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MD-PhD-MBA | Clinical Professor/Medicine
11 days ago

Introverts can feel out of place within our Western culture that values extraversion. A new study found that introverts become unhappy with themselves if they compare themselves to an extraverted cultural ideal, but if they accept their authentic, quiet selves, they can flourish and be fulfilled.

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PhD|Environmental Engineering
Moderator of r/science, speaking officiallyScore hidden · 11 days ago · Stickied comment

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3.3k points · 11 days ago · edited 11 days ago

Anyone interested in the subject of introversion should read Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. It's a great book and can explain a lot for both an extrovert or an introvert who feels unhappy about the extrovert status quo.

Anyway, big thing to take away is that extro-introversion happens on a spectrum, not every introvert is 100% on the introvert scale, likewise for extroverts. People don't seem to understand that introverts can be party animals or gregarious like any extrovert. What happens often is that people assume a lot about introverts, when they really have no idea.

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Everyone in this thread keeps saying they are introverted "but they have a job." Well, of course you do. Being an introvert doesn't mean you are shy, socially awkward, anxiety ridden, etc., it just means you get drained of energy to the point where you just can't be around people. When people meet up for after work drinks, you can't go because you need to be alone, and not because you have anxiety or are socially awkward.

level 4

My hamster brain feels like it has been running in a wheel for hours if I hang out with too many people. One of the reasons why I like to have lunch by myself so as to recharge in the middle of the day.

level 5

I feel you. I have absolutely no idea how people at work plan to go to the lunch room together and keep chatting during lunch. I avoid everyone and run to my car, I just need to be alone for that half hour. I'm sociable, mingle at work, get along with everyone, and have even gotten drinks with them after work a few times, but it takes energy for me. I always deny people when they ask me to come eat with them during work, I feel like an asshole but I'm really not.

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level 4

Oof, i dread the "after work drinks" idea every time it's floated. I do have friends that i like to hang out with, they don't drain my battery at the rate that most folks do. But my coworkers are definitely in the high energy requirement area. Also, after work drinks ain't cheap.

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level 2

Literally every single variable in life is on a spectrum. It’s funny how the word gets tossed around like a eureka moment in 2018. You’d think we’d have figured it out by now.

level 3
312 points · 11 days ago

Human brains like to categorize things in black and white definitions. Remembering that most things exist as a spectrum is a constant fight against that natural instinct

level 4
73 points · 11 days ago

It makes sense to classify things quickly like that in a more natural situation. I generalize quickly that the Tiger is dangerous, regardless of the individual aggression of that tiger. It is interesting that to evolve our thinking we must fight against that natural instinct.

level 5

It is super interesting. There are whole classes you can take on how society and civilization require us to go against some basic instincts now that are basic needs (sustenance, safety, etc) can be easily met, but other instincts are required for civilization to function. I could go on and on but that would take far too long

level 6

No, please, go on.

level 7
101 points · 10 days ago · edited 10 days ago

Oh boy oh boy


One of the most interesting ones (imo) to think about is how we've totally hijacked the hormones that control our metabolism (which I'm using as an overarching term for the chemical processes that dictate how we process energy, even though its typically a more general term) by having our basic nutritional needs met so easily by society. There are a few hormones that tell us more or less when we're supposed to be hungry, tired, energetic etc etc. What's interesting is that when we learned to cook the right meats and grains and have them readily available (the advent of livestock and crops), society immediately followed. And now, its gotten to the point where our food is so energy and nutrient-dense that our bodies send conflicting messages. Our stomach is physically empty-ish so that causes us to stop releasing gastrin (one of the "full"-hormones). This tells the body that it's ready to eat again. However, at the same time, there is a ton of energy being processed in the gut, which is going to cause high blood sugar and trigger the release of insulin (the major "full" hormone). So now you have conflicting signals on whether or not you want to eat again. This is one of many reasons (imo) that the whole "eat when you're hungry" diet-plan doesn't always work as well as it should.


Another fun thing to look at is the role of parental/reproductive instincts in society. Society developed around single-nuclear families. The desire to reproduce is one of the strongest and most intense that living things have, since it is essentially the basis of life to survive long enough to pass chemical/genetic information on to the next generation so that they can do the same. And if you look long enough you can see it permeate everything we do. The purely logical thing to do in life is never have kids (if you live in a first world country), since having a dependent is a resource-depleting and time-consuming process that lasts decades, but from the very beginning of civilization, that has been the focus. Work to put bread on the table for everyone, make yourself more attractive (both socially and physically) so that you have the best options for reproduction, even most religions place a huuuge emphasis on the importance of family. And once you look at all that, you can look at everything we do to try and counteract that. Fewer couples are having kids. Beauty standards are evolving to incorporate non-traditional definitions of beauty.

