The Quiet Introvert
How many times have I come out of a meeting and had someone ask me, “What’s wrong?” or “Why so quiet?” At first I was a little bewildered by it, then self-conscious. Was I not contributing enough? Did I look preoccupied? Maybe there IS something wrong with me! What a relief to read Susan Cain’s bestseller, Quiet, and learn that, I’m not only normal, but have something in common with people I admire, like Bill Gates and Rosa Parks.
I am an introvert.
Over the years I’d learned to accept my quiet nature. But Cain helped me see there’s value in introversion. That it’s not some character flaw, but simply a different way of responding to our world.
Some things Cain said that stuck with me:
Our culture reveres extroverts. At any business or social gathering one or two will start talking, tell a story or a joke, and people can’t help but draw closer, edging into the warmth of their limelight. Cain says big personalities are more admired now than they used to be, before commercials and Twitter and talking heads.
We often mistake charisma for intellect. She cites studies that show people consistently rate the loquacious among us as smarter than their quieter counterparts. But it’s a false association. Research shows there’s no link between extroversion and either IQ or quality of ideas. Other studies show introverts are more skilled problem solvers and more knowledgeable than extroverts on almost every subject.
Did you know…
- Quiet leaders can be just as successful. For examples Cain lists such quietly effective CEOs as Charles Schwab, Bill Gates, Brenda Barnes and James Copeland. One BYU study looked at the CEOs of 128 major companies and discovered those considered charismatic had bigger salaries but not better performance records.
- Collaboration has its pitfalls. Some of the most interesting research focused on brainstorming. In one study participants in 23 out of 24 groups produced more and better ideas when working alone than they did in a group. Cain gives a reasons why: It’s easier to sit back quietly and let the talkers take the initiative.
- Introverts need to step out occasionally. It’s okay to crave solitude and indulge that craving, but be sure to mix it up once in a while. Network with associates; invite a friend to coffee; go to a party even if you need to leave early. You can always listen more than you talk – in fact, people will like you better for it!
I worked in a corporate setting for years before I decided I couldn’t take the relentless shelling of stimuli. Now, here alone in my home office, I still get to work with many of the same people, but I’m much more productive (and happy!). I find it easier to focus, manage my schedule, and work at my own pace without distractions.
How about you? Does your job provide the right amount of solitude and togetherness to suit your personality? If not, what could you change to give you that balance? Call me! I am, as you know, an experienced listener.
I’m nobody! Who are you?
I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell!
They’d banish – you know!
How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one’s name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
– Emily Dickinson
Photo courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net/Nick Coombs