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Fran Ontanaya

Editor - Multilingual Publishing, Freelance

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Introversion: is it regarded as normal in your country/culture?

History offers a rather positive view of introverts: the lone explorers, the poets, the genius scientists, the artists, the philosophers, are often portraited as powered by the particular qualities of introspection. But the day to day social reality within their local tribe may be rather different. Introverts may be admired from afar, but depending on the culture, not so much in their neighborhood.

This is not a big deal except when new generations are raised with only one role model in mind, and this role being a good marketer or short term social achiever, while the value of reflection and self examination is underestimated --note: not of 'thinking' per se, as that's not equivalent to 'introversion'.

My question is, does your country and culture have a model of introverted behaviour that is perceived as a normal social identity? If that's the case, what do you think that differentiates how young people is raised in your country/culture, as opposed to those in which introversion is not considered a normal behaviour? And the most important question, what parts of that education and enviroment do you think that could be exported elsewhere?

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  • Jan 7 2013: Introversion to Extroversion is measured on a 1-7 scale with 1 being very Introverted and 7 being very Extroverted.
    6's and 7's are often thought to be good salesmen and marketeers. However the evidence is the opposite of this. The very Extroverted make very poor marketeers and salesmen (because they never shut up).
    Likewise the very Introverted make poor marketeers and salesmen (because they won't initiate a conversion)
    The best are the 3's , 4's, and 5's in the scale (the middle of the road) because they will listen to the customer, and rather than say "I can do this" like the Tony Robins of the world espouse, they say "How can I do this".
    This is a much more positive, goal seeking approach that wins out more often than any other.
    Introverted and Extroverted behavious is very normal but it is also a continuum with everyone showing some aspect of both behaviours. It is normal behaviour.
    I am in Canada, but I think the only part of the education system that should be exported elsewhere is pure common sense. As I have said elsewhere, common sense is so uncommon it should be considered a superpower.
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    Jan 7 2013: Introversion is normal in the United States as well, with an estimated 1/3 of the population falling in that category. I haven't lived outside the United States and therefore do not have any in depth knowledge of a culture where introversion is not considered a normal behavior.

    Students in public schools are increasingly pushed to reflect on meaningful events in their lives and to write about them. Perhaps the most popular writing program nationwide is called Writers Workshop and takes the approach of encouraging kids to write by promoting subject matter from their own lives and with emotional content.

    That said, there is also a focus on promoting teamwork skills and learning in collaborative small groups, which may be a more challenging format for the introvert or the simply shy. Because everyone knows this, teachers are typically trained in strategies for making sure to seek ideas not only from the most outspoken but also from the least outspoken.
  • Jan 7 2013: Introverts are considered weird or abnormal in most African villages. Women of such disposition are even considered as witches. In fact, in most villages it takes something as simple as a deviation from the norm to be considered 'demon possessed'.

    In cities and cosmopolitan areas intellectuals may be introverts without attracting uneccessary attention.
    Apart from intellectuals, the educated elite are usually introverts; quite different from the party-loving rich folks without formal education.
  • Jan 10 2013: Just about every country and people do.
    Years ago I read a report that showed some of the differences between cultures and countries.
    Some could and would use body language, some would separate themselves from others but not leave the room.
    I think Americans were the only ones who would leave the room and go into isolation.

    There is a saying about this kind of behavior and the perceived instability of it.
    Only one who is unstable would think that isolation is the cure for loneliness.

    Escher said, "you would be surprised to learn what I see in the dark."

    To thine own self be true

    The real difference is simple. Introverts are simply not extroverts.
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    Jan 9 2013: Yeah, the more I think about it, the less convinced I am that anyone can accomplish anything big, or accomplish anything, really, without being somewhat sociable, somewhat connected and communicative. You name J. D. Salinger, but I note that Salinger was married and had two children. Thus we see that he was at least somewhat sociable and communicative. For some reason our brains need to interact in order to progress. Even this TED topic is a good example. I couldn't have thought of this topic by myself. I needed you to think of it, and then I could enjoy thinking about it.