So many things are a constant back-and-forth between what we have evolved to have a tendency towards, and what we can objectively step back and look at as logical/utilitarian


..... you weren't being sarcastic, were you?

level 8
28 points · 10 days ago

The purely logical thing to do in life is never have kids


This might hold true for first world countries, or if you don't plan to live past 60, but if you live in a poorer country you'll rely on your offspring to take care of you when you grow old and feeble.


Anyway, very interesting read.

level 9

That’s true. I didn’t really think of that. Good point!!

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The belief of how the human brain likes to categorize things is debatable and can be placed on a spectrum of beliefs.

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117 points · 11 days ago

Also the stereotypical idea that introversion and social anxiety are the same thing. I recently stumbled upon a video by Psych2Go in the vein of 'x things only introverts can relate to'. Pretty much all of the named things had more to do with anxiety than introversion. It bothered me a lot.

I am both introverted and extroverted, but when you see it on a spectrum I feel more comfortable close to the middle than being hardcore introverted. I love being outgoing and sociable. I like to go to a party every once in a while. But I also love being with just one or two close friends the majority of the time. Or I prefer commuting alone on the train than with someone from my class that I'm friendly with but actually barely know. My anxiety is a whole different issue laid on top of this and it applies to both my introverted and my extroverted side. I'm afraid to pick up the phone not because I'm introverted but because I'm anxious. It's something else

level 3

retty much all of the named things had more to do with anxiety than introversion.

This also irks me. I'm a huge introvert. Almost the stereotype of "dude sitting at home alone playing videogames". It's not that I have social anxiety. And I'm not socially awkward. I function perfectly fine in everyday life. I have friends. I play in a friggin metalband. It's just that I prefer not to be so outgoing. It's super mentally draining to do the extroverted stuff.

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level 3

So true. The pop culture definition of introverted (mousy, anxious, shy) is not the same as what the definition actually is.


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level 2

This is a great book.

I still struggle, however. So maybe I should read it again. I'm 34 and suddenly having some sort of early mid-life crisis. I see all these extraverts and feel like I need to be that way too. I try, but it is short lived. I get burnt out and not only that but feel down because I'm trying to be something I'm not. You'd think by now I'd have it all figured out. Being 34 and single is really hard, esp when it comes to meeting friends and a potential partner, unless you're extraverted. I think this is the most depressed I have ever been in my life and I have been having an existential crisis. It doesn't help when I have people say really mean things to me, then end it with "I don't understand you as a person so whatever". Wow. Talk about a punch in the gut. So because you don't understand me means it is ok to say mean shit to me like I'm not a human being?

Yeah, I should probably re read the book and embrace who I am.

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level 2

I was gonna suggest that book too! It helped put things in perspective after I read it.

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level 1

Pardon me if I'm having a knee-jerk reaction here but the article doesn't seem to adequately explain what they consider as 'Eastern culture' that presumably values introversion.

Eastern culture as I've grown up with is all about social activities. You do everything together or else you're an antisocial weirdo. You stay back after work 'voluntarily' because your boss hasn't left yet. You go to drink with your boss and your colleagues until your face falls off, attending to their every whim and gesture.

This is not a kind society to introverts or people who find solitude to be a welcome company.

level 2

It's because it's a bunch of eastern festishization. All human society favors people who are outgoing. If you're nice and happy and make friends with whoever you meet than you will be more successful regardless of what culture you're in.

I've never been to Japan, but I've heard they don't like people being loud on trains. That doesn't mean they don't like extroversion, it just means they don't like people being loud on trains. There are plenty of Americans who don't like people being loud on trains, but our culture has generally decided that you have to get the fuck over it if people are loud. It has nothing to do with us not preferring introverts.

level 3

Come to the Nordic countries then, speaking to a random person in public would make that person think you are mentally unwell. Same with public transport if you decided to sit next to a stranger.

level 4
BS | Biology
75 points · 10 days ago

Must be nice to be able to have the option to both sit and not next to a stranger. I should move there.

cries in Mexico

level 5

If there are no double seat empty you stand obviously.

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level 4

I truly hate that, being someone from Norway. Some of the most friendly people I know live in Norway yet simply waving at someone random makes you look like a weirdo.

level 5

I love it, hate it when people try to make random contact when I'm out.

