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 yoyoraw on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 22:08

I always thought that I am an introvert person, because my personality lean more to introverts characteristics . I am shy and do not feel comfortable when I am with a lot of people .So I do have some friends, but I am not interested in making many friendships, and prefer to be with a few .
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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Fri, 22/05/2020 - 23:12

Am more of extrovert.

Submitted by Karina Yazmin on Thu, 26/03/2020 - 23:40

This page is so good because the explanation of each topic is clear and consice, the exercise are a good complement of the topic, and help you to practice and to learn faster.

Submitted by LILIAN TREFF on Thu, 26/03/2020 - 15:37

In my opinion, introvert and extrovert, following the line of Yung's psychological types are processes .... The introvert has its energy turned inward and the extroverted outward. It can be said that the introverted type would be that person who needs to turn to his inner world and explore it, because his references are there. While the extrovert type experiences in its external world the referential elements that it needs. This does not mean that the introvert is shy and the extrovert is communicative. Within this perspective, I believe that I have a tendency towards the introverted process.

Submitted by Evgeny N on Thu, 26/12/2019 - 11:51

In my opinion I am somewhere in the middle of this scale. I think that a lot of people are in the same position. It's impossible to be only extrovert or introvert. But it is very important to understand your weakest points and make all which possible to improve them or to use them when they are mostly needed. I mean that sometimes it is vitally important to act as introvert. You have to clearly understand it. Especially when you need to contemplate and not to make a bad decision. Sometimes you have to tell your extrovert part: "Act. Be the leader!" and sometimes you have to tell: "Be quite. Don't interrupt my introvert part!". In my opinion it is a big part of emotional intelligence to clearly understand it. Without it is impossible to act and make right decisions. Don't try always to be an extrovert!

Submitted by HelianG on Mon, 09/12/2019 - 22:29

I think I'm more introvert, I prefer to stay at home, rarely I go outside with friends and when I do it I go only with close friends, I'm really bad at making friends because I don't talk to people if they don't talk to me first, also I don't like to express my feelings I'm not a person who often say to his friends or family that I love them or something I just assume that they know, high key I don't like to be in the spotlight so I hate speaking in front of public, I'm capable of doing it and I think that most of the time I do it well, however, I still hate it

Submitted by MUHAMMAD ALIF … on Thu, 19/09/2019 - 08:11

I have completed the following lessons of A job interview, Introverts – redressing the balance, and Innovation in business. The level that I chose was Advance C1 Listening.

Submitted by anitaf on Fri, 23/08/2019 - 16:53

Definetly, I have always been an introvert which caused me problems at school and at work but mainly at school when I had to share with others, I always liked and did better studying on my own, I used to get high grades!!!! Years later, as an adult, I learned to overcome shyness and could grow a lot. Now I feel great since I found balance in my life.

Submitted by Sridhar reddy on Thu, 11/07/2019 - 22:48

I'm more of an introvert and I like being an introvert.