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Assertiveness Is An Extroverted Trait…And 3 Other Myths I Want Introverts To Know About

Home / Assertiveness / Assertiveness Is An Extroverted Trait…And 3 Other Myths I Want Introverts To Know About

AssertivenessIntroverts already feel left out a lot of the time.

It doesn’t help that there’s about a hundred myths floating around out there about us and how we see things, why we “act” the way we do (as if we are actually the kind of people who want attention), and when we’re going to “change.”

I always feel a little for the people who discover quickly that we aren’t (going to change).  And the reason we aren’t going to change is because it’s our responsibility as much as it is the next person’s to simply be ourselves.  To grow, mature, learn, embrace new things yes, but to always remain true to our inner nature & thought life, the same way the extrovert honors their outings and social landscape.

And this is not a bashing session toward extroverts.  Some introverts are harder on themselves than other people are on them because they feel so different.  And it’s frustrating. And they don’t know how to relay that frustration, so they go the only place they know to go that feels safe – inward.

I saw an article this week on The Wall Street Journal online that literally made my blood boil.  I saw the headline and I swear my blood pressure rose immediately.  The article boldly proclaimed, “How An Introvert Can Be Happier: Act Like An Extrovert.”

Gasp.

Clinch fists.  Take a breath.

I almost lost my marbles.

Then….I decided to read it.  I understood from a marketing standpoint, the title could have been there to simply draw people in to read, so I waited to have a full-on freak out session.

I didn’t end up having a freak-out session, but I did read the whole article.  I remained a little disgusted with the premise of it throughout, to be honest.  And if I may be so bold as to say – I strongly disagreed with what they’re calling “research.”  I’d like to see the data, the controls, the variables and everything that was involved in them publishing it.

From that article, the author quoted the infamous Susan Cain (who I hope to have on here soon for our Expressive Introvert series):

[quote author=”The Wall Street Journal”]We live in a culture that very much subscribes to the extrovert ideal of being bold and assertive,” said Susan Cain, a former corporate lawyer who wrote a book last year called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” which argues that introverts are unfairly maligned. Rather than trying to get introverts to act more extroverted, she argues that society should be drawing on their natural strengths, which can include being a good listener and working creatively.[/quote]

I love Susan’s work, but this quote and most I see online are giving the connotation that assertiveness is an “extroverted” trait, to which I say “no.”  And “no” again.

Assertiveness is NOT an extroverted trait, but rather a form of communication every human being on this planet can learn and use to their greatest advantage – especially the introvert who wants to live more visibly, while maintaining her inner sanctuary.

So…that’s myth #1:

Assertiveness is an extroverted trait.

Assertive communication in and of itself has too many misconceptions, so I can understand why there are even more misconceptions surrounding who it’s available to, who qualifies to use it, and who the “typical” person is who is assertive.

Side Note – *One of my favorite games to play online (well, okay the only one) is Candy Crush Saga.  I love that game and yes, am a little bit of an addict.  So, what I’m about to say reminds me of “clearing the jelly”.

I have met numerous extroverts who confuse assertiveness with outright rude, disrespectful and boisterous behavior. Likewise, I’ve met my fair share of introverts who are totally rude beyond repair when trying this form of communication.

Those variables, along with the misconceptions, are exactly why introverts who want to be more assertive have a bit of a skewed vision of what this looks like in a healthy environment and way – why they’re often reluctant to embrace it as something that’s possible for them.

It’s akin to raising children.  What you model for them has a whole lot to do with how they might behave later.  The chances are greater that they will emulate what you do in many ways.  But this isn’t just a childlike pattern – it’s a real basis of human psychology.  We humans do what we see other humans doing.

This is precisely why introverts can get caught in the “say yes, say no” pattern – yes when we want to say no, and no when we want to say yes.

There are other reasons why introverts may be apprehensive to assertive behavior, but that’s another post for another time. Today, I’d just like to really teach to this and have you know it in your core – assertiveness is a form of communication, not an extroverted trait.

