Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Quiet The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking " Are you one of them?


I always thought I was one of "them." The author,  Susan Cain is a bit ambiguous with definitions, just the way we introverts prefer. Being introverted is not a black and white thing and overlaps with, but is distinct from such things as shyness and being highly sensitive. As the author admits, humans are in reality very complex. We each have a unique mixture of traits.

One of her main themes is that we live in a world that rewards extroversion and we are all encouraged to express ourselves more aggressively if we expect to be "successful."  She is an advocate for introverts a task she feels more comfortable with than in her previous occupation of corporate law. I identify with her advocacy as us introverts see the world as unfair at times. Extroverts have lots of spokespersons.

Many studies demonstrate that extroverts are rewarded more often, although they do not always have the better ideas.  Their strength is action.  Introverts tend to listen more and consequently understand more and often their decisions are better and in more depth.  The arts and sciences are full of introverts.  Extrovert action draws more attention.  This is the essence of Susan's contention.

In different parts of the book Susan writes about how introverts try to adapt to a world that seems to be run by extroverts.  Sometimes they make a conscious effort to be more outgoing, sometimes they are able to pick their spots.  Sometimes they are able to make compromises.  Often they naturally gravitate to other introverts, especially if they share common interests.

Early in the book she writes about Dale Carnegie.  I felt a little defensive as I had taken a Dale Carnegie course and was very glad I had.  Looking at it closer my experience does illustrate her point. Dale Carnegie had been born in a rural setting and was originally very shy.  He made a conscious effort to overcome that to the point he could make a rich living helping others do the same.  I was spooked many years ago when I understood I would be speaking in front of 200 plus people at my wedding and took the course.  It helps to overcome inhibitions and to understand what works in expressing yourself.  That description doesn't do the course or Dale Carnegie full justice, but it supports the author's contention.

One chapter is devoted to Asians.  They have developed a reputation of excelling in school and displacing Americans in post secondary education institutions.  It seems to boil down to they spend more time studying.  But worse, they don't socialize the way their non-Asian classmates do.  They are not boisterous or aggressive.  Some Asians have made an effort to encourage more socially outgoing behaviour recognizing the path to success requires some extroversion.

In real life introverts and extroverts bang into one another on a daily basis.  Many introverts have learned to do bursts of extroverted behaviour in order to win their points.  Often, introverts and extroverts partner, even marry.  Parents and child are often at cross purposes.  The author advises on how to best nurture a child that is the opposite (or I you might say inclining to the opposite tendency). Extroverts and introverts can better understand one another and in fact in many cases feed off one another.

Extroverts are not bad people just because they are resented by the rest of us.  They are often intelligent and have social skills lacking in introverts.  They get things done.  They can work with introverts to their mutual benefit.  The author, Susan Cain married an extrovert.

In her conclusion she states, "If you're a manager remember that one third to one half of your workforce is probably introverted, whether they appear to be that way or not. Think twice about how you design your organization's office space."  If introverts are made comfortable they can contribute their share of productivity.  She cautions against groupthink suggesting that if you are really after creativity to solve problems it might be best to encourage employees to solve problems alone before sharing ideas.

One of the best aids to the benefits of group thinking has been the inter-net.  Lots of solitary thinkers pooling their ideas and building on each other's thoughts have done wondrous things.  

To find out more of Susan and her book check this website http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/

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