Are You Secretly An Introvert?

04/12/2014 10:45 am ET | Updated Apr 17, 2014

By Laurie Helgoe, PhD

1. You're an idea machine.

idea

Despite the passive stereotype so many have of introverts, introverts have a lot going on. Results of neuroimaging studies have found that while the brains of extroverts respond to external stimulation (say, tinkling music) and generate impulses for pursuing external rewards (say, ice cream!), brains of introverts absorb what's outside (say, tinkling music) and get busy with their own imaginings and thoughts (say, the invention of pricey, gourmet frozen-yogurt trucks). This isn't always obvious, because introverts tend to share an idea only when it's fully formed. But fully formed ideas often rock the world. Think of Bill Gates, a think-first-act-next billionaire and introvert with more than 54 patents to his name.

2. You're a powerfully good leader.

woman in meeting

Forget the idea of an introvert sitting in the corner, unable to relate to others. A seminal study reported by the Harvard Business Review found that, when leading a group of go-go employees, introverted leaders had more productive teams than extroverted leaders. Why? Introverts are better at capitalizing on good ideas -- not just aha! moments from their own minds, but also from the minds of others. Say you're in a boardroom, ideas are flying across the table. While others are talking, you're ruminating on the merits of what's being said and considering the implications. When you do (finally) speak, people look up, because you're able to maintain perspective and deliver, after deliberation, a position that makes you a powerful leader. Think Hillary Rodham Clinton, the self-described introvert known to negotiate with and guide world leaders, who just may be considering (in the most private, silent, introverted fashion) running for president.

3. You belong to a shockingly large group.

friends

This is the paradox of introversion. You may feel alone or different and may even wonder if you are normal. Meanwhile, the introvert next to you is feeling alone or different and wondering if he is normal. In reality, introverts are everywhere. In fact, the largest US representative samples looking at personality type found that introverts slightly outnumber extroverts. And while the introverted masses are not likely to schedule a big town meeting to get to know everybody, understanding that there are others helps introverts behave the way that works best for them. And what works best for introverts -- —digging into ideas, strategizing before acting and leading through listening—provides needed balance in a society often stuck in fast-forward.

Laurie Helgoe, PhD, is a psychologist and the author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.

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