This one is quite different from my usual blog posts, as it wasn't written specifically for the blog, but as a to-be-marked assignment, to-be-sent-for-publication anywhere. So. it's more of an article the likes of which you might find in a journal. Still, what good is it doing sitting hidden and looking lame in an almost empty folder in my laptop? Read on and tell me what you think! :)
Tihana has always been an exceptional individual. Ever since she was a tiny kid, she’s turned out to be how everyone didn’t want her to be, or at least, whatever she did wasn’t really desirable. You see, she actually lived up to her name, ‘the quiet one’. She’s an introvert and unfortunately, it’s always been something she’s been admonished for. Though wrong, it happens, all the time, everywhere. Parents prefer a child who’ll be actively engaging with other kids, staging performances easily, being the gregarious one in their peer groups instead of the one who avoids social circles for solitude. Maybe this isn’t how it had always been, as we’re on the verge of a huge change in perception, thanks to numerous and sudden developments.
As author Susan Cain points out in her book, ‘Quiet: The power of Introverts in a World that can’t stop talking’, “In the last century, society began reshaping itself as an extrovert’s paradise”. The last few decades, especially, have created an ‘extrovert’s ideal’ as opinions are changing, businesses are expanding and ‘outspoken’ leaders are needed. In any social setting, be it a school, a playground, an office, extroverts are seen preferably over those who’re the silent ones. The teacher wants someone with a loud enough voice to be the play’s lead character, bosses want brisk and quick people who’d perform a task without thinking twice, who’d make effective presentations in national meetings, who’d always have a quickie fix and a ready answer for everything. What’s there to lose, right?
Well, let’s see what most of us fail to notice. One, that introversion is as much of a trait as extroversion. These two terms originating from Carl Jung’s theory of personality, aren’t really opposite to each other, but different traits altogether (as said by Jennifer O. Grimes, in her 2010 thesis, Introversion and Autism: A conceptual Exploration of the Placement of Introversion on the Autism Spectrum). As introversion falls more on the ‘soft’ scale, it goes mostly unnoticed, becomes just an echo among the loud shouts of the extroverts. With no one to hear them, the extreme introverts draw more into themselves, with a feeling of being left-out. There, thanks to lack of patience, graciousness to accept people as they are, choosing an outspoken person just to get the task done, a person loses his confidence. Not bad enough?
|Am I obsessed with leapfrogging fish? :||
Two, with all this extrovert preference, introverted kids are constantly pestered to ‘open up’. They’re put into extra-curricular classes after school in the hope that they’d start speaking more often. All of this makes the child think there’s something wrong with him, that he isn’t good enough, that his cousin who’s always winning in debates is far better than him, that his hobbies- drawing and painting, reading and writing, wouldn’t be appreciated enough. As he grows older, he realizes ‘talking up to the boss’ is what is needed to get what he wishes for, that he needs to get ‘better’ if he wants to succeed. After all, that’s how it is always seen. Susan Cain says, “A widely held, but rarely articulated, belief in our society is that the ideal self is bold, alpha, gregarious. Introversion is viewed somewhere between disappointment and pathology.”
What isn’t really spoken out loud is how introverts are actually a source of so much power. It may not be visible on the surface, but that’s the point. You have to peer carefully and notice the small fragments that make up the whole, you have to see the details to see what introverts are actually capable of doing. In a general sense, they’re great artists, writers and thinkers. In a business environment, it’s actually important to not lose focus of introverts as they tend to be better decision makers as well. They think in depth about any situation and wouldn’t make decisions in a hurry, so you can be assured that it’ll have less risk.
As for leadership, Susan Cain says that introverts are better at leading proactive employees because ‘they listen to and let them run with their ideas’ and that for a good work environment, there should a balance between introverts and extroverts.
The world has millions of introverts and it’d be a shame to not accept them as they are and continually asking them to be someone they’re not. We should be absolutely okay with the idea of our child, or spouse to not prefer going to parties, wanting some lone time for their creative pursuits and just live at peace as they want. If we’re trying to change them, it’s just unfounded and immoral prejudice. About time we pause, take a break and stay silent long enough to notice those who’re living like that, silently, at the edges.