I may get a lot of flack for teaching this, but I can accept that.  I believe in this too much to stand away from it.  I want you to know it’s 100% okay to learn assertiveness and employ it in your life.  You can do it in a healthy, liberating, and beneficial way that serves you well in your introversion.

And while we’re on this subject, let’s move to myth #2.

Myth #2

My need for more refined expression makes me an extrovert wanna-be.

To this statement, I’d like to officially assign the name of a popular, (yet gross in my books) lunch meat name…

Bologna.  And more bologna.

I have never met one introvert who actually wants to be an extrovert.  Maybe they exist, but I’ve never known one.

Who I have known are introverts who want to be recognized and included just like our extroverted counterparts.  We want to learn how to completely maintain our in-depth thought life while being able to express more freely than we traditionally may have with our families, friends, and at work.  We want both – to be more expressive and yet, keep the beautiful edge of our own personality, which is quiet thought and meditation on life.

We do not want to be more extroverted.

When I used to try to act like my extroverted friends, I would feel I needed to sleep for days to recover.

I definitely wanna be, but I wanna be me.

Myth #3

Introversion is my crutch and excuse to get through life.

Really?

I have read this in books and heard a few people say that introverts use their introversion as an “excuse” to act a certain way.

And okay, to be fair – and because none of us are perfect – there are probably some introverts out there who will use their introvert personality to get through life – constantly throwing it up in people’s faces and utilizing it as a crutch to get their way.

However, knowing this community like I do, those are not the introverts I attract or my business serves.

Furthermore, introversion is not a crutch.  

Did you know that psychologists use 5 main traits to classify personalities and the introversion/extroversion evaluation is one of the main ones?  Others include openness to experience, conscientiousness, agreeableness and neuroticism.

So….introversion isn’t a crutch – it’s a true personality trait.  If anything’s a crutch, it’s the knowledge we are constantly pulling in about who we are (which is frequently overwhelming), why we love what we love and how to live optimally in this overstimulating world, considering our personality.  And to me, knowledge has never been anything bad to lean on.  

If we have a crutch, it’s likely on everything we’re learning about ourselves to try to live and be a better introvert in a predominantly extroverted Western culture – not on our introversion as a means to “up the ante”.  Are there advantages to being an introvert? Absolutely!  But there are as many or more that extroverts contain – especially in the corporate world.  Trust me when I say we’re definitely not leaning on our introversion to put us more in the game – we’re leaning on what we can know about it to help us stay in it, thrive in it, and be happy while doing it.

Myth #4

Quiet = Silent Judgment

The final myth I’m addressing today is this notion that introverts’ quietness is a sign of silent judgment.

Again, I’m sure there are exceptions, but here in this community, we don’t embrace this way of living as an introvert.  We don’t sit back with our arms folded just to judge everything and everyone around us.

I like to talk and walk with introverts who are more conscious of their aptitude for quietness than that.  The ones who, like me, know our reserved style at times is just our taking everything in.  We don’t need or desire to comment on every little thing, and it drains us to be around people who constantly want acknowledgement of their sentences, thoughts, processes or opinions (or who always feel the need to ask “how do I look?”).

Honestly, we might literally have nothing to say, but it doesn’t mean we’re judging you.  We may have something to say in 2 hours once we take it in, but maybe not.  It’s just the way we’re wired.  And when it does come out, it will more than likely be us asking for more info, not wanting to judge what we’ve heard.  (At least this is what I advocate for).

[hr]

I’d love to hear from you now if you have something to share…

1.  Have you ever felt like one of these myths have been applied to you, either in your family, in other relationships or at work?

2.  What are some other myths you’d like to add to the conversation here?

Remember, this is not like other places online or that you may encounter who don’t “get” you – this is a community full of introverted women (and men) just like you who are walking this walk together.  Your thoughts could truly help someone else with their situation.

Thank you so much for being with me here and rocking your quiet life,

Tamisha

Are you possibly interested in learning more about the 4 communication styles and assertiveness? If so, go here to sign up for when the next class is offered!

 

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Comments(22)

  • July 30, 2013, 7:41 am  Reply

    “When I used to try to act like my extroverted friends, I would feel I needed to sleep for days to recover.”

