Isn't this world made for introverts?

A plea for the introverts in a noisy world: listen to the quiet!

After a year of working from home and meeting only selected people, the ceiling is slowly falling on some of them. But not all of them. Retirement is not equally difficult for everyone. Survival guides such as "How to survive as an extrovert without social contact" are trending on the Internet; the German women's magazine Brigitte headlined "Now is the time for the introvert!".

Is it like this? Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert should actually make a difference when it comes to how you cope with periods of social distance. While extroverted people need a lot of social contact for their happiness, introverts need few external stimuli. They regenerate when they are alone.

Even so, a lockdown is not automatically a paradisiacal phase for introverts. Isolation, after all, is just a problem that the pandemic brings with it. In addition, there are no purely introverts or extraverts, the degree of expression often depends on the situation and mood. Many have characteristics on both sides: For example, they are very sociable in their private lives and withdraw to reflect. Others are not fans of networking, but like to team up with others to solve a problem.

Extraverts as an ideal

Nevertheless, it is now clear that our society is more made for extraverts. The American author Susan Cain writes in her book Quiet (Goldmann, 2013) that the "ideal of extraversion" prevails in the western world - many of the most important institutions are tailored to extravert people. In schools, universities and in the workplace, teamwork and joint brainstorming are the focus. Most of the time, those who are sociable and willing to take risks, who advertise their skills, succeed. Pop stars, influencers - showing and expressing oneself aggressively is an indicator of success.

The sociologist Laura Wiesböck describes introversion in her book In better company (Kremayr & Scheriau, 2018) even as a category of social inequality that is not addressed enough in public discourse. The introvert would help. Many suffer from not meeting the required norm. Cain writes that introversion is considered a "second class personality trait". Introverts would be disliked because of a characteristic that defines them in their innermost being. In addition, they are required to function in an extraverted world. For many of them, it is a lifelong task to adapt and, for example, practice public speaking or force yourself to socialize at professional events. Well-intentioned advice to step outside of yourself or to be louder often leads to feelings of guilt or inferiority.

Introverts in front of the curtain

Introverts have strengths that are worth listening to. Your inward awareness ensures that you can listen well, think before speaking, and concentrate well. They prefer to work alone and independently, which leads to more creative and productive results. These benefits become more visible through pandemic-induced working methods. Introverts can play to their strengths in home office and distance learning, without any social regulations or constraints.

At the same time, extraverts find themselves in a world where it is beneficial to be able to do something with yourself. And some of them even enjoy being able to reflect a little more and having to solve problems on their own. Who knows, one or the other introvert may long for more social contact after such a long isolation. Perhaps the crisis is moving us away from the extremes on the scale and ensuring that we find a better balance between introversion and extraversion in our society. At least let it teach us to value one another. And we can certainly do without group work in the future. (Davina Brunnbauer, February 13th, 2021)