequently, understanding how our values are changed by social influence is of considerable importance. We have shown that, when effective, the opinions of others alter a very basic mechanism of the human brain that reflects an immediate change in our values. Social influence at such a basic level may contribute to the rapid learning and spread of values throughout a population. These values could range from the quality of food to race and gender stereotypes.”
This goes far beyond Herd Mentality (or The Law of Social Proofing). We’re talking about when a negative attitude or idea can literally reshape your future.
Some of this negative energy is couched in what is subjectively seen as positive reinforcement and often comes from our closest family and friends. In fact, these close relations often have the most impact on our own mental state and can—without knowing it—create life-altering crossroads at which we make decisions not with our own best interests at heart but with the advice of those other top of mind. (Want to read more about how friends and family teach you to fail?)
Indeed, sometimes the opinion of others about us affects us via proxy. The Extrovert Bias that Susan Cain writes about at length in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking is essentially culturally-adopted stigmatism of introversion as a personality type and introverted people as members of society.
This stigma is founded on the belief that an introvert is somehow less important or valuable to society than an extrovert. This belief is erroneous. Objective studies have found that introverts perform just as well (or often better) than extroverts in important leadership roles. This, it is believed, stems from the fact that an introvert’s ego isn’t as big as that of an extrovert. Essentially, the quiet folks are pleased when we get results rather than when we get pats on the back.
Unfortunately, because this bias is so widespread, it impacts your life as an introvert at many levels.
It changes the dynamics of your relationships
It minimizes your chances of being promoted at work
It skews your pool of potential romantic partners
It makes you work harder to see the same sort of success
It equates to roughly $500,000 less in your pocket over the course of your lifetime
Not all introverts are shy. However, a good many of them are. And even if you aren’t chances are people will describe you that way. Why? Because your natural introverted personality traits like rejoicing in solitude, cherishing quiet moments, speaking only when you have something important to say, and either refusing to engage in confrontation of refusing to let that confrontation visibly raise your perceived emotional distress level makes you seem shy to everyone else.
Communication is a two-way street. Unfortunately, introverts and extroverts communicate differently. Extroverts tend to spout half-formed ideas from their mouths, looking for input to complete them. Introverts tend to wait until they’ve made a decision or formed a complete thought before speaking. Extroverts have a much harder time listening and digesting what anyone else has said. Introverts tend to be very analytical and do well at perceiving and remembering facts but often miss emotional clues to the meaning behind the words.
The easiest way to break free from this social stigma and be successful at work and happier in your personal life is to learn to communicate better. My book, An Introvert’s Guide to Wealth, has an entire section about communication skills including:
Active listening techniques
Tactical conversation tools you can use to guide communication
Non-verbal techniques that help extroverts understand the words coming out of your mouth better
Tips about perception that will help you understand how different types of people communicate and how you can shift your style to meet everyone’s needs
When you understand that your thoughts may have very real and measurable effects on the outside world, then it’s not too far of a stretch to think that positivity begets positive results. Learning how to chase those negative thoughts away and replace them with faith that’s founded in understanding your own strengths and the power of the skills you possess can have amazing results!
Take Your Future In Your Hands
Your life won’t change unless you change it.
But change can be scary.
I created AnIntrovertsGuidetoaWealthyLife.com and wrote An Introvert’s Guide to Wealth to help you overcome those fears, take those steps to reshape yourself, your life, and your career in ways you previously would have thought impossible.
I did these things because I changed my life in very real ways—going from super-shy introvert to successful retail leader, doubling my salary in just three short years, earning promotion after promotion, accolade after accolade . . .
And I did it all without throwing away my introversion or forcing myself to fake being an extrovert. Instead, I embraced the very same (very quirky) traits that had set me apart from family, friends, and my peers all my life. I flipped them around and used them as tools to get the results I wanted. I know you can too!
Don’t Let Your Fear of Social Interaction Dictate Your Life
I wasn’t always shy. That’s the hard part. Looking back on it now, it’s almost impossible for me to believe I was a gregarious little fellow when I was young. I have memories from when I was three or four of my friends and I playing in the kiddie pool my mom had set up in the front yard—putting ladybugs on toy boats and watching them float away and teenaged girls (my sisters’ friends) carrying me around everywhere, dressing me up like a doll. I remember when I was a little older making fast friends with the kids staying in the next campsite over, riding our bikes through the woods, crawling down bunny trails, and swimming in the pond until we were so chilled and wrinkled our parents must have been wondering if we were hypothermic.
