‘Modern society values extroverted people’ is a message introverts have been hearing all their lives. Recently there has been some recognition that introversion brings its own strengths. Susan Cain in particular has championed the cause, arguing that introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.
In a recent article, peopledevelopmentmagazine.com gave introverts some tips on how to appear more extroverted. These included:
- Start with hello
- Work on your non-verbal communication
- Make a few low stress phone calls
While these are fair enough, they’re rather basic and like many such tips can come across as patronising if addressed to anyone except a shy teenager or entry-level employee.
Developing behavioural flexibility is an important skill for everyone. Yes, introverts can benefit from learning some of the skills extroverts may find come naturally. But how often do you hear of extroverts being encouraged to appear more introverted?
Readers Digest highlighted the following six hidden strengths of introverts:
- Introverts are problem solvers
- Introverts are well prepared
- Introverts are often great writers
- Introverts are excellent listeners
- Introverts are creative thinkers
- Introverts are good friends
To suggest extroverts work on developing these might also come across as hugely patronising. To suggest all extroverts are unprepared and lacking in creativity is a gross stereotype; but then again so is suggesting that all introverts lack confidence in social situations and have under-developed verbal communication skills.
There are of course things introverts and extroverts can learn from each other. It becomes intensely irritating when the message is always one way.
But what’s in it for extroverts to learn to appear more introverted? Psychology Today estimates that up to 50% of the population are introverts. If nothing else therefore, if extroverts want to be able to communicate effectively with them (and possible sell to them), learning how introverts prefer to interact and meeting them on their own territory can only be good.
For inspiration, you can’t do much better than watch Susan Cain’s TED talk on the Power of Introverts.