It’s no surprise that empathetic people possess a greater understanding of those around them than their more bombastic counterparts. “Good listeners”, the most cherished members of any friend group, take the time to truly hear and comprehend their friends’ stories and can use that information to inform their own interactions with members of their circle.
Skilled listeners who observe and absorb the social behaviors of others tend to identify as introverts. And according to a recent study by Yale University, these qualities may render their owners better leaders than in-your-face extroverts.
Inc. reports that Yale psychologists Anton Gollwitzer and John Bargh interviewed over 1,100 subjects to acertain the differences between introverts and extroverts when it comes to interpreting social cues. During these interviews, they asked their subjects questions about how people as a whole behave when acting within a group, and they discovered that the introverts answered more accurately and thoughtfully than the extroverts. The introverted interviewees also made keener observations about interpersonal relations within groups and picked up on significant details, like the fact that people work harder individually than they do on group projects and that groups can cause participants to feel less responsible for their actions.
While Gollwitzer and Bargh were careful to point out that the introverts’ natural inclination to pay attention to social behaviors doesn’t replace formal psychological training, they did claim that “introverts prone to melancholy seem to be more astute at understanding how we behave in groups than their gregarious peers.”
Gollwitzer’s and Bargh’s study didn’t directly connect the reflective nature of introverts to their leadership potential, but it makes sense that individuals who prefer to observe their surroundings have a stronger understanding of how people operate and, subsequently, the best way to collaborate with and motivate in a workplace setting.
"The people who really captured human social nature, who really were able to capture the social psychological aspects that we all universally understand, were writers like Hemingway or psychologists like William James. They were able to do this, and they tended to be introverted, melancholy, observant, reflective about the world,” Gollwitzer told the BBC.
Not only does a lack of aggressive social behaviors not eliminate your leadership potential, but it may in fact be the secret ingredient that turns a “shrinking violet” into a strong, effective, and respected manager.