Being an introvert can be stigmatizing, especially in the United States, home of the loud and talkative (think Donald Trump). Introverts are a minority, making up only 30 percent of the population. But there are many benefits to introversion.

I, myself am an introvert. I prefer being alone with my thoughts. I enjoy solitary activities such as reading, writing, watching a movie, or hiking in the woods. I also have my extroverted side and enjoy being the center of attention while telling a story or joke.

The fact is that most of us are not permanently fixed on one end or the other of the introverted-extroverted spectrum. Our personality changes with the situation and the particular people that we are with. For the most part I prefer to sit and listen when I’m in a group of people, but when I have an attentive, captive audience I blossom and become a ham.

Introversion is not to be confused with shyness. Shyness is the feeling of embarrassment or awkwardness in social situations. It is a form of anxiety that inhibits behavior and causes people to actively avoid social situations.

I was shy when I was in high school because I lacked the necessary social and interpersonal skills. I sat in the back of the classroom and avoided talking to people. I avoided the cafeteria and instead ate my lunch alone at the desolated football field.

I overcame my shyness by learning the needed skills and by becoming aware that it was ok to be quiet and introverted. I found that I inherently already possessed one of the most important communication skills: Listening.

Being an introvert has many other advantages such being more cautious (extroverts are more likely to be hospitalized as a result of injuries), having more stable and intimate relationships, and being better at coming up with new ideas and mastering new skills.

While introverts make up only 30 percent of the population, they make up 40 percent of high-powered U.S. businesspeople. Abilities such as assessing risks, listening, and attention to details are essential leadership qualities. Famous introverted business leaders include Bill Gates, Charles Schwab, Larry Page, and Warren Buffett.

The introverted qualities of empathy, introspection, and independence also make great moral leaders. Both Mohandas Gandhi and Mother Teresa were introverts, but that didn’t stop them from leading great social causes.

Our introverted or extroverted temperament is mostly inborn. A 1989 study by Harvard developmental psychologist Jerome Kagan found that about 20 percent of four-month-old babies reacted intensely to new experiences such as popping balloons, colorful mobiles, and the smell of alcohol on a cotton swab. These “high-reactive” infants grew up to be introverted adolescents.

It seems that people who are born introverted have a lower threshold for stimulation. Overstimulation such as crowds and popping balloons can cause an introvert to compensate by taking a low profile. On the other hand, extroverts are like addicts in search of a high, seeking out the stimulation of social interactions.

But no matter your natural inclination, you can adapt to the situation. Adaptation is one of the hallmarks of human existence and what has made us so successful at survival. Even if you are born introverted, you can be assertive, gregarious, and sociable when the need arises. Look at introverted politicians such as Hillary Clinton and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; they are diplomatic and social when they have to be.

Learn necessary for success Emotional Intelligence skills such as Assertiveness, which will help you find your voice and let others know what you think and feel.  Conversational skills will help you to get people to talk about their favorite subject, themselves. Don’t fear lulls in the conversation, enjoy the quietness that your introverted side requires.

One of the most important Emotional Intelligence skills is Self-Regard, how you feel about yourself. Accept your natural introversion and don’t apologize for it. Celebrate who you are and don’t worry about what others think. Just be the best you that you can be.
 





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