But something changed for me around the time I moved to my grandfather’s house in 1985 and changed schools in second grade. I quickly became a very shy person. My circle of friends shrunk to a handful. I grew fearful of social situations. I had trouble speaking out in class. I couldn’t muster the confidence or the inner strength to speak with kids I didn’t know. Everyone who was larger or older than I was seemed like a giant just waiting for the opportunity to bite my head off.
This was an era of upheaval for me and my family. I didn’t know it at the time but the medical bills accumulated by me—undiagnosed asthma—and my mother—recently diagnosed diabetes—had pushed my family’s finances to the brink. We’d had to surrender the home we lived in to the bank and took possession of my grandfather’s house after he died with the help of my aunt (who surrendered her financial claim to the home without much fanfare).
For me, as a child, this financial affected me but in ways I only now understand.
My parents could no longer afford new clothes for me as often they’d like so I ended up in hand-me-downs and thrift store finds
They weren’t able to pay for cool vacations to Disneyland (or even Six Flags) like other kids enjoyed. Instead, we spent weeks in the woods at remote campsites my father had discovered decades ago as a pulp wood truck driver.
Activities like sports and band were difficult too because new equipment (cleats and shin guards, and saxophones) were out of the question.
The home we lived in had an ancient septic system that simply couldn’t handle the demands of a modern family (showers were few and far between).
Food was cheap-ish but mostly junky—soda, chips, Little Debbie.
While I was happy, relatively healthy, and had a huge backyard (including ledges, forest, and blueberry fields) in which to play, these things were affecting me without my even knowing or understanding.
Imagine being a new kid coming into a new school not knowing anyone.
Imagine packing on several unwanted pounds and being labelled “chubby” or “fat.”
Imagine dressing in outdated clothes and wearing the same ones until they ripped out or you outgrew them.
Imagine not being the cleanest of kids.
While this childhood is far from terrible and millions of kids have it much worse, you can bet your bippy that I was the brunt of a thousand jokes, that I got picked on by fancier kids, that I got bullied by bigger kids.
And all of this was new to me. I didn’t know what was different or why I was being treated this way. (Turns out, kids of that age are just judgmental little turds who adopt the attitudes of their parents—or maybe that’s too harsh.)
Overnight, my gregarious nature vanished. I became shy.
I wouldn’t trade a moment of my childhood though. It made me into who I am today and made me appreciate my parents more than you can imagine. But, after 30 years I’m just now starting to unpack the emotional and financial impact my childhood has had on my life since. It’s my hope that:
My story will resonate with some of you.
My successes will inspire you.
My advice will help you change your lives for the better.
Are You Shy?
Are you fearful of social interactions?
Do you lack the confidence to stand up for your beliefs?
Do you lack necessary communication skills to do more than “get by” in life?
Does anxiety strangle every attempt you make to break out of your shell?
Do you hyper-fixate on failure?
The root question is, are you shy?
That’s not really an easy question to answer. Unfortunately, shyness is a complex state of being that’s been so wrapped up with various other emotions, perception styles, personality types, and social stigmas that it would be hard for the average person to give you a good example of what shyness is.
So let’s start there.
What is Shyness?
Shyness, defined by KidsHealth.org, is
“. . . is an emotion that affects how a person feels and behaves around others. Shyness can mean feeling uncomfortable, self-conscious, nervous, bashful, timid, or insecure. People who feel shy sometimes notice physical sensations like blushing or feeling speechless, shaky, or breathless.”
Even that’s not very clear or concise. The follow up they tack on to the end of that definition is perhaps more to-the-point but it’s even vaguer. “Shyness is the opposite of being at ease with yourself around others.”
The key phrase there is “with yourself.” In essence, shyness is extreme self-consciousness—to the extent that it creates anxiety. That anxiety then shapes your thoughts, your emotions, your actions, your responses, your attitude. Sometimes that can be perceived as a lack of confidence but it’s not really. It’s more of a learned response to situations which have occurred in the past.
For me, my shyness really took over when I began to get bullied—for the way I looked, for the way I dressed, because I didn’t do cool things or hangout with cool people.
It didn’t help that I was already biologically tuned to be an introvert.
The Connection Between Shyness and Introversion
Many people confuse being shy with being introverted. They are not the same thing. Introversion is a very specific personality type (a syndrome of various personality traits) that occurs because of various biological and social stimuli. In recent years, there has been a ton of research into introversion and the biggest takeaway from it all is that introversion is likely something we’re born with, not something we acquire or learn.
