Is it more valuable to be an introvert or extrovert? In a society that values extroversion, most would lean towards having an extroverted personality. However, one third of the people we know are actually introverts. The CHAI Book Club April meeting raised self-awareness of our personalities, our outlooks, and our capacity for stepping outside of our comfort zones. We found that each one of us had unique methods of dealing with our environment, whether it be in a professional or personal setting. All members of the book club enjoyed reading Susan Cain’s novel Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Cant Stop Talking. They expressed that she did a wonderful job finding substantial research in supporting her argument that we dramatically undervalue introverts and in doing this we end up losing a lot of valuable knowledge and skills.
We started the conversation off by discussing the “rubber band theory” that was explored in the book. It stresses that our abilities can take us far, but it cannot take us beyond our genetic limits. The group felt that this theory would have an impact of those individuals that are dealing with a mental health disorder. We discussed how there is research that supports our ability to change our genetic components through proper environmental changes. We felt this limitation hindered progress for those in recovery.
Later, each member share their own personal experiences of gender in the South Asian context and the preferred personality type gave us greater insight on our behaviors, what shapes them, and how we may utilize our unique personality traits to achieve optimal functioning and greater self-actualization. Two of the members felt that it was beneficial being extroverted as it helped them in their careers and relationships.
However, there was discussion around how being an extroverted individual is not necessarily valued in some South Asian cultures and religions. One attendee who identified as a Pakistani Muslim discussed how she struggled with her identity being a first generation kid as she received different messages on how to behave from her family and American friends. She found it extremely difficult for herself, as a female, to juggle between the Pakistani cultural norms (quietness and submissiveness) and the American cultural norms (assertiveness and independence).
The conversation went to further discuss the reasons why introverts did not attend the Book Club (all members were extroverts). It was brought up by one of the attendees that introverts are more likely to be observers, and a group setting such as a book club would be out of their comfort zone. We brainstormed some ways to have them participate in these meetings. One of suggestions included encouraging our introverted friends to participate in these kinds of events.
Despite not having introverts in the conversation, it was interesting to see how we as extroverts felt strongly about having these introverted individuals included in the discussion. We felt that being extroverted isn’t better than being introverted or vice – versa. Both introversion and extroversion are valuable to society and it creates balance for personal and professional settings. It’s also important to recognize that the Eastern and Western perspectives are different, however the Eastern relationship-honoring is admirable and beautiful and so is the Western respect for individual freedom, self expression, and personal destiny.
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