“Quiet”: It’s Okay to Be Introverted (Susan Cain)

Introversion is alive and well in a new and well-reviewed book, Quiet by Susan Cain.

Says Kirkus Reviews: “Cain provides fascinating insight into how the United States shifted from an introvert-leaning “cult of character” to an extrovert-leaning “cult of personality”…Readers will learn that the tendency for some to be reserved is actually hardwired, and as every evolutionary biologist will tell you, innate characteristics are there for a reason—to help humans survive and thrive.”

Introversion in a nutshell, per Cain in a Scientific American interview: “Introverts prefer quiet, minimally stimulating environments, while extroverts need higher levels of stimulation to feel their best.”

If you are indeed an introvert, you’re in good company. Some of the better known introverts are Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, Rosa Parks, and Eleanor Roosevelt, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Johnny Carson, Julia Roberts, and Steve Martin, just to name a few.

The statistics? According to Cain, one third to one half of the population are introverts. However, many  are “pretend-extroverts.” Cain elaborates on this issue in an interview with Amazon:

…Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to ‘pass’ as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and, ultimately, happiness.

Pretend-extroversion is also featured in number five of Cain’s “Manifesto for Introverts”:

  1. There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers.
  2. Our culture admires risk-takers, but we need our “heed-takers” more than ever.
  3. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
  4. The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.
  5. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There’s always time to be quiet later.
  6. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and work that matters.
  7. Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk.
  8. One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
  9. It’s OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
  10. “Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron.
  11. Love is essential; gregariousness is optional.
  12. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”—Mahatma Gandhi

Selected Quotes from Quiet by Susan Cain

Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.

Many Introverts are also “highly sensitive,” which sounds poetic, but is actually a technical term in psychology. If you are a sensitive sort, then you’re more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or a well-turned phrase or an act of extraordinary kindness. You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness, and you likely have a very strong conscience.

The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions–sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments–both physical and emotional–unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss–another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.

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One thought on ““Quiet”: It’s Okay to Be Introverted (Susan Cain)

  1. Hello Ros,

    Thank you for writing this, and for linking to my article on introverts!

    One thing a doctor recently told me about introvert socialization and health (spending time with people we like is good for our physical and emotional health) is that it’s not the quantity of our friendships, it’s the quality. So spending a little bit of time with a person or two that we genuinely care about, instead of forcing ourselves to be more social than we’re naturally inclined, is great for our health.

    I’m definitely an introvert and homebody, especially now that I have 2 dogs 🙂 I get lots of people interaction when I walk them 3 times a day!

    Stay true to you,

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