By Maree Ferguson

I am an introvert.  Yet, for most of my life, I resisted this truth.

I tried (without success) to be more extroverted.  I watched charismatic, outgoing leaders, and thought to myself,  “I will never be successful because I will never be like them.”

However, time – and life experience – has helped me come to terms with my introverted-ness, at last. Because of this, I couldn’t wait to read Susan Cain’s book, ‘Quiet – The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.” 

My first a-ha moment from the book? I’m not alone: statistics tell us that about one in three people is an introvert.

This percentage may surprise you. You may think, “But I know so many outgoing people!” This may be because many introverts go out of their way to pretend to be extroverts.

Certainly, society seems to favour extroverts. Cain cites studies showing that talkative people are rated as being smarter, better looking and more interesting.

What’s more, today’s workplace is seemingly designed to encourage extrovert tendencies, from open-plan workspaces to the value placed on communication and people skills. It seems that, to advance in your career, you need to be able to promote yourself – a trait that comes naturally to extroverts.

But introverts bring a unique set of positive traits to a workplace. Cain addresses a question I was particularly interested in – do good talkers make good leaders? Cain describes a study conducted by Wharton management professor Adam Grant.  He asks 163 university students to divide into two teams and competitively fold as many shirts as possible in 10 minutes.  Each team included two actors, unbeknown to the students.

In some teams, the two actors acted passively, following the leaders’ instructions.  In other teams, they proactively offered different ways to fold faster.  Grant found that the introverted leaders were 20% more likely to follow the actors’ suggestion – and had 24% better results.   When the actors were not proactive, teams led by extroverts outperformed those led by introverts by 22%.

The study suggests that leadership effectiveness depends on the leadership style and situation.  In this study, introvert leaders were good listeners and open to ideas from proactive participants.  In contrast, extrovert leaders had a natural ability to inspire and were better at getting results from passive participants.

In addition to anecdotes of this nature that support the value of introverts, Cain delves into many other fascinating topics, such as the rise of the “extrovert ideal” in society; how introverts and extroverts think differently (including cutting-edge research); and advice for introverts to navigate in a world of extroverts.

[You’ll have to read the book to find out the answer!]

I highly recommend this book – not only to introverts, but also to extroverts who would like to better understand us introverts!

 

Book reviews:

Cain offers a wealth of useful advice for teachers and parents of introverts… QUIET should interest anyone who cares about how people think, work, and get along, or wonders why the guy in the next cubicle acts that way. It should be required reading for introverts (or their parents) who could use a boost to their self-esteem.“- Fortune.com

“As an introvert often called upon to behave like an extrovert, I found the information in this book revealing and helpful.  Drawing on neuroscientific research and many case reports, Susan Cain explains the advantages and potentials of introversion and of being quiet in a noisy world.  An important take-away message is that in order to be most successful and fulfilled each of us must work to find the sweet spots of just enough external stimulation to suit our personality type.”- Dr. Andrew Weil, author of “Natural Health, Natural Wellness”

 

Quiet Quiz – Are you an introvert or extrovert?

 

Introverts, you are not alone – Famous introverts in history

•Warren Buffet

•Dale Carnegie

•Albert Einstein

•Sir Isaac Newton

•Mahatma Gandhi

•Rosa Parks

•Larry Page

•J.K. Rowling

•Steven Spielberg

•Steve Wozniak