The Power of the Introvert

Over the past couple weeks (actually, months) I’ve been reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Each evening, before heading off to bed, I’ve been reading sections of the book, investigating the culture that puts extroversion on a pedestal and draws around the power of talking, group think, and self-promotion. This book is a beautiful study in the power of introverts as leaders who can (and do) shape the world. As the cover states, the words Cain has written have “the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.”

I will not lie; I am an Introvert. Sometimes, I joke that I am the introvert’s introvert. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like small talk. I avoid large social activities. And have spent  hundreds of evenings watching from the shadows and corners, listening to the conversations around me. That, or reading. Or creating art. Or writing.

I’ve always been quiet. I still remember walking into new classrooms and being terrified because that meant that I had to meet new people. To make new friends. To say that I was shy would be an understatement. In a way, I still am.

I am an introvert.

There is a power in that statement. I used to hide from it, but I have learned to embrace it. Despite all the superstitions and impressions that people hold about introverts, I know and accept that I am one. And I’m fine with that.

But, at times, I can put all that aside and act like an extrovert. I can hold a conversations. I can get over my fears of public speaking and stand before people and talk. I can enjoy the crowds of people But I spend much more energy doing these activities for an hour than I would normally spend in an entire weekend.

I get no gratification from acting like an extrovert. You see, introverts are people who value quiet, intimate moments, one-on-one interactions, and creating in solitude because that is how we recharge. We work best after observation and thinking without distractions.

In college, the dinning hall was set up with several long tables that stretched across the room for family style dinning. Large groups of individuals would stretch down the tables and merge into the next, creating a family atmosphere. While I would sometimes join these groups, I found myself often sitting at the smaller tables that lined the edges of the facility. It was there that a few individuals could sit together and enjoy their meals.

My preferred table was one in the corner, where I could sit and see everyone. Not only am I an introvert, but I am a people watcher. I would sit in silence and just observe as people came and went. I enjoyed this location because I was out of the spotlight, out of the attention, and away from the den of conversation.

I chose to study and create art because painting and drawing allowed me time to think and to create. I enjoyed my other classes, but I liked the individual learning that came when my painting class had anywhere from two to ten students. That is how I learned best.

Yes, I took part in class discussions. But only once I was comfortable in the setting. I hated science labs because I was forced to work and learn through group activities, labs, and conversations. I loved creative writing, because during critiques, people were honest and respectful. And when it was your story that was being critiqued in class, all you were allowed to do was to listen. And despite my art history classes being some of the largest classes that I took (still had less than 30 students) I joined into the discussions because I had a passion for the content that we were discussing (so much that at one point, the teacher banned me and two others from talking to force the rest of the class to participate).

I think that being an introvert, being able to watch and observe, allowed me to make so many friends. I made friends with many different people, often drifting from one group to another. I had my art friends. Music friends. Friends from the Baptist Collegiate Ministries. From the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. From the coffee shop. The dorms. The student center. I believe that being an introvert allowed me to observe people for who they were and to break through the shells of judgement and dive deeper than casual conversations.

I believe that being an introvert has allowed me to be a leader, but more importantly, to know when to step back and follow. And support. When I entered into my second year with the AmeriCorps St Louis Emergency Response Team, I made it known that I didn’t want to be the one up in front of everyone, but I wanted to lead through supporting those I worked side by side with and provide them with the opportunities to step up and discover who they are. There were times that I led teams, but I feel that my greatest impact on my fellow teammates was my ability to observe and provide support.

I believe that being an introvert has given me the opportunity to dive deeper in my faith than I ever thought possible. We expect our leaders in the church (the body of Christ) to be extroverts, able to talk in front of the congregations and move us through their sermons, but I have discovered that the people who have shown me the most about faith have been those individuals that took the time to sit down in small groups or one-on-one and listened. It is the introvert that makes disciples, that lead through their quiet power of understanding. That know when to talk and when to allow others to find the answers that they seek through discussion.

I think that being an introvert is a powerful thing. And I think it has a place, side by side with the extrovert. One is not better than the other, no matter what our society and culture says or values.

Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center So we lost our center and have to find it again.
– Anais Nin

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4 Comments »

  1. RC Said:

    Very interesting, plus, relevant. I married an introvert….I’m extroverted.

    • stkerr Said:

      It is said that opposites attract. Some of my closest friends are extroverts, and I truly believe that they bring out the best in me, and I do the same for them. The struggle comes from being able to understand and accept these not-so-little differences in how we recharge and where we find our comfort.

      • RC Said:

        Thanks for replying 🎈

  2. RC Said:

    Reblogged this on cogitations: think twice before u click. . . ..


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