Putting Introverts In A Box

Putting Introverts In A Box

Since I’ve been writing about being an introvert here on my blog, I’ve received lots of comments and questions.  The introverts quickly speak up to say that they relate to the things I write about.  The extroverts speak up even quicker to criticize and try to move the spotlight back on them…which is where they’re used to it being.  🙂

The support has been amazing and I’m glad that the things I’m writing about are resonating with everyone.  But, what is also happening is that I’m getting a lot of questions about introversion.  From introverts, it tends to be questions comparing their experiences and preferences to my own.  From extroverts, it is often questions about why introverts do this or do that.  What I’ve noticed is that both groups are putting this box around introverts that restricts us from being fully who we are.

Here’s what I mean.  The other day, I was talking to a fellow introvert and she asked me about small talk.  She asked if I hated small talk, since I’m an introvert.  I replied that small talk is fine with me (depending on the person, of course).  She went on to say that, as an introvert, she has noticed that small talk is something that she really doesn’t prefer.  You see what’s going on there?  Although she and I are both introverts, we are both unique individuals.

Just like we must do with any other label that we give people, we must be careful not to over-generalize and stereotype.  We are all uniquely wired and made by our Creator.  And, because of that, there are no two introverts who are exactly alike.  And, remember, as Susan Cain so eloquently put in her book Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking – introversion does not equal shyness.  That is the most common stereotype that is placed on introverts.

There are some dangers that come with putting anyone in a box, including introverts.  Here are a few:

  1. It diminishes our uniqueness.  The fact that we are created differently brings with it great things.  We are able to be us, freely.  Our quirks, our preferences, our emotions, and our behaviors.  We can be who we are without fear of criticism or judgement.  But, the moment we’re placed in a box, it tells us that we are exactly like John or Paul or Steve.  The problem is that we’re not.  We’re not like any other introvert.  There may be similarities and commonalities – but we must be free to be the introvert that God created us to be.
  2. It causes misunderstandings.  When introverts are placed in a box, the way that we react to certain situations can immediately be chalked up to our introversion.  The problem is that our reactions or habits or preferences may have nothing to do with introversion.  We may be quiet because someone in our family just died and if our quietness is simply attributed to introversion, an opportunity is lost to fully understand us, for example.
  3. It confines us to predictability.  I’ve fallen victim plenty of times to people being surprised when I do something that is outside of the expectation for an introvert.  The problem is that when people are being chosen for roles and responsibility, it could be easy to pass over an introvert simply because their an introvert because you believe they can’t do the particular job.  “We need someone to present this report to the committee?  Let’s let Sally do it since she’s a talker, an extrovert.”
  4. It perpetuates negative impressions.  There are things that I don’t like about being an introvert.  I wish that I was more energized by being around people.  But, the boxes that are placed around introverts causes negative impressions of introverts to be perpetuated.  The problem is that those impressions may not be true of every introvert.  “All introverts are shy” is not true.  “Introverts don’t like to speak in front of a crowd.” Not true either.  But, when we allow boxes, stereotypes, and generalizations to exist – introverts are faced with a no-win proposition because it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not if you believe it to be true about “all” introverts.

Are you guilty of any of these?  What ways do you see these 4 things play out in your life?  Comment below…

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One thought on “Putting Introverts In A Box

  1. “Please don’t put me in the ‘Introvert’ box,” she pleaded. “In fact, couldn’t we just get rid of the box?”

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