Carl Jung may have popularized the term introversion—which suggests a person who gains energy from reflection and loses energy in social gatherings—but over the years, the concept has warped a bit. One of the many common misconceptions about introverts is that they’re loners who never want to talk to anyone. A cheat sheet: Introverts usually prefer to be alone or in small groups, they think—a lot—before they speak, and just because they’re being quiet doesn’t mean something is wrong. (But warning, this might not apply to all introverts. Like extroverts, introverts are come in all shapes, sizes and levels of interest in socializing.) In fact, extroverts (and ambiverts) can learn a lot from the observant, self-reflective introvert. Case in point: these five lessons.
5 Things Everyone Can Learn from Introverts
1. To Listen More Than You Speak
Many extroverts are incessantly chatty. You know what you can’t do when you’re constantly talking? Listen very well. Introverts, on the other hand, listen more than they speak. To those around them, introverts are loyal and dependable people; the friend who can keep a secret as well as they can keep a promise, often making them a go-to confidant in their circle. If you’re an outspoken person who’s ever put your foot in your mouth by blurting something out you shouldn’t have, the introvert’s ability to listen is something to mimic. Plus, honing this skill also teaches you to think before you speak. Here are some tips for being a better listener from journalist Kate Murphy, the author You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters.
2. To Be an Expert Observer
Say you’re at a party. You’re chatting up everyone you see when you notice your introvert friend chilling by the bar. As an extrovert, you might think, “Oh my gosh, that’s kind of sad, they have no one to talk to.” First of all, introverts can talk to others, they just sometimes choose not to. As for what they’re doing while standing alone? They’re most likely observing. An introvert’s observational skills are second to none, meaning not much gets by them, and they’re often the first to notice something.
3. To Be Comfortable Spending Time Alone
For many extroverts, the thought of spending a day—or even a few hours—alone is torture. But here’s the thing: There may come a time when you have to be alone for a little bit. Let’s say you’re flying home from a work trip and you’re in an unfamiliar city. Your flight gets cancelled, so you have the whole night to yourself. If you’re uncomfortable spending time alone, you might just hole up in your hotel room. If you’re OK with flying solo for a little, this can be an opportunity to explore a new place and actually enjoy your own company. Because they’re comfortable being alone, introverts are also often very independent and self-sufficient, not needing anyone else’s company to feel fulfilled (but appreciating said company in the right situation).
4. To Know How to Say ‘No’
Introverts know that it’s OK to prioritize your own time and sanity by turning down a request. An important part of self-care is knowing your own boundaries and respecting them. If you’re an extrovert who’s constantly saying yes, not only might your work suffer but you could also end up resenting the people asking for your help. Self-preservation is key. According to a paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research, saying no to everything from daily distractions to after-work plans can help you achieve goals faster and grant yourself the space and recovery time you need. Still, it can be uncomfortable to turn someone down—especially if you have people pleaser tendencies. Here are five tips for saying “no,” because it’s normal—and important—to do so sometimes.
5. To Be in Touch with Your Feelings
Because introverts value their alone time so much, they’re often highly adept at introspection. Introverts spend a lot of time with their own thoughts, making them incredibly self-aware and knowledgeable about their wants and needs. Sometimes, extroverts are so pedal-to-the-metal that they forget to check in on themselves. If you’re an extrovert, try to use your alone time (however scarce it may be) to look inward and make sure your needs are being met and you’re in a good place.