Introverts – redressing the balance

Introverts – redressing the balance

Listen to a talk about social psychology to practise and improve your listening skills.

Do the preparation task first. Then listen to the audio and do the exercises.



If I asked you to describe a great leader, I'd be willing to bet certain traits come to mind … someone charismatic, dynamic, inspiring, a confident public speaker. You're probably imagining a man too, but that's a bias we'll save for another talk! We tend to think of great leaders as people who naturally take to the stage, who draw other people to them by their sheer presence, who are extroverts. But history has also been transformed by people who don't fit these descriptions. People like Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt and Gandhi. These people would have described themselves as shy, quietly spoken … as introverts.

Of course we're drawn to extroverts. They're usually charming and persuasive, fun to be around. They're not quietly in the corner somewhere reading a book where we might not notice them. Introverts are mostly happy to let the extroverts take the attention; they'd rather not be in the spotlight, they'd rather finish that book. If they become leaders, it's not because they want to be the centre of attention, it's because they feel compelled to act. They lead not because they enjoy giving orders but because circumstances have put them in a position to make change. If they're the boss, they allow space for the ideas of others to grow because they're not trying to make their mark. An introvert sounds like a pretty good boss, right? You won't need to worry about them stealing your ideas or talking over you in a meeting.

Some of our great creators are introverts too. People like the writer JK Rowling, the great thinker Darwin and the designer of the first Apple computer, Steve Wozniak. It turns out coming up with good ideas is easier when you're engaged in quiet, solo contemplation than when you're leading the cheerleading squad. Not that I'm saying there's anything wrong with cheerleaders! Extroverts are great – some of my favourite people are extroverts. But why is the world so set up for extroverts and so hard for introverts? Why are we always encouraging our kids to speak up, join in, work as a team?

Nowadays, most schools and most workplaces are set up with the extrovert in mind. Children no longer sit in rows in desks, they sit in groups of four or six, doing group projects. Even subjects like maths and creative writing are taught with an emphasis on group collaboration, even though most writers sit alone in front of their computer or typewriter, with nothing between them and the blank page. A kid who prefers to go off into a corner and work alone starts to look like a problem. What's wrong with Janie? Why isn't she joining in? Studies show teachers think extroverts make better students, even though introverts actually tend to get higher grades. We're telling our introverted kids something is wrong with them, that they need to be more sociable, more outgoing. We're giving them fewer opportunities for the quiet contemplation they need in order to produce the best work and be their best selves.

And then at work we do the same. Most offices today are open plan, everyone working and creating noise in one big room, attending team-building workshops or group brainstorming sessions; the introverts' worst nightmares. The introverts at school are judged negatively by their teachers and when they reach the workplace, they're passed over for promotion into leadership positions. But introverts typically take fewer risks and make more careful decisions, and don't we need those traits too?

I'm not saying let's get rid of extroverts and grab all those talkative, sociable performers at primary school and send them off to the library for four hours a day of solitude until they learn to tone it down. I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying we're doing something like the opposite of that to introverts and we need to stop. We need to allow them space to be themselves and then we'll end up getting the most out of our extroverts and our introverts. Let's teach all our kids how to work with others and how to work on their own. Let's create space in offices and at conferences for people to work on their own when they want to and give them the opportunity to come together to share ideas. Let's give staff 'away days', where they go off into the woods, walk up a mountain or wherever, to work on something alone, as well as the 'team-building day' where everyone learns to dance salsa together.

The future is complicated, with a lot of huge, complex problems to solve. Let's make sure we've got our best people working on those problems in the way that suits them best. And then we've got to make sure we listen to our extroverts and our introverts and everyone who sits somewhere in between on the scale. We're going to need all of them.


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Submitted by youwellknowme on Tue, 23/04/2024 - 15:45


I really liked the podcast.The speaker has pointed out that when introverts become leaders,they become one because of the pressure they feel in themselves.As an introvert,ı can strongly confirm this.In those group projects ı tend to become a leader because ı feel as ıf ı need to take some action and become more expressive since drawing back all the time is not good for anyone and taking more action would benefit me in the ways of introducing may even lead long lasting connections,new beginnings 

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Submitted by Ramiro Solana on Wed, 11/10/2023 - 23:48


I think all of us who do these types of exercises are introverts! I mean, extroverts probably prefer to practice English in other ways rather than taking self-study courses. I really liked the talk because it points out that introverts are not people who can't socialize with others but people who don't like to be the center of attention, which makes a big difference. I think this is a more accurate and useful definition for understanding how introverts are and act.

Submitted by DidemT. on Wed, 30/08/2023 - 13:07


As a introverted, i usually feel left out at public. Introverted persons definitely gets different treatment. Most people see introverted persons as ghosts whose not socializing enough. I think that being an introverted is not a problem. Most of us dont socialize enough nor talk because we can analyze which people is worth of or time or not. I used to believe that I must be a extroverted person so I can be successful at life but my thoughts changed over years. I guess that is whats called growning up. I suggest people with lack of confidence because of their introverted personality that, you shouldnt be asahmed of yourself.

Submitted by DorothySilver on Sun, 30/07/2023 - 10:06


I’m 100% an introvert. I enjoy being by myself, I don’t feel bored or anything like that. Instead I feel comfortable. When I’m in a public space I tend to get a little anxious and tense. But I’ve got used to it and don’t worry too much anymore. I don’t have a lot of friends and prefer to hang out with 1 or 2 people at the same time. I really liked this podcast and think that the world should accept the fact that not everyone is an extravert! It feels like I can’t often be myself just because I’m expected to be outgoing, loud and more confident :(

Submitted by smeraldina on Sat, 08/04/2023 - 11:34


Speaking of me, I am often introverted but I was much more so as a child. I tried to open up more to others
by trying to overcome shyness; sometimes I succeeded! Today I am a little more confident.

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Submitted by vanenglish on Wed, 29/03/2023 - 18:45


Well I feel that I'm more introvert than extrovert but the life duty me to take some traits of an extrovert personality.

Please, help me if you can, I'm not pretty sure if "the life duty me to" is correct. To me that sounds a little weir. Thank you.

Hello vanenglish,

I know just what you mean!

There are several ways to say this :

but life forces me into some of the traits of an extrovert personality

but my responsibilities mean I have to take on some of the traits of an extrovert personality

but the life I lead means I have to be an extrovert, at least in part



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by naidenovka on Wed, 07/12/2022 - 13:30


I'd rather describe myself as an introvert, but my mood and the state of intro/extraversion can sometimes entirely depend on the people I'm surrounded by. As long as I feel safe in the company, I can reveal my extravert part and even be a leader, who's absolutely fine being in the spotlight. Yet I still consider myself as more introversial. Also it is vital for me to have a 'me' time every single day, otherwise I'll be a veggie for the next couple of days as if all the energy has been sucked out of me.

Submitted by helensparks27 on Sat, 19/11/2022 - 21:25


We are all people with very different personalities and character traits. Meanwhile, inward-looking people in spite of defining their true self, tend to get engaged in verbal confabulations with the ones who have no diffidence in every way attempting to drag their attention to. It’s all because of the fact they feel more secure and less reluctant in drifting away from the outside world.

Submitted by hascko12 on Wed, 19/10/2022 - 20:11


I'm so relieved that someone thinks about us that way