Daily Reading Notes

April 08, 2019


A detailed look at the important role of introverts in today's society.

1/3 to 1/2 of all people are considered introverts. But because of the values held in today's word, they are forced to fight their natural tendencies.

Instead of spending time thinking and working on their character, they are forced to learn to be outgoing and work on their personality. The favoritism society shows toward personality is enough to make anyone but the most outgoing extrovert feel inadequate.

We can no longer focus on discipline, generosity, and hard work. We must also have charisma, speaking skills, and a good personality. These characteristics are much harder to develop. Some people might never become charismatic no matter how many training seminars they attend or how many self help books they read.

All of these characteristics make us idealize movie stars instead of the thinkers. This is a culture that would rather watch someone give an engaging speech than read a brilliant white paper. We might have made society more pleasing and entertaining, but what price are we paying?

The culture of extroverts has spread far and wide. From the seminars and books of Tony Robbins that influence over 50 million people, to the Harvard Business school which produces the bulk of corporate leadership.

It has gone so far that being an extrovert isn't enough. You must knowing how to sell yourself in all situation, even just passing someone down the hall. That's why people see paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend a seminar as their only path to success.

In the corporate setting, teamwork has become such an intricate part that Harvard Business School pre-assigns study groups. Students are deemed as unprepared for class unless they discussed topics with their study group. They are encouraged to go to happy hours, dinners, and parties. Their skills of developing a social network are viewed as a sign of a successful Harvard experience.

Where does all this leave people who would rather dive deep into a topic on their own? Must everyone become outgoing to succeed in today's world?

Different environment require different leaders. An outgoing leader that's able to get his team fired up is critical around passive works. However, that all changes when the workers are already passionate and dedicated to the cause.

When the workers are amazing at their job and eager to offer up fresh ideas, it's not talking that's needed but listening. The leader must hear what is being said and help build out the idea further. This is the perfect job for an introvert leader who doesn't care about getting all the glory

If you consider yourself and introvert leader, and have been told to take speaking lessons or be more outgoing, don't give all your energy to changing your way. It's important to be able to have some speaking skills, but it's just as important to work on your natural strength. Try to become a better listener, work on analyzing the situation that are presented to you. Become the type of leader you would like to have.

From Rosa Parks to Bill Gates, leaders found strength in these characteristics. So can you.

Being surrounded by noise and people all day raises your cortisol levels. This chemical is responsible for all the things that make you unproductive. It raises your anxiety and stress levels, and cuts off good decision making. That's why open space work plans don't work. They create an environment that drains you of your creative energies instead of feeding them.

Study after study has shown that people do their best work or practice in solitude. When they are alone is when they can get a deep form of concentration which is impossible to attain when you are afraid of being judged by a group. People are even able to come up with more and higher quality ideas when they are alone than in the famous brain storming sessions.

The ideas of brain storming and group think got their start from online communities. However these communities function completely differently from in person group work.

In online communities participants get solitude to put together their ideas before sharing it with others. This creates the best of both world. It lets people have the concentrated time that they need while still sharing ideas.

Despite all these benefits of solitude, face to face time still hold an important place. It's the best way to build trust and friendships. It's the social glue that make collaboration possible. But it's best saved for short bursts. Then it can provide the catalyst for further work without making everyone involved distracted from doing the work.

Our temperament is seen from an early age. Babies fall in a range between high-reactive and low-reactive. The high-reactive babies will have a lot of motion when confront with new experience. The low-reactive babies will be the exact opposite.

Based on the temperament, as kids grow up they develop tendencies to dive deep into creative activities, if they are high-reactive, or adventurous activities, if they are low-reactive. These experiences further shape their personalities toward shyness or adventure. However, this can be molded by pushing outside their comfort zone and varying experiences.

As the kinds grow older they become shaped by their environment by varying degrees. The low-reactive children won't be impact much by the quality of their home life. They can grow up well in any environment outside of a the extremely negative homes.

On the other hand, the high-react children are highly impacted by their environment. If they grow up in a bad environment, they will continue to draw deeper inwards and may become catastrophically sheltered. But if they grow up in a good environment, they have a high likely hood of outshining any other child. Being high-reactive can be a blessing or a curse based on the child's environment.

Everybody has a different level of stimuli under which they function best. This isn't just a preferences.

The primitive brain, the amygdala, is in charge of our most basic needs. Its only concern is your survival, and a primary factor to survival in avoiding danger. Its always analyzing everything around you for any sign of a threat. Some people can pay attention to more stimuli around them than others.

The good news is, we can circumvent our fear response by activating our higher level brain located in the pre-frontal cortex. We all do this when we reassure ourselves that everything is OK.

However, the pre-frontal cortex is also responsible for our higher level thinking. So if it's busy trying to keep the amygdala under control, it's unable to operate as well on all the other demand placed on it by modern life.

That's why some people enjoy a quite workplace, it let's their pre-frontal cortex fully focus on the task at hand. While other need to have music or like to work in a crowded area. If the latter don't have enough stimuli, their brains starts wondering and they become distracted. The basis for what could seem as a preference is deeply biological and has a real effect on our ability to function optimally.

