Insight

BD Book Club: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

After reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, I felt so understood as an introvert and could not help but want to share this book with my colleagues. Susan Cain dives into the differences between introversion and extroversion, their misconceptions, and why we need both personalities in our world.

I have pulled my highlights from the book and share how we can rethink the power of quiet and introverted personalities in the workplace.

Introversion vs. Extroversion

Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding is that Introversion and extroversion are a spectrum and “appearance is not reality”. Some may put on a facade of extroversion, but this puts a huge strain on their energy. Others may appear “aloof or self-contained, but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama”.

So, what is the difference?

Introverts

  • Respond with more excitement to new people, places, and things
  • Prefer to think deeply before acting, “digest information thoroughly, stay on task longer, give up less easily, and work more accurately”
  • Thrive in meaningful one-on-one interactions and nurturing relationships
  • Better at solving complex problems through clarity, patience, and persistence
  • Recharge their batteries by being alone
  • Are highly sensitive people and more apt to feel overwhelmed by an act of kindness or sickened by violence, and as a result have a very strong conscience
  • Are highly empathic, able to que into other people’s emotions with ease

Extroverts

  • Driven to seek action and rewards like money and social status
  • Good with conflict, competition, and large groups
  • Stronger at handling information-overload, pressure, and multi-tasking
  • Need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough
  • More likely to take a “quick-and-dirty approach to problem-solving, trading accuracy for speed, making increasing numbers of mistakes as they go, and abandoning ship altogether when the problem seems too difficult or frustrating”

The Extrovert Ideal

Introversion in the United States has become a “second-class personality trait” largely because extroversion is such an appealing style. However,  we have turned extroversion into the gold standard that all must strive to achieve. We need to stop thinking of introversion as something that is negative and start to see the positives that this segment of the population brings to our diverse cultures.

“Some of the world’s most talented people are introverts. Without them, we wouldn’t have the Apple computer, the theory of relativity, or Van Gogh’s sunflowers.”

Using Introverted Powers for Good

Introverts need to share their ideas as powerfully as they can, whether that be in writing, polished lectures, or advanced by allies. The trick is to embrace your own style instead of allowing others to persuade your intuition. If you find yourself relating to these introverted tendencies, here are a couple of quotes from the book and ways to use your talents to your advantage:

  • You have the power of persistence, the tenacity to solve complex problems, and the clear-sightedness to avoid pitfalls that trip others up.
  • You enjoy relative freedom from the temptations of superficial prizes like money and status.
    Your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths. You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless.
  • Stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race.
  • If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth.
  • If you prefer single-tasking to multitasking, stick to your guns.
  • Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way. It’s up to you to use that independence to good effect.

Powers of Quiet in the Workplace

The most effective teams are made up of both introverts and extroverts. In fact, about ⅓ to ½ of offices are made up of introverts. If you see your colleagues, employees, or leaders in this light, here are a couple of ideas from the book that may help to harness their strengths and make them an integral part of your team:

  • Introverts are uniquely good at leading initiative-takers. Because of their inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions. Having benefited from the talents of their followers, they are then likely to motivate them to be even more proactive. Introverted leaders create a virtuous circle of proactivity.
  • Think twice about how you design your organization’s office space. Don’t expect introverts to get jazzed up about open office plans or, for that matter, lunchtime birthday parties or team-building retreats.
  • Make the most of introverts’ strengths—these are the people who can help you think deeply, strategize, solve complex problems, and spot canaries in your coal mine.
  • Remember the dangers of the New Groupthink. If it’s creativity you’re after, ask your employees to solve problems alone before sharing their ideas. If you want the wisdom of the crowd, gather it electronically, or in writing, and make sure people can’t see each other’s ideas until everyone’s had a chance to contribute.
  • Face-to-face contact is important because it builds trust, but group dynamics contain unavoidable impediments to creative thinking.
  • Arrange for people to interact one-on-one and in small, casual groups.
  • Don’t mistake assertiveness or eloquence for good ideas.
  • If you have a proactive workforce (and I hope you do), remember that they may perform better under an introverted leader than under an extroverted or charismatic one.

“So the next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet.”

Kate Struthers's headshot

Kate Struthers

Account Executive Kate Struthers leads Beyond Definition's clients in the development and execution of successful brand-centric and integrated campaigns.

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