Not so long ago I had the great experience of pieces falling into place. I heard about the term “introvert,” did some research and suddenly it all made sense.
I remember often being labelled as a “quiet girl” when I was younger. It gave me an ambivalent feeling. Surely I knew I wasn’t the one to yell out loud but I didn’t feel shy as quiet people are often considered to be.
Today I know the explanation for my ambivalent feeling: Introverts are seen as quiet compared to extroverts, but shyness is about fear of social judgement. In my case, I’m not shy, just introverted. This means I like to think things through before speaking, and I’m a good listener who gives people space to talk.
But I think it’s time we start giving introverts a little more space, too. Being extroverted is what’s presented as the normal way of being in our culture. If you go seek a job, it’s mostly considered a positive quality to be very outgoing. On the other hand, if you seem too quiet, you will most likely be considered a bit weird or shy.
When the dominant culture sees extroverts as the norm, it makes introverts appear deviant which can lead to stigmatizing and other unpleasant things. We don’t want that, do we?
These two types of personalities differ from each other, but let’s debunk the myth about introverts not wanting to be social. We do. We just have a different way of handling it. Socializing in smaller groups in locations where it’s possible to have conversations is preferable. Extroverts are more likely to have a blast at big, noisy parties. After socializing for some time, introverts need to recharge their batteries by being alone. In contrast, extroverts get their energy by socializing and don’t enjoy alone time as much as introverts do.
Despite these differences, it’s important to emphasize that one isn’t better than the other. It’s a good thing we have different types of people. However, maybe we could become better at making introverts a more accepted part of society on equal terms with extroverts. How? I think it begins with people realizing the actual meaning of being introverted. Some people might discover that they can relate to being introverted and start feeling less weird, while others might discover that their friend or colleague is introverted, and knowing what this means is a useful insight that can ease socialization for everyone.
It’s great having friends who know you well enough for you to be honest with them about the fact that you occasionally don’t feel like socializing and need to sit in your house by yourself.
They will know it’s nothing personal against them, won’t judge you as weird and you won’t feel guilty about being who you are. Acceptance and understanding are important. I hope that introversion can become something more generally seen our society.
Signe Buchholtz is a second-year Sociology student at the University of Manitoba.
Published in Volume 69, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 11, 2015)