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Sunday, 22 December 2013

This is About Introverts - But Extroverts Should Read This Too

Nearly half of all people in the world are introverts. Yet they are rarely glimpsed, like some threatened species. So are they all in hiding?

Introverts can be likened to oranges masquerading as apples in a society of apples. However, extroverts and introverts cannot be compared like apples and oranges.

No person can be a full-on extrovert or introvert, but simply lean more one way than the other. Every individual is a blend of both. I lean quite heavily towards introversion - more than just about anyone I know in fact. I have always struggled with this trait, regularly braving uncomfortable social situations, concealing my taboo tendency towards being alone. But then I watched an amazing TED talk called The Power of Introversion, which really shook up my thinking about introversion.

Today we live in a world tailored for extroverts, a product of the modern mass migration to cities, creating communities and work environments where nobody knows eachother, yet everyone must learn to get along and strive towards a common goal. Our offices are thus designed with minimal privacy, allowing neighbours to spy on eachother's monitors and hear every word uttered. In these open situations, extroverts dominate. However, the underrated introvert has more to contribute than meets the eye.

While extroverts slither into the spotlight at every opportunity and assert themselves as fearless leaders, sometimes the best leaders are introverts. This is because introverts recognize the need to give their colleagues space to operate without boundaries, a key to unleashing their inner creative spirit.

Extroverted leaders, in contrast, tend to imprint their vision on the whole group, oppressing creativity, as well as micromanage excessively, imposing their will on others. Their fearless leadership ironically instills fear in their colleagues. Indeed, individuals tap their creative juices when they tune out the voices around them. Those aha! moments in life rarely come to one in boardroom meetings or in bars, but in one's place of solitude, a place with no unwanted voices or distractions - one's "earth spot."
My "earth spot", my place of solitude - farm near Elea, Greece
Many of the world's most famous people and greatest leaders past and present were introverts: Gandhi, Albert Einstein and J.K. Rowling are some examples. Introverted leaders in business and innovation include Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Even the late Nelson Mandela was a self-proclaimed introvert. While these leaders derived inspiration and great ideas from solitude, they were also passionate for and loved being around people, and recognized the need to collaborate with people to accomplish their lofty goals.

I may not be a leader, but I am a self proclaimed introvert with some great ideas too. I am also a lone traveler. I went backpacking for 10 months and had some of my best ideas come to me on long bus rides, or long walks up and down foreign streets, or connecting with nature, the ultimate grounding force. My own "earth spot" is on a Greek farm overlooking the Mediterranean, an ultimate place of solitude. My best moments and memories, however, were shared with people, people who I have made lasting friendships with. The people were what ultimately defined my trip. One such moment was the time I Couchsurfed in a home with 1 gracious host and 6 other travellers, sharing wonderful food and inspiring conversation.
How does an introvert spend a night in a cramped room with 8 people?
Today, I know who I am, how I am, and in what situations I am or am not comfortable. I may not like small talk, but I love instant connection with people through common ground. I may be shy and taciturn in large groups, but I am happy to talk to those who are genuinely interested in what I have to say. I may not thrive in the loud and superficial atmosphere of bars and parties, but I enjoy small and intimate get togethers with a common purpose.

I thrive when I am alone. My thoughts flow freely, and my thoughts are mine alone, and nobody elses. However, I need people too. And when I go too long without human interaction, I feel lonely just like everyone else. In fact, I get out and meet people all the time. I care about people too and want to share wit them my wisdom and ideas that I derive from solitude, and are eager to hear their ideas too. It's also why I blog; because I am eager to share, but am unable to share such thoughts in person. The key for me is to build a healthy balance between social time and "me" time.

I ask you readers to be conscious of your introversion, and recognize your need for personal space, so you can foster your own thoughts or ideas, and maintain your self awareness and confidence. If you are introverted, then recognize introversion in others in your life, and give them the space they deserve, but also encourage them to share their wonderful ideas with you.

Because at first glance, we may be like apples and oranges, but we're all the same on the inside, and have much to learn from talking to eachother.

Amazing TED talk - The Power of Introverts:

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