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I was reading a great book on success this week. It was full of stories of people who had overcome great challenges and I was finding it very inspiring. And then I almost put it down for good. The author briefly mentioned extroversion and introversion. He stated something to the effect that extraverts like to be around people and introverts prefer to be alone. When will this myth end? It may be true that introverts need more time alone, but this does not mean they don’t like people. After all, I am introvert and my best friend is a person.
Perhaps we don’t all thrive in a crowded setting, and maybe we don’t always need people around us all the time. Maybe we don’t have 5000 facebook friends that we must connect with all day. Perhaps we prefer the company of our closest companions to meeting new acquaintances. But this doesn’t mean that we don’t like people.
So what is true about introverts? Introverts naturally spend more time thinking and extroverts focus more on what is going on around them. Of course, introverts do notice what is going on around them and extroverts do spend time thinking. And no introvert or extrovert is alike; there is a wide continuum of people and preferences.
I am naturally deep in thought versus not. I like to engage in deep conversations but do not enjoy the small talk it may take to get there. I think this is why introverts may gravitate toward a small group of friends. In your small group of close friends, you can dispense with the small talk. You know each other well and can skip the formalities and go right to the good stuff.
I also love ideas and coming up with solutions. I had a couple of meetings this week that I was looking forward to. I was getting together with colleagues and knew I would really enjoy the discussion. But, wait I am an introvert… Don’t I prefer to be alone?
Sure, sometimes I like to be alone. I like having time to think and sometimes it is hard to think in a noisy world. Or maybe I have been in situations all day where there was too much small talk — which can be draining for me — and I need a break. Sometimes I want to be alone. Whether I am alone or not, as an introvert, something is always going on in my head so I don’t often notice feeling lonely. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t need human connections and thrive on my relationships with others.
The myth of introverts not liking people has got to stop. Again, everyone is different, so I may want more or less people time than a fellow introvert. Extroverts and introverts need to understand what is at the heart of each personality type. I know that understanding my introversion and embracing my strengths has helped me to become far more successful than when I was fighting my introverted traits, and I am now much happier. I hope that sharing my experiences and understanding and having a dialogue about introversion will help others who are struggling. But I don’t think it helps to perpetuate a myth that tells people they are unhappy around others. While I certainly enjoy my quiet time, there are people in my life who help me be strong. I like them, and my life wouldn’t be the same without them. Introverts LIKE people.