We here at Levo sort of have a thing for introverts. I personally have written several Levo articles about introverts, from “How To Stand Out in a Group of Extroverts” to the recent “Oh Yes, You Can Fake An Outgoing Personality at Work.” We’ve run pieces about how can introverts can more successfully break into manager roles, rock an interview, and speak up in meetings. Thanks to Susan Cain’s bestseller Quiet, the stigma around the word “introvert” has mostly been lifted. The whole world learned what many of us already knew: introverts are awesome. Now that we’ve broken that barrier though, new studies and theories on introversion are only going to keep pouring in.
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As we’ve already seen, some psychologists have begun grouping introverts into more specific subcategories. Wellesley Psychology Professor Jonathan Cheek has published two papers to this effect: “Four Meanings of Introversion: Social, Thinking, Anxious, and Inhibited Introversion,” and later, “Personality Scales for Four Domains of Introversion: Social, Thinking, Anxious, and Restrained Introversion.” (They renamed the Inhibited domain Restrained.) Each is unique and, like all human differences, each possesses a secret power. As Dr. Perpetua Neo says, “Society demonises and punishes difference, whether it is introversion, autism, or any mental health disorder. In fact, every difference has its superpowers, as long as we learn how to harness it.” Amen to that.
This type of introversion is closest to the one you probably think of when you read the word “introvert.” Social introverts prefer socializing in small groups compared to large ones and are recharged by alone time, which they value deeply.
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Your secret powers: Cultivating deep relationships and loyalty
“As the saying goes, it is better to have a few friends than many acquaintances, because your few friends have your back and you know you can depend on them when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan,” says Neo. “In deeper relationships, people are able to be vulnerable with each other. As Brené Brown expounds, vulnerability is the hallmark of strong people. In that, social introverts are versed in the art of being loyal to their friends, and we know that loyalty pays dividends.
Neo also believes that social introverts’ understanding of their need for “me time” is an example from which we can all learn. “Social introverts know their boundaries, and they are a big lesson in teaching us about self-care, self-love and the Joy Of Missing Out (as opposed to the Fear Of Missing Out). The basis of everything—our careers, love lives, well being, etc.—is ourselves. We are the best investments we can make. And when we start with self-respect and self-love, this helps us create a fundamentally stronger sense of self and well being.”
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Thinking introverts are not exhausted by social interaction like social introverts. Rather, they are extremely introspective, thoughtful, and have a rich and imaginative inner life.
Your secret powers: Creativity, synthesis, and innovation
“Because creativity is about integrating ideas that most would otherwise see as separate, thinking introverts are innovative and help people to think out of the box,” Neo says. “In organizations and groups, they aren’t quick to talk over other people just to assert dominance. Instead, they are happy to express their opinions whilst respecting others; and because they are creative, they facilitate those groups toward innovative, unprecedented solutions. They also excel in helping people to reflect on their experiences, feelings and thoughts, so that we can grow and develop ourselves.”
As you might suspect, anxious introverts are extremely shy and will often avoid social situations due to lack of confidence or feelings of awkwardness. They tend to ruminate on what did or could go wrong in any given circumstance.
Your secret powers: Planning and attention to detail
“People who are anxious can often be organized planners, because they consider the worst case scenarios and details,” Neo says. “Put simply, they are the kind of people who go into a building and are vigilant about the emergency exits. When hyper-vigilant and caught up with the stress, this isn’t necessarily good. But when a balanced approach is taken, anxious introverts are dependable. We can count on them to help us feel safe. Moreover, being used to solitude, anxious introverts have a lot of lessons to teach us in terms of being alone and feeling lonely. It teaches us a sense of self-sufficiency, which can be vital for those of us who feel dependent on continuous social interactions to feel good about ourselves.”
Restrained introverts always dip their toes in the pool before they jump. They may sometimes appear to work more slowly than others because they always think before they speak or act.
Your secret powers: Reflection and wisdom
“Restrained introverts are more reflective because they are able to step back and see the bigger picture without getting caught up in the emotions and drama. To me, they can embody the Taoist philosophical concept of Wu-Wei, in which doing nothing can sometimes be the best form of response. In corporate settings where the bottom line is sacred, we are sometimes too caught up in responding as quickly as possible. Yet we know that when we are caught in a whirlwind of emotions, we react in ways that might actually be less efficient and effective. The person who does not react immediately isn’t necessarily dull or slow. She may be a source of wisdom, as she knows that reacting isn’t necessarily the wisest solution. She is also the voice of wisdom and sanity in group dynamics when everyone is caught up in the drama or pressured to say the same thing.”
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