Neuendorf: Debunking introversion misconceptions

Zachary Neuendorf

There is a psychological minority often left on the wayside and expected to conform to the more exuberant majority. The minority I’m referring to are introverts, who make up roughly one-third of the population. Extroverts, naturally louder and more demanding of attention, have somehow positioned themselves as the standard to which all personality types should strive.

First, let us debunk some of the popular introvert misconceptions. Introverts aren’t shy. Being shy and being introverted are two different things. People who are shy are don’t interact because they fear being judged, while introverts don’t interact unless it serves an apparent purpose. Similarly, introverts hate typical small talk that, to them, seems more like a task than a real humane interaction.

Introverts don’t hate people; they just tend to have a very few close friends, as opposed to a plethora of acquaintance-like relationships with little depth.

Additionally, introverts aren’t weird, necessarily. They just don’t suffer from the same pressure as most to fit into the public mold. Often, they think and act independently, outside the status quo.

Introverts aren’t party-poopers. Parties can just be really exhausting, and too much socializing with too many people can call for a period of rejuvenation.

So why is it important that society starts to disregard these stereotypes? Partly because we are taught through elementary school and beyond that the ladder of success is only reserved to the outspoken and bold. More and more, we are forced into group projects and required to gain points through class participation, which feels like home to extroverts, but an uncomfortable mess for introverts.

By doing this, introverts are being deprived of what they do best: thinking alone. It is forgotten that some do not need or want to talk through problems with others; sometimes the best ideas come from contemplation in solitude. Instead, those who think better alone are seen as acquiring some sort of social illness.

Rather, introverts have healthy and wise voices that deserve to be heard, but they just don’t feel the need to flaunt them; the loudest personality does not necessarily have the best ideas. Introverts are the poster-children for “thinking before speaking,” which is a characteristic that continues to be valued, but less and less implemented throughout the Internet age. This slower and more thoughtful approach to words and action is strangely overlooked and undervalued.

Some of history’s greatest thinkers consider themselves introverts, including Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Albert Einstein and Gandhi. If Rowling didn’t have only her thoughts and solitude on that one train ride, the world would have never have come to know Harry Potter. And Einstein is quoted as saying, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” Some ideas simply can’t sprout from groupthink. Introverts are prone to think obsessively, spending huge sums of time dissecting abstract ideas and pondering minute details. This should not only be allowed, but also respected and honored.

This is not a call to end team-building exercises that do hold a high importance, but rather, it is a suggestion to not only force introverts into extroverted situations, but to similarly force extroverts into introverted situations. Everyone could learn from alone time and the isolated creativity that is sadly taken for granted amidst the hustle and bustle of the world. There is something to learn from both personality types, but that is not reason to try to morph someone’s quiet spirit into a boisterous one.

No longer should it be shameful to desire to stay in on a weekend night and read a book, rather than attend a loud, energy-draining party. No longer should it be viewed as weird to explore the trenches of one’s own mind, rather than seeking constant peer connection. No longer should it be wrong to not have something to say right away.