    Offhand I can only think of one real introvert in my community. She is a homeless person who always seems alone. I think people tolerate her but feel sorry for her, as she is missing out on improving her life and getting out of the rut she is in.

    I do think you need to do both, to socialize somewhat and to spend some time reflecting on what happened when you socialized.
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    Jan 8 2013: Fran, I'm still not convinced that a large number of major creative achievers are introverts. You've named a few people below that you think are introverts, but even if they are, they are a tiny percentage of the large number of major creative achievers who have existed and worked.

    I don't see how Bill Gates, who you name below, could be very introverted. After all, for years he headed a corporation of 20,000 people. That sounds very sociable to me.

    You say above that introversion is not equivalent to thinking. How are they different? How is introversion different from being anti-social?

    Even when someone seems to be isolated, it may be that they are not so isolated. Even if Emily Dickinson didn't emerge from the house, she may have had people within the house, or who came to visit her in the house, who helped stimulate her creativity.

    I would tend to think that being creative is generally a pretty sociable enterprise. It's hard to generate new thoughts, and to keep developing thoughts, without having a conversation with somebody. All alone, your mind gets blocked, and stale. Two heads are better than one, we say in the United States.
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      Jan 8 2013: Oh, I'm not arguing that there's a large number (albeit MBTI surveys put the number of introverts at a few points over 50%), but that for the achievers that are, their introversion is portraited positively after it led them to success in tasks that require a lot of reflection. My question is if that quality (or at least, the possibility of having a kind of introversion that leads to achievements) is recognized and valued in people, at least in an equal level with extroversion, when they are still everywomen and everymen.

      Gates' success was established early as a garage entrepeneur, the larger the company became the more executive staff he had for Human Resource management. His position was to give direction and vision to the company, and there's only so many key people he would have needed to actively address for that. Plus, email doesn't require that much interaction.

      There's introverted thinking, but also introverted feeling, introverted sensing, introverted judgement... the key meaning of introversion is a person that doesn't become tired of being inside their own head. Introverted people can be perfectly sociable, except it's an activity that fatigues them more than usual. Same way that for certain social feats an individual has to be able to endure a lot of interaction, for certain creative feats an individual has to be able to endure a lot of deep introspection.

      As someone that has taken part in brainstormings for screenwriting, I can assure you, it's one thing to read other people's thoughts and add them to one's reflection, and a very different one to sit half a dozen people around a table and ask them to create a superior product by comitee. That belief that two heads are always better than one could very well exemplify what I was wondering about, that in some cultures (not necessarily country-wide, it could be for example a certain corporate culture), achievements may be always expected to be done by comitee, even while individual feats are admired.
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    Jan 7 2013: I've never heard that certain lone explorers, poets, genius scientists, etc. are perceived as heavily introspective. What particular people are you thinking of?
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      Jan 7 2013: An example would be Gustave Flaubert, who spent five years writing Madame Bovary, most of the time largely in solitude.

      Nikola Tesla is quoted as saying: “The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. No big laboratory is needed in which to think. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.”

      J. M. Coetzee, Cormac McCarthy, Harper Lee, J.D Salinger, Thomas Pynchon are known for avoiding dinners and interviews. Emily Dickinson didn't even set a foot outside their family home in the last 20 years of her life.

      Famous recent entrepeneurs like Larry Page, Sergei Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates are introverts and that is part of their success stories.
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    Jan 7 2013: In the US, our educational systems are designed too assure children that it is wrong to look and explore the "within". Only the "out" exists, and to make money and be successful, you must always look out.
  • Jan 7 2013: Keirsey of course discussed this in his books on Meyers-Briggs, however, I would expect his work to be basically North American, but why wouldn't it transcend that as it is a personal trait - not something that I could see as cultural.