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16 points · 10 days ago

I visited Finland a few times, and it was really funny seeing so many people standing on buses because no one wanted to sit next to anyone else. I do kinda like that though, I hate it when people sit next to me.

level 4

But in Nordic countries people are far more likely to belong to a non-family social group compared to the US.

level 5

What?

level 5

Can you give an example?

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level 2

Western culture places emphasis on more socially domineering people that does exile socially shy / unsocial people.

Eastern culture doesnt embrace socially shy people, but it doesnt celebrate individualism.

Socially shy people are more likely to feel included in eastern society, as they are not placed on an extreme end of a social spectrum. They are less likely to be judged on their social ability vs their team player ability. Activities in eastern culture tend to involve everyone (house parties are people doing things altogether vs western parties where people must find other people willing to talk to them and everyone essentially splinters off, leaving those who feel left out). That is a lot less social strain on introverts.

level 2

Introverts aren't necessarily people who cannot socialize or people who don't participate in social activities. There is a whole spectrum, and typically people aren't 100% introverted or 100% extroverted. You'd be surprised how many people you think are extroverted, lean more towards the introverted side of the spectrum. By modern definition, introverts are just people that need to re-energize by spending time alone. Whereas extroverts energize themselves by spending time with others. The whole notion of introverts=shy is completely outdated.


From the perspective of someone born in Asia and now currently working and travelling Asia, I tend to see a great deal of appreciation and respect towards those that are introverted. Whether it is through religion (ie;buddhism), or cultural practices, introversion is widely accepted and respected. Just because you attend social activities, drink with your co-workers, and are able to have fun with people does not mean you're extroverted. Most people hover around the middle of the spectrum, and rarely do we see people that are extreme introverts/extroverts. There are restaurants where you can eat alone, capsule hotels where you can sleep alone, etc. I disagree when you say this is not a kind society to introverts. I think it is often encouraged.


The West does seem to have this concept of an ideal individual being charismatic and extroverted, but recently it is becoming more common for people to accept introversion and be confident with that label. Especially with younger generations and millenials, they are obsessed with personalities (ie, Myers Briggs Test) and completely understand that both introverts and extroverts have benefits.

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789 points · 11 days ago · edited 11 days ago

I have a hard time with this article because it paints a very limited image of introverts and extroverts as well as behaviour indication someone to be one. And while the cultural aspect is raised the author still relies on western interpretations on how to categorise behaviour as extraverted or introverted:

Indeed, being extraverted can get you in trouble if you’re traveling in a country or culture that regards such outwardly-focused behavior as brash and impolite.

The point is that in those cultures the behaviour isn't considered an expression of extraversion because thats not how extraverted people in those cultures express their pro social attitude - they are as extraverted as other extroverts in other cultures but use different outlets. North American extravertive behaviour patterns are not the "default" or "normal" way of extravertive behaviour (Even french introverts kiss their relatives on both cheeks while the most outgoing japanese person would be a little disturbed by that) but the whole article uses examples tailored around that point of view.

the ideal person in the “individualistic West” is “autonomous, expressive, and comfortable in the spotlight” (p. 2).

save for the "comfortable in the spotlight" part introverted people are perfectly autonomous and they can easily be expressive. Introversion does not necessarily mean people don't express their feelings or individuality - not speaking when you don't feel like you have anything to say is an expression of feeling in of itself and it's not right to talk about introverts being quiet in public as a perpetual state of "wanting so say something". They are not autists with social deficiencies.

One one hand I'm perfectly okay with the conclusion that "being yourself" will lead to more happiness and increase your chances of social acceptance but on the other I think the author fails to show that introverts already possess many of the qualities valued in modern society and tend to sabotage themselves with anxieties from aspiring to behaviour they experience as unpleasant because, like the author, confuse being socially able with being extraverted.

level 2

Furthermore, there is nothing that indicates introverts are less comfortable in the spotlight. There are tons of celebrities who are extremely introverted in private life, yet love the stage. There is simply no correlation. The only difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that one loses energy by communicating with others, and the other gains energy.

level 3

There is simply no correlation.

Some probably, but I also think people overvalue front-facing aspects of a persons life and do not consider motivation.

Many performance artists are in a bad spot between their art and the fame because of it. And a celebrity taking a photo with a fan is fairly social behaviour but it does not give insight into the celebrities enjoyment of or reason for doing it.

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level 2

I didn't read the article. I'm more of a headlines and comments kind of guy. But thing with even the labels 'Introvert' and 'Extrovert' is that people assume they are one or the other. It's a wide spectrum. I don't know many people that prefer zero alone time or people that prefer complete isolation. Most people are closer to 50/50 or 65/35, etc. We are a social species though.

level 3

I don't know many people that prefer zero alone time or people that prefer complete isolation. Most people are closer to 50/50 or 65/35, etc. We are a social species though.

