Embracing Your Inner Introvert

Understanding the power of introversion to improve your social skills and work life

Penny Zang
Feb 23 · 8 min read

Understanding introverts

We have Carl Jung to thank for the terms “introvert” and “extrovert.” His 1921 book Psychological Types is the foundation of that personality test you’ve probably seen many times, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. In Quiet, Cain clarifies the main difference between introverts and extroverts, according to Jung: “Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.”

Recharging my batteries

While it is helpful to understand the ideas of Jung and Cain regarding how introverts need alone time, I learned this lesson on my own out of necessity. As a professor, I stand in front of a room of students and talk. Sometimes I talk a lot. I answer questions, guide students through classwork, and I facilitate discussion. I cheer for their success in my office hours and I attend meetings or professional development sessions, sometimes daily. This is all part of the job.

Capitalizing on my strengths

After the revelation of watching Susan Cain’s TED Talk and reading her book, my whole mindset changed. I started to think about all the positive qualities of introverts. For me, this included my listening skills, my calm demeanor, and my attention to detail. Once I began to truly embrace these qualities, I chose activities, committees, and social activities that played to my strengths. And once I realized that extroverts are not always the ideal, I felt renewed confidence.

Reversing past scripts

Susan Cain calls it “The Extrovert Ideal,” the rise of “The Culture of Personality” that she attributes to beginning with Dale Carnegie. “But nowadays,” Cain writes, “we tend to think that becoming more extroverted not only makes us more successful, but also makes us better people. We see salesmanship as a way of sharing one’s gifts with the world.”

The lasting results

It is not easy to change a lifetime of negative self-talk. In my case, I had trained myself to think being an introvert was the less interesting and less effective personality. It took quite a bit of work to make myself think otherwise. I also do not know that the changes I’ve made are quite as obvious to my friends and coworkers. They know I am quiet, but they like me anyway, and they know I’m good at my job. More importantly, I am a good friend. I’ve always been this way, but now I know how to show it.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness and fulfillment.

Penny Zang

Written by

English professor + book nerd + drinking buddy. Visit me at Pennyzang.com and Twitter: @penny_zang

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 133,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Penny Zang

Written by

English professor + book nerd + drinking buddy. Visit me at Pennyzang.com and Twitter: @penny_zang

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 133,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store