Differences like increased baseline electrical activity in the brain, larger numbers of specific neuroreceptors, and variations in cerebral blood flow patterns all point to very real physical differences between introverts and extroverts. (If you’re interested, I created this blog post to help people understand just what is an introvert.)
The reason many people wrongly equate shyness with introversion is that introverts and shy people exhibit many of the same behaviors. Both:
Prefer to be alone
Avoid social situations
Are very self-aware
Don’t often speak out in crowds
May have trouble effectively communicating
Have increased anxiety when forced into interactions
Struggle with interpersonal relationships
Have to work harder to enjoy professional success
The biggest difference is that shyness is almost always a learned behavior. There is some scientific evidence that roughly 20% of the population is genetically predisposed to shyness, however, further study finds that a significant portion of those with the genetic markers for shyness do not develop the temperament.
Shyness is Not a Lack of Confidence
Confidence is your ability to be comfortable with your personal skillset as applied to whatever situation you’re in. Shyness is your emotional reaction to situations in which you don’t feel comfortable. One is a personal comfort level, the other is an emotional response to discomfort.
The difference is a little hard to understand. For example, a shy person can be supremely confident in their ability to write excellent short stories, persuasive articles, and blog posts but when it comes to public speaking, they’re an absolute disaster. On the flipside, a confident person can be at ease striding into a room full of perfect strangers but they might become shy if asked to sing a song or do a dance—even if they’ve perfected the routine in private.
There is a link between shyness and confidence. Building confidence in a certain aspect of your life will naturally reduce your shyness in that particular avenue (and those avenues that are tangentially related). So, for example, you’re extremely shy in social situations but you gradually improve your social performance (usually through what experts like to call exposure therapy), you’ll incrementally increase your confidence. With that increased confidence, you’ll likely experience less anxiety (which means you’re diminishing your shyness).
The good news is that because the vast majority of shy behaviors are learned, they can be unlearned. It’s not going to be easy because learning those behaviors was—at some level—automatic and undertaken by your subconscious mind. Unlearning those behaviors will take active mental exertion and requires personal responsibility.
Regardless of where you are on your personal improvement journey, the 5 steps to overcoming shyness below will help you claw back control of your life from the fear, discomfort, and emotional stress that your shyness has caused you.
5 Steps to Overcome Shyness
Understand Your Shyness
It’s important to recognize and understand your shyness for what it is—a learned behavior. If you continue through life thinking that your shyness is an ingrained part of your personality, you’ll never be able to root it out and change it.
It may help to take a look back through your life at the situations that likely contributed to your shyness. For me, it was bullying by kids my age and older. For you it may have been negative interactions with a parent or sibling. I’m not a psychologist and I can’t really help you unpack all of that, but I know that when I recognized these influential moments in my life, I was able to de-emphasize the power the long-lasting emotional effect stemming from them had over me.
Mindfulness techniques may be helpful to you here. Acknowledge the negative incident and the emotions it causes within you but don’t allow yourself to dwell on it or them. Let them wash over you. Let them go. We live in the moment and our past only shapes us (and our future) if we let it.
Practice Interactions with People You Trust
Exposure Therapy works because you incrementally increase anxiety-inducing situations so you can learn to cope with the stress they cause. You can do this yourself to help combat your shyness. However, I would suggest you start by working with people you trust. This may be a parent. It may be a friend. It may even be a co-worker or mentor. Whoever those people are, force yourself into those uncomfortable situations and use the mindfulness techniques above to take the power away from the negative energy they generate.
Recognize the Value of Your Thoughts, Emotions, and Opinions
Shy people often sublimate themselves to the will of others. We often go with the flow just so we don’t rock the boat. But you can’t do that forever without sublimating your life and your life is yours. It’s the only one you have and you can’t afford to waste it. Live it.
I’m going to say this now. It sounds hokey but it’s true. Your thoughts, your emotions, and your opinions have value. They are what create you. And you have value.
I mean both in the sense that you’re a human being and should be respected as such but also in the sense that your individual contributions to the world, to your family, to your relationships, to your work, to strangers even, have value.
Sometimes it can be hard to see that value ourselves. Sometimes we have to see ourselves through the eyes of others in order to recognize that value. If it’s not enough that I see your value and acknowledge it, start believing the compliments and positive feedback that people give you. Too often shy people write off those positive interactions as one-offs. “Oh, they must not know the real me.” “She didn’t really mean that.” “He just said that to be nice.”
In my experience, everybody is reluctant to give praise—even the most positive of people. So, if somebody said it, it was real enough, true enough, and powerful enough to make them say it. Believe in that authenticity.
