By Wendy Gelberg
“Introvert” is not a four-letter word – so why do people have so many negative associations with it? For example:
• I was asked in an interview, “If you’re an introvert, is it the end of the world?”
• A man told me he wanted to buy a book on introversion for his wife, but he was afraid she’d be insulted.
• A woman questioned whether it was possible to be both successful and an introvert.
That got me thinking about synonyms, stereotypes, and stigmas. What words do you associate with “introvert”? The Microsoft Word thesaurus offers “recluse.” Ewww! The negative connotations that word has are practically palpable. Along those lines, I frequently see “loner” connected with “introvert” and occasionally “antisocial” (and, sadly, often in stories about people who have committed horrific crimes). There are some words that are less negatively charged – “reserved” or “quiet” come to mind. But still it’s clear that those qualities go against the norm in our culture. And then there’s “shy,” which people often confuse with “introverted.” In fact, the Microsoft thesaurus lists that as the first option, and lists “shy” as the first option for “introverted.” Look at the others: Retiring – Withdrawn – Timid – Bashful – Diffident – Inhibited – Reticent – Reserved – Quiet. When people admit to any of those traits, it’s always in an apologetic and embarrassed manner.
Part of our job as career coaches is to empower our clients, and my mission is to spread the word that being an introvert means having some powerful strengths that, in fact, can contribute to success, leadership, excellent performance, and many other wonderful outcomes. If you do a Google search for “famous introverts” you’ll find lists of highly accomplished people in all areas of life. Also, if you search the biographies of hundreds of well-known people (some of them probably extroverts, in fact), you’ll discover that they are or have been shy but nevertheless are known for some amazing achievements. Shyness and introversion do not have to stand in the way of success – and can even contribute to it.
So I hope the other 50.7% of the population who are introverts will join me and say it loud, and say it proud – “I’m an introvert!”