In our modern culture, it sometimes seems that extroverts have the edge in becoming rising stars. We were raised hearing, “Don’t be shy,” and, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” The theory is, if you’re brave enough to speak to just about anyone at any moment, you’ll go far—and if not, good luck! But think again.
If you’re an introvert, you likely possess emotional intelligence skills that your more gregarious counterparts secretly admire, and rightly so.
Introverts are often misread as people who wish they could change. But that's not so! Do extroverts quietly wish their personalities were more solitary? Probably not. Ask an extrovert to pursue a self-reflection program of reading, self-analysis, and other solitary (but arguably beneficial) activities for the next three weekends and watch their expression.
While you may not be the life of the party or may be asked to speak up more often at meetings, there's a good chance you're blessed with many highly revered soft skills, as well as analytical ones. You “get” people because you’re listening and processing information constantly. These are all characteristics many others dream of. Stephen Hawking was quoted as saying, “Quiet people have the loudest minds.”
Clearly, no one personality type translates into optimal happiness or achievement. But playing to one's strengths has always been a common theme in success of any kind. Below are some of those empowering traits; how they help you at work; and the "introvert icons" who stand tall along with you.
The Introvert’s Unique Traits
Silence is golden. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the best orators are not necessarily the best communicators. For example, the ability to capture an audience may not equate to the ability of grasping what others are saying before speaking, or responding attentively and diplomatically. Introverts often look for verbal and non-verbal cues to form thoughtful answers or opinions. The person responding to questions feels heard and understood.
Introvert icon: The 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, was known as a great listener with the ability to understand multiple points of view.
Thoughtful, curious, insightful. The introvert communicates well in today’s digital world because they actually read what others write. They think before responding. Their answers can be succinct, insightful, and helpful. They tend to keep up on news and trends because they know that knowledge— and the proper use of it—is power.
Introvert icon: Microsoft founder Bill Gates reportedly liked to go off for a few days at a time to ponder tough problems.
Observant. An introvert will tend to notice their environment and the people in it, as they’re spending more time in the analytical zone. If John brings a new laptop to a meeting or plant to the office, Kim, the introvert, is more likely to notice than others.
Introverts are also able to combine their imagination and observation skills to develop a sharp wit. When introverts make a clever joke, people can be caught off guard and comment on their dry sense of humor. They’re often great with names, too, because they pay attention.
Introvert icon: The obviously observant Sir Isaac Newton formulated the laws of motion and gravity. He was also known to be deeply introverted and a very private person.
Trustworthy. When the often pensive introvert gives an opinion, others tend to trust it; which engenders respect. Since they love to learn, they are often experts at more than one thing. Answers from them are based on facts, not just opinion.
Introvert icon: Billionaire investor Warren Buffet has said that when he started out, he had an “intellect for business,” but he didn’t have a “business persona.” He took Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” public speaking course, because he "couldn’t go through life being terrified to speak in public.” He is still considered an introvert by many.
Traits Valued at Work
Self-sufficient. Although they can work in a team, introverts shine best when they fly solo. They don't need sounding boards or team structures to thrive, which might not come as a surprise.
Introvert icon: Steve Wozniak was the quiet thinker and co-founder behind Apple. He said in his memoir: “I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.” Not the typical advice you hear in today's team-obsessed workplace.
Laser-like focus. If someone is going to find the needle in a haystack, it will be the introvert. They have the ability to see what’s not there, as well as the obvious. Think of Sherlock Holmes’ ability to solve a mystery by focusing and understanding mere clues.
Introvert icon: From his early days in college coding all night to today, Mark Zuckerberg is known for his sharp focus, and also for his introverted personality. The latter has not hampered him in running Facebook.
Goal orientation. Introverts are often ambitious, disciplined planners who listen to their instincts and ignore naysayers. They often have the patience to move toward their vision.
Introvert icon: Physicist Albert Einstein thought the “solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” The Nobel Prize winner is best known for developing the theory of relativity.
Still not convinced about the business-side benefits? According the 9/8/16 issue of Geekwire, researchers at Stanford and the University of Chicago found a correlation between CEOs with reserved personalities and a better return on assets and cash flow.
Play to Your Strengths
What you don't have, you can find if you're resourceful. On a macro level, take a look at introvert Bill Gates. He advised budding entrepreneurs to tap into the best skill sets of both introverts and extroverts. He saw the benefit of deep thinkers, as well as team players. As an introvert himself, he collaborated well with his more extroverted counterpart, Steve Ballmer. Apple, Inc., also benefited from combined the talents of extrovert Steve Jobs and introvert Steve Wozniak.
In these cases, opposite personality types complemented each other—the founders knew their strengths; and together they impacted the world significantly.
Knowing how to leverage the skills you have is clearly one of the greatest keys to success. As an introvert, adopting this approach has much merit. While everyone has their areas of personal development, still, introverts can clearly avoid being fearful that their personality will hold them back. After all, you possess unique emotional intelligence and analytical skills that are a breath of fresh air—especially in a world of ever-increasing noise clutter.
You’re in very good company.