Revenge of the Introverts

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is a book that helps introverts claim a respectable place in society. Susan Cain, a self-proclaimed introvert, takes on our culture’s love of “outgoing” people. In school, kids are put in groups to learn; at work, we “collaborate” and work in teams–all difficult for introverts. Many organizations now require a personality inventory like Myers-Briggs® before a job offer is extended. Introverts are weeded out as “not fitting in.”

Susan Cain's book, "Quiet"

Susan Cain sees a big link between the 1963’s publication of The Feminine Mystique and Quiet. Cain says,

“Introverts are to extroverts what women were to men at that time–second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent. Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to “pass” as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and, ultimately, happiness.”

I’m reading the book now, and am finding it interesting and informative. It’s good to know that introverts may process more slowly, but it’s also more carefully, and when they do speak, it’s generally powered with information and facts, not bluster and hype.

Cain points out the advantages of being an introvert:

“introverts like to be alone–and introverts enjoy being cooperative. Studies suggest that many of the most creative people are introverts, and this is partly because of their capacity for quiet. Introverts are careful, reflective thinkers who can tolerate the solitude that idea-generation requires. On the other hand, implementing good ideas requires cooperation, and introverts are more likely to prefer cooperative environments, while extroverts favor competitive ones.”

I like the mix of research and personal stories. I don’t claim the book is hard science, but it is an eye opener for all the people who think that Type A workers are the only ones who can make a financially meaningful contribution.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, creativity coach, and introvert.

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18 responses to “Revenge of the Introverts

  1. I am also an introvert and proud of it ;) I have learned to be alone in my head, even in the midst of the madding crowd…but without that rejuvenating solitude I would go insane. I need one *don’t talk to me* day every week or I would go nuts…and my garden, quilting, art journal and reading… the perfect hobbies for introverts :)

  2. Edge dweller. I like that. Yep, that’s me. An edge dweller. And for me the very worst torture is having to give up my quiet lunch to a group of office mates……I like them, really I do…….but oh my, love my quiet lunch better. Off alone, checking to see what Quinn posted……………

    • Aww, thanks. It’s a hard balance for us introverts to show that we do like people and also get the alone time needed. On days that I teach (business skills to adults) I often stay in the conference room with the lunch I brought so the participants can leave their items out. One or two always decide to “keep me company,” and chat about the class content and what they need to get, and their lives. Of course, as an instructor, I want to pay attention and answer their questions, but as an introvert I long for no company at all.

      • It’s entirely possible that the people who stay behind to keep you company are ALSO introverts who don’t want to rush out and socialize with the bigger group over lunch. Introverts entertaining introverts, everyone wishing they could take some down time, and no-one feeling like it’s ok to just stop talking and drift off on their own thoughts :P

  3. Oh..I think I’m going to have to read this book. I’ve been fighting my ‘introverted’ tendencies…believing I should be something or someone different …for years. I would think this might be a life-changing and affirming must-read!

  4. For a long time, I thought I was an extrovert because I like talking so much! I’m not very shy either, for the most part. However, I am a total introvert! I fall apart and/or get really snippy if I don’t have time for myself. I don’t think fast on my feet, especially in uncomfortable situations that take me by surprise. I need to get alone and think through how I’m feeling and ask a million questions of assessment. I really enjoy being alone and struggle with making time to be with other people when I could just stay home. I have very little social life. I have to force myself. I also love quiet. I most often enjoy being home alone in total silence. But too much is not healthy either. I’m trying to learn a balance that is best for me.

    • Shy and introvert are two different things. Introverts are not necessarily shy, and there are shy extroverts (see what I’ve learned from the book already?) You are describing a typical introvert. Needs time to assess and think things through. Refreshes by being alone. Yep. Yay, Angie, another introvert stand up!

  5. Great post, Quinn. Sounds like an interesting book, as well. I have had managers say “you need to speak up more”, to which I think to myself “the others need to shut up more”. If everyone in our office blabbed on and on in an outgoing manner we would never get anything done. I get very grouchy without an appropriate amount of alone time.

    • that’s the sign of a true introvert–needing alone time to regroup. It’s totally foreign to most other people. And I love your answer (even if it is unspoken) about speaking up. You are so right!

  6. People see introverts as a controversial figure. Their friends either dislike them or hate them….
    Hope this post of your’s as well as the book help people stop creating the differentiation…

  7. I have been thinking about a blog post regarding the shy people or the introverts and how they are often creative sorts. I am definitely much happier off in my own little world, and was a painfully shy child. I have learned (or at least tried to learn – not sure I am particularly adept) to be a bit more extroverted and be in groups, especially if I know it is for my benefit. I like the analogy of introverts/extroverts being like men/women. Two different kinds of people and it is hard to understand the other half. :)

  8. I bet this post was interesting, but I was too shy to read it.

  9. I’ve been known to identify as an “edge dweller,” those who, in the deep past, lived comfortably in the forest, and occasionally, reluctantly, had dealings with those in town. Mostly though, we’re all pretty comfortable on our own. Thank you for this validating post, as always.

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