The Truth about Introverts

When the focus is on social scenes and types of people, we want to know what to expect. Included in this is, how many of us are introverts vs. extroverts? Today I have read from 5 different sources, 5 different percentages.

In an article written in the past few months on the introvert and networking, the author says “about 70% of us are extroverts, I think“. In another source I read 51% or more  of us are introverts. In a researched paper I saw that in the US we have shifted from 30% introversion in the 1960’s to about 68% introversion today.

What does this all mean? (aside from where are these percentages coming from and why are they so disparate?)

As we explore the percentages of how many of us are introverts, let’s define an introvert as anything from how we conduct ourselves in public (not quick to converse and step into the middle of things) to how we replenish energy (on our own, in a private space, or in nature). The truth about introversion is, it’s often seen as a flaw instead of a value. Especially by those who are introverts.

Squabbling over which is the accurate percentage may lead us to think we’re seeking a virus to eliminate. Let’s shift the focus and understand what this conversation really is about. It’s valuable to be an extrovert – someone willing to jump up and say and do. It’s also valuable to be an introvert – someone willing to think and keep peace.

I’d like to set the story straight. As an introvert who regularly networks, speaks publicly (even pursuing my own professional speaking certification) and helps others (especially introverts) do the same, I have come to love feeling like a rock star when I’m in the public communication zone.

Is it because I’m no longer an introvert? No,  it’s because I have learned to appreciate that time in front of groups helps deliver messages efficiently. The amount of mental reflection introverts invest in make them excellent candidates for speaking in public. Whether we are having coffee with someone, facilitating trainings, speaking to audiences, or meeting casually, introverts have quality content to share. It starts with ideas introverts ruminate over in their minds.
Which brings me back to the confusion over how many of us are introverts. Those who have lived in the public with their profession have developed the practice of standing up and speaking. Although they still are introverts, it appears as though they are just the opposite. Many unpracticed introverts misunderstand. They look at those of us who appear comfortable in public and say to themselves, “Gosh, I could never stand in front of this group. I’m shy.”
I think of Moses facing the burning the bush when God proclaimed – “Go speak to Pharoah.” Moses’ reply was, “Who am I that I should go?” When I first read that phrase, I thought to myself. Yep, I’da been pretty nervous to stand up to someone with such authority. And then there’s going in front of Pharoah, too.
Moses’ next question was “When they ask me who sent me, what shall I say?” I think Moses was probably an introvert as well. He had many things to say, yet he kept them to himself. His thoughts came out, instead, in frustration. But as he was coached and encouraged in using his strengths of a thinker, asked good questions, and was taught what to say and how to say it, he saw his strengths of sensitivity and clarity being used. I guess he was an example of an early rock star.
I can relate to Moses. Knowing what to say was the true delemma for me when networking, speaking, even having dinnertime conversation.
The truth about introverts is very nearly the truth about anyone who prefers the closet to the platform. It’s scary to consider coming out to the public. What if they don’t like us? What if we say or do something that embarasses us?
Well, like anything else that requires practice, we get over it. The same can be the case with speaking, meeting strangers, handling meeting involvement or talking on the phone. If we seek out the answers to our questions of, But what do I say? we learn, we put these scripts into practice and then get comfortable. And then we learn what it’s like to be rock stars!

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On October 7th, 2011, posted in: Uncategorized by