BY: DANIEL WATERBORNE
During the 20th century, introverts were social oddities that would hopefully be cured of their awkwardness by team sports or summer camp, or else inside the alcohol-sticky drywall of college frat parties. The 20th century was the age of the extrovert, led by the silver tongues of business moguls, salesman and politicians. For two centuries Americans had been migrating from wide-open spaces to urban centres, this shift to shoulder-scraping proximity leading to an equal shift in social values. Modern life, including classrooms and workplaces became designed around constant social interaction. Those who excelled at it became leaders. But as author Susan Cain puts it, “there is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
Harvard researchers, Francesca Dino and Dave Hoffman, discovered that when workers were passive, inside a top-down business model, companies led by extroverts achieved 16 per cent higher profits. But in business models where workers needed to be proactive and encourage innovation, extrovert leaders produced 14 per cent less profits than introverts. As the technological revolution continues to gain speed and change how we work and learn, this is important to note.
According to Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, extroverts and introverts have significantly different reward centres. Extroverts are drawn to tangible rewards. Six-figure salaries. Corner Offices. Sex. Ten course meals. Prestige. By contrast, introverts are motivated by abstract rewards, such as the feeling of transcendence or the will to create change. While extroverts prefer to push the boundaries of the external world, introverts prefer to explore the fences of their own minds. This does not mean that introverts are cataleptic creatures without temptation—but rather that they do not measure their worth by their Tinder matches or their bank balance.
The split between introverts and extroverts (or extraverts) can be traced back to the father of analytical psychology, Carl Jung. But what is commonly thought of today as a binary is more of a continuum. If you were exclusively one or the other, you would not be a human. You would be a monster. The main problem is that Western society has stigmatized one while aggressively idealizing the other. Introversion became synonymous with self-induced loneliness. And while the cultural belief that being alone is the same as being lonely has only been strengthened by an appetite for technology that brings strangers into the stall with us while we shit, it should be understood that introverts do not crave isolation. Introverts crave solitude. The difference between the two is the vast gap between circumstance and choice.
Author Anais Nin writes, “Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a centre. So we lost our centre and we have to find it again.”
According to Jung, while extroverts often exhibit a charisma that makes them appealing to follow on the surface, they may have characteristics that will hinder innovation in the long run. Extroverts are more likely to lack in self-criticism and humility, and to accept conventional ideas as absolute truth. Extroverts often ascribe negative meaning to alone time and are dependent upon the acceptance of others. Their drive for acceptance and attention can stifle the participation of other members of the team and miss out on critical ideas for growth. While extroverts excel at talking, introverts excel at listening.
Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Wozniak, Abraham Lincoln. These leaders did not use their charisma to inspire followers; they used their humility to liberate the ideas of other team members. As we now face technological, social and environmental problems of staggering complexity, the difference in perspective makes all the difference.