    It’s an introvert hangover. And I admit I suffer from it often.

    • July 30, 2013, 6:36 pm

      SO glad to have you here, Taynia. PS – I always want to call you “Taynia-girl” for some reason! I do NOT know where that comes from – it just sounds so natural to say. lol…. Thank you for your comment. I like the verbiage introvert hangover. Perfect way to put it – I suffer from it anytime I forego my introverted nature and try to do too much. I always feel it for the next several days.

  • Miriam
    July 30, 2013, 8:11 am  Reply

    When I talk to people about my introversion (usually after they exclaim, “there’s NO WAY you’re an introvert – you’re so good at talking to people!”) I always make the distinction between being an introvert and being shy. I think that I can add to my spiel that assertiveness is not an exclusively extrovert trait!

    This is often an incredibly difficult conversation. I’ve even had people tell me I’m wrong. That I’m an extrovert and just won’t admit it. But I keep trying to educate others where I can, both I and E, so that we can move forward and all be a little more accepting of our differences.

    Thanks for the myth-busting 🙂

    -Miriam

    • July 30, 2013, 6:34 pm

      You’re welcome, Miriam. And you know – I believe that the more we educate those around us, the more people will understand. We have to step up and address the misconceptions in order to see change and these myths busted and negated. Thanks for sharing this!

  • July 30, 2013, 9:22 am  Reply

    I love this article with every fiber of my being and it speaks to me on so many levels. I love to finally have someone speak about my introversion in a way that captures the conflict between my inner world and my need to thrive in society. Thank you, Tamisha! You are gold!

    • July 30, 2013, 6:32 pm

      Thank you for being here, Blissom! So glad to have met you and to have you in this community.

  • Russ Conner
    July 30, 2013, 10:02 am  Reply

    Assertive?

    No, I have been described as a downright intimidating introvert. Having a strong center of self means I don’t have a problem standing up for what I believe.

    I have told the CEO at my company (IBM) in no uncertain terms what we were doing wrong, and was thanked for it… and even saw a few things change.

    Silence is judgement?

    I belong to a Scooter Club, my nickname is “Right Bastard” because they think I think I am always “right” because I sit back and listen to the socially orientated chitter-chatter about how they don’t know what should be done about X and then when they are tired of not solving the problem, I tell them what we should actually do about issue X to solve the problem.

    Generally speaking, they both relieved that the problem is solved, and angry that once again I was a “Right Bastard”

    Meh. It’s a thing.

  • Tara
    July 30, 2013, 11:16 am  Reply

    A friend of mine took me by surprise by saying, “You might not like that movie, it’s deep.” She seemed to think that, because I was quiet, I wasn’t thinking or couldn’t wrap my head around intellectual subjects.

    Recently, my manager told me in my 6 month review that I need to be more assertive when managing the others who cover the reception area. I totally understood her point. I told my mom about it, and she said, “I don’t think being assertive is your thing.” That’s when I defended myself and told her that I was cabable.

    • July 30, 2013, 6:31 pm

      Hi Tara – you ARE capable – right on! I have an ecourse coming out in the Fall that will completely help you with this. I can’t wait to share it. Until then, I would suggest you pick up a book called “Successful Assertiveness in a Week.” And if you go to my resources page, you can click to my Amazon bookstore to save you from searching for it. 🙂 Hope that helps!

  • July 30, 2013, 2:24 pm  Reply

    Assertiveness does not equal aggressiveness.

    Many years ago, I happened to mention to some coworker friends that I was listening to an “assertiveness” CD on my commute. One of my friends said “You???”. My friends were quite convinced that I was one of the most assertive people they knew.

    And yes, everyone knows I’m an Innie.

    • lori
      July 30, 2013, 5:45 pm

      An Innie 🙂 Love it!

    • July 30, 2013, 6:28 pm

      Assertiveness does not equal aggressiveness.

      YES. And this is what I love about assertiveness – it’s a constant learning curve, no matter how much we exercise it. As a form of communication, it can always be improved. It can actually be fun too – learning different people, how they respond to things, what makes them upset and learning how to assert yourselves with different personalities…

      To me, this is an enjoyable thing to do.

