In 2012 Susan Cain published a tremendous book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’s Stop Talking. Her insights opened thousands of people’s eyes to how introversion works (including my own) and how introverts are often misunderstood or over-looked. Cain doesn’t waste time bemoaning anyone’s plight but rather explain all the ways introverts function uniquely and the distinct ways they are gifted and relate to others. As an extrovert, though not an extreme one, I found Quiet exceptionally insightful and helpful in my own work and relationships.
In the two years since the book was published introverts have moved from the background to the fore, especially in business and organizational contexts. No, corporate culture hasn’t shifted so completely as to value their contributions as it should. That will likely come on the heels of the perception change that has occurred. “Introvert” now carries a certain amount of cachet. Where it was once a term of perceived inferiority or oddity, now it’s a term of substance and respect. We aren’t quite sure why or how, but we know introverts are special.
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Much of the perception shift seems closely linked to the old adage “It’s better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Introverts are seen as more insightful in many contexts because they speak less. Thus, their flaws and mistakes are invisible. This, however, is a matter of misunderstanding how people process ideas.
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God made extroverts and introverts for a reason. Each set of traits exhibits aspects of his character and each group is equally marked by sin. The point of this article isn’t to cry, “foul” on introverts. It’s to point out that what once was a problem in one direction (the overlooking and undervaluing of introverts) could easily become a problem in the other. Businesses need extroverts and introverts. So do churches and friendships. We balance each other so long as we respect each other and put forth the effort to understand one another.
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