Anywhere from a third to half of the population fits the definition of being introverted, meaning these people are at their best in quieter environments compared with the extroverts who do well with a lot of stimulation. And if you're someone who clearly identifies with being on either side of the fence, you know how challenging it can be living and working with people who can be so different from yourself. Coming from the introverted camp, here are several things I wish extroverts understood.
Being quiet doesn't equate with having nothing to say.
It's quite the opposite. As thinkers, introverts have opinions on lots of things. Often, during meetings or social gatherings introverts want to chime in, but the talkative people will not stop talking. Considering a group only has so much time together, be considerate and share the stage. Better yet, actively inquire about an introvert's thoughts on a matter.
Introverts aren't less mentally healthy than extroverts.
In her book The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, Elaine N. Aron cites a study where researchers compared 480 schoolchildren in Shanghai with 296 schoolchildren in Canada to see what traits made kids most popular. Chinese children considered "shy" or "sensitive" were chosen most often to be playmates. In Canada, these kids were chosen least often. Various cultures are incredibly biased when it comes to how they perceive introversion. Because of the American bias against introversion, even researchers have a difficult time being open-minded and impartial when it comes to the trait.
Introverts can be better leaders than extroverts.
Susan Cain, TED speaker and author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, cites research conducted by Adam Grant at the Wharton School who found that introverted leaders often get better results, compared with extroverts, because the latter can unwittingly squelch creativity by not giving up the reins and letting people run with their own ideas.
The brains of introverts and extroverts are different.
Dr. Laurie Helgoe cites several studies in which researchers compared the two and found that introverts generally have higher levels of electrical activity in the cerebral cortex, which may explain why they limit external stimulation so as to maintain an appropriate level of arousal. And studies measuring cerebral blood flow discovered introvert brain activation is greater in the frontal cortex, where things that necessitate focus and attention happen, such as remembering, planning, decision making, and problem solving. Their brains also show more blood flow in Broca's area, which is involved in speech production, which may be why introverts are inclined toward self-talk.
Introverts are great at studying people, and that's a good thing.
While extroverts often tend to sit in the front of a room, introverts often prefer the back or a corner. It's where they can observe, analyze, and learn about the people around them. Being genuinely interested in others is a character strength.