Over the last couple of months, we’ve had the pleasure of reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. If you’re much like myself, when attending parties or networking events, you’ll often find yourself plotting your escape route before even having arrived at the venue. This is a feeling shared by many introverts, as a result of our brains being sensitive to overstimulation.
The book, written by self-confessed introvert Susan Cain encourages the rise of the introvert in the business sphere. She draws attention to the fact that today’s society excessively and respects extroverts, often making them our bosses or political figures. Not only this, but the pressure of the extrovert ideal sometimes causes introverts to attempt to emulate extroverts, and the stress of not being ‘true to ourselves’ can make us physically and mentally ill.
As discussed in an article by Jon Ronson for The Guardian which reviewed the book, more often than not, we form our workplaces around the extrovert ideal. Think open-plan offices and group brain storming sessions.
“The loudest, most socially confident and quickest on their feet win the day, whereas the contemplative and quietly well-informed tend not to get a word in,” writes Jonson.
“School classrooms are increasingly designed to reflect this flawed environment. Children sit in pods facing each other and are rewarded for being outgoing rather than original. All this even though Gandhi and Rosa Parks and Steve Wozniak and JK Rowling and Eleanor Roosevelt have described themselves as introverts, at their best when solitary.”
Accurately so, Cain describes us introverts as ‘especially empathic’ – thinking in an ‘unusually complex fashion.’ We prefer speaking about topics which relate to ‘values and morality,’ compared to small talk about the weather. We also desire peace and are modest. The introvert child is an ‘orchid – who wilts easily’, and is prone to ‘depression, anxiety and shyness, but under the right conditions can grow strong and magnificent.’
Solitude is a crucial and underrated ingredient for creativity and office designs and work plans should allow people to be alone as well as to socialize.
While she is not seeking introvert domination, she is seeking for a better balance and inclusion of different work styles, acknowledging that big ideas and great leadership can come from either personality type.
Cain cites studies showing that introverts are better at leading proactive employees because they listen to and let them run with their ideas, while extroverts are better at leading passive employees because they have a knack for motivation and inspiration.
She emphasizes that the key to maximizing your talents is to put yourself into the zone of stimulation that’s right for you.
The Harvard Independent‘s Faith Zhang closed her review of Quiet with the observation that Cain’s point is not that introverts are inherently superior or that we should all shroud ourselves in solitude, but that diversity provides balance and makes for a fuller, richer world.
A wonderful read for any introvert who can relate to the teachings of this book. Do yourself a favour and get your hands Quiet.
Check out Cain’s TED talk below: