By Divya Vartika
In my school days, I was a very active kid. I always took part in class discussions and was the first to sign up for any extra-curricular activity. Because of this, I was always part of a team. As a result, I knew kids from many senior and junior classes as well. There was always someone talking to me.
But I grew up in a small town in the 1990s where our interactions with school buddies ended as soon as we entered home. No social media, no smartphones, no phone calls unless it was an emergency. After homework, I would just curl up in my bed with a book and not talk anymore.
In college too, my routine remained the same. I would be an active participant in all my classes and labs, until I reached my hostel. Once in my room, I would choose to relax with a book. I was not like many who would socialize after classes. That’s when I got labelled an ‘introvert’.
There is a popular conception that introverts need help in ‘opening up’. In my last job, there was a special program in which managers nominated the introverts in their team to attend a session to train us poor souls on how to become extroverts. I asked my manager if there is a similar program to help extroverts become introverts, and that helped me get out of the said program.
Over the years, I have come to understand that introverts and extroverts just recharge in different ways. Social settings tire out the introverts while they reinvigorate the extroverts. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with introverts. It just means that after a party, introverts will need some silent time to relax while the party itself relaxes the extroverts.
In schools, colleges and offices, there is constant pressure to ‘convert’ introverts to extroverts, as extroversion is seen as an asset in these organised setups. But this is a flawed concept for, first, the conversion will never work and, second, the introverts do not need saving.
In fact, there are a lot of benefits to being an introvert. Let me show you what extroverts are missing.
Introverts are better listeners
We do not interrupt the conversation since we actually want the other person to keep speaking. This helps us in speaking less and ultimately saving our energy. We are genuinely interested and we ask follow-up questions at the appropriate time to keep the conversation focused on anyone other than us. We make others so comfortable that it gets very easy for them to pour their hearts out and tell us all their secrets. It’s a good thing that introverts do not like to talk much, so the secrets stay safe (mostly!). Introverts are better listeners, as this is a very important survival technique no one talks about.
Introverts are super creative and innovative
An introvert’s focus is inwards. We actually enjoy the solitude required for creative and innovative work. Take writing. It is mostly solitary work. We need to close the door and sit and write. This is where introverts thrive. We have the patience required to stay on the task at hand. Since we anyway stay away from social gatherings, it helps us in staying distraction-free for longer durations. Creating and innovation take time and patience, and introverts have a lot of both.
Introverts think before speaking
Speaking is a high-energy task. Introverts do love to speak, but since we have to keep in mind our energy levels, we are more thoughtful of what we are saying. Thinking before speaking is a great piece of advice for everyone and not just introverts. Being aware of our words helps in saving many relationships, both in personal and professional settings. This also explains why introverts are selective about our relationships as well. We are careful where we spend our energy. Introverts might have very few close friendships, but they put in a lot of thought and effort in nurturing the friendships they have.
Introverts are observant
Have you ever had a meal with a large group? Usually, the introverts would not speak much. But after the meal, if you ask everyone to summarize the conversations, the introvert would be the most accurate. This is just because introverts are keen observers. In any social settings, the introverts are the ones noticing everything. This helps introvert-writers the most. They get so many stories and character ideas. So be careful next time you are around introverts. You will never know what we are observing.
Being alone is not a scary thought
Lately, the world is becoming a very different place than it used to be. More and more people have to adjust to the new reality. Many offices are still operating remotely. Travel has not yet resumed for most. This is forcing more and more people to learn how to live alone. For many, the lack of social interactions is nothing short of torture. However, this situation suits introverts perfectly. We are not afraid of being alone because, for us, being alone is not the same as being lonely. Introverts actually thrive in solitude.
Everyone is different, and these differences are what make us unique. There is nothing wrong with being who we are. The problem arises when someone is asked to behave like someone else. That helps no one.
The biggest benefit is being true to yourself.
Divya Vartika is a former IT engineer and now a full-time writer. She is the author of the short story ‘Memories Forgotten’ in the anthology Everything Changed After That: 25 Women, 25 Stories (Embassy Books). Buy it on Amazon.