Be Assertive and Be Genuine
Assertiveness can be hard for shy people. As mentioned above, we often sublimate ourselves to others with stronger personalities. However, when you tie that assertiveness to your genuine self, you’re tapping into a strength that reaches right to the core of you.
I’ll give you an example. I’m a leader in the retail world and have dozens of employees under me. I’m also a perfectionist and NEED things to be right. I take pride in my work being complete and the finished product being attractive, presentable, and proper. When I first stepped into a leadership role years ago, I allowed my shyness to overrule that natural perfectionist tendency. I was happy if my employees were just getting the job complete. However, that led to mediocre results, poor reviews from my superiors, and employees who were really disengaged with their work. For them, it was just a task they had to do for 8 hours before punching a clock.
One day, I decided that I could no longer stand sitting by and watching this mediocrity. I dialed my perfectionism to eleven and came to work with it blasting. At first it was hard (very hard) for my employees to buy into this new me. It made more work for them. They were getting more “constructive” feedback than they were accustomed to. They were frustrated. However, when the praise from up the ladder started raining down, when the sales figures rocketed, when customers came in to give those same employees compliments on the quality of work they were now providing, those same employees internalized that pride and that perfectionism.
My assertiveness rubbed off not because I just repeatedly beat people over the head with it. It worked because it was coming from a very authentic place within me. I was showing one of my core personality traits and how it could positively affect our entire department.
Give Yourself a Break (but Not Too Long of One)
If you’re shy and an introvert, you’re in for a long road. You will easily be overwhelmed emotionally, mentally, and physically (dopamine spikes are a real thing). It’s necessary to give yourself a break, an opportunity to rest and recharge those mental batteries. However, don’t let procrastination sit in. If you break for too long, your natural emotional momentum will kick in and it’ll be like starting all over again. Instead, give yourself a timeline—an hour, a day, a week—and then get back to work. Schedule it, if you have to. Let people know about it. Tell them you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and need to take a lunch or that you’re going to table the project you’re working on until after the weekend.
You’re the only one who knows your own thresholds. Just be sure that your threshold you’re approaching is real, not imagined.
How to Simplify the Myers-Briggs Personality Type chart of Identify Your Inner Introvert
You’ve heard do of the Myers-Briggs personality Type chart which uses personality traits like emotional connectedness, anxiety levels, and analytical behaviors to type people into one of 16 different categories (and people like us into one of 8 types of introvert). However, There’s a much simpler model I prefer that funnels the Myers-Briggs introvert personality types further, distilling them to their most basic elemental form. This chart denotes the four types of introvert that you’ll meet in everyday life.
The Social Introvert
The social introvert is the most gregarious of all introvert personality types. While they still shy away from large groups, they often engage deeply with a selected handful of very close friends and acquaintances. In contrast to the stereotypical introvert, they’re not shy at all and offer a quiet shoulder to cry on or a stable emotional rock for their extroverted friends.
The Thinking Introvert
The thinking introvert most often lives in their own head. These are the people that must analyze everything. They create in depth daydreams, fantasies, hypotheses, and then apply various mental tests to these creations to better understand the outside world. Many of the most famous introverted geniuses (like Einstein and Gandhi) fall into this category.
The Anxious Introvert
The anxious introvert is most-likely the personality type responsible for the stereotypical introvert you might see portrayed in movies and television. These are the super-shy folks with social anxiety that can reach crippling levels. They’re also often very self-aware of their bodies and overly critical about what other people might think about them. However, even people who deal with the struggles associated with this introvert personality type can carve out a very successful life for themselves if they understand how their own brain works.
The Restrained Introvert
The restrained introvert is typically closed off, doesn’t open up easily to strangers, and is reserved in their actions. However, once an outsider is allowed into a restrained introvert’s inner circle, they can very quickly and easily become that individual’s best friend and most-trusted ally. These folks create ride-or-die relationships that can last lifetimes.
But what makes someone an introvert? It’s not about being shy or preferring to be alone. Introversion is a syndrome caused by biological differences that appear before birth.
By Overthinking Introverts Can Often Isolate Themselves—Dwelling in Self-Doubt and Negative Self-Talk or Simply by Failing to Practice Timely Participation in Conversations
Do a quick Google search: what is an introvert? You’ll find more smoke and hokum than you ever thought possible. People’s opinions of us range from “shy” and “quiet” through “thoughtful” to “intellectual” or even “cerebral,” These are all introvert personality traits that are—rightly or wrongly—applied to all of us across the board simply because people just don’t understand what an introvert really is.
