There is nothing more troublesome for an introvert than to be judged against the same criteria as the extrovert. Engaged in the kind of in-depth analysis of a situation that lends both frown and introspection, it’s troublesome because people mistake these acts of cool contemplation for worry, anxiety or confusion. ‘You think too much’ people will say, ‘stop brooding’.
To understand the strength of introverts, we need to understand why positive thinking is such a necessity for extroverts. While managers see positive thinking as a pragmatic means of improving your focus, bolstering the ability to find solutions rather than dwell on problems, among colleagues it also has high currency as a means of social cohesion. In other words, ‘being positive’ is a signal we send to the group that tells others we are ok, and so are they. It’s an extrovert thing; it’s how we keep each other on-point, on the ball and In The Game.
Introverts don’t need this. They’re usually introverts not because they don’t know how to interact with others, but because they don’t need those little signals that things are ok. One of the strengths of introverts is that they hold their own counsel and are immeasurably comfortable with uncertainty. They know they can solve problems, since it’s what they spend most of their waking time doing, and the clarity of focus they develop through contemplation means they don’t need someone to keep them on the ball.
Einstein, Darwin, Newton, Google’s Larry Page; history is full of high achievers who demonstrated the strengths of introverts. The quiet demeanor of the introvert often mistaken for social withdrawal is one of the strengths of introverts, a way of engaging with the world around them through careful consideration of variables, angles and outcomes. Life is like a crossword puzzle for the introvert, and it’s a puzzle they usually savor.
The enjoyment that introverts get from pulling apart a situation to see how it works is in itself an indication of positive thinking. The introvert’s difficultly with positive thinking isn’t so much an inability to be more upbeat about life, but to convey that positivity effectively. They will usually be overly concerned with the kind of fine details that would cause anxiety, worry or confusion for an extrovert, and this is why extroverts have a hard time understanding them. It’s why introverts are told to ‘buck up’ and ‘stop thinking so much’ – because contemplation of this sort intimidates the extrovert as much as boardroom presentations intimidate the introvert.
It’s only in recent years that researchers have begun to understand the strengths of introverts. In the past introversion has been seen more as an obstacle than as a trait, with family, friends and colleagues all urging the humble introvert to interact, take the plunge, get out of their comfort zone. We now understand that introversion isn’t a shortcoming, but that it has as many advantages as extroversion. Introverts may not be the life of the party, but guaranteed they will be the one’s you go to for a one-to-one chat to really explore the meat and bones of a contentious issue.
People will sometimes not realize that the introvert in the corner, while not as actively engaged with the group brainstorm, has already spoken to most of the people in the room individually. They bring unique perspectives because of this, and their powers of observation and empathy are usually highly sophisticated. Truth be told, the introvert is no less capable of positive thinking, but they customarily present themselves as neutral in order to weigh the many sides of a scenario.