A tribute to the introverts among us, Susan Cain’s witty, well researched book tells the story of those who prefer to listen rather than speak. She makes the case that introverts are often overlooked compared to extroverts in the dominant culture. She delves into their psyche and unique strengths so introverts and extroverts alike can better understand this personality type.
My key Takeaways from “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain
Takeaway #1 What Makes You An Introvert or Extrovert?
Whether we're introverted or extroverted is defined by how the emotional switch in our brain, our almond-sized amygdala, reacts to stimuli - People who are introverts have a stronger response to external stimuli than extroverts.
This was proven in an experiment on infants when cotton swabs were covered in alcohol and held under the infants' noses whilst a recording of balloons being popped was played. 20% of the infants' reacted to the experiment by kicking and screaming, their pulse and blood pressure spiked putting them in the 'highly reactive' category, aka introverted. 40% of the infants' remained cool and calm whilst this stimuli was being presented to them, these 40% being placed in the low-reactive category I.e these infants being the extroverts.
This is why the introverts seek out calm and quiet environments where they can usually have some control over the stimuli whilst the extroverts, who don't respond nearly as much to new impressions, seek out more and more stimulating environments whether they're clubbing or jumping out of a plane.
But just because introverts are sensitive and seek out peaceful environments with limited stimulants, not putting themselves forth to be seen and heard, doesn't mean they're shy. Being shy means you're afraid of being judged negatively, it means you care what people think of you. It's very possible to have shy extroverts as well as shy introverts.
Takeaway #2 Being an Introvert In The Western Working World
It's not easy for introverts to thrive and succeed in the Western world when extroverts are setting the tone, demanding all the attention, and doing all the talking and therefore, often seen as being more cooperative, more interesting, more intelligent and ultimately, more successful.
It's only in the last 150 years in the USA and Europe that extrovertism has prevailed, this due to the 20th century shift that saw more people leaving their close-knit towns and villages for the city. Rural values where it was enough to be honest and hard working were left behind as it became a dog-eat-dog world in order to make it in the city.
In the workplace today you'll find that open-plan offices, group brainstorming sessions, and PowerPoint presentations are everywhere – These being the 'ideal environment' for extroverts to thrive an environment which most employers think their employees do their best work. But introverts do their best work when alone, just look at Steve Wozniak who built the first personal computer at home, or Isaac Newton who formulated the law of gravity alone.
If you're a CEO you need to have a mix of introverts and extroverts to have your company flourish, but you need to take care of both sides needs and preferences. Consider if you need a quick decision or a careful decision to be made – An extrovert is perfect when you need to accomplish a simple task fast or come to a fast decision because the extrovert will manage the team to ensure everyone is pulling together working on the same task. However, the extrovert won't listen to a different/better way of achieving the goal as they make fast decisions based on little information, this is where introverts thrive. An introvert will take other peoples thoughts and ideas into careful consideration before making a final decision that is less likely to have flaws and fail.
When introverts and extroverts interact conflict can arise due to misunderstandings. A misunderstood extrovert will grow hostile and become offensive, overpowering the introvert who will retreat from such hostility. This is why both types need to be open and honest with each other, discuss differences of opinion and explain themselves – The introvert isn't disinterested as the extrovert presumes, they just aren't prepared to put themselves into the hostile environment in order to 'win the fight'.
Takeaway #3 Introverts Must Sometimes Act Like Extroverts
In order to succeed in certain moments of business and indeed life, every introvert must learn to flip the switch and become a temporary extrovert whether for an hour or a day. Extroverts can inspire people, they get their voice heard, and accomplish whatever it is they are going after quickly and easily.
To do this, introverts just need to learn and display some typically extrovert actions – Speak clearly, walk confidently (take up space with your body – don't cross your arms and make yourself small!) put on a nonchalant air and keep your posture relaxed at all times. After you've completed what you set out to do you can put the switch back and rush to your quiet place to replenish your need for tranquility!