Extroverts’ perception of introverts is based on some pervasive and faulty myths:
Myth #1: Introverts are shy and insecure. “You can’t hide in your cubicle forever! Come out and talk to people!”
Truth: Introverts are not afraid of social interaction – they just need a really good reason to interact.
They dislike meaningless interactions – the “fluff” of small talk, social pleasantries and interaction for the sake of interaction. The introvert at work is drained by small talk and social pleasantries, not energized like the extrovert. Introverts like meaningful interaction, not chit-chat, gossip or drama. This means that networking functions, trade shows and large parties are a real chore for introverts and if they have nothing to say, or feel that the situation is an energetic drain, they withdraw.
This has nothing to do with shyness, just a refusal to be engaged in activities the introvert perceives as exhausting and pointless. But in the business world, introversion and shyness are seen as one and the same. After all, common knowledge says that you must boldly march out there, look everyone in the eye, talk to everyone, shake hands and give them your elevator pitch! While extroverts will “work the room,” introverts will spend the bulk of their social time interacting with one or two people.
Anna is an architect in a 24-person office. She is a talented architect. Her clients love her, but her co-workers see her as painfully shy. Anna prefers to work through her lunch break instead of joining everyone for lunch at Rizzo’s next door. Lunch at Rizzo’s is a company tradition and on any given day, half of the staff will be there, enjoying fresh seafood. The problem is, lunch often becomes a lengthy affair that eats up too much of the afternoon to suit Anna’s work ethic.
Even though her co-workers will stay late to finish their work, Anna just doesn’t see the value in working late (when she’s tired), when she could just get her work done by day’s end. When Anna declines the invitation to join, she is seen as standoffish.