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.”
As Susan points out eloquently, that’s bullcrap! Why? Because an estimated 33% to 50% of the world’s population are introverts.
Now that we’ve recognized the bias, and our own self-negating actions caused by internalizing it, what can we do about it?
How to Maximize Our Talents in World Built for Extroverts
That’s not as easy as it sounds. The best way to do this is to put ourselves in “the zone of stimulation” that is best for us. As introverts, that’s overwhelmingly quiet, intimate, sheltered spaces away from noise and chaos and the overwhelming social pressure of crowds. Unfortunately, that’s not how we are raised.
Indeed, as Susan notes in her Ted Talk, the world is designed for extroverts! (This can be extremely difficult for you as an employee especially when you’re an introvert and you’re boss isn’t.)
Examples of what Susan calls “the new group think,” include elementary school classrooms in which kids are forced to learn cooperatively—even in areas like creative writing which have traditionally been individualized—and in the working world where everything is done in teams or as part of a committee.
This institutionalization of extroversion means that introverts are routinely passed over for promotion (even though we are much more likely to produce measurably better results for a company than extroverted leaders!)
Step 1: Don’t Stop Collaborating
Instead look for solitude where you can find it! Create your own ideas freed from the distortion of group dynamics and then bring them to the table for debate (with data to back you up)!
Step 2: Develop Your Culture of Personality
Susan points to the Industrial Revolution as the paradigm shift in our country when great men (because there were no “great women” yet) had to distinguish themselves through charisma and magnetism rather than their results. This holds true today regardless of gender. SO, instead of shying away, showcase your talents, your skills, your results. Don’t be afraid to self-promote, to seek out your cheerleaders, find avenues in which you can measurably succeed. Or, as one of my own bosses once told me, “tell your story.” Because nobody is going to value you until they see you!
Step 3: Rinse and Repeat
Success is determined more often than not by perseverance rather than uniqueness. You are not a flash in the pan. You are not a one-trick-pony. You have so much to offer but if you don’t offer this extroverted world your gifts over and over and over again, you’re not going to get noticed. That’s why Susan urges us at the end of her Ted Talk to take out what we have in our own personal suitcases and “grace” the world with “your energy and your joy!”