Do you prefer connecting with friends one-on-one rather than meeting a room full of new people? Do you work best in a quiet corner at work, away from the rest of the open-plan office? Do you like being alone? You may be an introvert…and it may be one of your greatest assets.
Research from The Quiet Institute in partnership with Scott Barry Kaufman of the University of Pennsylvania describes introversion (and extroversion) through the facets of stimulation (a preference for either calm or exciting environments) and deliberation (a preference for deliberation versus action).
If you’re an introvert like me, it may seem like those who thrive on action and exciting environments have the upper hand—they seem to lead with ease, they take risks, they charm strangers.
“Introversion, along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology,” author Susan Cain writes in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Extroverts are seen as smarter, more interesting, and more competent…even though there’s no actual link between talking a lot and having good ideas. In fact, some of our greatest thinkers were introverts, Cain says, naming Rosa Parks, Al Gore and Eleanor Roosevelt.
How can you harness the power of your own introversion? Acknowledge it, to start. Introversion comes with some major perks in relationships, at work and even when it comes to health—keep reading to find out how it benefits you. (Plus, learn how to nurture your introversion with these seven ways to thrive as an introvert.)
Introverts learn more.
If you find comfort in solitude, you may find that you pick up a new skill faster than your extroverted friends. Research has found that college students who study alone learn more over time than those who work in groups, Cain writes in Quiet. And of course, elite athletes, musicians and artists spend plenty of time alone, practicing and perfecting their craft.
Introverts are great confidants.
It’s not that introverts don’t like talking…they’re just not fans of small talk. “Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people,” psychologist Laurie Helgoe, PhD writes in her book, Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength. “We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.” Introverts prefer meaningful conversation, and they also tend to be more empathetic than extroverts—an endearing combination that encourages real connections over superficial ones.
Introverts are better at delaying gratification.
Whether you’re saying no to dessert or powering through a project before allowing yourself a Netflix binge, you’re likely better at it than the average extrovert. Studies show that introverts are better at delaying gratification, a skill that’s associated with everything from higher income to lower body mass index.
Introverts are actually great leaders.
The loudest person in the room isn’t necessarily the most talented…and introverts know that. In fact, that’s what makes them such good leaders. Management researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that, while extroverts command attention, introverts are less likely to spend time or energy asserting their authority and more likely to spend time listening instead of talking. And while extroverts are better at leading employees who aren’t proactive, introverts are great at leading employees who are.
Introverts pay attention to detail.
Guess who’s not going to be signing an email to the boss with “Beast” instead of “Best” anytime soon? You! Well, as long as you’re an introvert. Recent research has found that those who easily spot typos and grammatical errors are more likely to be introverts.
Introverts are masters of disguise.
Best of all? Introverts can masquerade as extroverts when necessary, if you believe the Free Trait Theory (the idea that while we’re born with certain personality traits, we can act out of character in the service of “core personal projects”). We can take risks at work when we need to. We can put together a surprise party for our outgoing best friend. We can head up a committee for a cause that’s important to us. And we get all the benefits of introversion every step of the way.