5 myths about introverts

Posted on July 31st, by Dr Rob Yeung .

I use personality questionnaires a lot in my work. When coaching a client, it can really help a client to understand their personality and the kinds of work that best suit them – as well as their likely strengths and weaknesses. When I interview candidates on behalf of employers, I use personality questionnaires to identify the kind of organisational culture that might suit them.

Here are 5 myths about introverts:

1. Introverts can’t be confident
It’s true that introverts may appear less socially confident – introverts don’t tend to seek out crowds and busy social situations. However, introverts can be very comfortable and confident within themselves.

The best measure of someone’s confidence is not introversion versus extraversion but an entirely separate personality trait known as adjustment or resilience. People who are high on adjustment tend to be calm, composed and confident even in pressurised situations. People who are low on adjustment tend to be more worrisome, self-critical and emotionally volatile.

So, it’s possible to have introverts who are very high on adjustment – and therefore confident even in the face of tough situations. But it’s also possible to have introverts who are low on adjustment – and therefore self-doubting and lacking in confidence.

2. Introverts aren’t socially skilled
Introverts don’t tend to seek out situations in which there are lots of people and a great deal of in-person interaction. But that doesn’t mean that introverts do not have social skills. I know plenty of introverts who can engage with colleagues, customers or friends – and schmooze, persuade and come across as warm and likeable.

For example, I have a colleague who can run workshops with literally 100 people in a conference room for days at a time. He can sit at a dinner table with a dozen clients and regale them with interesting stories. But on evenings and weekends he rarely socialises – he just likes to spend time with his wife and two daughters. So, despite being fairly introverted, he can be socially skilled when he wants to be.

Generally speaking, introverts tend to have less developed social skills as they don’t tend to seek out social settings – they just have less practice at it. However, introverts can develop strong social skills – through effort and coaching – to use when the need arises.

3. Introverts don’t like to seek attention
Extraverts tend to put themselves forward in social situations much more than introverts. However, there is a minority of introverts who do like attention. Some introverts can have narcissistic tendencies.

Narcissists believe that they are better than other people. Narcissists often think that they are more intelligent or more interesting. Unfortunately, the reality is that such narcissists may in actuality not be more intelligent or interesting – they just think they are.

So, it’s entirely possible for people – and I’ve come across quite a few – to be fairly introverted but also narcissistic. They don’t like to hang out with lots of people. But when they are in a group, they try to take charge because they think they are better than everybody else.

4. Introverts are quiet
Some introverts can be quite talkative. In general, introverts just tend to be more choosy about when they wish to speak up.

It’s true that extraverts tend to be more talkative – they like talking at strangers and friends. Introverts tend to be more reserved with people they don’t know or in situations in which there are large numbers of people.

However, introverts can be talkative mostly in two situations. They can be talkative or even loud with people they know and trust. Or, they can be talkative when they choose to make an effort, e.g. if they wish to make a strong impression with a client or a group of colleagues.

So, it’s not true to say that introverts are always quiet. They can be loud with the right people – or when they make the effort to do so.

5. Introverts are careful and fussy
The introversion-extraversion dimension of personality is more about people’s desire to seek excitement and the company of other people. Being careful and fussy is mostly determined by a different personality dimension called conscientiousness.

Conscientiousness is a measure of the extent to which people like to set and abide by rules in their lives. People high in conscientiousness tend to be disciplined, careful and organised. People low in conscientiousness tend not to like constraints and are usually more impulsive or even haphazard.

So, you can get introverts who are high or low on conscientiousness. And it will tend only to be the introverts who are also high on conscientiousness who are careful and fussy.

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