Is this a world of extroverts? You bet it is. Our society has always been wary of exceptions to so-called normal behaviour and the proverbial nails that stick out. Although in the 21st century we have become a bit progressive and accepting of the fringe members of society like the LGBTQ community, we have a long way to go in terms of understanding different types of personality types.
“Outspoken and loud people continue to be preferred over silent and contemplative ones, while extraversion is still looked at as the secret to being rich and successful. A man or woman who speaks less and introspects more is considered shy at best and dumb at worst.”
Outspoken and loud people continue to be preferred over silent and contemplative ones, while extraversion is still looked at as the secret to being rich and successful. A man or woman who speaks less and introspects more is considered shy at best and dumb at worst. I know this because I have been a dark horse all my life and as such have been underestimated everywhere I went. Even after graduating from the top Business school in India and publishing my first book, it takes some time for people I meet for the first time to accept me as a skilled and confident person only because I’m an introvert. And I’m pretty sure the majority of introverts out there continue to face the same problems in their life.
What Is An Introvert?
Well if you were to ask the self-acclaimed definers of society’s norms you would be told that anyone who speaks less and seems shy is an introvert. According to them such organisms should be instructed again and again without remorse to be more outgoing and talkative.
The actual definition fortunately is a bit different. An introvert is someone who doesn’t talk and interact with other people as much as their extraverted counterparts. This is not because of them being shy but simply by choice. In fact there are two important reasons behind this behavioural trait. First is that unlike extroverts, introverts don’t believe in small talk and are instead more interested in deep and meaningful conversations. Secondly, introverts don’t talk much because they express themselves through other mediums like writing, singing, painting etc. That’s why most creative people and artists are inherently introverts.
An introvert hence is a person who by choice chooses to speak less and observe more. They express their views and points confidently when required but in general believe in observing, analysing, and then responding. They are not impulsive and take a decision after careful consideration of all the options and facts available to them. Most importantly, they are not shy or socially awkward.
Is Introversion Normal?
In case it isn’t clear I want to strongly reiterate two things. First is that it is a misconception that being extroverted is normal; in the same way being introverted is not the only normal. Extraversion and Introversion are personality traits and stem out of a plethora of environmental and psychological factors. They are just different ways of interacting with your surroundings, and hence there is no right or wrong here. Infact every human needs a balance between the two. There is a time and place for being silent and solemn, as well as for being loud and dominating.
Second thing I want to press upon is that just because introverts don’t talk doesn’t mean they don’t want to express their feelings. It’s just that their way of expressing is a little different. Where extroverts speak their mind without any filter, introverts prefer other methods like the ones I mentioned in the previous section. So just because someone speaks less doesn’t mean they have nothing to say.
Scientific Reason Behind Being an Introvert
Many experts including Dr. Martin Olsen Laney (author of The Introvert Advantage) and Susan Cain (author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking) have supported the notion that there is a scientific and logical explanation behind being an introvert. According to this theory which has been the topic of many scientific studies, it is because of a slight variation in the reward mechanism of introverts that makes them introspective and socially distant. The chemicals responsible for this biological foundation of personality traits are Dopamine and Acetylcholine.
For those who don’t know, Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of happiness or satisfaction that humans experience after performing an activity that we like or cherish. With popular phrases like ‘Dopamine rush’ and ‘That’s Dope’ named after it, it is the celebrity chemical of our body that gets all recognition on social media. Although connected with pleasant things it is technically responsible for giving humans the motivation to perform basic survival activities like eating, drinking, sexual procreation, and others. In fact, the absence of optimal Dopamine levels in the body can cause mental health diseases like Depression and Anxiety due to the non-fulfillment of basic Dopaminergic requirements.
Acetylcholine, on the other hand, is ironically the dark horse of our body. Although not well known, it is also a neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of satisfaction. However, its working mechanism is different. Dopamine is released in our bodies when we are socially active and perform outdoor activities like adventure sports, parties, and dancing. But Acetylcholine is released when we are alone, are introspecting, and/or taking a breather from the world around us.
This is where the difference exists between Introverts and Extroverts. Extroverts depend on Dopamine for their reward mechanism but are inherently less sensitive to Dopamine. Hence, they have to perform more and more dopamine-inducing activities so as to fulfil their satisfaction needs. Introverts, however, are oversensitive to Dopamine. So performing social activities makes them mentally fatigued easily because they reach their desired Dopamine levels quite quickly. After that, any additional Dopamine just makes them tired and cranky.
The bodies and brain of introverts actually prefers Acetylcholine for their satisfaction needs. Hence, the Acetylcholine mechanism is highly active in Introverts. They derive happiness and satisfaction from being alone and indulging in activities that support the release of Acetylcholine. Introverts don’t depend on social activities to raise their satisfaction level. This theory breaks the myth that an introvert can transform himself into an extrovert because as we discussed they are biologically different from their socially-active counterparts. And you can’t change biology.
I know in this world of high academic and workplace competition you need to constantly sell yourself and your abilities. In today’s market of too many options and alternatives, you need to not only grab and hold someone’s attention, but also carve a place in their mind. My humble request is that in this chattering carnival of life, once in a blue moon, give the silent ones a chance. You never know what they might be hiding; a singer, a writer, a dancer, or just a wonderful personality. Go beyond the thinly veiled allure of being a socially active person and try to find the gems who might not be good at shining but might be hiding exquisite qualities underneath the surface.