For years, I believed that the world was extroverted: that only extroverts could be happy and successful. I desperately wanted to be a part of it, and I thought something was wrong me. Through many years of experience, study and self-reflection, I’ve learned that I’m an introvert and great gifts come from this. The truth is I have different skills and strengths and different desires than my extroverted friends.  And that it’s OK.

I no longer want to be an extrovert, but through this journey, I have learned how to get the happiness and peace I need by understanding my natural strengths and needs. Part of this journey also included understanding which introverted traits were natural for me, such as thinking before I speak and needing more time alone than my extroverted counterparts, versus what aspects of my personality could be changed, such as having more confidence and an ability to better navigate social settings. 

Understanding Your Introverted Gifts

For example, I used to struggle with networking. I so wanted to be like extroverts I saw around me who appeared more comfortable at networking events.  As I got to know myself and my strengths, I learned new skills that have helped me to become much better at networking. However, I learned that even though I could be better as this type of social situation, I definitely had different desires for being social than my extroverted colleagues. An extrovert may really enjoy “working the room” and getting to know 50 strangers immediately, where I would gladly trade 50 short conversations for one or two deep conversations. Neither is good or bad but when you learn about yourself, you get to know what you want and how to accomplish it.  It’s also important to keep in mind that shyness and social awkwardness are not the same as introversion. Both of these can manifest in either extroverts or introverts, and you can learn to change or improve these traits if they are a concern for you.

Introverts naturally focus on their inner world of ideas where extroverts spend more time naturally focusing on the outer world around them. Of course, everyone thinks and everyone pays attention to what’s going on around them, but the amount of time spent paying attention internally or externally varies from introvert to extrovert. In fact, the amount of time spent on inward focus even varies quite a bit from one introvert to the next. Not all introverts are alike.  For example, as an introvert, I spend a lot of time thinking and this leads to great strategy and creativity.  I am a big picture person, where another introvert may focus more on details.  I may be more of a thinker while another may be more in touch with the feelings of others.  I like things to be scheduled and a fellow introvert may be more relaxed and spontaneous.  What strengths are uniquely yours?  Do you recognize that others – whether introverts or extroverts – have different strengths than you, but one strength is not better than another? Sometimes it’s hard to see strengths that are not as outwardly apparent as other gifts, but with some introspection, you can discover those things you are great at and understand how to use these to your advantage.

Using Your Strengths

As introverts, we may have different desires, values, skills, and abilities, but we have in common a love of ideas and concepts. We are great thinkers and can use this skill to identify and hone our other gifts.  I’m going to list some of these possible gifts and some might apply to you and some might not.

As a deep thinker, you may be an amazing problem solver. Often with introverts, great ideas come as we let problems or situations roll around in our minds. We’re able to look at complex issues and see all the details and how all the pieces fit together and come up with a brilliant solution or next steps. You may be very analytical and ask why did that happen or what will happen in the future. You may be able to anticipate future needs or ask what if? You may spot patterns in information and be able to work through some complex situations. Bill Gates, a well-known introvert, used his introverted problem-solving skills to develop his multi-billion-dollar Microsoft brand. Another famous introvert, J.K. Rowling, used her incredible imagination to create the spectacular world of Harry Potter. And Warren Buffet – who has been called the world’s richest introvert – used his analytical skills to amass his investment fortune.

As an introvert, you probably have a desire to feed your mind and do lots of reading and researching and collecting of information. This can make you extremely valuable as an expert in a particular area. It may help you think about how to solve problems. You may be curious and always reading up on the latest trends to explore, gather and synthesize the latest information. What is working? Or what is broken? What could life be like if…?  You may have many ideas. For some introverts, these ideas may come non-stop. You may have flashes of insight as you reflect on various aspects of life. You may be very creative. You may feel emotion deeply and use this gift to understand others.  Likely, you’re a dreamer and have very innovative ideas.

You may struggle with “winging” it, but often introverts are the masters of preparation. With a little work ahead of time you can put together a brilliant presentation or speech or prepare for that important meeting by considering all the necessary details.

You may have the ability to focus or concentrate for long periods of time, which allows you to work on complex problems or projects. You may be very methodical and relish working through statistics or data, or you may have a great talent for sifting through small details.

You may love to theorize and think about better ways of doing things as you gain insights on how to better your life or how to better the lives of others. You probably have a great imagination.

You might be a great observer of people, or have a deep understanding of the emotions and feelings of others. You may be a fantastic listener, or you may be intuitive to the needs of those around you. You may have a skill for seeing the strengths in others and helping them put those gifts to use.

You are likely thoughtful and you may be skilled at asking relevant questions or looking at exceptional situations and coming up with amazing insights.  You may come up with questions that no one else has asked. As a reflective thinker, maybe you get excited and challenged as you think through the mysteries of the universe.

You probably enjoy a good thought-provoking book or movie. You may enjoy some time alone or at least not mind being alone. You may want to spend time with a close friend or small group of friends. Maybe sometimes you DO want to go to a loud party. Or maybe you don’t.  And that’s OK too.

Managing Your Needs

Part of understanding yourself as an introvert means understanding and caring for the needs that come along with being an introvert.  Just like an extrovert NEEDS to have a level of social interaction or they may feel trapped and alone, introverts generally need some quiet time to recharge and clear their mindsYou will need some time each day to do some quiet thinking, recharge, and just let your mind wander. How much time we each need is going to vary from person to person, and even day to day. The key is to take that alone time that you need. Also, remember, if someone doesn’t need this alone time they may not understand your need, but that doesn’t make your need any less valid.  It’s very important to understand what we need and to be able to articulate these needs to others.  Take some time each day to let your mind relax so you can do your best work.

Introverts are often thought of as only wanting to be alone, or not liking people. But in truth, we all need connection with others. It is going to vary how much people-time we each need or want. Of course, you need some time alone, but you also need to have time to share ideas or feelings and make connections. As introverts, we often want to have those deep conversations, but sometimes it is important to do a little small talk to get to those deep conversations we crave. Give it a chance and you may even enjoy a little small talk. 

What Are Your Strengths As An Introvert?

You probably have many more needs and many more strengths than the few listed here. Some may be related to your introversion, and some may not be. The key is first, understanding that you do have gifts, and second, to recognize what you need to do to use those gifts successfully. Understanding introversion can help with our communication skills, productivity, relationships, and overall happiness. Understanding introversion can help us overcome challenges such as shyness. What strengths do you have? 

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