Susan Cain wrote an important book, and spoke about it at this year’s TED conference.
Her book is called, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and it’s brilliant…an important read for introverts who struggle to have their voice heard in a noisy workplace, leaders who see only examples of extroverted leaders in the pipeline above them as models, and extroverts who have family members that prefer introversion.
As the TED Blog explains:
Her family grew up reading — they would read together and bring books on trips. That’s how they were social. She tells a story of going to camp at age 9. Her mother packed her a bag full of books to read quietly, the normal thing her family did on vacation, thinking camp would be the same, “I had a vision of ten girls sitting in a cabin reading books in their matching night-gowns.” But when she got to “Camp Rowdie” (as they spelled it), she was ridiculed the first time she read her book, for not being social and outgoing and not having enough camp spirit. So she put her books away, and didn’t get them out for the rest of the summer.
She has, she tells us, at least 50 stories like that. 50 ways, little and small, where the message was clearly sent: being an introvert is wrong.
And that bugged her. Cain felt — had an intuition — that as an introvert she had value. But she didn’t know how to articulate that at the time, and so she became a lawyer. She wanted to be an author, but all her internalized notions about what is good made her reflexively choose the profession associated with extroversion, choose to go to a bar rather than a nice dinner with friends.
That bias, she claims, is everyone’s loss. While the world certainly need extroverts, it also needs introverts doing what they do best. It’s a bias that has no name. To understand it, we need to understand that introversion isn’t about not being social, it’s not being shy, it’s about how someone responds to stimulation. While extroverts crave social interaction, introverts are much more alive while they’re alone. Cain brings in her thesis with the insight that, “The key to maximizing talents is to put yourself into the zone of stimulation that’s right for you.”
My buddy Steve Gladis wrote this really great review of Susan’s book, Quiet, which you can access and download here: