Introverts are the kind of individuals who prefer to value their own company over intimacy with others or the outside world. They usually tend to remain within their defined comfort zones, and are not very expressive or talkative (with everyone). They like to stick to a small number of individuals as company over excessively loud and large groups of people.

As opposed to introverts, extroverts are the lively, the energetic, and the social ones who are rather good when it comes to interacting with others or adjusting to changing circumstances. They prefer outdoor activities, partying, loud music, hanging out with friends or family, indulging in endless conversations and pretty much end up doing everything which introverts don’t want to do at all.

Why begin penning this opinionated piece with such basic information, one might ask? The reason behind this very approach is to reach out to the society and introduce these psychological terms used to refer individuals with particular personality types as a significant chunk of the population is unaware or is completely ignorant towards the existence or the use of the concepts of introversion or extraversion.

I myself was introduced to these fundamental personality types a few years back and, to be honest, was absolutely relieved to find out that there are people having characteristics like me in their personalities, and that beings like us are generally referred to as introverts.

In the modern world, it is generally recommended to have strong socializing skills in order to ensure a prosperous future. Individuals who are loud, more active, and tend to openly share their ideas are the ones getting all the attention and enjoying the perks of it at the end of the day. In a nutshell: being an extrovert pays off but if one falls on the other end of the personality spectrum, things are usually quite gloomy.

When I was in school, every time my mother and I went to the parents-teachers meetings, all my teachers used to tell my mom: your son is an intelligent student, but he remains quiet; we want him to participate more in class discussion and to be more active. Years passed but the teachers kept on complaining the same issue to my mother about me: tell him to talk more! Everyone at home persuaded me to take part in classroom conversations but something held me back.

Born and brought up in Lahore—the beating heart of Punjab, a city known for its full of life inhabitants—I thought of myself as an anomaly, and even at times wondered that there might possibly be some psychological problem with me. I never felt the need to talk that much, I liked being quiet; the idea of staying silent seemed elegant and peaceful to me. Besides, I felt contended with my own company, and loved to thrive in a world of my own which had in it books, movies, fictional characters, and a strong liking towards pets. But the outside world always pleaded me to change.

While pursing my Baccalaureate degree, I did undergo some transformation. Since the content delivered in class seemed quite interesting to me (primarily because I was in the degree program of my choice) I started to take part in classroom discussions and was involved in related activities. I enjoyed being in class and always coming up with different approaches while dealing with any task in order to make my mark. But outside the class, the fear I had of socializing never let go off me.

As is with most introverts, the idea of going up to other people and knowing about them, conversing with them, making plans for recreational activities with them didn’t quite occur to me. I remember once asking an extroverted friend that why did he even feel the need to be with some of his pals, and what good their company brought him? As a response, the very friend of mine stared at me and regarded my inquisition with utmost suspicion.

My colleagues at the organization where I used to work were very concerned about me not being into talking very much. They always offered their unconditional support while asking me that whether or not I was facing any issues that somehow forced this strange silence on my lips. It wasn’t that I didn’t like working there or that the folks in my department weren’t the nicest beings on the planet – I simply didn’t like to talk that much; but explaining this simple fact to others can be quite an ordeal.

Susan Cain is a famous American writer and lecturer, and is known for her works on bringing forward the issues faced by introverts in almost every other society along with suggesting useful advices to introverts as well as extroverts, in order to assure mutual benefit, through her best-selling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking (2012). Cain’s TED talk on introverts has been viewed several million times and is ranked among the most watched TED talks ever. In her latest publication: Quiet Power (2016), Cain elaborates physiological differences among extroverts and introverts while stating that:

‘…introverts and extroverts generally have different nervous systems. Introverts’ nervous system react more intensely than extroverts’ to social situations as well as to sensory experiences.’

This means that it’s not up to introverts to transform into something which they are not on the demands of the society, rather it has to do with their physiology, their upbringing, their thought-process, and other relevant factors which makes them what they are.

Introverts are known to have creative minds and possessing exceptional leading skills as well. When working in groups, introverted leaders are known to be open to the ideas shared by other members and for utilizing them in a manner which benefits the group in general. Extroverted leaders, on the other hand, tend to implement their thoughts alone whilst putting aside the suggestions placed forward by others primarily due to their overconfidence.  However, introverts function best only on their terms, and greatly value their limited interaction with others. The society needs to be more accepting and open towards the idea of introversion. Forcing any being to convert into a personality type which is the opposite does not only destroy the creativity that the mind of the very person holds but can have everlasting implications on their behavior, their lifestyle, and their mentality.

Be it our educational institutions or workplaces, it is preferred to be more expressive, more social, and more interactive with others. Most of the activities or projects are designed in a manner that promotes group work while neglecting individual learning or participation to a great extent. Irrespective of the many advantages team work entails, it is worthwhile to emphasize on assigning tasks while keeping in consideration the abilities of a particular person, their areas of interest, and grouping them with individuals with whom they are at ease with when it comes to interaction.

So the next time you see any person sitting quietly, minding their own business, try not to think of them as someone suffering from some unspeakable ailment or that they might be plotting someone’s murder, rather consider them as an individual who is happy being quiet and does not necessarily feel the need to be surrounded by other beings in order to ensure their sustainable living. Learn to respect what they are, give them their space, and appreciate their originality – nothing makes introverts more happy.