I am an introvert. While I do occasionally party and attend social events, I’m usually drained afterwards and need a significant amount of time to recharge. I do this by spending time alone writing, meditating, listening to music, or watching TV. Up until recently, I thought my need for copious amounts of alone time meant that there was something wrong with me. But after some thorough research, I soon realized that I, along with many other people in the world, am perfectly normal. It’s just how my brain is wired.
However, we introverts remain a very misunderstood bunch. Time and again, we’re stereotyped as shy and timid individuals who don’t like interacting with people, and while these descriptions are accurate for some of us, they’re not representative of us all. Unfortunately, these broad misconceptions can adversely affect our everyday lives, especially those of us who have office jobs.
It should come as no surprise that our society—and many other societies around the world—reveres extrovert personality types, and this is very evident in the workforce. The overwhelming majority of job descriptions, especially within the corporate world, contain the following phrases and words: thrives in a group, high energy, and extroverted. However, these phrases and words (ahem, extroverted?) don’t quite fit many introverts' personalities or working styles. We tend to do our best work and are most creative and focused when working independently. This is because working solo gives us the opportunity to think more clearly and freely. In other words, we need personal space and time to give birth to dope ideas. We flourish when we’re allowed to let our thoughts run wild without being confined by strict rules and rigidity.
When we lack this kind of freedom in the workplace, our performance can suffer because of it. And when we’re expected to adapt to an extroverted work environment, it can make matters even worse. Group meetings and brainstorming sessions don’t allow for independence—their sole purpose is to generate ideas with others, usually on the fly. Impromptu thinking, especially in a group setting, isn’t typically a strong point for introverts. In fact, being put on the spot for almost anything is somewhat of a nightmare for many of us, myself included.
The main problem with group brainstorming for many of us is that it interferes with our mental clarity, which is a necessary component to brainstorming. Hearing different ideas all at once can overwhelm us to the point where our thinking becomes cloudy. To reiterate, we need time and personal space to create great things. So it can be difficult for us to do so when we’re being constrained by time and pressured to come up with new ideas on the spot. Sometimes, these sessions can even leave us feeling less creative.
To combat these issues, companies need to fully understand that introverts are just as valuable as extroverts in the workplace, and can even produce some of the company’s best work when given enough independence. They also need to realize that every employee is an individual and should be treated as such. By embracing that everyone thinks, creates, and interprets information differently, companies can not only improve the performance of their employees, but also help change the way our society views and treats introverts.