The Power of Introverts

book

Last year, I read Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop TalkingAs an introvert, I found this book insightful and incredibly helpful. It explained so much about my personality and how best to use my introvertedness as a leader.

Recently, Susan did a live Q&A with several bloggers who blogged about advanced copies of the book. Here are some more thoughts from Susan on the topic of personalities:

What would be your advice for living with a spouse who is an introvert? Particularly ways to solve disputes when only one side is willing to do any talking!

This is such an important question (and I address it at length in the chapter in QUIET on introvert-extrovert relationships). Introverts and extroverts are often attracted to each other as marriage partners (for good reason), but they have dramatically different approaches to conflict. Extroverts are what psychologists call “confrontive copers,” while introverts tend to seek to defuse conflict. The problem is that the more extroverts confront their introverted partners, the more aggressed the introverts feel – and the more they withdraw, leaving their extroverted partners feeling shut out in the cold. On the other hand, the more that introverts try to defuse conflict with quiet talk, the more vehement their extroverted partners grow in response – causing introverts to feel insulted or attacked.

The only way out of this impasse is for each partner to truly understand where the other is coming from, and to borrow the other’s coping style. For an extrovert, this means airing grievances as quietly, mildly, and respectfully as you can. And for introverts, this means engaging head on with problems, even when this feels threatening and unpleasant. Good luck, it’s worth it!

How do you classify someone who prefers their own company and activities they can do by themselves, but has forced themselves to act in a more extroverted way? I enjoy being alone and love reading and creative writing. However, in order to promote and build my dental practice, I have made myself participate in community activities, and in order to be a more active part of my childrens’ lives I am part of a group of parents that work and play together. I even enjoy these activities, all the while thinking that I’d rather be home alone with my husband and kids, curled up by a toasty fire with a good book or sharing a movie with them. Have I remade myself into an extrovert or just putting on an act?

It sounds like you’re an introvert who’s gotten really good at acting like a pseduo-extrovert – and nothing wrong with that, if it serves goals that matter to you (your dental practice, your kids’ social life.) Just make sure to get the quiet time you need – and that your family probably needs, too.

What do extraverts need to understand most about introverts?

When they don’t engage animatedly with you, this doesn’t mean that they don’t like or love you! They just need to recharge their batteries frequently, and might be less demonstrative than you are. Look for signs of quiet passion!

As an extrovert married to an introvert, how can I make his social experiences more satisfying and less stressful?

What a great and caring question. Well, for one thing, make sure there aren’t too many of them. No introvert enjoys going out night after night…but they might really enjoy the right social events in measured doses. The best experiences tend to be with close friends, or based on events that are of intrinsic interest – eg a movie, a concert, etc.

How do you see introverts having any type of an impact on our predominately extrovert society?

They already do! Many of our finest leaders and artists have been introverts. It’s usually a matter of making your own natural strengths work for you (for example, the Campbell Soup CEO Doug Conant was famous for writing 30,000 personal notes of thanks to high-performing employees) while gaining the skills you need to fake extroversion when you need to.

Also, social media is an introvert’s friend – it’s a way of connecting with tens, hundreds, thousands of people from the comfort of your own home or office.

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