Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking

If you know me, you know that I am an introvert and love books. A book written by an introvert about introverts, seems like a great read to me.

Enter Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (kindle version) by Susan Cain. In it, Cain looks at the different between extroverts and introverts. She looks at research on the brain, how each interact in team settings, how they learn, how they make decisions, how they make speeches, how they recharge. It was a fascinating look at how we are the way we are.

One of the more interesting things for me was not only understanding more about who I am (high school and college made a lot more sense to me after reading this), but how I raise our kids, especially introverts. The research she cites about education and how introverts do in education in elementary schools was downright frightening and something more parents should be aware of.

Here are just a few of the things I highlighted:

  • Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.
  • Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.
  • Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration. They’re relatively immune to the lures of wealth and fame.
  • 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. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions. Nor are introverts necessarily shy. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.
  • Introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.
  • Teens who are too gregarious to spend time alone often fail to cultivate their talents “because practicing music or studying math requires a solitude they dread.”
  • Top performers overwhelmingly worked for companies that gave their workers the most privacy, personal space, control over their physical environments, and freedom from interruption.
  • Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory.
  • Studies have shown that performance gets worse as group size increases: groups of nine generate fewer and poorer ideas compared to groups of six, which do worse than groups of four. The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” writes the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”
  • Highly sensitive people tend to be keen observers who look before they leap. They arrange their lives in ways that limit surprises. They’re often sensitive to sights, sounds, smells, pain, coffee. They have difficulty when being observed (at work, say, or performing at a music recital) or judged for general worthiness (dating, job interviews).
  • The highly sensitive tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive (just as Aron’s husband had described her). They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions—sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear.
  • If we assume that quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good (and bad) ideas, then we should worry if the louder and more forceful people always carry the day.
  • We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.
  • Introverts are uniquely good at leading initiative-takers. Because of their inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions.
  • Studies have shown that performance gets worse as group size increases: groups of nine generate fewer and poorer ideas compared to groups of six, which do worse than groups of four. The ‘evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,’ writes the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. ‘If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.’
  • We can stretch our personalities, but only up to a point.
  • Introverts tend to sit around wondering about things, imagining things, recalling events from their past, and making plans for the future.
  • In other words, introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.
  • If it’s creativity you’re after, ask your employees to solve problems alone before sharing their ideas. If you want the wisdom of the crowd, gather it electronically, or in writing, and make sure people can’t see each other’s ideas until everyone’s had a chance to contribute.

Here is a talk that Susan gave at TED on the topic of the book:

All in all, a fascinating read.

2 thoughts on “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking

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