In an extroverted society that feeds off outspoken, attention-seeking personalities who argue about pretty much everything, introverts have a tendency to get lost in the noise. The extroversion-introversion dichotomy seeks to explain differences in personality in a linear way: Traditional extroversion is typically characterized by outgoing, energetic behavior, while traditional introversion tends to learn more toward reserved, solitary behavior. But even if introverts aren’t as vocal about Donald Trump’s latest tweet or the fight for gun control, these quiet observers actually have their own set of strengths. Here are four benefits of being an introvert:
They're more observant.
According to a recent study by Yale psychologists, introverts prone to melancholy make the best amateur social psychologists. In other words, introverts are believed to judge the world more accurately than their more sociable peers. “It’s the idea of ‘sadder but wiser,’” says Anton Gollwitzer, third year graduate student and co-author of the study. “It could be that the melancholic, introverted people are spending more time observing human nature than those who are busy interacting with others, or they are more accurate at introspection because they have fewer motivational biases.” While these types of introverts can’t replace actual psychologists, Gollwitzer hypothesizes that they could play a role in predicting and interpreting social changes in our society.
They're more creative.
While introverts tend to be more observant, this surveillance process is far from passive. This type of observation often lends itself to people creatively expressing their inner thoughts through writing and painting, for example. “Highly creative people in the arts and sciences need to reflect, to think, to create, which is typically done alone,” explains Gregory Feist, associate professor of psychology in personality and adult development at San Jose State University. “[Introverts] are not bothered by being alone, in fact, they actually seek it out.” This natural inclination toward solitude allows for necessary self-reflection and observation used to fuel creativity. Jonathan Cheek, professor of personality psychology at Wellesley College, refers to this element of introversion as a “rich inner life.” Basically, it’s the cultivation of inner thoughts and ideas to create meaning and purpose, often leading to imaginative tendencies, recurrent daydreaming, and a heightened appreciation of the arts.
They're more self-aware.
Introverts are more likely to have a strong sense of introspective self-awareness, Cheek says. “Introverts are temperamentally defined to pause to reflect,” he adds. “If they can do that in a productive way, then that’s not only a personal characteristic but it can function as a strength, gift, or contribution to a given context.” People who pause and reflect are less likely to make impulsive decisions, like sending that regrettable “you up?” text at 3 am. Self-awareness also leads to more time spent thinking about the trajectory of personal decisions and what changes can be made to alter your persona for the better. Gollwitzer speculates that the self-reflective element lends itself to watching others, rather than interacting with them. It’s this introspection that allows introverts to more accurately determine how they’d feel in specific situations and, by projecting that idea onto others, explain specific social behaviors without actually participating.
They're more independent.
In our hyper-connected society, many find it hard to be alone. In fact, a quarter of the women and two-thirds of the men in a 2014 study chose to subject themselves to electric shocks rather than spend time alone with their thoughts. But for introverts, solitude is pleasurable. While our society tends to associate extroversion with happiness, this doesn’t mean introverts are less happy than more sociable people. “Introverts have their own pleasures,” Cheek explains. “There are people who are much happier on a particular evening staying at home to read a book, or draw, or maybe just stream their favorite show by themselves. Those aren’t unhappy things.” Feist explains that, for many introverts, this personal time away from chatty co-workers and your drama queen of a best friend can lead to independence from social pressures, as well as periods of better productivity. And sometimes being productive means binge-watching a season of The Office for the fourth time.
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