Believe it or not, some of the most successful people in business (and well, lots of things) are introverts. We see everything. We absorb everything. We listen to everything. We analyze what’s going on. We also are excellent at reading people. We see both the big picture and the minute details.
Introverts are not actually shy. We don’t dislike people. As a matter of fact, we can be very outgoing and love people. That’s what I call “being on.” As an old theatre person, I think of it much like being on stage; all eyes on me, I have a small amount of time with my audience to break through. It’s not acting. But it does take complete focus and energy. And for every hour I’m “on”, I need a couple hours off.
I live in my head a lot: seeing, hearing, thinking. Sometimes I will blurt out my thoughts enthusiastically with no lead-in. That’s generally when people look at me like I’m nuts. Being introverted means thinking about presentation, thinking about the big picture as well as the little picture and the minute steps it takes to reach both. For those incredibly important steps, I need to be “off.”
So our being introverted is not some sort of social disfunction. It’s determining the difference between what is real and genuine and what is just social interaction. Extroverts make great leaders because they have the stamina and charisma to be “on” all the time. Introverts make great leaders because when they’re “off”, it’s because they need the time to think and plan and proactively solve every problem that may arise.
Not that personality tests mean much, but for Myers Briggs, I am an INTJ. I guess less than 2% of the population is (but I think it’s much higher because introverts don’t generally give a damn about personality tests). It’s also (supposedly) the greatest mind for business. There is no box. There’s only ideas and solutions. And we enjoy it. But on is on and off is off.
As much as I love being “on”, I know without that “off” time, I couldn’t be successful. I’m hoping some of my friends will understand. In fact, I know they will.