Are you an introvert? If not, one of your loved ones probably is, and maybe you don’t understand their preferences, or even their strengths, at times. With introverts in the minority, time after time we are shown how society is geared and functions in favor of those who are extroverted. This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of positives to being an introvert, but they may encounter more obstacles, whether it be in work or school environments, meeting new people in social situations, or the way in which they develop and maintain relationships. These 7 points will discuss the disadvantages to being an introvert, and hopefully provide the extroverts in the world with some insight.
1. Verbal communication skills are not as strong as those of extroverts
Introverts tend to take more time to process what they are going to say, so they aren’t as prepared to express themselves verbally on the spot, whether it be in meetings, interviews, or even casual conversation. Introverts often live inside their heads and worry over speaking, so if they’re constantly thinking about how to respond and editing their thoughts and answers then the conversation doesn’t flow freely. This is essentially why my biggest strength is writing. I have never felt comfortable speaking and am constantly calculating my response when spoken to or thinking of what I should say next rather than letting the communication unfold.
On the flip side, introverts tend to be great listeners, especially if they are not listening for the purpose of generating a response. They are able to absorb deeply and focus on the speaker, allowing them to take in new information. But once this is translated to an actual back and forth communication, the anxiety of interacting overtakes that strength.
2. Introverts are misunderstood and misjudged
There are a set of social customs that people are expected to follow, even though the way people interact is not one size fits all. When a person tends to keep to themself more they can also be perceived as rude or misunderstood altogether. This includes first impressions that many introverts make that probably don’t capture who they actually are as a person. The reality is that they are in their heads too much or don’t know how to respond or act because interaction in itself brings discomfort. Many times, they won’t speak at all, which can make people think any number of things, such as: they have nothing to say or they’re not smart. They think they’re too good. They’re strange.
People make their own assumptions and judgments about individuals when they aren’t given enough to go off of, so if someone isn’t speaking or engaging much, then society will come up with reasons as to why. Even though the why is simply that they are an introvert. And being an introvert can often mean social anxiety.
A positive that can be taken away is that when introverts do speak, others are more inclined to listen if they haven’t made up their own minds first. It’s almost like introverts have to prove themselves, but they’ll speak when they feel comfortable, and when they feel they have something to contribute.
3. They are penalized at school or work
I was constantly penalized in school for participation. In many of the course syllabi it would state right in the beginning that participation counted for a certain percentage of your grade. And how do they calculate participation? Speaking!
In addition to being introverted, I struggle with extreme shyness. It seems to be a misconception that all introverts are shy, but I would say that most who are shy are introverted as well. I’m both, and it greatly impacted my school career. I constantly felt that I had to fake feelings of comfort and blend in even though I clearly wasn’t blending in, especially in small round table classes where participation (discussion) was the whole point. I would sit in a state of anxiety all through class. When teachers asked about my lack of participation, I expressed my difficulty, on occasion, though sometimes I would continue to fake it even then. Teachers always thought it was as simple as pushing forward and “just speaking.” Sometimes, this can be an opportunity to face fears but being penalized for not having a certain disposition isn’t right or effective. It can lead to feelings of shame on top of the already uncomfortable class situation.
At the end of one semester a teacher wrote on my evaluation: “Your lack of participation was a semester gone to waste.” And this was after I’d told her how difficult speaking in class was for me. I was always engaged in class and listening probably more intently than most, because that’s one of the strengths of being an introvert: strong listening and focus. And I even did participate a couple times despite my discomfort, and I had felt proud of myself on the occasions where I participated. I really enjoyed that class and learned from it, and then at the end was told that it was a waste because I didn’t speak more? I’ve thought about the professor’s response over the years and how she simply didn’t understand, and that’s a direct reflection of society.
I was engrossed in all of my classes, listening to the lectures, absorbing the material if it was interesting to me, and had the desire to learn. But, the pressure of class participation actually hindered my learning. Instead of being able to process the lessons, I had to sit in anxiety about when I’d be called on and what I would say rather than simply learning. We all learn differently, and we all have different temperaments, so why are some getting penalized when the system is not built for them?
4. People want to fix them
Similarly to docking points for lack of class participation, it is clear that introversion is seen as a problem. Society has adopted the idea that the person who is speaking is right, or even the one who is loudest, is right. We learn even from a young age in school that speaking up equals reward. So, naturally, those who don’t understand would assume there is something “wrong” with those who don’t want to speak. In society, we often look to have something—anything—to say without looking for it to have depth.
5. Exterior image equates to value today
As a society, we view that which is projected externally to speak to our value or success. This includes things such as a lot of likes, follows, and engagement on social media. We see it in the reality TV we watch. We are supposed to be drawn to the ones who get out and dance or sing or put the spotlight on themselves in a crowd or party. This is all right in the name of “extrovert” (exterior) vs. “introvert” (interior). The disadvantage is set up immediately when we live in a society where exterior is more interesting because it’s what we can “see” as compared to what’s on the inside, but it certainly does not relate to success. Digging deeper is needed to connect with introverts, and for many that is not convenient or even a realization.
6. Social events are uncomfortable
Introverts don’t enjoy going to events or gatherings as much because it is not where their personality thrives. So, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to self-promotion or marketing themselves and getting in front of other people’s eyes. I actually do enjoy events and social gatherings, but I often wonder if sometimes I enjoy the idea of it more because I am longing to have connections with people, but those connections aren’t typically made at bigger events for introverts. I have attended conferences and seminars where the purpose was basically to network, and I was unable to put myself out there in the moment. I struggle to start conversations with anyone, so add that on top of being in a crowded area with tons of strangers, and it is not going to work. The ones who are able to go strike up a conversation will be rewarded with opportunity as compared to the ones who didn’t try. Introverts look to blend in with the crowd and not draw unwanted overstimulating attention. This doesn’t just pertain to work life, but any occasion that requires interaction—and most do. Networking is much more comfortable in the online space, and it’s great that there are so many opportunities with the internet now, especially for introverts.
7. It’s harder to make friends
Since communication, specifically verbally, is harder in general for introverts then it’s obvious they would have a hard time making friends. For friendship, we need to talk in order to get to know one another, and when introverts are unfamiliar with people, that’s difficult. We take time to process and consider our feelings and how much we want to open up, but for those where that comes easier, they then make friends easier.
Although introverts may encounter more obstacles in the way society is geared, they have a lot of positive attributes and strengths. Understanding and acceptance of all our different qualities and talents could create a more level playing field, and we can all make our own unique contributions to the world without bias.