Health

The Surprising Benefits of Being an Introvert

Published On 03/28/2016 Published On 03/28/2016
man sitting alone
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Extroverts get all the credit. They're fun, sociable, natural leaders, unafraid to speak up when they feel like it. Introverts, meanwhile, conjure up images of adults living in their parents' basements, too shy to exist in the world.

But what do introversion and extroversion actually mean? Put simply, introverts perform better with less stimuli, and extroverts thrive with more stimuli. "Stimuli" could mean socializing, but it also could refer to things like music, ambient noise, crowded spaces -- in other words, neither term has anything to do with being shy or outgoing, and most people fall somewhere in the middle of the introversion-extroversion spectrum anyway. Although it may not always seem like it, there are actually plenty of advantages to falling more on the introverted side of the scale.

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Introverts have deeper relationships (even if they have fewer of them)

Unfortunately, too many people equate introversion with being antisocial, but there's a pretty big difference. Introverts tend toward greater depth (rather than breadth) in their relationships. Extroverts may be better at short-term mating strategies -- fancy lingo for "hooking up" -- but introverts have the advantage when it comes to building meaningful, long-term relationships.
 

Introverts get more done

This shouldn't be surprising -- what else are those introverts doing alone in their rooms?! Despite the brainstorming sessions you're required to attend at work to "foster productivity and creativity," people usually get more done when they're alone. In fact, privacy is more important than salary when it comes to productivity, vastly favoring those who prefer to work alone.

Even though you may want some distraction during the work day or at school, most people already know that quiet solitude does the trick for greater productivity. Plus, the best way to gain mastery in something is to isolate a task that's particularly difficult for you -- it's more valuable to do this than to have general experience in a field. This is why a young writer, for example, may be a better writer than someone who's been doing it her whole career. If introverts are said to be more reflective and self-aware, they're likely more aware of what tasks they need to improve in order to become masters.
 

Introverts might be better leaders

Sure, it's easy to see people who are commanding or loud in their self-assurance as admirable. And granted, introverts may not always be recognized as admirable because they tend not to be the most charming in a group setting. But none of that means introverts make for meek leaders.

In fact, introverts may make more sophisticated leaders, as their tendencies to look inward and pick up on external stimuli in a more sensitive way helps them give talented people the flexibility and freedom they need to thrive. They may not get the same public recognition as extroverted leaders, but who cares? Introverts certainly don’t.

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Introverts have more energy to be creative

Look, it's easy to notice the creative brilliance of extroverts, since they're more likely to let us know it’s there. Just think of all the times Kanye West has told the world he's a genius. But did you ever notice the quiet kid in fourth grade who was always making brilliant drawings in the corner of the classroom Introverts tend to follow their own paths, and are more comfortable with solitude than extroverts, both qualities that lend themselves to creativity.

So it's no surprise that introversion is associated with creativity, with introverts more likely to spend time thinking up all sorts of unique ideas in the time they're not spending with their friends.
 

Introverts are less likely to overeat

Which means they're less likely to be overweight, which in turn means they're healthier, obviously. When researchers looked at how much cereal extroverted and introverted students served themselves, the extroverts piled on 33% more cereal than introverts. Easy on the Cookie Crisp, extroverts.

One potential explanation for this is that extroverts and introverts processed the bowl size differently. Researchers speculated that introverts must have relied more on internal cues like hunger and appetite, instead of a bowl telling them how much to pour. That's a pretty cool trick, listening to your body instead of an inanimate object.
 

Introverts make fewer mistakes

One of the reasons extroverts seem like they run the world is that they put themselves out there more, which is fine, if you don't mind making a bunch of mistakes. You only need to look at all of Donald Trump's failed businesses to see that mistakes don't matter much for a person who thrives on external stimuli.

But there are broader implications, too. Genetic variations linked to introversion also seem to make people more averse to financial risk. So if you're looking for someone to manage your portfolio, you're better off avoiding the brash Wall Street stereotype.

Odds are, many of these benefits go unnoticed, along with the introverts themselves. But if you take the time to tap into your more introverted tendencies, you may start noticing more brilliance in the introverts around us.

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Charlotte Lieberman is a writer who does her best work alone, thanks very much. Follow her @clieberwoman.

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