Friday, November 14, 2014

Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking

Inspired by the book "Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking" by Susan Cain

Steve was a quiet guy.  To get out of talking, he became a monk and took a vow of silence.  At his monastery, monks had an annual review where they were allowed to say two words.  After his first year, he was asked "What would you like to say using your two words?"  Steve replied "Food Cold".   
At his second annual review, once again he was asked "What would you like to say using your two words?"  Steve replied "Bed hard"
His 3rd year passed and again the abbot asked him "What would you like to say using your two words?"
Steve said "I quit."  The abbot replied, "I'm not surprised.  Ever since you got here, you've done nothing but complain"

What is an introvert?
Why is it hard being an introvert?
How can we help introverts?

What is an Introvert

Introverts don't have a social disorder.  They just respond differently to social stimulation.  Instead of being energized by intense social interaction, they prefer a trickle charge; which they get from alone time or maybe with a close, trusted friend.

1/3 to 1/2 of the population are introverts.  There's a good chance there many of us are introverts.

How can you tell if you might be a
  • You might be an introvert if you enjoyed timeout as a child.
  • You might be an introvert if one of your favorite games is solitaire.
  • You might be an introvert if you can’t understand what’s so bad about solitary confinement.
  • You might be an introvert if you like it when the librarian shushes people in the library.
Introverts are just one type of person.  As you know, there are two types of people in the world: Those that divide people into two types and those that don't.

Actually, the two types are introverts and extroverts, but in reality, we all have a little bit of introvert and extrovert in us and each of us lies somewhere on the spectrum.

Introverts 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.

Why is it hard to be an introvert?

Society identifies two types of people: extroverts and people that aren't extroverts.

It wasn't always this way.  When our communities were smaller and tighter knit, it was your reputation and character that mattered.  With the industrial age, our cities got larger.  It was hard to establish a reputation, so the outspoken extrovert got the job.

In our extroverted world, the extroverts typically end up being in charge.  But there's a problem with this.  While we are most likely to agree with the most outspoken person in the group, research shows that we tend to agree with them even when they are wrong.  Besides being wrong, we tend to ignore the introvert.

This is unfortunate since introverts tend to be more intelligent and creative.  Research shows that introverts make better leaders because they allow their employees to run with their ideas instead of suppressing creativity.

How to help an introvert

Nurture the introvert inside of you.  Embrace quiet solitude, let your mind wander and dream so that you can have amazing thoughts.  Amazing things happen when the noise of the world is shut out and the mind is given a chance to work.

But, remember:
How many introverts does it take to change a light bulb?  Only one, but 3 others show up with a light bulb; they forgot to tell anyone their plans.

Introverts are awesome, they just keep it to themselves.

Don't be like Steve the monk, taking a vow of silence and then sound like a complainer when you say your two words.

How many extroverts does it take to change a light bulb?  Only one, but they only change it if the light is going to shine on them.

For your extroverted side, remember to resist the temptation to hog the spotlight.  Identify the introverts around you.  Listen to them, and let them be creative.


Steve discovered he was an introvert.  He just didn't need much social interaction.  He found it hard to make it in our society that emphasizes and rewards extroversion.  Steve joined Toastmasters to improve his extroverted side.  His club members found him clever, smart and funny.  At first, they weren't sure if Steve liked them because he avoided small talk after the meetings.  They discovered that he did like them.  How did they know?  Instead of looking at his own shoes, Steve looked at their shoes.