There are a lot of myths floating around about introverts. These myths exist because we introverts are an understudied segment of society. Extroversion is the default view on life. Thus when someone fails to conform to extroverted standards, we’re assumed to be “different” or “defective.”
We introverts live in a world rife with extroverted privilege. Extroverts give out advice on how to succeed in life or meet women without even thinking if that advice would work for introverts. Introverts even need different tactics to meet women.
The introverted and extroverted brains our different. Our introverted brains process neurochemicals differently. Introverts are more sensitive to stimulants and need different nootropics than extroverts.
When I take a Myers-Briggs Type personality inventory, I’m either a weak extrovert or a weak introvert. Even my moderate levels of introversion cause me massive problems when dealing with this highly extroverted world.
Here are some myths about introverts.
As you’ll see from these myths, extroverts are not superior to introverts, or vice versa. Introverts and extroverts each have specific strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to you – whether you’re extroverted or introverted – to learn how to leverage your personality type for success.
1. Introverts are shy. Wrong. Introverts are selective.
This is how shyness is defined:
Shyness (also called diffidence) is the feeling of apprehension, lack of comfort, or awkwardness especially when a person is in proximity to other people.
Many extroverted people take anti-anxiety medications because they have Social Anxiety Disorder, an extreme view of shyness. There is nothing inherent about introversion that leads to shyness.
Indeed, I don’t feel awkward around people. I might not want to talk to everyone, but that’s not due to fear or anxiety or discomfort.
Talking to and engaging with people drains introverts our energy. If we were Chatty Cathys with everyone we saw, we wouldn’t have the energy to talk to people who actually have interesting and insightful things to say.
2. Introverts have less energy than extroverts. False. Energy is task-specific.
Put an introvert in a room with some great books for men. In the next room put an extrovert.
Who will have the energy and self-control to actually read and comprehend the books?
Who will perform better on a reading comprehension task?
The extrovert will feel demoralized and defeated because he doesn’t have anyone to talk to, where as the introvert will enjoy the sweet sound of silence.
Now let’s put those same two people in a crowded night club. The extrovert will be working the room where as the introvert will stand in a corner having people annoy him with questions like, “Are you having a good time,” and, “What’s wrong, Mike?”
3. Extroverts are better salesmen than introverts. False. Extreme introverts actually perform as well in sales as extreme extroverts. That’s not a typo. That’s science. See, “Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal: The Ambivert Advantage.”
Extroverts talk too much. They don’t understand what their customers want or need. You have to actually listen rather than wait for your turn to talk in order to learn what a person truly wants.
Extreme extroverts do not have any charisma because they do not connect. They blab and blab and blab and so people tune them out.
The best salesmen are ambiverts – that is, people who are extroverted and introverted. “Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal: The Ambivert Advantage” explains:
Despite the widespread assumption that extraverts are the most productive salespeople, research has shown weak and conflicting relationships between extraversion and sales performance. In light of these puzzling results, I propose that the relationship between extraversion and sales performance is not linear but curvilinear: Ambiverts achieve greater sales productivity than extraverts or introverts do. Because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, ambiverts are likely to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale but are more inclined to listen to customers’ interests and less vulnerable to appearing too excited or overconfident.
4. Introverts are deeper or more philosophical than extroverts. False. We just keep our stupid thoughts to ourselves.
Let’s imagine the difference between introverts and extroverts like this: Ninety percent (maybe more) of what everyone thinks is nonsense. Being more social and outgoing, extroverts share that nonsense with the world.
As introverts are more reserved and contemplative, we keep most of our thoughts to ourselves. When we do talk, it’s usually because have something interesting to say.
Introverts seem deeper and more philosophical because we don’t run out mouths as often. Introverts heed Mark Twain’s advice: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”
5. Introverts are poor at reading body language and other social cues. False, sort of.
We introverts can read body language as well as extroverts, but only when we focus specifically on reading body language. Check out, “Why introverts can’t always tell who likes them: multitasking and nonverbal decoding.”
Despite personality theories suggesting that extraversion correlates with social skill, most studies have not found a positive correlation between extraversion and nonverbal decoding. The authors propose that introverts are less able to multitask and thus are poorer at nonverbal decoding, but only when it is a secondary task.
Why are introverts poorer at multi-tasking? In a word, catecholamines:
Catecholamines are derived from the amino acid tyrosine. Catecholamines are water-soluble and are 50%-bound to plasma proteins when they circulate in the bloodstream. In the human body, the most abundant catecholamines are epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and dopamine, all of which are produced from phenylalanine and tyrosine. Release of the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine from the adrenal medulla of the adrenal glands is part of the fight-or-flight response.
Introverted brains process dopamine and norephedrine differently. Some the the science is explained here (PDF).
In fact, this is a very interesting area to study. I have been engrossing myself in the scientific literature and am working with Big George on a nootropic specifically for introverts.