According to Psychology Today, researchers estimate extroverts make up 50%-74% of the population. On the other spectrum, 16%-50% of the population is made up of introverts.
The words introvert and extrovert were first introduced to society by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. Jung described introversion and extroversion as different ways we respond to the outside world. He described introverts as those who prefer small groups rather than large ones. He also stated introverts tend to enjoy quiet activities such as reading, writing, and thinking.
While people can be more introverted or more extroverted, most fall somewhere in the middle.
If you have not read Susan Cain’s bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, you may want to take the well-worth time. In her book, Cain explains, “At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones, who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.”
Cain also defines introverts as, “those who have a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment. Introverts tend to enjoy quiet concentration, listen more than they talk, and think before they speak, and have a more prudent and cautious approach to risk. Introverts think more, are less reckless and focus on what matters—relationships and meaningful work.”
Notice Introverts When They Are Young
The fascination among the differences between extroverts and introverts, how they communicate, and what they need is one of the most compelling topics I’ve read about over the past decade. Although we have some control over our private lifestyles, we have yet to see landmark changes in the workforce and within the education system that address the needs of an introvert to perform at his or her best ability.
In a competitive world where entrepreneurship is growing, we can support extroverts and introverts together. Providing balance among the different personalities can help bring forth the best possible resources, increase levels of compassion, and create the most tangible outcomes.
In the classroom or the boardroom, introverts can go unnoticed-especially when the most talkative leader or popular student runs the show.
Naturally, this begs to ask the question: Is the most vocal person the one with the best ideas or does he or she talk a lot?
How Teachers And Parents Can Help
During my time in education, I’ve heard many parents voice strong concerns about their quiet children. What many people don’t realize is that there are significant differences between a shy and introverted person. The definition of shy is the following: being reserved, showing nervousness, or timidity in the company of other people. Introverts do not fit the definition of shy. Shy children have social fears and anxiety, while introverts prefer to work in environments with less stimulation. Young introverts flourish when they are let alone to think, write, build and innovate.
Given the role of education and its close connection to entrepreneurship and the corporate world, schools often give praise and attention to extroverts. Most education systems still encourage quiet children to participate more in class through cooperative engagement.
Although learning how to work together is an essential skill, it can’t justify forcing youth to work in ways that are detrimental to their learning style. Forcing students to work in ways they find overwhelming can inhibit personal growth, development, and can also lead to many missed opportunities and potential innovations.
Unfortunately, at no fault of their own, most teachers are not trained to notice or understand personality differences. Most education systems still judge students based on social skills, test scores, class participation, and collaboration. And, we still tend to recognize extroverts as the next top leaders given their outspoken nature, sense of confidence, and comfort interacting with large groups.
Teacher training is similar to influential groupthink. As a society, we tend to solely focus on design thinking, group work, meetings, and project collaboration. As the boardroom is parallel to classroom design, it can unfairly favor extroverts.
The National Education Association emphasizes communication as an essential skill all students need to succeed in the 21st-century. And, although communication is critical, we should never make kids talk solely for the sake of talking.
Given these current ideals, we must support and advocate change for the quiet students who bring life-changing ideas to the table. We can make this change through awareness, shifting our mindset, and moving away from biased assumptions.
Myths About Introverts
Introverts are shy: An introvert is not shy or timid. There is a difference between being shy children and kids who are true introverts. Shy people usually stay away from different social situations due to anxiety or feelings of rejection. Introverts are not afraid of social events or people. They need a valid reason to engage in conversation.
Introverts don’t talk: They love talking about ideas that hold their interest. They also enjoy conversations with those who have similar interests. In large groups, they tend to listen more than talk. They can also spend time thinking about what to say before they share their insight. They tend to stay away from loud conversations based on an impulsive reaction. They take time to evaluate, construct and share their opinions.
Introverts believe they are above others: An introvert may appear this way, but this is not true. However, most likely they are taking in and digesting more information. They don’t tend to view themselves above others.
An introvert can overthink: Introverts are known to think a great deal. There is a difference between obsessive thoughts and thinking deeply with self-reflection. Introverts enjoy their own ideas and do not require a great deal of stimulation to confirm their emotions, thoughts or conclusions.
Introverts don’t enjoy being around people: They enjoy being around people. However, they may limit their time with others because they physically tolerate less than extroverts. Spending more than two hours at a loud social event can be exhausting for an introvert, while an entire night out with friends may not be enough for an extrovert to feel at his or her best.
Introverts don’t like to go out in public or attend social events: Yes, they do. However, they like to spend their time solving problems, reading books, and working on different projects. They are content with their thoughts and ideas. They thrive on discovery, research, the arts, and writing. Introverts can quickly judge situations, and usually, don’t feel the desire or have the energy to socialize for hours on end.
Introverts are odd or different: They don’t follow the crowd. Introverts follow their own paths based on their personal decisions. They are their own leaders, which doesn’t make them unusual.
Introverts can be tedious: They may not be that exciting to an extrovert, as their needs are significantly different. However, they are passionate, practical, and usually come in with fresh ideas, projects, and new developments within their busy minds.
Introverts are socially awkward: They are not socially awkward or afraid. They need less social interaction and more individual based time alone to grow and nourish their soul. They do not feel comfortable around many people or in noisy situations.
Introverts should change to fit the expectations of our society: They should never change, nor can they change physically. Many of our greatest leaders and inventors are introverts. We should embrace their uniqueness and leave them to flourish. We should welcome their talents, respect their needs, and let them grow into who they are intended to be.
Things you can do as a parent or educator to support young, introverted entrepreneurs:
- Provide opportunities for students to learn and share in their own ways.
- Do not force group work. Let introverted students choose their best path for optimal performance.
- Give all students a place to respect each other and demonstrate that it’s okay to be on the quiet side or communicate often-there is no wrong way.
- Realize that every student will not be a social butterfly, and that’s okay too.
Don’t force students to be a ‘people person’ or refer to them as socially challenged. There is nothing socially, emotionally, or developmentally wrong with an introverted student.
- Celebrate the differences in behaviors within your class.
- Give introverts and extroverts the space and time to grow.
Respect your students or child’s different characteristic traits, listen to them, and guide appropriately. Don’t try and change an introvert, as this comes with great consequence. See your young, quiet entrepreneurs for who they are and the potential they can bring to the world.
The “Why” About Introverts And Entrepreneurship
It is critical to understand the nature of introverts at a young age. If we accommodate young introverts with the right tools, compassion, and a comfortable environment-their odds of changing the world through innovation and entrepreneurship can grow and thrive. If we don’t make changes early to accommodate the great thinkers of the next generation, we may lose out on some of the best inventors, scientists, poets, writers, and innovators of our time.
If you are not sure where your personality lands on the spectrum, you can take this quick personality test to discover your traits. To learn more about personality types, you can watch Susan Cain’s Famous Ted Talk, The Power of Introverts.
Editor’s Note: This Article originally appeared on Forbes and is featured here with Author permission.