It can feel like the business world isn’t cut out for the quiet or the introspective. Growing up, we are often taught that if we want to succeed in life, we have to know what to say fast or face bullies, misunderstandings, and fading into the background. After all, the squeaky wheel gets the grease and the loudest, most boastful people get the promotion. But introversion is not a personal failure; it is in fact the opposite! Here are four super-powered traits of introverts that all businesses need to succeed:
Introverts know when to stop talking. In fact, they spend a great deal of their day just listening to others. Dr. Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power: Why Your Hidden Life is Your Hidden Strength, says that extroverted people process information interactively. Therefore, extroverted people will often jump into conversations before fully processing what the other person has said.
Conversely, introverted people process information internally. Therefore, introverted people often won’t speak until they have fully processed what the other person has said. This quiet power allows introverts to listen to, understand, and provide valuable insight to a conversation.
Not only are introverts skilled listeners, but their power of internal processing also provides incredible thinking skills. Susan Cain writes in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking, “There’s a word for ‘people who are in their heads too much’: thinkers.” While risk-taking is often praised in the business choices of rich white men, an under-discussed but just as important (if not more so) skill is taking the time to think through important work and life decisions.
Naturally less talkative and more reflective, introverts can think through problems and arrive at sound conclusions. In a 2022 Iranian study, researchers asked a group of language translation students to describe their thought processes as they worked.
The study’s goal was to examine differences in problem-solving strategies between introverts and extroverts — and it ultimately found that the introverted students were more successful because they more carefully read the material and took time to weigh multiple options for the best translation.
Having established that introverts are great listeners and thinkers, which together can provide a basis of fantastic creative ideas, we also know that the introverted mind thrives in solitude. And solitude, Cain says, is the catalyst for innovation. While team work has its place, often the best ideas are created through concentrated time alone, which can make extroverted types uncomfortable.
In his memoir, iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It, Steve Wozniak writes, “Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me—they’re shy and they live in their heads. [. . .] I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee.” Introverts on their own will often strive for new and interesting ideas, not settle for ideas that please the group.
Introverts have a tendency to think more and speak less than their counterparts. In business, we are often told that’s a bad thing. But it can be easy to tune out the person who is always loud or always talking. When the person who rarely speaks opens their mouth? People listen. As Susan Cain said, “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” Introversion is not a bad thing; in fact, it can be the super power that leads you to where you want to be.