Men are often expected to be bold, uninhibited and risk-taking, but the world needs introverts too. Here's why.
Do you hover on the fringes of your social circle at the pub or club, try to avoid the bosses eyes during meetings and like to spend time alone? If so, you may be an introvert. That's all good with us.
On the other hand, do you crave company, tell great jokes and like to take bold decisions at work? If so, you may be an extrovert.
It's fair to say that most men would prefer to be extroverts (in one study, 92% of respondents said it was better to be an extrovert) who often seem more popular, dynamic and likely to snag the pretty girl. But new research has shown that being quiet and self-contained has plenty going for it too.
Here's why the world need introverts, as well as their more exuberant counterparts.
In her new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, author Susan Cain talks of what she calls the Extrovert Ideal.
"The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He or she favours quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong; works well in teams and socialises in groups," she says.
Which is great, of course. Society needs its do-ers, its risk-takers and its team players. Among men, extroverts are likely to be traditional leaders (in the army or on the pitch, for instance) and so-called 'alpha males'.
There's also no doubt that we live in an increasingly noisy and fast-paced world. Extroverts can thrive in this kind of environment, ad-libbing when they need to, living by their wits and not being afraid to shout over the din.
The problem, according to Cain, is that by creating an extrovert's world, introverts have been overlooked and even looked down upon. Take the world of work, she wrote in a recent piece for CNN. "Many of us now work in offices without walls, with no respite from the noise and gaze of co-workers. And introverts are routinely passed over for leadership positions."
Cain also says that with 'brainstorming' sessions and job adverts that demand upbeat team players, "the overall ability to put yourself out there is the great value of the age."
That could also apply to the dating game, where both noisy nightclubs and the boastful, stand-out-from-the-crowd environment of online dating sites both seem to favour extroverts.
The problem may be even more acute for men than women. Men are supposed to be brash, confident and good in a 'gang'. In humanity's distant past men went off hunting in packs while women lead a quieter existence, less punctuated by the adrenalin-infused highs and lows of the chase. Introverted men are still seen as something of a novelty, and even an oddity.
Society certainly needs extrovert men, say Cain and others, but it needs introvert men too. Here's why.
Most people might prefer to be extroverts, but many of us simply aren't. Studies suggest that only half of the population are natural extroverts, which means that introverts make up a huge slice of modern manhood.
So what's a modern introvert to do? How do you get on in a society that seems to be made for extroverts?
First of all, it's worth bigging yourself up (even if blatant shows of self-promotion don't come naturally). Charles Darwin was a man who loved his own company, and used solitude and self-containment to come up with perhaps the greatest theory in scientific history.
Then there's Apple, maker of iPods, iPhones and iPads. The company is usually associated with the outgoing Steve Jobs, but, as Cain points out, co-founder Steve Wozniak invented the first Apple computer alone in his cubicle at Hewlett Packard. In today's corporate environment he may have been too busy completing team building exercises to bother.
Bill Gates is another quiet, bookish high-flyer who shows clear signs of introvert tendencies.
"Some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions from the theory of evolution to Van Gogh's sunflowers to the personal computer came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there," writes Cain.
Still, none of those fine examples amount to a hill of beans if you're an introvert who struggles at work or in your personal life.
In which case, it's worth choosing careers or work strategies that exploit your natural talents. You're not a great team player or someone who wants to be at the centre of everything, but according to Cain, you are better at learning from your mistakes, seeing the bigger picture, delaying gratification and taking a step back.
For example, research suggests that introverts are more focused than their extrovert peers. They see a job through, tying up all loose ends. That suggests introverts can produce the best work in careers or companies where they're given the time and space to do it.
Introverts often have superior reasoning skills and one study from the University of Iowa showed that they show increased blood flow in the frontal cortex of the brain responsible for good memory, planning and problem solving, while extroverts exhibited more activity in areas of the brain involved in sensory processing such as listening, watching or driving.
So it could be that introverts thrive in less pressured environments, where they have the time to give their deep thinking skills free rein.
It might also help for introverts to have time out of the office or to work alone within it, at least for some portion of the day. Introverts can be inhibited by constantly being forced to work as part of a group.
All this has ramifications for social life too. Introverts often prefer small groups to large ones, and restaurants to parties. If you're an introvert looking to impress a date, intimate surroundings will be the best bet. Just make sure it's somewhere you can think, talk and hone your listening skills.
What it all boils down to is that, although being extrovert appears to be a more valued trait, especially in men, introverts are just as important for a healthy and fully functioning society. If you're an introvert, recognise your unique skills and use them to your advantage.
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