In the American Culture, leadership is often equated with hyperextroversion and an emphasis is placed on personality, charm, and charisma.
On one hand, people feel a constant urge to fit into the extroversion mould, to develop an extroverted personality and feel pressured to always project confidence.
On the other, introverts have become the ugly step-children.
Basically, the American Culture promotes an Extrovert Ideal when several temperaments exist, are valuable and needed in Society.
Many “people, especially those in leadership roles, engage in a certain level of pretend-extroversion”.
1. The birth of the Extrovert Ideal
The Extrovert Ideal is “the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight”.
The Extrovert Ideal was born when public speaking became a must have skill in the beginning of the 20th century.
The American Culture swiftly shifted from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality.
Hence, people started focusing on the way they presented themselves, on making a good first impression, on appearance, on selling themselves well all the time.
They then transformed themselves into personae, performers, sales men and women and became fascinated with movie stars.
2. The Introverted temperament
Extroversion and introversion are extreme temperaments that are said to be inherited.
Most people exhibit behaviors along that spectrum depending on the circumstances: no one is fully an introvert or an extrovert all the time.
The most common misconception about these temperaments is that introverts are antisocial and extroverts are pro social.
The reality is that introverts are quickly overly stimulated, the said stimulation is exhausting and that they need downtime to recharge from socializing.
Furthermore, introverts are creative, tend to work alone, to value solitude because “solitude can be a catalyst to innovation“; it is vital to their creativity and allows them to deliberately practice.
At their core, introverts observe society rather than participate in society because participating requires too much mental multitasking.
In addition, they:
- are highly reactive,
- are listeners more than talkers,
- ask questions like “What if?”,
- rather quality over quantity,
- avoid conflict most of the time,
- avoid group activities,
- are non competitive,
- “welcome the chance to communicate digitally”.
Even with opposite temperaments, introverts and extroverts are often drawn to each other and get along.
The Introvert Success
Should they act out of character or stretch themselves in order to be who they want to be? Can introverts succeed without altering themselves?
Most introverts know how to act out of character and fake extroversion to some extent.
Some introverts fake extroversion to survive, to fit in and succeed.
Others have fooled themselves into thinking that they are extroverts, have taken on a role that is expected of them or their job, feel obliged to serve up a persona.
The truth is that introverts can act out of character rather convincingly, should act out of character if it is vital or if they are deeply attached to their objectives but cannot and shouldn’t act out for too long.
Acting out of character for too long can result in burnout and health problems.
To succeed without altering themselves, some introverts focus on core personal projects that are important to them.
To identify their core personal projects, introverts:
- Think about what they wanted to be when they were children.
- Assess the type of work they generally gravitate to.
- Observe the people and things that they envy.
Furthermore, introverts understand that certain social situations can be intimidating.
Therefore, in order to remain calm and confident, they adopt the same behavior and facial expression as if you were calm and confident.
They also take regular breaks alone where they need to restore, recharge and be themselves.
Introverts may have to cut an agreement with themselves: they socialize and act out of character as much as they want to or as much as they are comfortable to just as long as they take the time to recharge.
In Quiet : The Power Of Introverts In A World That Cant Stop Talking, in an almost autobiographic writing style, Susan Cain puts a positive spin on the term “quiet”, reflects on the place of introversion in the American society and seeks to understand the Extrovert Ideal.
Susan Cain objectively describes her personal experience as an introvert and adopts a scientific approach to depicting the difference between introversion and extroversion.
In The American and Western society, there is an obsession and an urge to develop an extroverted personality.
Indeed, leadership is often equated to hyperextroversion and most of our institutions are organized to favor extroversion, value open spaces, transparency, team-work, and competition to the detriment of quiet leadership, creativity, solitude, alone time, introversion are not well seen
So throughout her research and her journey of self-discovery, Susan Cain goes through her own experience, childhood memories to find explanation and insights into her introversion and answers the following questions: Should introverts alter themselves to succeed? To what degree should they stretch themselves?
The answer lies somewhere between you can act out but you shouldn’t act out for too long.
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Yet today we make room for a remarkably narrow range of personality styles. We’re told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable. We see ourselves as a nation of extroverts—which means that we’ve lost sight of who we really are.
We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal—the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risktaking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong. […] We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual—the kind who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.” […]
Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.
‘Here everyone knows that it’s important to be an extrovert and troublesome to be an introvert. So people work real hard at looking like extroverts, whether that’s comfortable or not. It’s like making sure you drink the same single-malt scotch the CEO drinks and that you work out at the right health club.’
They welcome the chance to communicate digitally. The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world.
introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly
many people, especially those in leadership roles, engage in a certain level of pretend-extroversion.
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