America likes to champion the diversity of its citizens and their freedom. Children are taught in classrooms whose walls bear posters with slogans like “Be Yourself,” and the internet is dotted with inspirational quotes promoting individuality and respect for self-identity. Despite this positive encouragement, America remains biased against a certain type of person. These people are by nature reluctant to speak out against their discrimination and push for altered social standards that would accept them. These people are estimated to comprise one third to half of the U.S. population—however unlikely that may seem.
These people are called introverts.
Introverts are individuals who prefer solitude to socializing in large groups of people. They are “recharged” by being alone and feel drained after prolonged periods of social activity. A common misconception is that introverts are unable to socialize or suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder, a psychological condition in which social situations cause a person extreme worry and discomfort. On the contrary, introverts are well equipped to converse and engage in social gatherings, though they still require a measure of seclusion.
The other end of the spectrum is occupied by extroverts, or people who seek social activity and feel energized by being around people—similarly to how introverts feel about solitude. In addition, there are people who occupy the middle space called ambiverts and share characteristics of both extroverts and introverts.
Susan Cain, author of , brought attention to this issue in her book and popular Historically, the qualities of introverts were highly valued in an age when propriety and moral standards were the status quo. However, in the 1950s, a new breed of ideal American was born—the smiling salesman, ready with a witty line and a winning ability to charm anyone simply through conversation. Schools such as Dale Carnegie’s institution arose to teach people the important skill of public speaking. America converted to a society that prized extroverted, outgoing individuals over their reticent counterparts. This bias remains today, and America still regards this lively stereotype as exemplary. There is a stigma against “loners” and an air of admiration surrounding highly social people.
These ideas have infiltrated workplaces and schools, which adopted the idea that creativity springs from a group setting and collaboration is the sole source of innovation. Teachers believe the ideal student verbally participates and works well with others, whereas those who prefer to complete tasks alone are singled out and even described as problem cases. Due to this bias, introverts often feel pressured to be more social than they are comfortable with and act against their nature to fit in. According to a study done by the Georgia Institute of Technology, introverts, on average, perform better in school than extroverts, effectively negating the bias. Leadership—an increasingly emphasized need for businesses and the job industry—calls for a stereotypical extrovert, though introverts prove to be equally successful. A found that introverts provide better outcomes when overseeing proactive employees because they do not get in the way of work, while an extrovert may unconsciously impede progress by being overbearing.
Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and Eleanor Roosevelt were all introverts that demonstrated leadership skills in the public limelight. Many Asian countries value their taciturn citizens as highly as those who are gregarious and display a success on par with America’s. Introverts are very capable.The belief that quiet individuals who like to work independently and with little stimulation are less powerful than an outgoing leader simply bears no validity.
I grew up with teachers telling me that I was intelligent but that I needed to participate more, and alongside classmates who scorned my aversion to the kind of boisterous shouting in which they engaged. I was ashamed that I was unable to fill the expectation for constant socialization. Like many introverts, I carried around the idea that something was wrong with me because I liked being alone. I know now that there was nothing wrong with me, but what concerns me is that there are other children growing up now who would rather read a book than go to a birthday party—and are embarrassed because of it. America’s extroverted bias disadvantages our society, and the mentality surrounding this issue must be shifted in order to allow introverts actualize their full potential as members of it.
The American bias against introverts and preference for extroverts needs to end, not only because it is unfounded but also because it excludes a key part of the population that can offer a useful skillset. A preference for solitude is not something that should be looked down upon, and a lack of exuberance does not lessen the success of a student or worker. Introverts deserve to be viewed as equally valuable as extroverts;anything less is detrimental to American society.
Camille Wilder is a Trinity first-year. Her column runs on alternate Thursdays.
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