‘Why no, person of power, that is a horrendous idea, but you are going to do it anyway…’
The Acceptance of Ideas
Let’s invoke a flashback for a minute. You’re midway through your teens, desperate for the approval of your peers. So, you make a witty joke, but the joke falls flat on it’s face and is ignored. You may even get some dirty looks as a result. Anyway, 5 minutes later, Joe Bloggs the popular kid pops up out of nowhere. He tells the very same joke you told, and it is met with hysterical laugher and a generic theme of bootlicking.
Why did this happen? You told the same joke, maybe even in the same way, but it was completely ignored. The answer is social status, the comedic value of the joke is irrelevant. Joe Bloggs is the popular kid, it’s ok to give him a positive response, but you are the weird introverted kid that nobody can read. The only way people will laugh at your jokes is if the popular kid laughs.
This strange phenomenon probably results from the simple fact that humans are naturally social beings, and thus social standing plays a huge part in how we respond to each other’s actions. The above example sounds very much like playground politics, but it often rings true with many scenarios in adulthood. All you have to do is replace the joke with some business idea spouted in the boardroom, and a similar situation ensues. The idea is dismissed, regardless of what it actually is. A popular employee might bring up the very same proposition in the next meeting, only to be met with applause, a promotion to secretary of state and an Oscar nomination.
This is all well and good, and perhaps rather cynical, but how does it relate to the title of this post? Well, it just so happens that the popular members of humanity also tend to be the extroverted ones. Why? Because they are easy to read, and they don’t produce awkward silences. People despise awkward silences so much that there isn’t much they wouldn’t do in conversation to avoid it. For example, if you completely ignore the proposition of a sales person, they will often retract the proposition in favour of one that better suits you, just to break an awkward silence. An interesting phenomenon (and perhaps an exploitable one).
Imagine you are in a room with one other person, and that person is an extrovert. They can talk your ear off, avoid those awkward silences and perhaps even put you at ease and gain your approval. This instantly makes you more receptive to what they have to say. On the other hand, if the other person is an introvert, those awkward silences become more common, and you are left thinking: oh dear, what’s going through their head, have I offended them? The consequence of this is that introverts have a much more difficult time at gaining approval of their peers. Therefore, people are much less receptive to their ideas, at least in groups. This isn’t to say that introverts can’t talk your ear off, or they can’t gain approval. I’m sure that given the right topic, most introverts are able to talk for hours on end without the other person getting a word in edgeways, they might even be capable of starting a blog.
The Acceptance of Bad Ideas
That leads me onto bad ideas. Why company politics can often be a significant barrier, and why governments are all too often cursed with incompetence.
Now, without insulting any extroverts out there (and of course this statement is by no means true for every introvert/extrovert), I think it is relatively safe to say that introverts tend to do a great deal of thinking, more so than extroverts. In many cases, the reason for awkward silences in conversation is that an introvert will carefully think through what they are about to say before they say it. This, in my opinion makes introverts good debaters, at least in a one on one context. The key thing however, is that ideas spouted by introverts tend to be well reasoned and well thought through.
Now, going back to my earlier rant on social status. Because extroverts tend to be listened to more (and they are of course not burdened by the inability to get the words out in the first place), their ideas are more often acted upon than ideas proposed by introverts. Because these ideas may not be fully thought through, they are much more prone to becoming bad ideas. Of course, in reality, it is much more complicated, but I think you get the point.
The result? companies make bad decisions that very few of the employees actually agree with, and governments are met with bewilderment and ridicule. Discussions of ideas very often results in shouting matches between whoever the loudest people in the room are. Is this a result of clashing egos or a desire to gain approval? Who knows, but it ultimately ends with extroverts being promoted into incompetence, and introverts being left in the dust worrying about if anyone in that last board meeting heard them fart.
Maybe extroverts are just natural born leaders. Maybe, introverts are the world’s great innovators, destined to influence humanity from behind the scenes. Or perhaps everything that I’ve said is utter tripe. One thing, at least for me, is obvious: for better or for worse, the world is run by extroverts.
Until next time. I thank you for the read.