Was Gandhi really an Introvert?

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Gandhi

Gandhi and crowd

In the book Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that cannot stop talking, Mahatma Gandhi is described as an introvert. But, was Gandhi really an introvert? Just because he was a great thinker, was deeply spiritual, and used to spend lot of time meditating and praying, should he be labeled as an introvert? Do we have sufficient data to arrive at this conclusion?

This is how Susan Cain has described introverts and extroverts on her website:

  • Introverts:  Given the choice, you’ll devote your social energy to the people you care about most, preferring a glass of wine with a close friend to a party full of strangers. You think before you speak, and relish solitude. You feel energized when focusing deeply on a subject or activity that really interests you. You have an active inner life, and are at your best when you tap into its riches.
  • Extroverts: You relish social life, and are energized by interacting with friends and strangers alike. You are assertive, go-getting, and able to seize the day. You’re great at thinking on your feet, and are relatively comfortable with conflict. You are actively engaged in the world around you, and are at your best when you tap into its energy.

Gandhi spent most of this time surrounded with people, mostly strangers. I have never heard or read anything which points to the fact that he was uncomfortable with people/strangers. As I gather from whatever I have read about him, Gandhi used to enjoy company, used to seek out meeting people. He was at ease with strangers – both common man as well as most powerful statesman of his time.

And I have not heard of anyone more assertive than Gandhi. That man was made of steel.

As per Cain introversion is a preference of less stimulation. If this is true, then in no case Gandhi can be called an introvert. He not only lived in a very exciting and dynamic environment, but actively created one for him as well his country.

I bet, if we had Gandhi today, he would have a very active twitter profile.

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2 thoughts on “Was Gandhi really an Introvert?

  1. I have some doubts about your analysis. As Susan Cain points out, introverts can learn to fake extroversion, and I am sure Gandhi found it absolutely necessary to be able to deal with people if he wanted to carry out the work he did. Also he was not a good orator in his early days, I suspect its something he picked up as he moved on. I think when we look at great men we often look at the finished product but not at their humble beginnings.

  2. Sean Coleman

    Sean Coleman
    I followed this up from Susan Cain (who has good insights) and from others because I too have strong doubts. He looks like an extravert and his wife (from the few photos I’ve seen) looks like an introvert. His biography also strongly suggests he was an extravert.

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