The Power of Introverts

by Rebecca on January 7, 2013

I recently finished reading Quiet-The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  Susan Cain, the author, is a self-described introvert who used to be a corporate attorney before ultimately embracing the career she really wanted as a writer.

Check out her fantastic TED talk that has been viewed by almost 3.5 million people.

“Quiet” is very affirming to introverts while also being insightful to extroverts like myself.  Here are a few of my favorite takeaways:

First, introversion and extroversion are not related to “shyness” but are instead related to how you respond to external stimulation.  Introverts feel most alive and most capable were they are in quieter, more low-key environments.  In the United States, one third to one half of the population is introverts.  I would venture to guess that number is even higher in veterinary medicine.  I would bet the number of people working in animal hospitals who fall on the more introverted side of the spectrum would be around 60-70%.

Unfortunately for introverts, our society is evolving in a way that is not as conducive to them and may actually be detrimental.  Think about the way our schools are set up with desks arranged in groups, and students are often asked to solve problems in groups versus individually.  Many teachers believe the extroverted student is the ideal student; even though studies have shown introverted students actually get better grades and are more knowledgeable.

In our animal hospitals, I think about all the chaos (which is a bit inevitable,) but also the open spaces including offices where everyone is constantly “on top of each other.” I know a lot of animal hospitals that embrace the “team approach,” but who is on the team changes daily- this alone can create a lot of internal stress for introverts.

Introverts are often overlooked when it comes to filling leadership positions, yet numerous studies indicate that they are often better leaders than people who we typically assume would be best in leadership roles.  Introverts naturally take more time to think through challenges, and they have no issue sharing the spotlight with others.

As an extrovert, not only did I learn a lot about introverts, but I also learned some things about myself that have enabled me to make some changes in my own life.

If you fall on the extroverted side of the spectrum, there are some powerful things that may come naturally to introverts but not to us:

  • We need to train ourselves to spend energy on what’s truly meaningful for us instead of what we think the “world” may want us to do.
  • We need to train ourselves to pause and reflect when warning signs appear that things aren’t working as well as we thought they would.
  • We need to learn from our mistakes.
  • We need to seek out counterparts who can help rein us in and compensate for our blind spots.
  • Lastly, it is not that being introverted or extroverted is better.  They are just different.  Ideally your animal hospital needs to have both introverts and extroverts.  Understanding how others “perform best” allows you to embrace each other’s differences and capitalize on your individual strengths to create a great workplace for everyone in your hospital.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?  What about your team members?

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