Introversion isn’t a lifestyle we’ve chosen for ourselves.
Introversion isn’t a trendy buzzword we apply because we spotted it in a hashtag on Instagram.
Introversion isn’t shyness or a preference to be alone.
Introversion is a real biological difference that can be measured at very basic levels that run far deeper than the psychological differences that pop up.
However, one statement about introverts you’ll find floating around on the Internet is true: we overthink things all the time.
Proponents of introversion—mostly those of us (like Susan Cain) who have used our introvert powers for good and have carved out a bit of the collective human attention for themselves—they call that being “analytical.” I don’t know about you but sometimes when my mind is on overdrive it feels like a hamster spinning on a squeaky wheel.
This happens most often at night. When I’m trying to sleep. Because I have something important to do the next day.
How to Spot the Signs of Introversion in Yourself and Others and Use Them to Make your Life Better
The term introvert has been bandied about a lot recently—as have other trendy psychological buzzwords (like hypocrite, triggered, narcissist, self-care, and mindfulness). And like many of those other words adopted by people who spend far too much time on scrolling various social feeds on their phones and digesting click-bait articles, introvert (or introversion) has been shorn of its original meaning. In fact, labelling someone as an introvert or stating that you yourself are “such an introvert” has become sort of cool, in a weird way. Why? Why do people adopt any of these self-imposed labels? Because it’s neat to be in on the minority (introverts only makeup an estimated 33% of the human population); because they don’t really understand what it means (like how being OCD doesn’t just mean you like things neat and tidy—let’s talk about intrusive thoughts and rituals for a while, shall we?); because they may possess some introvert traits—most people—even the biggest extroverts around—do. Regardless of the why behind this relatively recent popularity of the introvert, this particular personality type (Actually a group of various personality types which share common traits) has become a hot topic.
There have been major books written about how introverts can survive and even thrive in a world built by and for extroverts (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, creator of The Quiet Revolution). Learning how to use introvert personality types to their fullest potential in leadership positions has become a whole subset of the self-help publishing sector. Introversion has become a topic (and a title) for popular music and music videos from major rising stars like Little Simz. Introverted characters have even become a popular trope (though often misrepresented) in popular movies like The Avengers, Big Hero Six, and many more. “Introvert” has even become a popular target for internet marketers who need to drive traffic to their websites so they slap it in just about every title for an article or blog post they can think of.
For those of us who have been introverts all our lives, this new-found interest in how our brain works is exciting, validating, and—at the same time—a bit offensive. But, like the good introvert I am, I’m going to analyze this phenomenon a bit and (because I’m always trying to push myself out of my comfort zone) I’m taking you with me.
So, let’s dig into this a little bit and see what really makes an introvert an introvert.
Potential Recipe for Professional Disaster Or an Opportunity for Personal Growth?
Introvert. Wallflower. Cerebral. A thinker. That’s what people call us. We’re quiet. Analytical. Thoughtful. In control of our emotions (at least those we express to the outside world anyway). But what happens when you find yourself working under someone who is the complete opposite? How do you, an introvert, work successfully under an extrovert?
Susan Cain wrote an interesting book a few years ago called Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World that Can’t Stop Talking. This was really one of the first books to address introversion as a powerful tool we can tap into to improve our personal and professional lives. The skillset that’s often portrayed as detrimental, comical, or quirky is the exact same skill set we can use to really succeed, get better jobs, and build our wealthy lives.
Susan gave an interview to Time Magazine in which she discussed multiple ways introverted employers can not only relate to their extroverted bosses but really prosper under this strangely symbiotic relationship.
How Introverts Can Learn to Thrive in a World Created by (and for) Extroverts
In the video, Susan warms up the crowd by telling a story about the first time she was sent to summer school as a nine-year-old. Her parents packed a suitcase full of books for her to read because it seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do. However, Susan was immediately hit by the realization that this summer camp was to be more like a “Keg party without any alcohol” from the very first day. Not only did her fellow campers ostracize her but the “adult” camp counsellors told her to “work really hard” at being outgoing.
Unconscious Bias Shapes How the World Thinks About Introverts (and How We Think About Ourselves)
This story shines a light on a very powerful bias that many people either don’t know about or don’t like to admit has such a strong hold on our lives:
The world has been trying to tell us that being an introvert is wrong, bad, or just slightly incorrect for as long as we can remember!
This bias has been internalized by so many introverts (and extroverts alike) that we’ve adapted to a history of “self-negating choices made reflexively.”