  • lori
    July 30, 2013, 6:03 pm  Reply

    Wow! This is so thought provoking! Great topic, Tamisha. Here’s mine. People often assume that I am an extrovert because I am easily excited and have lots of energy in social situations. I smile and laugh and am very happy. I enjoy social situations. Myth buster–Introverts CAN be vivacious! But after two hours I have to leave, take a walk, or find a quiet corner somewhere so I can reflect, order my thoughts, and spend time with just myself. Love those alone times!

    • July 30, 2013, 6:24 pm

      Bingo, Lori! You hit the nail on the head here. I’m the same way. I love being around people – generally. There are some people who drain me and I will avoid those interactions at all costs, but for the most part, I love people and am pretty social. I too, usually crave the quiet time following those interactions. And I will think about the conversations sometimes for hours after – it takes me so long to process everything that comes from those types of gatherings. Great myth buster about being vivacious!

  • Karen
    July 31, 2013, 8:36 am  Reply

    Hi Tamisha. I’m new here and am so very happy to have discovered your blog. Very much enjoyed this post. Myth # 4 brought back memories of hurtful comments I overheard a friend of an acquaintance making about me which highlighted how introverted behavior can be so wrongly interpreted. Years ago I was pleasantly surprised to receive an invite to a hen’s night of a girl I hardly knew, as her fiance worked with my husband and we were also going to the wedding. Although I didn’t speak up a lot during the night, (it was one of those situations where you have to talk loud and quickly to get a word in – not a skill of mine) it was at a Chinese restaurant with karaoke. A couple of the bride-to-be’s friends were excellent singers and were so entertaining along with being hilarious story-tellers and the most extroverted of extroverts. My memories of the night were that I was slightly uncomfortable as I didn’t know anyone but that it was a load of laughs and I vividly recalled being completely overcome with hysterical laughter on several occasions. Imagine how much it hurt when standing near enough to one of the bride’s friends on the wedding day I heard her tell her partner that I was at the hen’s night and how uptight, unfriendly and stuck up I was and that I didn’t say a word or smile all night long?

    • July 31, 2013, 9:13 am

      Hi Karen –

      First of all, thank you for being here. So glad to have you. I hate that you had to have that experience, but it’s those kinds of experiences that really grow us the most. The reason I say that is because it is those times that build resilience – it cultivates and motivates our desire for more self-expression in our own unique way.

      This is happened to me before too. I can be having the best time at an event and others think I’m bored or say I look sad (I guess because I don’t cheese all the time). So I understand that disappointment of being misinterpreted and misunderstood. I have dealt with that my whole life. This is a great place for you to learn how to move through those times, and I hope you will stick around. Thanks for sharing such a personal story.

  • Blake Hannah
    August 3, 2013, 5:03 pm  Reply

    I think I have had to deal with some people thinking things like that, but honestly I spent a pretty large part of my life suspended in a state of constant apathy about life…really only recently have things changed from that trend. I know my dad never could stand my inwardness…got hit in the head with more than one thing for ‘not paying attention’ which ironically was the opposite of what was going on…I was usually in deep thought about what I was being told.

  • August 4, 2013, 4:56 am  Reply

    Thank you for writing this article.. It’s wonderful to read :). I was both shy and introverted when I was younger. The shyness I overcame but the introversion is still used against me by people. Despite being assertive at work, I was told that I don’t have the right personality to ever enter into a management role. (I make more in commissioned sales anyway so it’s no great loss) but annoyed me greatly.

    • August 20, 2013, 8:47 pm

      Thank you for sharing that, Shane. I’d be interested to know how people are using your introversion against you, and I don’t think this is a “woman’s” issue – I think many introverts deal with it.

  • sherilyn
    August 4, 2013, 10:12 pm  Reply

    This is quite certainly your best writing ever! A winner piece; from a winner introvert. Thanks for what you do!

    • August 4, 2013, 10:18 pm

      Aww. Thank you Mom! My biggest fan. Thank you for supporting my work.

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