The rise of “extrovert mentality as supreme” came during the 20th century. Before urban areas become such a force, people had to rely more on their character than their charisma. People in their more rural community knew them more deeply. With the move to cities, deep relationships in smaller communities grew less and less. Each person had to “prove themselves” and their character in short spurts with quick interactions among lots of different people. This gave rise to self-promotion which exists still today in force, especially seen in social media.
The importance of image replaced identity. Where once people were identified with this family or that, they were now, removed from their families and placed in a position of trying to project an image of who they were. This had to happen in a matter of moments or with first impressions.
Character also took a backseat when charisma (personality) became the driving force for success. Though character is more important, it’s not as easily seen, known or measured.
When character and identity were replaced with charisma and image, being an extrovert became synonymous with success.
At the turn of the century, no longer could a person just attend school, they had to prove they had a “well-rounded life”, involved in lots of extracurricular activities, and basically can excel with and around people. Yale and Harvard changed their admitting policies and most all the students were the same temperament – always in groups, always talking, etc.
One common personality trait for those who are up front, on stage, is that often, they lean more toward the introverted side. One would think it’s the extroverted, energetic person who would want to be up front. Though that can happen too, my experience is the opposite.
I find myself in front of larger groups speaking and singing on a regular basis. I’m most often pretty comfortable in that position. But when I’m just part of a group, I’m typically pretty quiet. However, I do tend to process what I’m thinking about while talking it out in one on one conversations and smaller groups.
The times I have taken Meyers Briggs tests in my adult life, I have leaned heavily toward the extroverted side. In the last few years, however, I’m inching more toward the middle, still at E (extroverted) but more toward the center and closer to I (introverted).
When I ran across the book Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, I decided to read it on behalf of my kids, who are both pretty reserved in public, for which I’m grateful.
There were a couple concepts that amazed me:
“Don’t overlook the quiet folks on your team – they will think more deeply and more thoroughly about a subject.”
“Introverts may not push their contribution, but they will have golden wisdom when discovered.”
“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” “Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.”
In some ways, this book convicted me because I have, too, often equated extrovert personality with successful and thriving people. Too often, natural introverts are taught from an early age to be more extroverted. Too often, parents, employers, and teachers try to change the person instead of embracing the potential of having an introverted personality in their lives. As Susan Cain says in the book, “everyone can shine, given the right light.”
I’m thankful for the thinkers, the questions, and the thoughtfulness. I praise the Lord for the many different personalities. I’m also thankful for the perspective from the thoughts in this book.
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