Thats an added problem I was thinking of mentioning but then dropped because I didn't really know how to wrapp up the comment: Neither the study nor the author address that more introverted people still need social interaction to remain mentally healthy.

Even people who do not on principle thrive in demanding social settings need affection and relationships and that introverts sometimes don't manage to get that (for a variety of reasons) is probably contributing to them seeking comparison with more extraverted people in the first place.

level 4

The article didn't really address a whole lot, but I also agree with the ending. Cultural differences and brain differences shouldn't be compared.

I think one of the biggest issue is most people don't know what introversion and extroversion are. It's a difference in brains and the way your neurotransmitters work with dopamine levels.

Introverted is not "I'm quiet and need to be alone." Using socializing as an example: Introverted is more along the lines of my brain needs this amount of dopamine and interacting this much achieves it. If I talk to any more people, I will get overloaded and no longer feel good. An extrovert's brain might not be as sensitive to dopamine, or require more dopamine. So, they can continue to interact with people for longer, and in most cases thrive from it.

There is definitely a spectrum because it's not an off/on switch. Everyone's brains are different. Here's a decent article on the more scientific end of it if anyone is interested:

https://www.truity.com/blog/science-extraversion-and-introversion

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Please define : Introverts

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Best definition I've seen: Introverts need alone time to relax and regain energy levels.

As opposed to extroverts who become energized by interacting with other people.

My husband and his mom are perfect examples of each. My husband will lock himself in a room alone and just read or play single player games to relax. His mom will pick up the phone and call every single person on her list and chat when she wants to relax.

level 3

Most people like a balance of both though right? Like if I’ve spent my day dealing with people at work the last thing I need is more conversations, and the thought of it would put me off doing anything. On the flip side if I spend a day with little to no conversation I physically need to chat shit with someone just to make sure my voice still works

level 4

It's more of a scale, where you can be anywhere between extreme extrovert and extreme introvert.

level 5
53 points · 11 days ago

call that a spectrum

level 6

I'm on the spectrum bois

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level 2

Exactly!! Almost every job requirement is for you to have excellent people skills. Even if the job is literally just sitting at a desk without talking to anyone. They always say "it's about making connections." But what if it's draining for you to talk to people long enough to make a thorough connection? I understand humans are a social species, but not everyone finds that so easy. Pile social anxiety on top of general introversion and it becomes even more difficult to succeed.

If you do end up making it though, that is something you have that you can be proud of.

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MD-PhD-MBA | Clinical Professor/Medicine
Original Poster89 points · 11 days ago

The title of the post is a copy and paste from the first and last paragraphs of the linked academic press release here:

People high in introversion can feel that they’re square pegs in round holes within a culture that values extraversion.

To sum up, the Australian study’s findings provide new insights into the ways that introverts can be happier with their “square peg” status. By recognizing that not everyone can be an extravert, and that it’s fine to be their authentic, quiet selves, they can indeed flourish and achieve long-term fulfillment.

Journal Reference:

Lawn, R. B., Slemp, G. R., & Vella-Brodrick, D. A. (2018).

Quiet flourishing: The authenticity and well-being of trait introverts living in the west depends on extraversion-deficit beliefs.

Journal of Happiness Studies 2018

doi:10.1007/s10902-018-0037-5.

Link: https://www.springerprofessional.de/en/quiet-flourishing-the-authenticity-and-well-being-of-trait-intro/16166438

Abstract

Introversion–extraversion is a particularly salient personality trait, whereby “extraverts” are known to be more outgoing, bold, assertive, active, and cheerful than “introverts”. These extraverted attributes are socially desirable in individualistic Western cultures, and some evidence suggests that extraverts experience better person-environment fit and greater well-being than introverts in these cultures. However, what remains unclear is how living in a context that values and emphasises extraversion may impact upon the well-being of introverts, and how introverts might improve their well-being. This study aimed to explore this question via a moderated mediation model. Adult participants in Australia (N = 349) completed scales of trait introversion–extraversion, dispositional authenticity, and well-being. The extent to which participants wanted to be more extraverted than they were currently—labelled an extraversion-deficit belief—was also measured. Participants overwhelmingly indicated that they lived in a society where extraversion was more socially desirable than introversion, and most participants held extraversion-deficit beliefs. Moderated mediation analysis showed that higher trait introversion–extraversion predicted well-being directly as well as indirectly via dispositional authenticity, but this indirect pathway depended on extraversion-deficit beliefs. Extraversion-deficit beliefs were more important for the authenticity and well-being of introverts than for extraverts. Overall, we interpret our findings to mean that introverts in the West might be more authentic, and hence boost their overall well-being, if they can change their beliefs to become more accepting of their introversion.

level 2

Does the full journal article contain any reference at all to show that "extraverted attributes" are any more desirable in Western cultures than in Eastern ones? I grew up in India and have lived both in Europe and the US, and the N=1 anecdote is that Western culture is more friendly to introverts by orders of magnitude.

level 3

Yeah, this. From the information given, it just seems to assume the relativistic cultural norms. By Hostfede's dimensions, you would think that countries like the US would be more accepting of introversion because of its high levels of individualism.

