Article by Vivek Jeyapal
Every time there is major oppression of a particular group, someone stands up. When African Americans were oppressed, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up. When Indians were oppressed, Mahatma Gandhi stood up. When women are oppressed, feminists stand up.
But there is a group that has been oppressed for a long time and very few have stood up for them. Maybe that is because the very defining characteristic of the group being oppressed is that they don’t speak up. I am talking about introverts.
“Introvert” is a term that is often misunderstood. Allow me to clarify. Who is an introvert? You know you’re an introvert if you find yourself needing to “recharge your batteries” by relaxing on your own, away from social situations. Your major topics of conversation might include psychology, philosophy, moral values, beliefs, etc. You are very sensitive to everything and everyone around you.
Others find you very intuitive, creative and understanding. You prefer reading books and listening to thought-provoking lectures instead of going out to parties every night. If you’re thinking, “That sounds like me,” Well then you, my friend, are definitely an introvert.
However, it is important to note that nobody is purely an introvert or an extrovert. Think of it as a continuous spectrum with people situated in various places between the two extremes, leaning toward one side more than the other.
Unfortunately, the world we live in seems designed only for extroverts, while introverts are often made to feel like outcasts. Start with school, for example. Gone are the days when getting the best grades made you the cool kid. If you’re thinking, “Dude, getting good grades never made you the cool kid,” you’re probably an extrovert.
Nowadays, schools have countless group activities, projects and competitions. Innocent young children who are barely old enough to know anything about the world or their own identities are made to participate in speech competitions, poem recitals and skits.
Think about the introverted kid who trembles with fear on stage or exhibits his innocent nature by crying in the middle of his speech and running to his mother. We don’t try to understand his character and we don’t guide him to preserve his inner nature.
The words might differ, but the essence of what we teach kids in times like these is always the same: “Don’t worry about this time. Prepare and do better. With enough practice and hard work, you can do anything.” While these words probably have the best intentions behind them, they still fail to address the real problem: forcing extroversion on introverts. Have we ever paused to think about how much damage we might be doing to these kids?
Colleges are even worse. Young adults are surrounded by so many clubs, fests, symposiums and more. Joining all of these clubs and activities translates into a hundred different jobs and positions of responsibility as we proudly mention in our resumes, as if working hard as an undergraduate student for four years is not responsibility enough.
For these competitive jobs that we’re all seeking, “GD” or group discussion is an essential step of the selection process. Importance is given to how effectively you communicate your idea and not how effective the idea is in the first place. There are many situations where the loudest ideas win over the best ideas.
The introvert who might perform excellently in a personal interview will get eliminated in a group interview, simply for not being able to speak up loudly over the competing candidates. Once again, the world reinforces the idea that introverts should wear masks and that their natural character is a weakness, a flaw.
The workplace environment is also of great concern for introverts. So many people are engaged in constantly selling themselves that many have forgotten what it is to just be themselves — to work in their own way, to work without worrying about what others are thinking, to work just because they want to.
With a never-ending list of meetings, where talking during the meeting is sometimes misunderstood as contributing to the discussion, the introverts are in constant struggle with themselves, tearing their inner nature apart. Not to mention the team building activities which are focused on drawing out everybody, especially if you are an introvert who likes to keep to yourself.
I came across the TED talk by Susan Cain called “The Power of Introverts.” I found it inspiring, sensible and comforting. I have borrowed heavily from her content and I am reading her book now. Cain has also started a movement called the “Quiet Revolution” with the tagline, “The revolution will be quiet.”
An introvert is finally standing up for all of us. I just signed up to join the revolution a few weeks ago, and I have been pleased to receive extremely informative articles and emails from Susan and her team.
It is time for yet another revolution. A revolution without war, blood and slander. A revolution that has been long overdue. A revolution to comfort billions for just being who they are. A revolution which you can participate in from the comfort of your own room.
I invite everyone to be a part of this meaningful revolution and to join Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution.
Feature Image Credit: Flickr/Send me adrift