I’ve been surprised how many introverts I come across in my work talking to community builders across the globe. I’m an introvert myself and I always thought it was rather strange for me to do community work, which by definition means I’m surrounding myself with people all the time. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of formidable community builders are extroverted personalities. Yet, some of the most fascinating community builders I met in the last year are surprisingly quiet and introverted people who really enjoy time by themselves.
This lead me to hypothesize: what if introversion actually helps people build strong communities?
Here are 3 observations from conversations with introverted community builders:
1 — we know what it feels to be excluded
I haven’t tested this hypothesis with other people, but I relate to it from my personal experience: I was rather a lonely child. I was definitely not the popular kid in school (ask anyone who went to my high school and they’ll assure you ;-). Yet all that had a positive side effect: being the group outsider made me aware and sensitive to what it feels like not to be included in a group. As a result I can spot people quite easily who don’t feel comfortable in a group. And I have a genuine internal drive to help these people and create spaces and environments for them to feel safe and home.
And, more broadly, not having a lot of friends when growing up, it also exposed me to the feeling of disconnection and loneliness early on, thereby making me realize how valuable that sense of belonging and togetherness is.
2 — We build communities to be included ourselves
One story I keep hearing from many community builders, especially the introverted ones is: I’m building this group, because I want to be part of this group myself. The same happened to me: I was not the kid who would have been invited to the cool parties, so I started to organize parties myself. I would never have made it into a group like Sandbox, so I created it myself. The safest (and most resource intense) ticket into a strong community is to build it yourself.
3 — Deep listening skills are key
I strongly believe that listening is one of the most fundamental skills of a community builders. And my sense is that introverts have often a more developed sense of active listening that extroverts.
Many communities neglect the introverts
I’m curious about introverted community builders, because I sense that a lot of communities are mostly designed for extroverts (and mostly for extroverted males). Yet I think there is huge value that introverts bring to the group, their sense of connecting more deeply, their sense of intimacy.
I’d be curious to hear what you think!
Originally published at http://together.is on August 1, 2018.