When making the case for introverts, Inc. contributing editor Geoffrey James puts it most eloquently: "The business world is full of loser extroverts who never get anything done because they're too busy shooting the bull."
Originally coined in 1921 by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, the word "introvert" refers to a personality type that is thoughtful, quiet, and self-reflective. Introverts often come off as shy. By contrast, extroverts are more outwardly oriented, and at face value are better at making business connections.
More evidence shows that introverts possess many positive attributes that lend them many advantages, especially when it comes to being successful leaders or entrepreneurs.
"In the service of their passion for an idea, [introverts] will go out and build alliances and networks and acquire expertise and do whatever it takes to make it happen," author Susan Cain said in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal. She wrote the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, and co-founded the Quiet Leadership Institute.
While the overly-gregarious extrovert tends to be more focused on positive reinforcement, introverts are led by a different compass: They build beyond themselves.
That trait, it's worth noting, may govern entrepreneurship in parts of the developing world, too. "Co-founders in Bangalore departed from the conventional way of doing business, and are building companies larger than themselves," says Sharad Sharma, an angel investor who co-founded iSpirt, a Bangalore, India-based think tank.
Arguably, those who keep to themselves are the real winners. Below are three essential personality traits that prove why introverted entrepreneurs are the real winners.
1. They spend a lot of time alone.
Introverts enjoy being alone. In fact, many would opt for a night in with a book over painting the town red. For this very reason, they may be mistakenly seen as selfish -- or, perhaps worse, as socially inept.
Not so, argue experts: Introverts derive strength from spending time with themselves, which can then be channeled into something greater, such as growing a business stemmed from extreme passion. More importantly, solitude lets them process their experiences and discover patterns in the world or within themselves.
Solitude is often directly linked to gains in freedom, creativity, intimacy, and spirituality, according to a 2003 study conducted by psychologists Christopher Long and James R. Averill. "From a broad social perspective…solitude's benefits often outweigh its detriments," they concluded.
The iconic Steve Jobs himself spent much of his time alone, mulling over how to build a company that could (and did, ultimately) -- make a lasting impact. In a 1995 Wired interview, he elaborated on the importance of being able to think about one's experiences and see connections that spark ideas:
"A lot of people in our industry haven't had very diverse experiences. So they don't have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one's understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have."
2. They're not overly assertive.
While it's true that introverts aren't particularly gifted at networking, they're more likely to develop meaningful relationships that last.
"Introverts tend to seek out and value close relationships," says Beth Buelow, founder of TheIntrovertEnrepreneur.com. "The introvert is often slower to open up to others and let them 'in,' so when we do, it's because we want something meaningful and lasting."
While extroverts are quick to get talking, introverts process external stimuli and plan what to say before actually saying it. What may be read as an inability to relate is often heightened focus.
For entrepreneurs, this a benefit when it comes to pitching to investors. "Introverts benefit from a desire to be prepared," Buelow adds. "They will practice their pitch until it feels natural. They are also likely to focus their efforts on investors they think will be the best match, rather than trying to get in front of anybody."
3. They place extra weight on their emotions.
Traditional wisdom holds that introverts are more likely to become depressed than their extroverted peers, but this is being challenged.
"What scientists haven't realized until recently is that these risk factors have an upside. In other words, the sensitivities and the strengths are a package deal. High-reactive kids who enjoy good parenting, child care, and a stable home environment tend to have fewer emotional problems and more social skills than their lower-reactive peers," Cain writes in her book.
Introverts also benefit from placing extra weight on how they feel. "Introverts tend to be internally motivated and not be too heavily influenced -- positively or negatively -- by external factors. We tend to have an even keel, long-haul perspective, and that can lead to understanding that a dip will eventually turn a corner," says Buelow.
It's no secret that the psychological price of entrepreneurship can be exceedingly high, but introverts may actually be better equipped to deal with it by observing their own sensitivities and experiences.