Good God — are we really that messed up about the meaning of introvert vs. extrovert?
In my long lists of books in queue I finally made it to “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain (2012–01–24). The thoughts that follow are in no way meant to be a summary of the book but rather some highlights of the information as it flowed into my brain. If any of the words to follow intrigue you I encourage you to grab the full text assuming you have not read it already.
The first thing that hit me in reading the book was my own bias towards believing extroversion was somehow “better.” That I needed to strive to change something that was wrong with me — or perhaps better said correct a weakness — in order to make me a better person. (I guess you can tell by now I fall on the introvert side of the fence) Susan’s words have given me a few things to think about in reference to this bias:
- The introvert and extrovert personalities work themselves into leadership efficiencies that might be obvious when you think about them. Bottom line: Introverts generally make awesome leaders if they have extroverts working for them and the reverse is also true.
- Biology plays a huge role and there are ways to actually test newborns and sort them into groups. An example given placed 20% into “high-reactive” introverts, 40% into “low-reactive” extroverts, and 40% taking the middle ground. In fact, there might even be a genetic marker for this as a gene known as the serotonin-transporter (SERT) gene, or 5-HTTLPR, which helps to regulate the processing of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood. A particular variation, or allele, of this gene, sometimes referred to as the “short” allele , is thought to be associated with high reactivity and introversion. (I know enough about gene variations to be dangerous but not very helpful — if someone could help me look into my Ilumnia full sequence to further understand myself on this subject that would be wonderful!)
- The idea that collaboration actually kills creativity.
- Now I know why I am bored with smalktalk. The more amazing thing, however, it is not so simple as being bored but rather the case of placing it after heavier conversation as introvert rather than the ice breaker of an extrovert.
- I know of reward sensitivity from the gaming world. What I did not know is how this subject also connects with the introvert and extrovert personalities. How I look at risk and manage the long term while scratching my head seeing others who are seemingly willing to blow the entire account of their future on a glimmer of a hope.
- The concept that low self-monitors (LSMs) and high self-monitors (HSMs) play to different audiences and the what happens when you do your best to pretend you are what you are not.
- The concept of a “Free Trait Agreement” that acknowledges that we will each act out of character some of the time — in exchange for being ourselves the rest of the time. In other words, how can you survive in relationships at the opposite end of the ‘trovert’ spectrum?
The play between the two worlds is far more complex than I imagined before taking in this new frame of reference. As to which is better the answer is it depends on the situation. Be it leadership, creativity, or in the case of the single most raw aspect of life — survival — the answer may not be as obvious as you once thought it was. No matter where you place yourself on the introvert vs. extrovert fence, including in the ambivert middle, this read is worth ever page…except, maybe, for where Susan seems to tilt UPW as a learning experience only for extroverts but we can save that heavy discussion for a different day.
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