Have you ever met someone who prefers to sit at the corner of the room, enjoying a cupcake by herself while observing her surroundings? We may find one of our colleagues is very talkative while discussing a topic in a meeting, but is really a quiet person in their daily life. Another might love to talk to people but at the very least, they need to recharge their energy by spending time alone. Those could be the characteristics of an Introvert.
What is an Introvert?
Introvert is actually a personality type created by the 20th-century Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an introvert a person who is typically quiet or reserved person and tends to enjoy spending time alone. This agrees with Susan who states in her book title “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” that introvert somehow feel “just right” when they are less stimulated. As the opposite of extroverts, introvert seem to enjoy the activities that tend to be “quiet” such as reading a book or drinking a cup of coffee while having a deep conversation with a close friend.
Do they hate people?
Obviously, not. Although they are more comfortable when they are less stimulated, this does not mean that they hate socializing. We must emphasize that introversion is not an ASPD (Antisocial Personality Disorder). They are two different things. To make this clear, let us look at how our brain works when we meet people.
Our brain has a limbic system. It is a part of the brain that plays a role in our behavioural and emotional responses. It contains four main parts, one of which is the amygdala. According to Anthony Wright, Ph.D. (The University of Texas-McGovern Medical School), the amygdala is the integrative centre for emotions, emotional behaviour and motivation. It is, as Susan explains in her book, an ancient brain network, sometimes referred to as the emotional brain. For introverts, this amygdala is more alert and sensitive to new stimuli. It makes them overwhelmed when they come across new things.
For example, a study shows that a baby born with a particularly excitable amygdala will fidget and cry more when stimulated by unfamiliar objects (Cain, 2012). When the amygdala is more reactive, it leads to a higher heart rate, more dilated eyes, tighter vocal cords and more cortisol (a stress hormone) in saliva. This explains why introverts tend to seek out less stimulation, less crowds and even enjoy their solitude.
From this description, we can conclude that introverts may be born with it. However, it cannot permanently mean that introverts are not able to meet new people. As we grow up, the area of the neocortex – especially the prefrontal cortex – is developed in our limbic system. This area can control the amygdala to be more calm, allowing the introvert to shake hands without trembling.
Can introverts be leaders?
Yes, they can. Historical leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, even activists like Rosa Parks and successful business leaders like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer and Elon Musk are all introverts.
As we have discussed before, being an introvert does not mean that you hate meeting people and cannot relate to them. It is all about how you maximise your potential. If you are an introvert, you can be a leader. It is just a question of how you find the situation that works best for you and how you optimise your personality to support your desire. It is OK to be a quiet person. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “In a gentle way you can shake the world”. PRS