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level 1

Financial success, at least in the US, really is more about who you know than what you know, and that kind of sucks when you have a natural aversion to talking to people. I'd think that that's a contributor.

level 1

Problem is it's very hard to accept yourself when you feel like no one else does. Especially this day in age, where validity is determined so much by how many likes or followers you have, or how much attention you can garnish. Seems like nobody values a genuine personality anymore, but those are the kinds that are long-lasting and will never burn out or go "out of style".

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level 3
18 points · 11 days ago

We must remember that it's okay to be introverted and be what you basically are and that's a million times better than trying to copy others. Because then you'd feel cognitive dissonance and that becomes unhealthy.

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429 points · 11 days ago · edited 11 days ago

This issue isn’t accepting/valuing oneself as an introvert, it’s everyone else’s for not respecting your introversion and your needs. Edit: it can and probably is both. I meant the biggest issue for me personally is others constantly nagging you to be extroverted.

level 2

Surely it can be both.

I see an extrovert, wish I was extroverted and become discontent.

An extrovert observes my behavior and demeans me for being introverted.

level 3
71 points · 11 days ago

I wonder how much of that discontent stems from being criticized for who you are and wishing that you were "normal"

level 4

My somewhat superficial comprehension of psychology informs me that we evolved to exist in tribes, and tribes creat natural hierarchies where ordinarily extroverts rise to the top. People higher up the hierarchy get privileges.

It’s fascinating from a dopamine analysis: people higher up in hierarchies naturally produce more dopamine. So even if the additional privileges they get is one extra raw rat, they will still feel happier. That extrapolates into the placebo factors too. Fun stuff!

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An extrovert observes my behavior and demeans me for being introverted.

Demeaning someone for not being like them just makes them an asshole.

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10 points · 11 days ago

I met an immigrant (I'm in the U.S.) who was telling me that he was introverted and sometimes struggled in American culture because people here perceive being quiet as being weak. He told me that when he raised his two kids he taught them that they needed to be outgoing because that's the best way to socialize here.

Before then, I had never considered anything like that (because I'm pretty extroverted, I've never lived anywhere else, and I don't view quiet people as weak) but since then I've been thinking about what he said a lot and really agree with it.

level 2

I'm pretty far to the introverted side of the scale--living in Japan for two years in my early 20's was a game-changer for building self-identity. Over night, I was suddenly in a culture where my own defining personality trait was not only accepted but valued. After that, I returned to the US with an acceptance of my own identity, and was able to much better thrive in the culture. I think self-acceptance does play a large role, unfortunately (to your point) it can be hard to develop that self-acceptance when the world around you is signaling that you need to 'fix' yourself to be happy.

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10 points · 11 days ago

Wait. So what cultures value introverts? It might be worth moving.

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Honestly speaking, how does one know they’re an introvert? I feel like i have some introvert tendencies but like going out (very limited)

level 2

You don't have to want to be 100% a recluse to count as an introvert. I'm an introvert and I like going out too. How you can tell is: how much going out in a row can you handle without becoming exhausted/unhappy and needing space?

For me, I can probably go out two nights in a row, but then will need at least 2-3 days of quiet and being to myself to recover. My SO on the other hand who is very extroverted could go out every night of the week and still want more.

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Thank you. I was always under the impression that intro/extroverts fall in 1 or the other. I myself dont have problems making small talk or socializing with strangers on the fly, but i would prefer not to do it and much rather be sitting at home in silence v social gatherings. Its seriously made me feel a bit upset over the friends i havent seen/talked too and i feel horrible when they reach out because i know i miss their company it just becomes sort of like a chore.

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This is the main conceit of the book Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking.

If you want to learn more about introversion and how to leverage it, check the book out

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37 points · 11 days ago

The problem I also see with this is that extroverts get all the raises and promotions because they are in the face of the people who can open the purse strings.

I don't think this is fair and I also think it can cause a company to lose valuable talent.

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