Do you often let calls go through to voicemail? Enjoy one-on-one conversations as opposed to group activities? Dislike conflict? Prefer working alone rather than in a team?
If you answered yes to the majority of these questions, then you my friend, are probably an introvert.
The good news is, you’re not alone. According to Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, at least 1/3 of the people we know are introverts.
Yes- I know it may come as a surprise, given how hilarious, effervescent and engaging I am on my blog- but don’t let that purple wig fool you. On the inside, I’m just a scared little panda.
I prefer listening to talking, find it easier to express myself in writing, and to the disappointment of my throngs of friends and admirers, often prefer to stay home, read a book and be by myself on a Saturday night.
Cain’s book explores the idea that in today’s society, introverts are chronically undervalued. By praising extroversion above almost all else, we fail to capitalize on the special and unique skills introverts possess, like focus, innovation, creativity, work ethic, thoughtfulness, and observation.
Cain explains how over the past 100 years, Western culture has become obsessed with the idea of personality. “The Extrovert Ideal” now permeates almost everything we do: from offices designed in open concepts to inspire “Groupthink” and “brainstorming sessions”, to classrooms arranged in “pods”, to the success of such books as “How to Win Friends and Influence People” .
Introversion has become a form of pathology – a personality trait that needs to be “fixed”. We encourage children who are introverted to “come out of their shells”, rather than focusing on what they can bring to the table. Cain points to evidence that our “extrovert ideal” can actually be harmful in business, and lobbies for change.
I decided to read this book after a friend showed me Cain’s 2012 TED Talk on the same subject. It received over 4 million YouTube hits and helped start what is now known as “The Quiet Revolution”.
The book is exhaustively researched: Cain spent almost 7 years wading through literature and scientific studies, as well as conducting her own “field research”. She went to a Tony Robbins leadership conference, spent a week at Harvard Business School, shadowed Asian American high school students, interviewed psychologists and prominent business people, attended a retreat for the highly sensitive and observed an Evangelical Christian leadership conference.
I found this book fascinating, and it really resonated with me on a lot of levels. Before becoming a writer, Cain was a corporate lawyer on Wall Street, and discusses the difficulty of being an introvert in a profession dominated by big personalities. As a young lawyer, I can relate. I am constantly attending business development and networking seminars where we are encouraged to hand out business cards like Halloween candy.
“Follow up with everyone you meet!” they say. “Introduce yourself to the Managing partner in the elevator!”. As an introvert, this can feel overwhelming. You worry you will be left behind by all of your gregarious, outgoing contemporaries who fluently speak the language of schmooze.
Cain, however, explains how she put her skills as an introvert to work for her. By being the most prepared person in the room and using her skills of listening and observation, she became a highly successful negotiator, eventually founding her own consulting business.
Another point Cain explored that I found interesting was the “internet paradox”: introverts are much more likely to express intimate details about themselves on the internet, to total strangers- often things their friends or family would be surprised to learn about them.
This definitely rings true with me. As cheesy as it is to say, I feel like when I started blogging, I found my voice. It was like suddenly, my personality was more tangible to those around me. I felt understood.
You should definitely read this book if you are an introvert, or have introverts in your life. (if you’re curious whether you are an introvert, you can take Cain’s quiz here) .I will say, the book can be a little heavy on the scientific mumbo jumbo- so if you don’t want to deal with all that independent/dependent variable noise, then you can always just watch the TED Talk instead.
I give it: 4.2/5 Intellectual Dachshunds