I guess I must not an introvert because I can’t stop talking about the book: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Is this a good book or what? She’s done tons of research before publishing this book, but not just the ordinary research.
She’s actually visited places in the world filled with extrovert behavior—a Tony Robbins weekend seminar and the Harvard Business School. She’s also participated in an introvert’s retreat and visited a high school where independent study, rather than teamwork, is the norm.
Cain says a lot of things in her book, but most inspiring is her proof that some people enjoy being alone. This is not earth-shattering. It is foundational in understanding many of us. Introverts view aloneness as being ‘with’ themselves rather than ‘by’ themselves. Some are quiet because they want to be, rather than because they aren’t clever enough to say something. They don’t like speaking in public, not because they are afraid, but because they would rather speak with only one or two people at a time.
Simply put: Introverts are not broken, and so they don’t need to be fixed.
Of course, a balance of the ‘constellation’ of introvert and extrovert characteristics is healthy. Yet, many of the great inventions of the world were created in private, not by a team. What a relief to know it’s not only okay, but it’s vital not to be a people person all the time.
The second reason I love love love this book is that Cain sheds light on the difference between happy and unhappy people.
“Unhappy people tend to see setbacks as contaminants that ruined an otherwise good thing (‘I was never the same again after my wife left me’), while generative adults see them as blessings in disguise (‘The divorce was the most painful thing that ever happened to me, but I’m so much happier with my new wife’). Those who live the most fully realized lives—giving back to their families, societies, and ultimately themselves—tend to find meaning in their obstacles. In a sense, McAdams [she’s quoting someone else’s research here] has breathed new life into one of the great insights of Western mythology: that where we stumble is where our treasure lies.”
I hope this resonates with you as much as it does me. So many of my presentation clients feel discomfort (we call it fear) before speaking in public, and can’t quite figure out why. Perhaps they are pushing out of their personality comfort zones. Not a bad thing to do, but when they discover they can do it, even though they may never love doing it; the game changes in a positive way!
The good news is that there’s another word to consider: ambivert. An ambivert is someone who adjusts to group situations as well as isolation. That’s a great relief. Some of us love the rush of the crowd—sometimes—but other times, we’d rather meet a friend for coffee than attend a party.
Maybe you’re like me. Even at parties, I tend to break the networking rules; I’d rather speak to one person for twenty minutes rather than twenty people for one minute. To me, the longer conversation is richer and the connection deeper.
Where do you fall on the extrovert/introvert scale? No matter where you are, understanding and accepting your preferred style, while applying pressure to your comfort zone will bring self-awareness, clarity and happiness to your life.
May your self-trust build confidence,