Despite what today's society might have you think, there is a reason why hundreds of species still have a shy population.

By being thoughtful and observant, the sensitive animals can survive longer individually. They are less like to be injured or caught by predators.

They are also they key to a group's long term survival. While all the other animals are busy grazing, they are the ones to take a pause to look for a predator.

In human society, they have the long term view. They are the once to notice dangers like global warming and pollution before it's too late. They see what the small signs around them are leading up to.

The short term view of extroverts combined with the long term view of introverts is a critical balance in our society. We need both to prosper.

Introverts and extroverts are successful during different circumstances.
Introverts prosper under conditions of uncertainty. The best time for
introverts is when it pays to learn from their mistakes and the stakes are high.

They are able to handle these times because of their analytical nature. They constantly analyze the decisions they make and adjust accordingly. This makes them able to create a plan and stick to it. They aren't chasing rewards. They are more likely to do the activity because they enjoy it in itself.

On the other hand, extroverts are so reward driven that psychologists are starting to define an extrovert by how reactive they are to the prospect of rewards. This make them highly driven individuals that are commit to the task as long as they see a reward in sight.

However, they can quickly abandon activities that require a long-term view. Especially if they see an easier path to success in a different activity. This tendency spreads them wide, instead of going deep like introverts. It leads to them to take more risks and spending less time evaluating their past decisions. They are able to prosper during the good times, but suffer greatly in the face of failure. This tendency was the leading cause of the 2008 stock market crash.

The Western extrovert ideal is far from universal. Many Asian countries value the opposite characteristics. They don't want people that are aggressive and stir things up. They find small talk a nuisance. They even promote people for being quite, respectful, and humble.

The west don't see power in the perseverance required to hold up the quite idea. What we view as passive can take tremendous amount of strength. It's not easy to accept an unpleasant situation for the good of the group.

It's this care for the group dynamic -- weather the group is a family, a company, or a country -- that's so valued in the East. It makes for leaders that will dedicate themselves fully to the cause without flaunting achievements. These leaders might not give a riveting speech, but they will do what ever is necessary for those that depend on them.

We must learn to respect this power. Charisma shouldn't be the only way to move ahead in society.

You aren't born a great speaker. It's a learned skill that anyone can develop. Sure, extroverts have an upper hand at the start, but the perseverance of introverts allows them to catch up. The secret at becoming good at something outside your nature is twofold.

First off, you need to have the right motivation. If you want to become social in order to support your passion, it has less strain on you. You are even happy to act out of character because it gets you closer to your goal. This is where the danger of changing who you are to follow your passion comes in.

You have to recharge by coming back to your nature. This can come in many forms. You could close the door to your office in between meeting so you get some alone time. You could take walks or read a book during lunch instead of socializing. You may spend the weekend at home with a book instead of going out with friends.

No matter how you recharge, you need enough recovery to keep up your energy levels. Otherwise, your suppressed self will start coming out in other ways. It could even get to physical symptoms.

Become wise about how you balance your day, and there is nothing that you can't achieve.

Introverts communicating with extroverts can spell trouble. They have radically different ways of communicating.

Getting fired up and showing a lot of emotion could be seen as rude by an introvert, while it is just showing passion by the extrovert.

Toning down emotions and trying to come to a resolution through raw facts can be viewed as a lack of caring by an extrovert, while it is being done out of respect for the other person by the introvert.

This difference in perception requires both parties to meet in the middle. The introvert needs to learn that it's OK to disagree -- even with just a firm no. While the extrovert needs to learn to choose their battles and only become passionate about the most important topics.

If both parties understand that each other operates differently and compromise in their communication method, they can create a harmonious discussion. The introvert can benefit from being brought out of deep thought, and the extrovert can find someone they can confide in. They can balance each other and provide what the other is missing.

Children are at great danger of having their internal drive shut down by other's focus on extroversion. Teacher place increasing value on group work. Classmates call them shy -- a term even a young child recognizes as negative. Parents want them to have lots of friends and be popular. These are tremendous pressures to put on a child.

When the child is introverted they are sensitive to these pressures and feel like a failure every time they don't meet it. Their natural tendency to think deeper feels wrong. This makes them spiral into anxiety every time they have to step out of their comfort zone. What if they didn't speak up soon enough? What if they are already labeled as shy and their idea will be dismissed? These thoughts wrack havoc.

We need to break this cycle. Introverted nature of kids isn't something that needs to be fixed. It's not a bad thing to be thoughtful and have a small group of friends. In fact, it can pay off later in life.

Instead of encouraging children to just make more friends, their nature should be respected. They need to learn how to use their natural talents to be successful in a group setting.

A child that like writing might want to grab the note taker spot in a group, a position the extroverted kid would hate. Similar techniques let introverts contribute to the group while being comfortable. As they learn constructive ways to use their gifts, their confidence grows. They don't stifle their talents and personality trying to conform to the expectations of others.

Copyright © Artem Chernyak 2020