Monday, February 21, 2011

Introvert Misconceptions

I ran into a forum thread tonight that asked if education was a good field for introverts. What followed was a horrible bunch of bizarrely misinformed and prejudiced statements that kind of offended me... and it is HARD to offend me.

Some of the statements I found there:

It doesn't mean you have to be a full-blown extrovert, but if you cannot get the message across to the students in an effective way then you may end up with a problem when your school starts judging your teaching future by how many students pass the standardized tests. As far as administration, you still have to be able to communicate with parents, handle students, etc.

Misconception #1: Introverts can't communicate.
This is nonsense. Of course we can. In fact, in some situations, we may communicate *better* than extroverts because we tend to plan out our conversations and seriously think before we speak, weighing all the options and ways our responses might be taken. If pushed to give immediate answers, yes, we may come out a little garbled. But the insinuation that introverts make bad teachers because they can't communicate information is nonsense. (As a matter of fact, most of the teachers I've run across who don't communicate clearly are extroverts - they would get sidetracked, ramble, and include unimportant information.)

Introverts just don't have the skills, or desire to work well with parents, kids, and other staff.

Misconception #2: Introverts don't have people skills.
This is also not true. I know lots of introverts who are extremely socially successful, and lots of extroverts who are not. That's a completely unfair generalization. Everyone needs to learn social skills from the get-go, both introverts and extroverts, and some of each will fall by the wayside.

Misconception #3: Introverts don't have the desire to work with people.
Just because we tire of social interaction faster than extroverts does NOT mean we never find it rewarding. I am going into education with full knowledge of how much interaction I will need to have with students. But, you know what? Teaching people about theater is something I'm extremely passionate about, and it is well worth the fact that I will be tired by the end of the day. Yes, there will be days when I'm socially exhausted and just want to get away, but I care about this career. I'd rather have a job that I love enough to let it sometimes drain me.

Since they're introverts, they don't care if they are well liked.

Misconception #4: Introverts are relationally apathetic.
Of course we want people to like us. Many introverts act like extroverts because they think it's the only way people will like them. (Which, according to this thread, seems to be the truth.) Just because we need our alone time doesn't mean we don't feel a need to belong. Some may care more than others, but, seriously, we have feelings and everything. I promise.

To conclude...
I'm bothered when people make these kinds of statements about introverts, because it means that people don't actually know what introverts are. They hear the term, find people they deem socially inadequate, and saddle them with that label, leaving those of us who are well-adjusted, social, fairly friendly introverts with this horrible stigma.

Introversion is not something to be fixed or something you can "put up with" in someone. It's responsible for making so many of my favorite people who they are. Just like extroversion, it is a gift.

(If you're interested in reading more about introverts, check out The Introvert's Corner, The Introverted Church, and The Power of Introverts, all fantastic blogs by introverts.)


  1. Once again the truth of the ignorance of extroverts rises to the surface! It is so hard for people to understand anyone who is not like "ME"; and if I cannot understand them, they MUST be wrong!

    I am not an introvert but I am offended by these statements too!!!

  2. Case study (or something): One of my instructors this term.
    What she says:
    -She's labeled herself as an introvert
    -She says she likes teaching, but only in smaller settings (ie she doesn't mind teaching at my school, where class size is 30-40 students, but she HATED teaching in lecture halls at another nearby University)
    What I think:
    -She actually does have problems communicating (Not only does she often get a bit side tracked, but every other word out of her mouth is "Umm" with the occasional "Ohhh, ummm" tossed in)
    -She's got really high expectations (not sure if that's an introvert vs extrovert thing, but it could come back to the miscommunication thing)

  3. .... I didn't see a "like" button, So I wasn't sure what to do, I guess Bloggers don't shorten their agreement to simple one word replies. "like"... neway, I thought your replies were really good, and those quotes were unsurprisingly ignorant. I am, however, surprised at the community of introverts, I have long considered my self an introvert, and I just never realized there were real or virtual gatherings... it'd be like there being a church of optimists (which I suppose would just be church, if more in theory than practice)... or a church of realists.... neway... I think I've met my blogger quota for reply. what's more, I have a reply to Carmen...

    @Carmen: I think you are unjustly connecting poor communication with introversion. Someone who doesn't like talking in front of people may become an introvert. but someone who is bad at talking in front of people can still be an extrovert. and an introvert isn't necessarily bad at talking in front of people. The problem with case studies as the the conclusions drawn from them are little more than guesses. old age, inexperience, dyslexia, ADD, are all equally culpable suspects for poor communication.

    as for the high expectations, it may have nothing to do with introversion, there's no reason it would have to. If it does deal with introversion tho, my guess would be that it's the opposite of your theory. Most introverts I know spend a lot of time in books, television, movies, or games; and we tend to think a lot about what we read, watch, or hear; so if a paper, essay, or question are answered poorly, we're just more likely to see it, and not accept it as quality work in comparison to the works we're used to taking in.... at least..... that's my theory.....

  4. Darren: I wrote a long comment back and then accidentally hit some keyboard shortcut and close out Chrome. Grar. The gist of it was: Yes, the introvert community is growing. It's all about knowing where to look! :) My online community ( if you ever wish to venture in) is probably about 75% introverts among the regulars. I love that I can go in there saying, "I AM SO OVERPEOPLED" and everyone knows instantly what I'm talking about.

    I also think there are a lot of "hidden" introverts out there - people who misunderstand it (thinking it means "shy" or "scared of things" or, as an extroverted friend seems to think, "depressed") or have been taught they shouldn't be one and so have suppressed it and faked extroversion.