The Power of Introverts

Quiet bookQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

I think this book tells us, so very strongly and passionately, that people really are different. And in our “extrovert-path-to-success” world, the introverts really are different, and we — our culture, our business world — must “let them”, and “enable them”, and “encourage them” to pursue the introvert path. It really is okay to be different than the “expected norm”.

We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal—the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.
 We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual—the kind who’s comfortable “putting himself out there”.

Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings; but after a while, wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.

This book is a sort of manifesto for introverts:

  • There’s a word for people who are “in their heads too much”: thinkers.
  • Our culture admires risk-takers, but we need our “heed- takers” more than ever.
  • Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
  • The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.
  • Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lap-lit desk.
  • One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
  • It’s okay to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
  • “Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron.
  • Love is essential; gregariousness is optional.
  • “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” 
(Mahatma Gandhi)

In another book, Rework, the authors say:

You should get in the alone zone. Long stretches of alone time are when you’re most productive. When you don’t have to mind-shift between various tasks, you get a boatload done.

For some, that is what they prefer “most of the time”. Such people are the introverts, and they really do get an awful lot done in their “alone zone” time. I think the world may work best when we honor both types.

I suspect that Steve Wozniak, the introvert, and Steve Jobs, the extrovert, were the perfect “match”. We need both. Susan Cain has taught us this, or at least reminded us of this, in a genuinely important book.

Randy Mayeux

Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

4 responses

  1. Another fine summary, Randy. Introverts are the untapped resource in organizations.

  2. I found Quiet by Susan Cain to be an immensely insightful book, not only about myself as an introvert, but about society in general. I highly recommend it for anyone who is more introverted, or loves or works with someone who is. Which is pretty much everyone, since 1 out of every 2-3 people is introverted.

    A few key takeaways from Susan’s book for me. First, introversion is different from shy. Introverts prefer less stimulation than extroverts, where shyness is about the fear of social judgement. Shyness can be found in both introverts and extroverts.

    Second, it can be too easy to set up a meeting or environment where extroverts have the advantage, because the squeaky wheels and fastest to speak have too much influence. This means the quieter voices or those who think longer before they speak up have too little.

    Third, is the concept of emotional work. When an introvert is functioning like an extrovert, they are performing emotional work, and afterwards, will seek solitude to recharge. Where just the opposite occurs for extroverts, who are performing emotional work when exposed to less stimulation and will then seek out more to recharge.

    A great addition to any leader’s library.

    1. Some more great insight, Joseph! Thanks again!

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