9 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Introverts
Last Updated: Oct 26, 2016
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Extroverts seem to dominate the world -- in business, in politics, in media. They’re recognized in the classroom, rewarded in the office and appreciated at parties. But don’t make the mistake of dismissing introverts as irrelevant. In their quiet and thoughtful way, they have a lot to teach us. Introverts often get a bad rap because of people's failure to fully understand the definition, says Farrah Parker, owner and executive coach at FD Parker and Associates. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you don’t like people or that you’re shy. “It simply means that the way you refuel and unwind often involves peace and solitude,” Parker says. There are a number of benefits to this introspective life approach, so read on to find out what you can learn from introverts.
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LEARN TO SPEND TIME WITH YOURSELF
Perhaps the most important thing introverts can teach us is how to be alone with yourself, says Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist and author of “It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction.” Being alone doesn’t make an introvert feel lonely, and they often have a rich inner life and satisfying hobbies. “We can all benefit from less outer focus and more inner awareness,” Tessina says. And being an introvert can often lead to greater self-knowledge, adds Taliba M. Foster, board-certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist in her Philadelphia private practice. “Introverts are deliberate people,” she says. “They are often readers and thinkers. They are often those whose health decisions, for example, are most likely formed by extensive research -- or even studying medical journals -- as opposed to chatting with a fellow subway commuter for health advice,” Foster says.
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RELISH INDEPENDENT ACTIVITY
Because they enjoy being alone, introverts tend to excel at work or activities that entail independence or solitude. “Artists, writers, composers and inventors are often introverted,” says Jeremy Schwartz, a psychotherapist in Brooklyn, New York. Jobs that require a great deal of independent work are where many introverts succeed. “They’re likely to be described as self-starters who take initiative with minimal direction needed,” Schwartz says. “They thrive in places where they can engage in in-depth, reflective work. Introverts are great at avoiding distractions and focusing on what matters to them.” This trait can be practical for certain types of fitness pursuits as well, adds psychiatrist Taliba M. Foster. “For instance, long-distance running is quite isolating and requires focus and discipline.”
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LOOK INWARD FOR INSPIRATION
Most introverts enjoy exploring their thoughts and feelings, says Simon Rego, director of psychology training at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center. “This can lead to being highly creative when it comes to problem-solving.” While extroverts may seem to snatch up more recognition in the corporate world, introverts should trust the way they naturally process information. If they feel the need to spend time alone, reflecting on ideas, they should do so. In fact, Rego says, introverts might consider creating opportunities to maximize this skill during the workday, such as planning the occasional break to recharge on their own, volunteering for tasks or projects that involve fewer team members or asking for one-on-one meetings with key players.
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PRACTICE EFFECTIVE LISTENING SKILLS
“Introverts are good listeners,” says psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina. “They may not be facile talkers, but introverted people usually know how to really listen.” And it’s this skill that research has shown can make introverts better leaders than extroverts, especially when their employees are naturally proactive. An extroverted leader of a team of extroverts can get so caught up in expressing his own thoughts that he fails to listen to or act on the ideas his team is proposing. An introverted leader, however, is more likely to listen to and process the ideas of his extroverted team. The listening skills of introverts can be advantageous in their personal lives as well. Introverts, says psychologist Simon Rego, “can be very effective listeners -- particularly in one-on-one situations with their partner, which can enhance emotional intimacy and connectedness.”
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FORM DEEPER CONNECTIONS
“While introverts do not enjoy large social situations,” says Jene Kapela, principal and founder of Jene Kapela Leadership Solutions, “they do enjoy smaller gatherings of close friends and tend to develop deep and meaningful relationships with others.” Psychologist Simon Rego points out that, “Most introverts can recognize this quality in themselves and set up social events that meet this need.” An introvert might, for example, plan a small-scale dinner party or arrange more one-on-one engagements rather than large group events. These smaller gatherings can allow for longer, more meaningful conversations, leading to deeper connections and greater understanding of others.
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“Introverts have no problem pushing through tough deadlines that require complete isolation to achieve results,” says executive coach Farrah Parker. “They will stay in the house for an entire weekend if it means meeting a goal and succeeding.” Unlike the gregarious extroverts, when introverts are sequestered for an extended period of time working on a project, they will “rarely feel as though the world has left them behind simply because they are not literally outside and engaged,” Parker says. Leadership coach Jene Kapela agrees. “Introverts enjoy working alone and are quite comfortable and happy in a solitary working environment,” she says. As a result, they tend to have an advantage focusing their attention on one thing for an extended period of time without getting distracted, she says.
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TAKE TIME IN NEW SITUATIONS
Many of us could learn from an introvert’s tendency to take his time in new circumstances. Introverts don’t immediately jump into the deep end of the pool when faced with a new situation, says psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina. “They go very slowly and size up the state of affairs before making any moves.” Introverts will often wait until they’re approached rather than approaching new people. This means, Tessina says, they usually don’t end up making a social faux pas as a result of not understanding the milieu. On the contrary, introverts wait and consider their options, resulting in a more appropriate course of action than if they had leapt into the fray with less forethought. “Introverts tend to think more before acting or speaking,” says psychotherapist Jeremy Schwartz. “Extroverts, on the other hand, are more likely to talk and act as they are thinking.”
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CIRCUMVENT THE INESSENTIALS
Introverts are more likely to remain unaffected by innuendo, gossip and social angst borne of relationships -- romantic or otherwise -- at work, says psychiatrist Taliba M. Foster. “The introvert isn’t necessarily taking long lunches with co-workers, stepping outside for ‘join-me’ smoking breaks or engaging in the extended personal telephone conversations that cost employers billions in man-hours.” For these reasons, she says, introverts may be seen in a positive light by managers and employers. “Introverts may be viewed as dependable professionals who are too focused on their responsibilities to participate in petty office interplay or social agendas created by co-workers,” Foster says. “Managers may see the introvert as trustworthy and more likely to abide by workplace protocols (such as confidentiality) than an extrovert or office socialite.”
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Introverts are often very powerful in their verbal communication because they tend to avoid conversation that’s not applicable to the experience or situation, as psychiatrist Taliba M. Foster learned firsthand. “Early in my career I was concerned that I would struggle with introverted patients,” she says. “I thought, ‘What will I do with a clinical hour full of silence? Will we have a staring contest? Will I spend more time talking than my patient?’ I learned quickly, to my delight, that I would just listen.” This talent of focusing on the subject at hand and being concise often helps her introverted patients arrive at personal resolutions quicker than extroverts, she says. “Extroverts tend to talk about everything with a grandiose and avoidant flair, while the introvert is less likely to waste time.”
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
What are some things you’ve learned from introverts? Can you think of some we left off this list? Are you -- or someone in your life -- an introvert? Or are you an extrovert who wishes you had a little more of the introvert in you? Why? Share your thoughts with the community in the comments below!
Related: Are you an introvert or extrovert? Take our quiz to find out!
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