Introverts receive flack for failing to speak up or even acting “weird.”
Are these assumptions fair, or do introverts actually have advantages over extroverts that aren’t accepted because of myths or social expectations?
I read a book called The Introvert Advantage, and the author makes great points about how introverts need to recharge in order to be productive. The only aspect I questioned was that the book created a sense of guilt for introverts, saying they need to change in order to fit in.
In this post I explore three areas that introverts commonly encounter, and I question the necessity of the social norms. Learn about the introvert advantage and how your limp handshake or reserved speech at work may not actually be a bad thing.
The Consumption of Information
Staring someone in the eyes when speaking to them means you’re listening to them right? Why is it that whenever I try to keep eye contact the only thing I can focus on is the mole placement on a person’s chin or the sweat dripping down their forehead?
I experience an uncomfortable feeling when people stare me in the eyes and nod their head vigorously when listening to me speak. Do they really comprehend the information I transmit, or are they just trying to look like they’re interested? I worked with a club in college that brought film festivals to campus every year to give students hands on experience with film-making equipment.
A short freshman guy joined the group when I was an incoming senior, and I realized that he never made eye contact when speaking with me. His fingers ran through his hair and his eyes pierced through the ground as if in deep concentration. He became one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known, scrambling to raise money, picking up the slack of others and following all directions to a tee.
He didn’t care about his appearance. Rather he acted naturally, staring at the ground, rubbing his head and trying to piece together the bits of vocal instructions thrown his way. RPI.edu explains that non-verbal cues such as eye contact are determined by cultural differences. Some cultures like eye contact and some don’t.
Isn’t it safe to assume that everyone is raised by different people, in different environments and different social situations? Maybe the guy who stares at the ground is just more comfortable listening that way. Research shows that introverts consume more information. Maybe there’s a correlation?
It’s common to think that eye contact brings authority and convincing power. Unfortunately, a study conducted by Julia Minson of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Frances Chen, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia states that those who use eye contact to convince others typically fail to get their point across. The researchers believe it’s because constant eye contact is unnatural. Is it possibly because there is too much stuff going on, like twitches, hair styles or bad breath?
Thinking, Waiting and Delivering Above and Beyond
A culture of constant input plagued my old job. My boss encouraged employees to spurt out suggestions and answers to problems during meetings. This caused people to talk over each other and shout out ideas before thinking about them. Strangely enough, these extroverts fighting for the limelight usually received praise. One coworker of mine always sat patiently until the commotion ended and put in her two cents at the end. Not only were her ideas better, because she thought them through, but she controlled the stage because everyone was out of breath.
Unfortunately coworkers still saw her as a quiet person who only suggested one or two things at the end of the meeting. Why is it that randomly vomiting out ten bad ideas is better than one calculated idea? The Mojo Company explains how introverts are great for companies because they conceptualize and see things that others don’t. The world is changing and people are noticing that introverts hold a power stronger than anyone who demands constant limelight.
Introverts crave self-betterment, not socially accepted advancement.
The Silly Handshake
My dad taught me from a young age to always deliver a firm handshake when meeting others. I give a nice squeeze to this day because I’m used to it, but I can’t help but wonder if the shy, floppy handshakes mean that it’s a person who is simply being natural, and not putting on some persona to impress others.
Karl Palachuk suggests that it’s rude and painful for others to receive a crushing handshake. Sure, overly strong handshakes are annoying, but what about the firm one that I like to give? It’s prevalent that firm handshakes increase your chances of getting a job or making someone think you mean business, but is this social expectation necessary, and does it hurt introverts who may be less prone to delivering a bone shattering shake?
Sci Gogo states that women and introverts generally have softer handshakes. So does this mean they are less competent or open to experience? If you complete a simple search of online job boards and question forums online you’ll notice discussions such as “Don’t you hate it when a man has a weak handshake?” or “It disgusts me when I get a weak handshake.” That first questions makes me think that women are immediately taken out of the conversation. As if women are expected to have weak handshakes or they aren’t capable. The second statement touts a sense of arrogance I’d like to reserve for the opinionated.
This point isn’t an argument against firm handshakes (besides the annoying, bone crushing ones), but an acknowledgement that although society says it’s preferable, I really don’t think a firm handshake displays anything besides trying really hard to impress someone. It seems more logical to get a good impression from someone you know is being authentic. If women and introverts are more comfortable with a weaker handshake because it fits their personality, good for them.
Do you think introverts have a disadvantage in today’s business world? Is it justified? Is it possible that introverts actually have more advantages than extroverts? Let me know in the comments what you think about the introvert advantage (or disadvantage).